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The best tools to make your Mac like new

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Chances are if you took your Mac out of the box when you got it home, pow­ered it up, and then never in­stalled any­thing on it and never went online, things would rarely go wrong. Also, you’d prob­a­bly be very bored. But once you add any­thing on top of vanilla OS X, the po­ten­tial for prob­lems rapidly in­creases. Soft­ware can clash with the op­er­at­ing sys­tem or other soft­ware, web­sites and apps can cause net­work is­sues, disk space can run out, and pro­cesses can run riot, caus­ing your Mac’s fans to go into crazy mode. Fur­ther­more, hard­ware can and does in­vari­ably – if rarely – fail. So what we’re say­ing is that your Mac is es­sen­tially a sleekly de­signed and very stylish time bomb, wait­ing for the day when it’ll qui­etly det­o­nate, not so much with a bang, but with a “not work­ing so well to­day – sorry”.

If you’re qui­etly pan­ick­ing, don’t. Most prob­lems can be fixed, and we pro­vide ideas about how to do so later in this tu­to­rial. More­over, is­sues can be headed off at the pass. Rather than re­act­ing to prob­lems af­ter they’ve oc­curred – fran­ti­cally trash­ing files if you abruptly run out of disk space; re­al­is­ing you have pre­cisely no charged bat­ter­ies when your mouse, track­pad and key­board con­spire against you by si­mul­ta­ne­ously stat­ing they’re out of juice – it’s smarter and more ef­fi­cient to get some ad­vance warn­ing. What you need is mon­i­tor­ing tools which lurk in the back­ground, pa­tiently prob­ing your Mac, and en­abling you to poke around facts, fig­ures and data as you see fit.

Built-in tools

Once you add any­thing on top of vanilla OS X, the po­ten­tial for prob­lems in­creases

Ap­ple bun­dles some handy tools with your Mac. Visit the Net­work and Blue­tooth panes in Sys­tem Pref­er­ences. Each has an op­tional menu bar ex­tra that can be ac­ti­vated, en­abling you to check on the sta­tus of the rel­e­vant type of con­nec­tiv­ity. With Blue­tooth, you’ll see a bat­tery in­di­ca­tor if one of your

con­nected ac­ces­sories is run­ning low on power, giv­ing you am­ple time to find new bat­ter­ies. Click­ing the menu ex­tra lists the de­vices, and clearly shows which one needs at­ten­tion; dip­ping into the sub-menus de­tails charge lev­els. As for the Wi-Fi menu ex­tra, it pro­vides a straight­for­ward vis­ual in­di­ca­tion of when your net­work con­nec­tion is flaky. Once con­nected, it should re­main a solid black. If it keeps flick­ing to grey and back, and you’re in a place where the net­work con­nec­tion should be solid, you might need to think about run­ning some di­ag­nos­tic checks. (Note that should you quickly need ad­di­tional de­tails about your cur­rent net­work set­tings, å- click the Wi-Fi menu ex­tra. The in­for­ma­tion in the menu will then be rather more in­volved.)

Plenty of third-party tools ex­ist for sim­i­lar and ad­di­tional sce­nar­ios. Some are quite spe­cialised. TG Pro ($15 – about £10, tun­abellysoft­ware.com) mon­i­tors tem­per­a­tures in your Mac (the ‘TG’ stands for Tem­per­a­ture Gauge), finds faulty sen­sors and gives you the op­tion to con­trol fan speeds. (If you’re lack­ing funds to spend on an app, also con­sider the free Macs Fan Con­trol (crys­tal­idea.com.) Gen­er­ally, we don’t rec­om­mend mess­ing with Ap­ple’s de­fault fan set­tings, but it’s worth hav­ing the op­tion in mind if your Mac’s get­ting very hot, and be­ing able to do some­thing about it if you’ve got days to wait for a Ge­nius Bar ap­point­ment.

Sys­tem mon­i­tor­ing

Else­where, the best util­i­ties tend to be mod­u­lar bun­dles that per­form var­i­ous tasks. Monity (£2.29, Mac App Store) is an af­ford­able util­ity de­signed to mon­i­tor CPU us­age, net­work ac­tiv­ity, bat­ter­ies, and disk us­age that en­ables you to drop into No­ti­fi­ca­tion Cen­ter at any time to see how things are go­ing.

Our favourite prod­uct of this kind, though, is iS­tat Menus ($18 – about £12, bjango.com). This comes in the form of an app that’s es­sen­tially a bunch of set­tings that con­trol a bunch of icons

Lit­tle Snitch mon­i­tors net­work con­nec­tion at­tempts, so you can con­trol app com­mu­ni­ca­tion with re­mote servers.

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