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Useful tips to maximise system reliability.

Avatar Derek Wright
Life with a Mac can be quite trouble free and pleasant - however there are always potential issues that can creep up on the system and be a real pain to fix.

I invite you to contribute useful suggestions to this thread that help you to maximise the enjoyment of the Mac.

Re: Useful tips to maximise system reliability.

Avatar Derek Wright
Software updating - use the automated Software Update message to advise you to download the Combo update from

rather than allowing a delta update to take place.

Tis process also allows you to download the updates out of prime time and transfer the files to other macs on your local network (if appropriate)

Re: Useful tips to maximise system reliability.

Avatar Derek Wright
Regular System Housekeeping

Cleaning of the caches is carried out on a daily, weekly or monthly basis, however Macs that are powered off at night may miss a housekeeping session (although I believe that OSX included a feature to minimise these occurences several releases ago.

Repair Permissions which is accessed by the Drives Utility can also be run automatically if you use one of the several housekeeping tools such as Macaroni.

Re: Useful tips to maximise system reliability.

Avatar Derek Wright
Regular back ups

"Data does not exist unless it occurs in more than one location"

So obtain and use an additional drive to run regular backups to as a high priority.
Candidate programs are Time Machine or a disk cloning tool such as SuperDuper.

Both types of tool have their advantages and disadvantages.

Re: Useful tips to maximise system reliability.

Avatar Lionel Ogden
For laptop users. Allow your battery to go down completely from time to time ie until the laptop goes to sleep and then charge it up again fully. If you repeat this process about once a month the battery will last longer. Home users are sometimes advised to use their laptops mainly on the battery rather than keep it plugged in to the mains on the adapter. When you do a major upgrade the system advises you to connect to the mains. This is so your laptop does not run out of puff before completing the upgrade.

Re: Useful tips to maximise system reliability.

Avatar Trevor Hewson
I use Lithium batteries to fly model aeroplanes and the worst thing one can do to a Lithium flight battery is deep discharge it, so I have always been sceptical of this advice to run laptop batteries down completely. I certainly would not advocate keeping the mains adapter plugged in all the while but I do wonder whether the advice to run the battery down is more about re-calibrating the computer's 'state of charge' monitor than anything to do with battery health.

Re: Useful tips to maximise system reliability.

Avatar Euan Williams
visit: http://www.apple.com/batteries/notebooks.html for advice on Apple's own batteries.

Re: Useful tips to maximise system reliability.

Avatar Trevor Hewson
Thanks for that, Euan. It's good to see that Apple's advice does recognise the change in battery technology. In particular they have included an important caution against letting the battery become fully discharged in storage.

It is a major change - in the days of NiCd batteries, not only were we advised to deep cycle them as Lionel describes, but also the long term storage recommendation was fully discharged - instant death for a Lithium battery!

Re: Useful tips to maximise system reliability.

Avatar Michael Corgan
Some quite basic tips that might be of interest/help to those who don't already know about them:
Quicklook - activated by selecting a file and pressing the space bar
1 Select several files and then press space bar. You can then move between the files using the arrow keys. You can also have them as thumbnails on an index page

2 You are not confined to text files - any file can be shown (other than files in older programs - Appleworks!) i.e. audio and video files will play

3 You can check out fles that have been put into the Trash without needing to move them back out again to see what they are

4 Plugins are available that allow you to see the content of folders and zip files. The plugins come fromqlplugins.com and are stored in a folder under User/Library/Quicklook. You may need to create this folder

5 Quicklook will preview fonts and will show the whole font. The various font libraries can be found in three places (at least!) - User/Library/Fonts

System Preferences
It is possible to enlarge the screen or a window - you can zoom in in one of two ways, one of which is through System Preferences. Go to Universl Access, and you will see three commands for this = Alt/Cmd/8 toggles zooming on and off
Alt/Cmd/= zooms in
Alt/Cmd/- zooms out

The other way is even simpler, if you have a Mighty Mouse.
Ctrl/scroll up with the scroll button to zoom in,
Ctrl/scroll down to zoom out

Printer stuff

To set the Default Printer. Go to Print & Fax Ctrl/click on the selected printer.
To remove the printer icon from the Dock after a print job (in OS10.5 it stays there) ctrl/click on the printer icon and select Autoquit. It will vanish after the next print job is completed.

Removing a window from the Desktop
If the resize corner of the window is below the dock and can not be reached.
change the display resolution to something tiny like VGA (640x480) then back to your normal resolution. This has always forced the window to become accessible enough to deal with.
move the dock to vertical, on the left hand side, and that should reveal the bottom right of the window

Re: Useful tips to maximise system reliability.

Avatar Derek Wright
If you are looking for an application to solve a problem or ease your computing life take a look at

and search using words that describe your interest.

For example if you want to export all your entries in the Mac Address Book as a CSV file - search on Address Book export and you can then examine several products to determine which one will be the most uesfel program for you.

