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Speed up your Mac

Plus upgrades and maintenance tips By Heath McKnight

One of the most frequently asked questions by Apple users, especially the power-users (those who do editing, graphics work, etc.), is how to get the most out of their Macs in terms of speed.  Plus, more often than not, especially on the message boards, there are plenty of questions about maintaining their Apple computers.  This article aims to help out with both counts.

Speed
In 2001, I wanted to go from my two-years-old blue and white G3 tower (400MHz with 256MB RAM) to something faster, even though it was only two years old.  Perhaps the lure of a G4 with the first-even DVD burner installed was too much for me to handle.  A friend recommended I add more memory to the G3, so I did, and it sped things up quite a bit, and saved me over $3,000!  (I ended up upgrading to a G4 laptop later that year and a G5 in 2003).

The point Im trying to make is the cheapest way to get more speed out of your system is with a memory boost.  There are plenty of retail sites on the web that can help you out and even link to the various companies that provide different pricing structures.  I like www.ramseeker.com the best, and though I always end up buying from www.18004memory.com, I seem to find deals on RamSeeker that arent on 18004Memorys site.  Apple also provides RAM upon purchase and even later on, but Im not sure if theyll upgrade an old G4 for you like the other sites.


Make sure you know the model number or type of system youre upgrading (there are so many G4 Power Macs that you may buy the wrong RAM) and also the maximum amount of memory you can install.  Go to your Apple System Profiler in OS X by clicking on the blue Apple logo, About This Mac, then click on the More Info tab and youll see the main page has the information.  The model number is only listed on G4 and older systems near where your serial number is located, as Apple made it easier to identify with the Power Mac G5s and Intel systems.

If you can afford it, max out the RAM on old systems; for G5s and the newest Intel CPUs, it might be expensive to drop in 8 to 16GB of RAM, so I recommend a minimum of 4 or 5GB of memory.  When I added 2GB to my old G5 Quad, my render times in Final Cut Pro shortened quite a bit!  Also, Other World Computing (www.macsales.com) offers a configuration that, through their technological advances, allows 32GB RAM to go in the Mac Pro 8-Core system!  Check out the site, linked above, for details.  A word of warning, it isnt cheap.

While checking out RAM, you should also consider a hard drive upgrade to a larger size and, if possible, a faster one, too.  Get at least a 250GB drive (if youre on a laptop, get the largest you can afford) and 7200 RPM is the speed I recommend, though some laptop drives that are 7200 RPM dont have sizes as large as slower ones.  Youll have to make the call on that.  Any Mac supplier seems to carry drives, though I personally always order from OWC.
For those of you on really old G4 and G3 Power Macs, and you have the budget, you may be able to upgrade the entire processor to a much faster speed.  The G4 processors I found online come in both single- and dual-processor configurations and sport some incredible features.

A CPU upgrade might be a good choice


Sonnet offers upgrades, as does OWC  and Newer Tech, which I notice is sold at OWCs site and other places.  For complete details on these processors, make sure you click on the links above.
Okay, once you have more RAM, a faster hard drive and, potentially, a new processor, there are some other ways to squeak out a little more speed from your Mac, and its really easy and affordable.  If you have a desktop, drop in a second drive for video storage while editing, or buy an affordable FireWire drive for the desktop or your laptop.  I prefer Fantom Drives and G-Technologys offerings.  If you have the budget and you need fast drives, buy an Apple Xserve.

A solid color desktop will speed up your Mac.


First thing you should do is get rid of your monitors desktop background in favor of something without an image on it.  I know, I know, its hard for me to drop a cool photo I took of my family or friends, but I noticed a slight increase in speed when I went to a solid color background (System Preferences, Desktop & Screen Saver, Desktop, Solid Colors).  Apparently, though you may have the desktop covered with open apps, Mac OS X is ?aware, if you will, of the background, and still displaying it.  If its a simple solid color background, OS X wont have to keep ?displaying something more complex. 

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Related Keywords:mac utilities, mac speedup, mac upgrade advice

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