Tech Tips
My Mac Magazine #17, Sept. ’96

Last month I asked for your comments and offered my assistance with any of your Mac problems, and lo and behold, you wrote! So, thanks for your letters (I hope I was of assistance) and keep ‘em coming.
This month’s column will focus on tips for speeding your Mac up (as a fellow co-worker suggested I do). I won’t get into clock chipping or any of the real technical things, but look more at the little things you may have never thought of. Although this subject has already been covered in some of the newsstand Macintosh magazines, not everyone has had a chance to read about it, and besides, there may just be a few little tricks they may have missed. So, please read on and see if maybe you can’t squeeze just a little more ‘oomph’ out of your Mac.

Speed Tips

Pop out menus are cool. If you’ve been using the hierarchal menus with System 7’s Apple menu, you probably know that you can put an alias of a folder in your Apple Menu folder and when you select it in the Apple menu all the contents of the folder pop out to the side. If you didn’t know that, it can be a great time saver. I have several folders in my Apple Menu that have aliases of my most common applications. Be aware there are a couple no-no’s with doing this:

Never put an alias of your hard drive in the Apple Menu. Why? Every time a file changes (like during normal use of your computer) the system has to update the entire list in your Apple Menu – this can be a major drag on your Mac.
Don’t increase the number of recently used documents/applications/servers (this number can be changed in the Apple Menu Options control panel under System 7.5x) to much more than 20. I tried that one on my 7500 just to see what the difference would be, and several applications would “pause” for 15 – 20 seconds while the lists were refreshed.

Cache is keen. Have you ever messed with the disk cache in your Memory control panel? The default is usually 128K, which is satisfactory in most cases, but increasing it by small amounts can also help your Mac zoom along. It varies by what kind of work you do and how much real RAM you have. My 7500 has 50 Meg of real RAM, so my cache is set for 768K, my 575 has 20 megs so it’s cache is at 512K, my co-worker’s 575 has 8 Meg (16 with RAM Doubler™) and his cache is set to the lowest setting of 32K. The last computer has a ton of extensions making the system use a large chunk of RAM (leaving little for the programs to work with), so we set the cache to its lowest setting to give the computer all the extra RAM it could get. Yes, this means that the more RAM (don’t count what virtual memory or RAM Doubler™ give you) your computer has, the better the performance.

Neatness is next to speediness. Imagine that, your computer will work faster if you organize your files. Putting files in folders does help! The best setup is to put no more than 100 items (files and folders) in a folder. If you have more items than that in 1 particular folder you can have a performance penalty. See, when your computer opens that folder, or a program shows you the files in a folder (like in a open or save dialog) it takes longer for the computer to scan each file for information about the individual file. Really want to have some fun? Try putting more than 1000 files in a folder, then open the folder or select all of them and try putting them in a different folder. My 575 coughed (er, crashed 3 times) when I had 2500 files in one folder (don’t ask how they got there, I like to play). So beware if you try it.

Rebuild your desktop on occasion. The desktop is an invisible file that keeps track of what files are where on your computer, other information like size, date and kind are also in there. I suggest rebuilding at least once per month to help things along. There are 2 main methods to do this:
1. Restart your computer, holding the shift key down until you see “Welcome to Macintosh, Extensions Off”, then let go of the shift key and hold down the Command and Option keys (Command is the open-apple or butterfly key next to the Option key). Your computer will then ask you if you want to rebuild your desktop, click OK.
2. Open your Extensions Manager in your Control Panels, select All Off from the pop up menu, then check the one called Macintosh Easy Open. Restart your computer holding down the Command and Option keys until you get the same message above. Click OK.

Real World Experience

The Computer:
Macintosh Quadra 660AV, Macintosh 21” Color Display

I have 6 of the above systems with the 21” color monitors under my day job, unfortunately each monitor likes to “die” every 12 months. The problems vary, but usually they either emit smoke (very bad thing in a public facility) or, as the users say, “the picture doesn’t come on”. This summer, one of the monitors had a non-standard part fail so I had to order it. Then next day after this particular monitor went south I took a day off. Of course while I was relaxing another similar monitor in the same department “died”. They called me at home in a frenzy, needing it fixed (they were going to get another monitor themselves since I wasn’t there). Well, their theory of getting another monitor didn’t fly when they realized their monitor weighed 86 pounds, so they waited until I came back.

I looked at the system, then at the symptoms (yup, no video). Five minutes later it was fixed. The problem? The battery was bad in the computer. Too bad the first 21” monitor to fail this year wasn’t so easy (adjusting the monitor after you replace a main board usually takes hours).

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