OS X Optimizations

Monolingual is a Open Source utility for Mac OS X that removes all the not-needed languages from your computer, freeing up hundreds of megabytes. My Mac mini is going “laggy” with the mouse jumping around instead of being smooth when I move the cursor around — any more tips for optimizations?

51 thoughts on “OS X Optimizations

  1. An Apple genius recently told me that, for optimum performance, you should leave about 20 gigs of space free on your HDD. I was surprised but, apparently, it gives your Mac the room it needs to handle fragmentation in a smarter way.

    And, yes, despite the myths, it does help to defrag your Mac occasionally.

    I find that Mailplane and Firefox eat up a lot of memory if you leave them running for a few hours. A flash blocker+whitelist is good for keeping all your browsers running efficiently, even with 15+ tabs open.

    1. The reason for this is Mac OS X does on-the-fly defragmentation. More free space the easier it is to do (with less i/o).

      It only happens when a file meets the following requirements:

      * If the file is less than 20 MB in size
      * If the file is not already busy
      * If the file is not read-only
      * If the file has more than eight extents
      * If the system has been up for at least three minutes

      If it doesn’t meet those requirements, it likely won’t benefit much.


      I should note that most optimization programs will actually slow things down as the Mac OS X installer writes it’s files unfragmented on the inner part of the disk for fastest read times. Defragmenting will disrupt this and slow things down (especially startup).

      Windows NTFS and FAT32 don’t do this… hence they require defragmentation.

  2. I used Monolingual on my Mac. But when I tried to update Office 2008, the Microsoft Updater refused to verify that I had Office installed since the language files were missing. I don’t know if that’s a problem with any other applications.

  3. Why not just use Xslimmer? It removes not just language files but loads of other crap you dont need. It freed up just over 3gb on my Macbook pro.

    1. I was also about to point you to Xslimmer (http://www.xslimmer.com/). I haven’t tried it myself, but I just ran across it while searching for something else, and remembered this post of yours. Stripping some of the Universal binaries sounds like a good idea.

      I’ve also recently found a utility called Grand Perspective (http://grandperspectiv.sourceforge.net/) which is great for discovering bloated folders that are eating your drive space. I found that my Gmail IMAP in Thunderbird was keeping a copy of the Archived messages locally. I was able to reset my server settings to avoid that, and delete the local folder, which instantly recovered 2GB of space. I also noticed other things, like the backup files left around from OS updates on my iPhone.

  4. I think this is me being dumb, but 6 years after I got my first Mac I still don’t really understand how to uninstall things. I delete things from Applications, but I still have this feeling they’ve left junk somewhere.

    I also have junk in my systems preferences (from testing hardware, usually) I have no idea how to get rid off.

    1. I think deleting the app pretty much does it because, of course, each app is itself actually a folder, theoretically containing everything the app needs to run.

      Some people use AppZapper to make sure they get rid of every stray file. Personally, I don’t bother, even though I picked up AppZapper in one of those MacHeist bundles.

      There’s a certain extent to which extreme Mac management is just a waste of time, products targeting obsessive compulsives who simply must, MUST, have their system running 100% efficiency.

      For the rest of us, however, the beauty of OS X is that you don’t really need to do all that stuff.

      If stray app files become an actual problem, sure, use AppZapper but, otherwise, don’t waste time even thinking about it.

    2. Get AppZapper, that removes all the other gunk that applications drop all over the place, like .plist’s etc..

    3. Matt, you can just move the app to the trash and only a .plist (preference) file or two will be left behind. If you want these removed as well, use AppZapper.

      To uninstall a preference pane, you can drag it to the trash as well. (Or again, use AppZapper.)

      There’s a free alternative to AppZapper whose name eludes me.

    4. I’ve always found AppZapper and AppCleaner to be a little cumbersome. Hazel, on the other hand, is super-easy to use: when you delete something from Applications, it looks around for things it thinks are related and asks if you want to trash those, too.

    5. Matt –

      Another little trick I do when I am trying out new software is this –

      Create another user (with full permissions) called “TEST USER”, and install the programs you are not sure about yet for ONLY THAT USER.

