Spring Cleaning

Published in MugTalk April 2018…

Its that time of year again. Spring! A time of sunshine, flowers, wide weather swings, and lots of pollen. And so its time for a little spring cleaning. Every culture has some form of spring cleaning in their repertoire and I suggest that this term be extended to cover our computers. It is easy to forget that there is a lot of computer “pollen” that can creep in over time with a resultant effect on performance comparable to the weather extremes in March. Our computers suffer from allergies, just like us!

Since you are all good citizens and want the best for your machines here are a few tips to get you started.

Three Mac Productivity Rules

It helps if you have been following these three simple rules:

  • Never have anything on a computer that is not useful
  • Create and follow a practical organizational plan
  • Stick to the plan and update it periodically

If you are like me, I believe in these rules, but constantly forget or even ignore them. After all, some people think that rules are made to be ignored. Never mind. This is what spring cleaning is all about — taking a moment to reflect and then to madly catch up on all the chores we have neglected over the past 12 months.

Spring Cleaning Actions

Action #1: Update your software. It is important to keep your operating system and your applications updated so that you take full advantage of bug fixes and security improvements. Start with macOS by going to the update section of the Mac App Store and updating everything that is suggested. Then for apps that you bought from the developer, “check for updates” which should be a selection in the app preferences or in a drop-down menu.

Action #2: Test your backups. This is an excellent time to test backups to see if they really work. Note my implicit assumption that you backup regularly! Test your Time Machine backups by deleting one or two unneeded files in a couple of different directories. Then use the Time Machine viewer to go back in time, find the files, and restore them. Also use the viewer to see how far back your versions go. Test your clone backups by restarting your computer while holding the option key down. Select the clone backup as the startup disk (you will need your administrator password). Be aware that booting from a clone will be a lot slower than from your internal drive so be patient.

Action #3: Clean out the cruft. Use ONYX, CleanMyMac 3, or Cocktail to clean out the accumulated cruft (old helper files, caches, etc.) that builds up over time. It is also a good idea to reboot your computer occasionally since the operating system runs a number of maintenance routines during a reboot.

Action #4: Look for old, unused files and apps. If you don’t need them, delete them (use AppCleaner when deleting apps). If you think that you might need them sometime in the distant future, or just can’t bring yourself to part with them, create an Archive folder and move them there. If possible, move the Archive folder to an external drive.

Start with the Downloads folder. This is one that is easy to forget and most of the stuff can be deleted. If you aren’t sure, move the file somewhere where you can deal with it. The goal is to completely empty this folder.

Then use some of the Finder tools (smart searches, the arrange button in the toolbar) to search the Documents, Pictures, and Applications folders. In documents and pictures try sorting by date and do something with the oldest files. In applications try running this smart search (Kind = Application; Last Opened Date = Within Last Year). Pick the time interval of your choice. If you see apps you haven’t used in the last 3 or 4 years think about whether you really need them.

Hopefully, these tips will help you get started on this chore and will not be too onerous. The benefit will be added storage space, better computer performance, and confidence that your computer backups are doing their job. Happy cleaning!