How to perform MacBook Pro maintenance: an ultimate guide
Running a Mac is, on the whole, a hassle-free experience. Very rarely things go wrong in day-to-day use, and many users run their systems for years without so much as a hiccup. However, Macs are complex computers, which means they’re not immune to issues that affect performance, like bugs, erratic app behavior, and network issues.
Think of your Mac like a car. A car will drive fine for years, but if you continually neglect maintenance, it will eventually catch up on you, and you’ll find yourself broken down and stranded in the middle of nowhere. Servicing a car at regular intervals keeps it in tip-top condition, adding years to its life. It’s the same deal with your Mac. Look after it, and it will look after you.
Follow these routine Mac maintenance tips to prevent your system from running into trouble.
1. Learn how to back up your data
Backing up your data should always be a top priority. Not even Macs are indestructible. If something does go badly wrong and you’ve no backup in place, all of your hard work and precious photos are gone for good.
But enough of the morbid stuff. Mac has a built-in Time Machine that routinely backs up all of your files to an external storage device so they can easily be restored.
To set up Time Machine, you’ll need to connect an external hard drive to your MacBook or iMac. Once you’ve done that, scheduling backups is easy:
- From the Apple menu, select System Settings > General > Time Machine.
- Click Select Disk.
- Select your disk from the list, then click Use Disk. You may need to click Add Backup Disk and follow the on-screen instructions if you have not yet set up Time Machine on your Mac.
Time Machine will then start making hourly backups for the past 24 hours, daily backups for the past month, and weekly backups for all previous months.
Items can be restored from the Time Machine by opening the window for the item. For example, if you accidentally deleted an email, open the Mail app. From there, click on the Time Machine icon (the small clock icon) and scroll through the timeline to find the item you need.
2. Install this MacBook maintenance app
The best way to ensure your system ticks over nicely is to have something keeping watch over performance. We recommend CleanMyMac X — it has a few other weapons in its arsenal to take of maintenance.
The tool’s Maintenance feature lets you run regular optimization and diagnostic checkups for improved performance. These include:
- Run maintenance scripts to improve the performance of your Mac
- Repair disk permissions to resolve improper behavior of apps
- Free up RAM to make room for ongoing processes
- Free up purgeable space to remove unneeded data that cannot be deleted otherwise
- Time Machine snapshot thinning to reduce the size of Time Machine backups
- Reindex Spotlight to improve search speed and accuracy
- Flush DNS cache to resolve network issues
- Speed up Mail to reindex the Mail app database and increase its search speed
All of these tasks can be done in seconds, rather than the hours it would take to perform them manually.
The free version of this tool is available for download here.
Beyond that, there’s also the Optimization module that looks for drops in performance and gives you control of the output. From here, you can shut down problematic apps, disable apps that run automatically whenever you boot up your Mac, and purge launch agents, which extend parent app functionally but consume resources.
Finally, you can have CleanMyMac X run silently in the background and alert you to critical changes in memory, system load, and RAM. From an icon in the Apple menu bar, you can use the CleanMyMac X Menu to perform maintenance tasks such as RAM and Trash cleanup and download speed test in a single click.
If you’re making maintenance part of your routine, you need this tool in your corner.
3. Clean up junk files
If you’re running a new macOS version, you can use Mac’s Optimized Storage feature. It erases Trash automatically, reduces clutter, optimizes storage by removing previously watched movies and TV shows, and moves certain files to iCloud.
- Open the main Apple menu > Settings > General > Storage.
- Check Recommendations under the colored bar.
Here you can quickly find junk items across many categories. For a quick start, select Applications and filter them by Last Accessed.
While it will help you free up space in a hurry, neither offers a comprehensive cleanup. Whenever you move an item to Trash, all you’re really doing is moving the main app or item file. Other associated junk like cache and preference files get left behind and sit on your disk hogging space.
To permanently remove old files, you should download CleanMyMac X and perform a full junk cleanup. The tool is designed to perform a deep scan of your system and detect any old, broken, or outdated files for full removal. Use the tool regularly to remove system junk, photo junk, or old mail attachments and clean out Trash bins in a couple of clicks.