      It helps keep my user account running leaner and faster.

      And Donncha, while I agree with the premise of your post, there are definitely some reasons to want to clean up stray files. The new version of Safari is a GIGANTIC hard disk space hog (if you are using the preview feature). After using it for one month, when I cleaned its cache alone recovered over 6GB!!! (and your Apple-sanctioned 6 month idea is hysterical!)


  5. Most applications uninstall exactly the way you do it – dragging them to the trash.

    The notable exceptions are (of course) MS-Office and Adobe applications.

  6. There are no real optimization secrets for the mac. Sit could be the hard drive going bad on the computer.

    But an optimization secret would be to reinstall the os again, but make sure to do a clean install. Which will preserve your user folder with all the documents, pictures, music, etc. Unclick all the languages and printers and the re-install should take only about 10 – 20 minutes.

  7. Thanks for pointing that app out, freeing up unneeded space is always nice.

    Matt, you may want to check out AppZapper. Does a little more of an uninstall than the standard app trash, might be worth a look.

  8. Onyx will run maintenance scripts.

    Some mac users will say that dragging the app to the trash is all you need to do. Untrue. Even using something like AppCleaner does not do it all. You could trawl though prefs, caches, plist files and still not find everything. I know, I do this.

    If it’s that laggy, reinstall but Onyx and leaving a huge amount of free HD space might work. Have you maxed out the RAM?

  9. You don’t mention the spec or even the age of your mini, so it’s difficult to know for sure… But if it’s low on RAM, you’d really benefit from boosting that. You’re probably not hammering the mini, so 2GB RAM is a reasonable target. I vaguely remember that the early ones wouldn’t take any more than 2GB, so that might be your upper ceiling – end of story.

    However, the current ones will go up to 4GB. If you have one of these and you’re going to make the effort to do a RAM upgrade, you might as well spend a little more and take it the whole way.

    I’ve also seen dodgy mice/surface combinations cause a “laggy” mouse response. (a) clean the gunk of the pads on the bottom of the mouse and (b) clean the surface on which the mouse runs. The edge of a credit card (for example) is quite good for the base and a damp cloth will do fine for the surface (let it dry before reusing it!). I speak from experience on this – and that’s with optical Microsoft mice. 🙂

  10. Sounds like you need to clear space, not necessarily 20 gigs — just 10% of your drive. Especially if you’re using Photoshop — it uses the drive space for temporary files.

    Appzapper does a great job.

  11. Free up as much hard drive space as possible on your boot drive. Try deleting printer drivers you don’t use from /Library/Printers/

    Use OmniDiskSweeper to find out where big files are lurking.

    Go to System Preferences → Accounts and then remove login items that you don’t need.

    To get rid of unused items in your system preferences, right click them, and then click “Remove” (doh, bet you didn’t think it’d be that easy!)

    Add more RAM if you can (not very familiar with Mac Mini upgradability.

    Yet another +1 for AppZapper.

    Uninstall any “haxies” and “InputManager” hacks. Go to ~/Library/InputManagers/ and /Library/InputManagers/ and remove them.

    Remove third party kernel extensions that are still being loaded but you’re not using anymore. Google around for more info on this.

    1. I want to second OmniDiskSweeper – very helpful for finding those forgotten folders full of carp you downloaded but you know you will never use.

  12. Appzapper is a cool utility, but the pref files it finds are pretty tiny. Not really worth the trouble in terms of drive space.

    Cocktail is a great housekeeping app. It cleans up some big log files, which can make a difference, and does a nice job with permissions and other optimizations.

    Run the skinniest browser possible. Your choices do not include Firefox. 😉 Safari, Opera, Camino …

    Run simple wallpaper. Throw away the ones to don’t need. That’s a lot of saved space.

    Turn off as much eye candy as you can stand: the genie minimize feature, for instance. Disable screensavers in favor of a dark screen. I find shadows helpful, despite their expense.

    If you don’t need Time Machine, don’t use it. Better yet, use a utility (again, Cocktail works) to reduce the frequency of the backups. They suck resources.

