How to perform a maintenance of your MacBook

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.

  1. From the Apple menu select System Preferences > Time Machine.
  2. Click Select Disk, or Add or Remove Backup Disk.
  3. Select your disk from the list, then click Use Disk.
How to back up 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. Scan for malware

In 2021 the number of reported Mac infections surpassed that of Windows. 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

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, reduce clutter, optimize storage by removing previously watched iTunes movies and TV shows, and move certain files to iCloud.

Tip: For smooth performance, you should aim to keep at least 10% of disk space free at all times. You can do this by regularly deleting junk files from your system.


Open Apple menu > About This Mac > Storage > Manage

How to use Optimized Storage

Here you can quickly find junk items across many categories. For a quick start, select Applications and filter them by Last Accessed. 

While both these methods 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, old mail attachments, iTunes junk, and clean out Trash bins in a couple of clicks.  

CleanMyMac X - Smart Scan complete

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.

Tip: to go to your Desktop, click F11


Try using the Stacks feature

This originated on macOS Catalina. A simple organizer feature called Stacks. 

  1. Right-click on a black space on your desktop.
  2. 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.

  1. Open the App Store.
  2. Click on the Updates tab.
  3. 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.

One way to ensure your updates come through when they are needed - which also helps keep your security strong - is using the CleanMyMac X Updater module. It checks what needs updating and alerts you, even if the software doesn’t come from the Mac App Store.

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.

How to run disk utility
  1. Open Launchpad and type in Disk Utility.
  2. Click View > Show All Devices.
  3. Select the disk you want to repair from the sidebar.
  4. 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 slow down in performance.

8. Install this MacBook maintenance app

The best way to ensure your system ticks over nicely is to have something keeping watch over performance. We’ve already spoken about how CleanMyMac X can help you check for malware and clean up junk files. Well, it also 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
  • Verify the startup disk to make sure your data is safe
  • Rebuild Launch Services Database to fix problems related to opening applications
  • Reindex Spotlight and Mail databases to improve search speed and accuracy
  • Flush DNS cache to resolve network issues

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 Boosters, which looks for drops in performance and gives you control of 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.

Run Mac routine maintenance for long-lasting performance

Regular maintenance is critical to the long-term health of your Mac. Like 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 software is up-to-date. If your app or external hard drive acts up, run Disk Utility. And finally, install some Mac maintenance app to look under the hood of your Mac.

Laptop with CleanMyMac
CleanMyMac X

Your Mac. As good as new.