Tech Tips
My Mac Magazine #21, Jan. ’97

This month’s article will deal with something I am frequently asked to do to a client’s Mac – tune it up. We’ll discuss what pieces of software your System Folder may or may not need, where to look for them, and what to do with them. Standard disclaimer: “If you are even slightly uncomfortable with any of the following “tasks”, please don’t attempt do it.”


What is the System Folder?The System Folder contains the software parts that your computer needs in order to boot up (turn on), and other software that is used to give your computer certain functionality (such as printing, video and sound). By removing or disabling certain unnecessary parts of it, you can increase the speed of certain functions as well as making other programs much more reliable.

On newer Macs, with System version 7.1 and greater, the System Folder is categorized into several main parts:
Extensions folder
Apple Menu Items folder
Control Panels folder
Preferences folder

Two main things to keep in mind as we move along:

  • “If you don’t know what it’s for, leave it alone”
  • “If you are leery of deleting the file, put it in a folder named “save,” and if your computer doesn’t seem to work properly the next time you use it, put the item back where you found it.”How do I mess with it?
    System 7.5 and newer has an Extension Manager that will allow you to disable certain extensions and control panels. The easiest method to use with Extensions Manager is to select 7.5 only (from the pop up menu) and restart your computer. If a certain function doesn’t work any more (Internet, perhaps), go back into the Extensions Manager and enable any piece of software that sounds like it may have to do with the Internet. Restart and try again. Worst case, you can always go back into the Extensions Manager and select “All On” from the menu.

    What if I don’t have this “Extensions Manager”?
    Most Control Panel and Extension folders contain extra “pieces” that can’t be used on your computer and can be thrown away. First, what type of computer are you using? If it’s not a PowerBook and you see PowerBook control panels, then you don’t need them, and it’s safe to throw them in the Trash.

    How about Brightness? Try to open it, if it doesn’t work, throw it away. Same idea holds for ODBC setup, Auto Power On/Off and CloseView. Do you use Easy Access (allows use of the numeric keypad for cursor control and a few other features)?
    If not, you can safely throw it away.

    On to the Extensions folder… If you have A/Rose, expect to throw it away, unless you have an uncommon setup (including very non-standard network cards, PC compatible cards and special printer cards). Oh, you’ll also probably have a Mac that is several years old. How many printers are connected to your Mac? You probably don’t need the extra printer drivers in there, so those can be thrown out. Know what type of modem you have? Then you don’t need all those other modem files. Do you have a Power Mac? If not, the QuickTime PowerPlug won’t do you any good. How about a video input/output system? No, then Video Startup doesn’t work on your Mac, either.

    Remember: If you’re leery of actually deleting any of the items, just move them to a folder outside the System Folder so you can always put them back.

    The list of what each item in the System Folder is very long and can be complicated, but if you’d like to find out for yourself what they are or do, you can check out these Web pages:

    The Macintosh Extensions Guide
    The Mac Pruning Page


    Real World ExperienceThe computer: Mac LC 5260
    The problem: Unit freezes after starting up although the mouse continues to move.
    The solution:: Remove unnecessary printer drivers and kill spooled print jobs to a phantom printer.

    The explanation: The computer had printer drivers for an HP Deskjet installed on it, although it was connected to an Apple LaserWriter. One of the users had inadvertently selected the HP printer, then tried to print to it. Since the printer wasn’t connected, the print job spooled to the disk. The next (and every) time the computer booted, the print monitor tried to find the printer, but couldn’t, and at the same time failed to indicate this to the user, appearing to have frozen the computer. Normally, this would result in a message that “printer xxxxx” couldn’t be found” but for some reason in this case, it didn’t. Holding the shift key down at startup to disable the print monitor was the method used to get around the “error.”

    Jeramey R. Valley (

  • Leave a Reply