One of the most frequently asked questions among novice Mac users is about recommended routine maintenance steps. The Mac – like every other object that you use – needs your attention from time to time. Perhaps you already know just how often your car requires an oil change? Well, the same goes for the Mac: in order to run optimally, it is recommended to follow a few maintenance steps on a regular basis. But the problem is that there are many things that people believe you should do to keep your Mac running in tip-top shape, and not all of them are true. So let's have a look these Mac maintenance myths, and what you shouldn’t be doing.
Myth #1: System Cache Cleaning
A cache is used by macOS to improve system performance: by using this the system doesn't need to access the original source but instead checks the cache, meaning that everything runs much faster. The problem with caches is that novice users might interfere with the system cache instead of user caches. The fact is, if a cache becomes corrupt then it needs to be cleared, and if the startup disk is running low on storage, then the first stuff to go should be the cache, followed by any unneeded larger files.
But with that said removing the cache – especially the system cache – shouldn't be part of regular maintenance. By deleting them regularly, macOS will need to recreate them again from scratch, which is good when we are talking about troubleshooting and eliminating corrupt cache files. But by deleting system cache files you can cause issues with fonts; force Spotlight to re-index the data of your personal files since some of the cache files contain such data; and much more.
This is why we love the customization feature of high-end Mac optimization apps. The software scours the Mac for caches, displays the results, and gives you the option to select only those that don't interfere with the system's ‘well-being’.
Myth #2: You Shouldn't Repair Permissions
There is a debate about whether or not you should repair permissions as part of regular maintenance. Our advice is as follows: if you are running OS X El Capitan or older, you should run repair permissions once a month. The explanation is quite simple: poorly written third-party app installers carry an inherent risk of incorrectly altering the access permissions for system-related folders and then failing to set them back to their original state. This causes problems.
Since El Capitan, Apple has introduced System Integrity Protection (SIP), a handy feature that eliminates the need to repair permissions in system-related folders. However, macOS allows for different users, and those individual users have their own home folders with tons of files. If the permissions are messed with, these users will get errors and a slow-running Mac. In this case you might perform the repair maintenance bimonthly.
Myth #3: Defragment Hard Drives
This myth is related particularly to Macs running OS X Mountain Lion or older versions and using a hard drive. The idea behind defragmentation is to optimize Mac performance. Data is stored in small pieces in allocated blocks on the HDD, and as the storage disk fills up the system needs to work harder to read each file. This is where defragmentation becomes necessary, but HFS+ does a pretty good job of optimizing performance. Those who are using an almost full disk, however, will need to defragment their drive.
Myth #4: Run the Maintenance Scripts Manually
There are a handful of Unix maintenance scripts that macOS runs automatically, but the myth suggests that shutting down or putting the Mac to sleep prevents them from running, so they need to be handled manually.
What is true is that if you shut the Mac down every night, then the script scheduled to run every day won't run. But that doesn't mean you need to run it manually, because macOS knows its job and will run it the next time you turn the Mac on. As for scripts of different schedules, if they miss the weekly or monthly planned time, then it's still not that big a deal. As of OS X 10.5, your Mac will run its maintenance scripts automatically at the next available opportunity.
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