Troubleshooting a Mac: Beware of Third-Party Utilities

In early June, I gave a one-hour workshop at the Vancouver Editors Canada conference. I spoke about Inbox Zero, the lack of which can be a drag on productivity.

Two things happened at this conference that triggered my dreaming up a series of blog posts, the first of which you’re now reading.

  • Sometime after the halfway point of this session, I asked the group of about 100 attendees whether any of them used Macs. A forest of hands shot up. Had I known this, I might have been tempted to make the presentation less technology-agnostic. (Even though I use a Mac myself, I probably wouldn’t have done this, since Inbox Zero is a technology-independent process, and I didn’t know what tools attendees use.)
  • Just across the hall, somebody else gave a talk on how to get along with your computer.

All this got me thinking: Inbox Zero doesn’t work well on a computer that plods slowly along.

Fortunately, the Mac offers plenty of tools you can use to track and improve your computer’s performance. Combined with some basic Mac savvy, you can keep your Mac running smoothly.

It’s a little late to present at the conference, so  instead of presenting this stuff, I’m writing a series of blog posts, one tip per post. Who knows – I might present the material here at a conference one day.

Note: I’m not going to mention upgrading RAM or the hard disk. I’ve done both on my 2010-vintage MacBook Pro, but in most current Macs these components are not user-replaceable. If you need a new Mac today, you’re best to buy it with all the capacity you think you’ll need. (You can find older Macs on Apple’s Refurbished and Clearance store, as well as other sites online.)

Without further ado, here’s a tip you can use to check and improve the performance of your Mac.

Do NOT use third-party software to “speed up” or “protect” your Mac.

If you currently run such software, uninstall it as soon as you can.

I won’t name any names, since I’m averse to legal action. That said, if you have a third-party utility on your Mac that purports to improve its performance or protect it from malware, try searching for it on Apple’s Support Forums. (People there seem much less afraid of legal trouble.)

Any new software you install places SOME load on your machine, especially if it runs at all times in the background. That’s the case for scareware Mac performance enhancers and antivirus software.

To what benefit? The Mac was designed to keep itself in good order. Leave it running on its own for a while and its internal maintenance processes kick in. “Performance enhancing” software appears to replicate processes your Mac already runs in the background. That’s redundant, at best.

It might not do good things, either. Forums I’ve perused noted complaints that stemmed from their bad behaviour.

Save your money. The Mac is largely designed to maintain itself.

Worried about viruses and other malware? Don’t be. If you are, check out this blog post. Mac users may one day have to worry about malware, but as far as I can see, that day hasn’t arrived yet.

And if you suspect there’s any unwanted activity taking place on your computer, read this blog post too.

Stay tuned to my blog for more tips on improving the performance of your Mac.

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