    Look at Accounts > Login Items. Are you running anything you don’t need? Make sure iTunes is really off. It’s a pig.

    Don’t run Gears.

    Use Console to review logfiles for any unusual activity, such as a dead program calling for an unavailable resource every few seconds.

    Curse Steve Jobs for making it all so damn pretty.

  13. About the only thing I do to my Mac on a regular basis (regular being every 6 months or so) is to use the disk utility to check the hard drive and to repair permissions. Other than that I just use it.

  14. I recently found a little app called Clean My Mac – http://macpaw.com/cleanmymac

    This does a great job if all the functions you have mentioned and more. It makes it easy to remove all unneeded apps and files from your Mac.

    Speeds things up and makes more room for music or whatever!

    Have fun and thanks a million for WP!

  15. Unless you absolutely need the free space, and you absolutely know which apps can benefit from Monolingual treatment without encountering future integrity errors, I’d suggest looking at other ways to save space.

    I have ruined a perfectly working install in the past, and so have others, by trying to save an extra gig or two with Monolingual…

    As per optimization tricks: a great one is to periodically check which apps are started by your account as you log in. Sometimes you uninstall an application but its helper app stays behind, for example. Or you notice you use things like Expandrive too rarely to make it useful to start them as you log in.

    Another optimization for Leopard and earlier: either try to keep as few items on the desktop as possible, or use an app to hide it. Each icon on the desktop is a window by itself, and each time you boot OS X will generate a preview again. This is fixed in Snow Leopard, thankfully.

    About the Mini’s jaggy mouse: check for background processes or anything unusual about system usage. Each time this happens here, it’s because of high load.

    Finally, the best optimization trick if you want to save space: learn to delete useless/deprecate/uninteresting data and boring pictures (those that you would keep “just in case” at the end of every photo session, that end up wasting your hdd…).

    No amount of tweaking system files to save 3 gigs at the expense of system integrity is going to help you as much as deleting those twelve variations of Aunt Whatever wincing per one good version of her smiling at the camera. (Especially with today’s 20MB/pic cameras!)

  16. I’d say you should look at the problem like any other unix machine. Run top, check out free memory, how much you’re paging, and see if there is a process that is just racking the machine. I’ve run into odd issues a few (very few) times that were solved and left my machine feeling new.

  17. I wonder when people will address the performance of some well-known JavaScript libraries – especially for web projects running on Safari on a Mac. Now THAT would be a huge benefit for all those Mac-Users struggeling with JS-intense Websites.

    But maybe its not the libraries, but the developers, who don’t test on a Mac?

  18. When I want to work out where all the space on my HD has gone I use Grand Perspective.

    It produces a nice grid of coloured boxes of different sizes to represent all the files. It make it easy to visualise what is using all the space.

  19. An update for everyone: the Mac is acting like new, and the #1 thing seemed to be clearing up space on the hard drive. I had some backup video stuff from WordCamp I moved to an external server and I went from 8GB free to about 100GB free.

    I’ve never had that happen to me before but I guess OS X really just freaks out when the free space gets low.

      1. There was such a dramatic improvement after clearing space I didn’t want to rock the boat. All I ran was Monolingual and “move.”

  20. I recently replaced the optical drive on my macbook pro with a Intel Solid State Disk (found it for a great price). I now host the OS on the SSD and the rest of my files on a 500gb 7200rpm drive.

    Not only is it (*much*) faster but, when traveling, I can dismount the 500gb and work off the SSD. This gets me an extra hour in battery life!

    To do this you’ll need the MCE Optibay Hard Drive Kit from mcetech.com

  21. I’m still on Tiger on my MBP (I know!) and plan on moving to Leopard in the next few days. Should I install apps like XSlimmer and CleanMyMac before doing the upgrade or after?

    I’m guessing before so my Mac is as clean as it can, but maybe Leopard will do the cleanup itself?

  22. To be honest, most of the things you describe here are just “ms windows” syndromes. Apple doesnt encourage to defrag or to use fancy utilities for unistalls, so I guess I won’t bother.

    After all, I came to Mac world just because I need to do less computer’s maintenance and focus on my work!