If you own a Mac, there’s a good chance you spent quite a bit of money to buy it. For this reason alone, you should take care of your computer. Not only will it serve you better over its lifetime, but you could end up getting more for it on the used market if you ever decide to sell your Mac.
In this guide, we share some tips for taking care of your Mac. It’s impossible to cover all aspects of computer maintenance. So think of this guide more as an introduction to some organizational features and apps that you might not have known about.
Here’s how to clean your Mac’s screen and body
While there are many products you can buy that are specifically designed to help you clean your computer, I’ve found that the simplest approach works best – and this is the one Apple recommends. To start, all you need is some water in a spray bottle and a clean microfiber cloth. You can use either plain or distilled water. The latter has the advantage of leaving much less residue on your Mac, especially on the display. You can buy distilled water at a grocery store or do it yourself with simple cookware. In any case, it is cheaper than special cleaning solutions and more versatile. If you don’t already have microfiber towels, Amazon sells affordable 24 packs You can get one for around $14.
Two other products I’ve found that can make the job easier are Rush screen cleaner and a Giotto’s Rocket Blower. I can’t say enough good things about the latter. It saves you from buying expensive and wasteful compressed air cans.
When it comes to cleaning your Mac, the most important tip to remember is to start with a clean cloth (which is one of the reasons we recommend buying them in bulk). This will save you time and frustration. Begin by turning off your computer and unplugging it. If you went out and bought a Rocket Blower, now use it to remove dust. If not, take a dry microfiber cloth and go over your computer. Pay special attention to the keys, especially if you have a Mac with a butterfly keyboard.
Next, dampen one side of your cleaning cloth with either water or whoosh. Never spray liquids directly onto your computer. This way you have more control and avoid getting moisture inside your Mac. I always clean the display first because the last thing I want to do is make myself more work transferring dirt from another part of my computer to the screen. The final step is to buff and buff your computer with the dry side of the cloth. Be careful here as you don’t want to scratch the screen or other parts of That’s it. Your Mac should look clean again.
How to organize your hard drive
One of the hardest parts about cleaning your Mac’s hard drive is knowing where to start. After all, most of us have apps on our computers that we don’t even remember installing. Luckily, macOS has a tool to help you with this exact problem.
Navigate to the Storage section of the About This Mac menu and click the Manage… option. Here’s a tool that sorts your files into broad categories and gives recommendations on how to free up space on your hard drive. You can use this in combination with the handy “Reveal in Finder” button at the bottom of the interface to quickly navigate your hard drive. You don’t have to search for files manually.
The Applications section is particularly useful because you can see when you last used a program and whether the operating system no longer supports it or whether it has become obsolete due to a newer version.
I don’t need to tell you to uninstall programs you don’t use, but what you might not know is that there’s a better way to delete them than just dragging them to the Trash. A free program called AppCleaner helps you track down all the files and folders that would be left behind if you simply deleted an application.
After deleting all the apps you don’t need, go to the Documents section. The name is a bit misleading here as you will find more than just text files and Excel spreadsheets. Documents, in this case, turns out to be the tool’s collective term for a variety of files, including those that take up a lot of space and DMGs that you may have forgotten to remove. The other sections in the sidebar are self-explanatory. The only other thing I want to mention is if you’ve been using an iPhone for a while, there’s a good chance you have old iOS backups stored on your computer. You can also delete them without hesitation.
At this point, your hard drive should be in pretty good shape. If you want to take some extra steps to clean it, there are dedicated apps that can help you. i like a name CleanMyMac X. At $51 per year it’s on the pricey side, but it saves you the time and hassle of doing everything I mentioned above (and then some) yourself. It also serves as a malware removal tool.
Tips and tricks for a tidy desktop and Finder
Let’s start with the menu bar. It might not technically be part of the desktop, but a tidy one can go a long way in making everything else look less cluttered. My recommendation here is to download a $16 app called barman. At first glance, it’s a simple program that lets you hide unwanted menu bar items behind a three-dot icon. However, Bartender’s strength is that it gives you a lot of customization options. For example, you can set a trigger to automatically unhide the battery status icon when your computer isn’t plugged into an outlet.
Speaking of the menu bar, take a second to open your Mac’s System Preferences menu and go to the Users & Groups section. Now click on the “Login Items” tab at the bottom of the interface and look at all the apps that launch when your system boots up. You can speed up your system by limiting this list to the programs that you use frequently.
When it comes to the desktop itself, the best advice is: less is more. Nothing makes your computer look like a cluttered mess like a busy desktop. Folders and Stacks can help, but I suspect part of the problem for most people is that they use their desktop to quickly and easily find files that are important to them.
If you’ve ever had trouble locating a specific file or folder on your computer, try using your Mac’s tagging capabilities instead. First, open the Finder preferences menu (Command + “,”) and click the Tags tab. You can use the default settings provided by macOS or create your own. In any case, drag the ones you think you’ll be using the most into the favorites sections at the bottom of the settings panel. This makes them easily accessible when you want to use them. To attach a tag to a file or folder, click on it while holding down the Ctrl key and select the desired tag from the drop-down menu. You can also mark a file while working on it in an app. Remember that you can apply multiple tags to a single file or folder. You can even apply them to job applications.
What makes tags so useful in macOS is that they can appear in the Finder sidebar and can be easily searched either directly from the Finder or with Siri. As long as you have a system for organizing your files, even a simple one, you’ll find it easier to keep track. For example, I like to apply an Engadget tag to all files related to my work. I add an “Important” tag if it’s something critical and I want to find it quickly.
One tool you can use to enhance your Finder experience is Alfred. It’s effectively a more powerful version of Apple’s Spotlight feature. Among other things, Alfred lets you quickly find and launch apps. There’s a learning curve, but once you get the hang of it, Alfred will change the way you use your Mac for the better.
How to organize your windows and tabs
If you’ve used both macOS and Windows 10, you know that Apple’s operating system doesn’t come with the best window management tools. You can click and hold the full-screen icon to tile a window on either the left or right side of your screen, but that’s about it and the feature has always felt less precise than its Windows counterpart.
My suggestion is to download an app that replicates Windows 10’s snapping feature. You have several competing options that offer more or less the same functionality. My go-to place is an $8 program called magnet. If you want a free alternative, check it out rectangle. Another option is Better Snap Tool, which offers more functionality than Magnet but doesn’t have as clean an interface. All three apps give you far more ways to configure your windows than you get with the built-in tool in macOS. They also come with shortcut support, meaning you can quickly set up your windows and get to work.
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