Speed up your Mac: Clean off your desktop!

Cluttered Mac OS X Desktop

Do you really need this many files on the desktop?

Here’s a really easy and effective way to speed up your aging Mac: Clean off your desktop! That’s right, by reducing the amount of icons you keep on the desktop (we’ve seen upwards of 250 icons on some computers), you will reduce the strain on the Mac OS X window server to draw all of those little icons.

Icons or windows?

Apparently, the icons that you see on your Mac’s desktop count as windows–small, redrawn windows. This basically means that the software that is tasked to draw and keep track of these windows, the WindowServer, has to work overtime to constantly show you these small windows. This translates to a load on the WindowServer, which translates into a speed penalty. By removing all of these icons on the desktop, you can help an older Mac to speed up a bit in the long run and give its WindowServer a break.

How do I clean off hundreds of desktop icons?

The easiest way we have found to keep the desktop clean, is to use a software program called “Hazel,” which we have talked about before on this blog. This is a simple utility that brings powerful rules to your computer, and allows you to not worry about keeping your files neat and tidy. For example, we have a Hazel rule that states “if any JPG hits the desktop, put it into our images folder located in the documents folder.” This works with any type of file and immediately makes the challenging task of keeping the Mac OS X desktop clean a manageable task for anyone.

Some bonus speed tips.

The Mac OS X also has a lot of “eye candy” going on throughout the system, including shadows, animations and transparency. By turning all of this off, you can also give the WindowServer and other processes that have to draw these effects a break. Some of the things to turn off to help speed up your Mac include:

  • System Preferences –> Dock –> Uncheck “animate opening applications”
  • System Preferences –> Dock –> Check “automatically hide and show the dock” which will make your dock disappear until you roll your mouse over it.
  • System Preferences –> Dock –> Uncheck “Magnification”
  • System Preferences –> Accessibility –> Check “Reduce Transparency”
  • Upgrade to an ultra-fast Solid State Hard Drive
  • Upgrade your RAM to the maximum amount for your machine. Contact Capital Mac for advice on this.
  • Keep your hard drive relatively clean–if it’s full or nearing full, the computer will feel like it’s running in molasses.