Strategies to Maximize the Life of Your Mac Hard Drive

by: Alex Bezborodov

Maximize the life of your Mac hard drive

Although Macs are often deemed the most user-friendly computers, many Mac users do not know much about computer maintenance. This is because Mac OS cleverly hides all the cumbersome applications it runs to keep the system secure and healthy. Unfortunately, while this maintains Apple’s signature look and feel, it also takes away the user’s ability to easily monitor and maintain the health of their computer.

Below, I recommend several procedures that can be performed by most Mac users without much difficulty, which will help safeguard your computer from data loss.

Be SMART, Monitor your hard drives

SMART stands for Self-Monitoring Analysis and Reporting Technology and allows you to run diagnostics on your hard drive to determine if a failure is imminent. In order to run the tool, launch Disk Utility (Applications: Utilities) and click on the top level indicator for your drive in the left-hand column. In the bottom of the window, you should see something like “SMART Status: Verified”. If you do not see “SMART status” at all, your Mac does not support the technology. If you see “SMART status” but do not see “Verified”, your drive may be at risk of imminent failure. In this case, your best bet is to backup your data and replace the drive. This simple, but often overlooked procedure may save you from losing your data. One other thing worth noting is that although there is a myriad of 3rd party applications that can run these diagnostics automatically, be advised that using such utilities in the event of a hardware failure can cause extensive damage to the drive.

Clean up files

This is pretty self-explanatory and is applicable to all computer users – take some time to organize your files on a regular basis. Clean up any downloads or files from your desktop and place the files into appropriate folders. This will not only save time, but will also protect you from losing files due to bad sectors.

UNIX Maintenance Scripts

Mac OS uses automatic maintenance routines called maintenance scripts to clean up system log files and other temporary files. The three scripts are designed to run daily, weekly and monthly. The problem is that these scripts are set by default to run late at night when most Macs are either off or sleeping. If the computer is off or in sleep mode during this time, the scripts will not run and the log files will grow in size, clogging up the startup disk and slowing down performance. The good news is there are a number of 3rd party programs that exist that allow the user to set different times at which to run the scripts, including MacJanitor (v.1.3 or later for Tiger) and Anacron among others. I will be reviewing these software suites in the coming articles so do check back often and sign up for our newsletter!