Re: Useful tips to maximise system reliability.

Avatar Eric Jervis
Which is exactly what I've done, after having a good look at MacRumors to find the most popular bit torrent app. The most popular by far is Transmission, with Vuze coming second, a fair distance behind. Vuze very kindly downloaded a small file that I wanted and a very large one that I didn't, so I got fed up with it. After all, downloading pretty fast is all well and good, but I want to watch them too; and nothing I've found will open them. Transmission on the other hand, appears to be doing a good job inasmuch as I can see on the screen exactly what I would expect to see, i.e. a progress bar. And on my desktop, obviously waiting to be filled up, eighteen QuickTime files. The whole thing is 7.5 Gig so I reckon I've got about a day to go yet, but I'm quietly confident.
I'll let you know.

Re: Useful tips to maximise system reliability.

Avatar Eric Jervis
Confidence justified, Transmission superb. Just one little niggle though; the first series of Ashes to Ashes: My friend Martin gave me a DVD of this, on which episodes 1, 2, and 8 are fine. episodes 3,4,5,6,and 7 though, will not play on 'fit to screen'. Which is to say that they will play OK on 'same size' but larger than this they are very jerky; the sound playing well but the vision stopping every half second to catch up with itself. I therefore downloaded it myself, but got exactly the same result. Martin uses BitTorrent on a Windows machine and I use Transmission under Tiger 10.4.11
Matin has had no problem with the offending episodes. There is obviously something slight wrong with those particular files, and his machine copes with the problem and mine dosen't. I am tentatively guessing that I need a faster processor, mine is a 450 dual, what do you chaps think?

Re: Useful tips to maximise system reliability.

Avatar Eleanor Spenceley
Can I clarify something, are you talking about playing a legal DVD from you friend or was it a burned DVD with illegally downloaded programs via BitTorrent or some other illegal file sharing service?

If it is the later, may I direct you to: http://www.copyrightaware.co.uk/

A dual G4 450 will have no problems playing a legal DVD format or any G3 400 MHz+ machine for that matter.

Re: Useful tips to maximise system reliability.

Avatar Eric Jervis
It depends on your point of view. It is not a DVD that's been bought, but a downloaded TV series from BitTorrent. As to whether that is illegal, my view is that I and everybody in this country who has bought a television licence has already paid through the nose for it, since it was made and transmitted by the BBC.

Re: Useful tips to maximise system reliability.

Avatar Lionel Ogden
Some tips for maintaining Broadband performance.

1. Make sure you are on the most advantageous package from your ISP. For example if you are still on an up to 2mbps package you are not likely to get much more than 1mbps whatever you do to your system.

2. Be aware that download speed is dependent on how close you are to your local exchange and short of moving house there is not much you can do about that.

3. Check that your line is as clear as it can be. Use your telephone to hear whether there is a clear line or whether it is full of crackles. If necessary get BT or your telephone provider to check the line and if necessary repair any faults.

4. BT is only responsible for the line as far as your Master Socket. You are responsible for the extension circuits within your house. If you feel up to it you can check the extension socket for good connections. If you are doubtful about the strange push-on connectors used on many telephone sockets, you can buy models with screw connectors which seem more positive. Be sure to make a careful note of the position of all the wires before disconnecting anything. BT charges a fortune for checking faults on the internal extension network in a home.

Bad connections can cause interference or noise on a line and this can degrade Broadband performance.

5. Make sure that every telephone socket with any device plugged into it whether it is a telephone or Sky box or anything else, has an ADSL filter between the device and the socket. This does not just apply to the socket to which your router- modem is connected, it applies to every socket.

6. Try to keep the distance between your Router-modem and the telephone master socket as short as is practicable. Try to avoid using telephone extension leads.

7. Electrical equipment in the home can cause interference to be picked up by the telephone lines in the house. A BT iPLate fitted to the Master socket can filter out most of this interference. It is not expensive and easy to fit as it does not require any rewiring.

8. The contention ratio of your ADSL line may cause your speed to drop at certain times of the day. This means that other people are sharing the same bandwidth as you. There is a usually a drop in speed in the evening when more people are on line and it quite noticeable at around 4.00 p.m. when the youngsters come home from school and log on to Facebook.

9. If you use wireless to connect to your router, keep it well away from things like cordless phones or microwaves which can cause interference.

While on the subject of wireless, make sure your system is securely password protected as your broadband could be degraded by others piggybacking on your system through an unprotected wireless connection.

If all the above fails to improve your speed, complain to your ISP your time will not have been wasted because they will ask you to check most of these points before they will do anything themselves

Re: Useful tips to maximise system reliability.

Avatar Gordon Clyne
performance fans listen up. if you have a macbook pro and use Skype and or iChat, or worse, both, I strongly suggest that your regular monthly maintenance includes the following:-
1. restarting with the shift key down (safe boot mode) and the restarting normally again afterwards.
2. verifying and repairing permissions on your boot (and any other ) drives.
make sure you are running 10.6.1 at the least. if you still have a camera that works intermittently, get a firewire camera, as your onboard isight is likely fried.

