Review: Maintaining Your Mac, a Book by Joe Kissell

By Phil Davis

Joe Kissell has published the second book in his new JoeOnTech Guides series – Maintaining Your Mac. You probably will recognize Joe as the author of a number of the Take Control series of books on a variety of Mac topics.

This book covers things that you can do to keep your Mac in good running order and reduce the potential for problems. This book is an update of a previous version published by Take Control Books in 2012. We have seen a lot of changes in the past three years and this version has major updates to every chapter and adds several new topics. It also dispells a few myths.

Some of the new topics are:

  • Test Your Hardware using Apple Diagnostics
  • Use a Surge Protector or UPS
  • Update Weak Passwords
  • Consider a Maintenance Utility
  • Empty Your Inbox

These topics join the list of simple maintenance tasks that, if performed, can help avoid costly system failures and trips to your Apple Service center. Most of the tips in the book are good common sense and are easy to do. But they won’t “do themselves” — they require action by you as the computer owner!

Be aware that this is not a troubleshooting guide. It is more of a suggested set of maintenance habits that can help avoid problems, somewhat like regular brushing and flossing can avoid unnecessary trips to the dentist.

Joe will be updating his troubleshooting guide at a later date.

Although this version of the book is for people using OS X 10.9 Mavericks or later, most of the information will apply to earlier versions of OS X. After OS X 10.11 El Capitan is released in October any necessary revisions or updates will be made available on the JoeOnTech website.

Maintaining Your Mac starts by listing a few things you should do before proceeding with your maintenance tasks, such as doing a bit of housecleaning of old files and activating your backup strategy (you do have one don’t you?).

You will learn about things to do daily, weekly, monthly, and once a year. You will also learn about things that you can skip. Many of these have been recommended by experts in the past, but are no longer needed. You may find a few surprises here – I know that I did.

Here are a few of the recommendations:

  • Daily: Update your versioned backups, check software updates, empty your inbox.
  • Weekly: Clean up your desktop, empty your downloads folder, update your bootable duplicate, install app store software updates, check for third-party updates, restart your Mac, check your spam mailbox.
  • Monthly: Empty your trash, use Disk Utility repair disk function, test your backups, clear certain caches, clean your screen, clean your mouse or trackpad, exercise your notebook’s battery, check for ebook updates.
  • Yearly: De-dust your Mac, clean your keyboard, make archival backups, remove unneeded files, check your UPS battery.

While typing this list of recommendations I immediately found at least five tasks that I have neglected and need to take care of soon. How many tasks have you spotted in the list?

In the chapter Maintenance Tasks to Skip the tip that got my attention was that the Repair Permissions feature is not really necessary as a maintenance task. It may be useful when troubleshooting a problem, but running it routinely as a precaution is unnecessary. In fact the Repair Permissions feature has been removed in the El Capitan version of Disk Utility.

In the chapter Consider a Maintenance Utility (or Two) Joe recommends two apps that can help with some of your maintenance routines – CleanMyMac and Onyx. He also cautions against using MacKeeper and lists his reasoning.

If you are like me you probably know about, or at least have read about, many of the tips included in the book. Things like keeping your software updated to close security loopholes, getting rid of unnecessary files and programs (called “cruft”), emptying the trash regularly, and making regular backups. But, if you are like me, you get caught up in your daily life and find it easy to forget to keep up with these recommended actions. Don’t you hate it when life gets in the way!

Since I have read this book I feel inspired to get back to doing the things I know I should. Maybe I will be better at this than with keeping my New Year resolutions! One can always dream.

Bottom Line: I recommend adding Maintaining Your Mac to your library. You can download a free, one-page PDF handout that outlines the main points and key tips in this book. But to get the most value, buy a copy of the book from JoeOnTech. You can see a video of an interview that Joe did recently with Chuck Joiner of MacVoices that where you can hear Joe talk about the book.