You can download the free version of CleanMyMac X here. This program is beautifully designed and is also notarized by Apple.
4. Remove those myriads of desktop icons
For every app, file, or screenshot on your desktop, Mac has to contribute RAM. So the more things you have on there, the more draining it is on system resources. Keep your desktop clutter-free by removing anything you don’t need (using the CleanMyMac X method suggested above) and organizing items into folders.
Try using the Stacks feature
This originated on macOS Catalina. A simple organizer feature called Stacks.
- Right-click on a black space on your desktop.
- Click Use Stacks.
Now the contents of your Desktop (90% of which are likely screenshots😀) will be grouped into folders.
In the same menu, you’ll find Show View Options. There you can specify the size of icons on your Desktop and stacks themselves.
Check out our guide to cleaning up your Mac desktop.
5. Keep your software fresh
Updating software keeps your system free of bugs and vulnerabilities. You can check for any available updates in the Mac App Store.
- Open the App Store.
- Click on the Updates tab.
- Use the Updates button beside each update to install.
Note: Updates for apps not downloaded from the Mac App Store won’t be displayed here. You’ll need to check for these on the developer website or on a free site like MacUpdate.com, which keeps an up-to-date list of all available software updates.
6. Check out Disk Utility
To fix things like file corruption, unexpected app closure, or external devices that don’t work correctly, you can run Disk Utility to repair the startup disk.
- Open Launchpad and type in Disk Utility.
- Click View > Show All Devices.
- Select the disk you want to repair from the sidebar.
- Click First Aid, then Run.
7. Restart your Mac periodically
As is the case with, well, anything, switching a Mac on and off again is often the best way to fix a problem. By periodically restarting your Mac, you’ll be able to free up RAM, regenerate certain cache files, and rid the system of virtual memory swaps that Mac performs as you launch and quit apps.
Restart your system every two weeks or whenever you experience a noticeable slowdown in performance.
8. Scan for malware
In 2021, the number of reported Mac infections surpassed that of Windows. Since then, the trend has been preserved. Yes, you’ve heard it right. Even Apple’s Head of Software, Craig Federighi, in a recent statement, said that “the level of Mac malware is unacceptable.”
So it’s not even a question that you should install antivirus software on your system and periodically scan for malware. Paid software, such as Bitdefender and Symantec by Norton, do a good job of detecting viruses; however, both come at a cost. If you’d rather not pay, CleanMyMac X is a great free alternative. Its malware scanning tool is every bit as effective as premium software, and periodic checkups will scan your system for adware, viruses, spyware, ransomware, cryptocurrency miners, worms, and more. Anything detected can be removed at the click of a button.
Check out our guide to the best Mac antivirus software.
9. Regularly empty your Trash
As we have mentioned above, deleting unnecessary files from your Mac is an effective way to manage it. However, when we send files to Trash, we do not delete them immediately. Instead, there are still there, occupying valuable space on hard drive. They can pile up and take up gigabytes, so it’s recommended to regularly empty Trash.
There are a few different ways to do it:
- Open Trash and click Empty Trash.
- Right-click Trash icon and select Empty Trash.
- Turn on automatic trash removal by going to Finder > Settings > Advanced and selecting Remove items from Trash after 30 days.
10. Manage your Login Items
The final tip is to manage login items. These are apps that launch once you boot up your Mac. The main problem is that you may not even know that they constantly run in the background, but they consume your Mac’s resources, thus affecting its performance and slowing it down.
Therefore, it is a good idea to turn off those you do not need booting at startup. Here’s how:
- From the main Apple menu, go to System Settings.
- Navigate to General > Login Items.
- Select a login item you do not need or want to boot at startup and click — button.
- Once there, turn off any apps you do not need or want running in the background.
Regular maintenance is critical to the long-term health of your Mac. As the old saying goes, “prevention is better than the cure.” Use Time Machine to keep backups of your data, scan for malware periodically, keep your system clear of junk files, tidy up your desktop, and ensure the software is up-to-date. If your app or external hard drive acts up, run Disk Utility. And finally, install some Mac maintenance apps to look under the hood of your Mac.