Nine Steps to a Happier, Healthier Mac
- Tip #1: Search and Repair: Disk Utility
- Tip #2: Run the Maintenance Apps
- Tip #3: Get Some Disk Tools
- Tip #4: Defragment the Hard Drive. . .Or Not?
- Tip #5: Use Software Update
- Tip #6: If it Doesn't Work, Don't Use it!
- Tip #7: Get Some Backup Software (and Use It)
- Tip #8: An Excuse for a New iPod (As if You Needed One)
- Tip #9: Everything Else...
- A Happy Ending
Like any machine, a Mac works best when given regular maintenance. From a purely practical point of view, the hard drive is the part of the computer that the user needs to be most concerned with. After all, that's where all your important files are stored. But the hard drive is also the most delicate part of the system, with many computer engineers often describing the situation as, "when the hard drive fails, not if it fails." Thus begins the quest to maintain the overall health and happiness of your Mac.
Tip #1: Search and Repair: Disk Utility
Whenever an application unexpectedly quits or freezes, there is a good chance that files on the hard drive could have been damaged. Use Disk Utility (in the Utilities folder) to check for damage. Disk Utility will verify a startup disk but it cannot repair it, so if the hard drive in question is also the startup disk, you'll need to reboot from another volume (such as the OS X installer CD or DVD) and run Disk Utility from there. Disk Utility is fairly simple to use: Launch the application, select the relevant disk from the icons on the left, and then click on the Verify Disk or Repair Disk buttons on the right.
As well as repairing disks, Disk Utility can also fix disk permissions. Whether or not this is worth doing is a matter of some debate. In a nutshell, OS X expects certain (not all) files to have specific settings called disk permissions. In some situations, one of these specific files could have its disk permissions switched from one setting to another. When OS X comes across this file and finds it set improperly, this could, according to Apple, cause a problem. Some Mac users consider it an essential troubleshooting and maintenance step, others an irrelevancy unlikely to fix the majority of hard disk errors. Fixing disk permissions doesn't cost anything and doesn't take long to do, so if you decide it's worth a shot, then you'll find the Verify Disk Permissions and Repair Disk Permissions buttons in the Disk Utility window.
Figure 1 Use Disk Utility to verify and repair the hard drive any time an application crashes or you are forced to restart your Mac.