Re: Useful tips to maximise system reliability.

Avatar Euan Williams
Lost and found for files aka the dunce's corner:
some users may be mystified that when a file, perhaps on the desktop, is "placed" inside a folder it can disappear if there is a mouse glitch. Find-File and Spotlight see it, but the user doesn't.

A corner of the little offender's icon may be found lurking in the corner of the Finder screen (top left, with Lion). Catch it by the tail and put it back in its cage. Voilà.

Re: Useful tips to maximise system reliability.

Avatar Lionel Ogden
Changing your e-mail address

When you change your ISP it can be a bit tiresome when you also change your e-mail address because of all the people you have to notify. Here are one or two tips to ease the strain.

1. Create a new Group in address book and copy into it all the addresses of people you would like to know your new e-mail address. Then send an e-mail to the group ( using the Bcc field rather than the To field so that you don't broadcast everyone's e-mail addresses).

2. If you haven't got one already, open a googlemail account and use this address as your new e-mail address, then you will never again need to inform people of the change because this is independent of your ISP. You can arrange to direct your Gmail to your home e-mail account and read it in Mail.

3. For more serious geeks you can quite simply and cheaply obtain your own domain name from a company such as Easily or Fasthosts. This will come with an e-mail allowance which again can be directed towards your home e-mail account.

It can be liberating to lose an old e-mail address as you also lose all the spam associated with it and of course there are now some good deals offered by Service Providers. "Which" has recently done a survey on ISPs.

Re: Useful tips to maximise system reliability.

Avatar Crispin Morton
On the batteries front, I recommend FruitJuice if you are running a laptop (www.fruitjuiceapp.com).

Re: Useful tips to maximise system reliability.

Avatar Lionel Ogden
A Simple Guide to creating a Backup Drive

1.  Decide whether you wish to have a Time Machine  backup as well as a Clone.  You may also have a laptop which you wish to back up too.

2. Depending on your decision you will need to partition your drive into one, two or three partitions. If your external drive is particularly large, you may wish to add a further partition as it is easier to do this now than later, when you have started to use the drive.

3.  With your drive connected to the firewire port and switched on, open the Utilities folder in Applications, and select disc utility.  Check that your new drive is showing.  There will probably be two icons displayed.  The first is the hard disc itself and the second is the usable volume.

4.Click on the Hard drive icon which will probably be called something like 1TB LaCieHD and then click the Partition tab.

5. Now look at the Partition Layout.  The current scheme may be just one partition called untitled.  Click the drop down list and you are given a list of choices from one to sixteen partitions.  You will probably have chosen one, two, three or four.  There is little benefit in having more partitions than you need or will use.

6. Select your chosen layout and you will see that the computer has divided the space equally between the partitions.  You can change this to suit your needs, but beware that it is not easy to change the layout after you have started using it.  It is better to decide now.  To change the allocation of the space you can drag the margin between them up or down changing the space.  You will notice that you can only change the allocation within the total.  You cannot leave a blank space.

7. When you are happy with the allocation of space, click on the first partition and then fill in the Partition information on the right.  Give your Partition a name and this is what will appear on your desktop.  Choose Mac OS Extended (Journaled) Format.  Check the size of the partition and this is another place where you can change it if you wish.    If you have more than one partition do the same with each one, giving each partition its own name of course.

8. Check that all the details you have entered are correct and as you want it and then click Apply.   Don't Panic you can still change it by going back to item 5 if you notice something you wish to alter.

9. You should now see the volumes you have created appear as Firewire or USB icons with the names you have given to them appear on your desktop.

10. Now to make a backup.I have used both Carbon Copy Cloner and SuperDuper and they both work well, they both  do incremental backups, but whereas CCCloner is free (donations are invited) SuperDuper requires you to buy the full version if you wish to do incremental and scheduled backups.

11. Select your chosen application, the disc you wish to backup from (your main HD) and the disc you wish to backup to (one of your new volumes) Choose to backup everything and then click Clone (or Backup).   The first time you do this it will take a long time, an hour or two, so now would be a good time to go and have your supper and let it get on with the task.   

12.  When the backup is complete it is a good idea to check that it works as a startup drive and you do this by going to Startup Disk in System preferences and choosing the new volume and clicking Restart.  This will take slightly longer than your normal startup but eventually should open up exactly the same as your normal startup disc.  You will find that future backups are quicker because both applications back up what has changed.

13.  When you are happy with the way it works, go back to Startup Disc and choose your Main HD and click restart.  If your cannot start up from your new disc, go back to the backup application and check that the option to create a bootable drive is ticked.  It is usually the default situation.

14. If you decided to create a Time Machine Volume, now would be a good time to go to Time Machine Preferences and select that new volume as the Time Machine backup destination.
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