Macworld Masterclass: Speed up Lion

Speed up your network applications for an overall Mac experience that’s noticeably faster

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  • speed08 Intro
  • speed01 Step 1: Change the Channel
  • speed02 Step 2: Reduce the Guesswork
  • speed03 Step 3: Eke out Speed
  • speed04 Step 4: Fixed IP
  • speed05 Step 5: Entering Details
  • speed06 Step 6: Corrupt Plug-ins
  • speed07 Step 7: Deleting Extensions
  • speed08 Step 8: Top Sites
  • speed09 Step 9: Stop Sites
  • speed10 Step 10: Clear Cache
  • speed11 Step 11: Change your Browser
  • speed12 Step 12: 32 Bit Mail
  • speed13 Step 13: Spotlight Builder
  • speed14 Step 14: Vacuum your Database
  • speed15 Step 15: Alternative Mail
  • keychain Fix the Keychain
  • More stories
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Intro

Speeding up your systems isn’t just about tweaking the operating system. For many of us, the mains applications and storage we use are now in the cloud. Whether that’s iCloud, Dropbox, Google Docs or any number of social media and productivity services - that’s the direction app provision is going in.

To get the best response from the apps you use, you need a steady, stable connection. You need a web browser that’s optimised and running at full speed. You need email that’s reliable and quick. You need our tips for making all these things work faster.

These three - connection, browser and email - are the trinity of network computing. Optimise these for speed and the rest will fall into place.

We show you how to improve the response of these features in Lion. In some cases we even suggest faster replacements for the defaults supplied with OS X.

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Next Prev speed08

Speeding up your systems isn’t just about tweaking the operating system. For many of us, the mains applications and storage we use are now in the cloud. Whether that’s iCloud, Dropbox, Google Docs or any number of social media and productivity services - that’s the direction app provision is going in.

To get the best response from the apps you use, you need a steady, stable connection. You need a web browser that’s optimised and running at full speed. You need email that’s reliable and quick. You need our tips for making all these things work faster.

These three - connection, browser and email - are the trinity of network computing. Optimise these for speed and the rest will fall into place.

We show you how to improve the response of these features in Lion. In some cases we even suggest faster replacements for the defaults supplied with OS X.

 

Step 1: Change the Channel

Dropped connections? Channels 1, 6 and 11 are the most widely used wireless broadband and conflict between them causes interference. Try another WiFi channel to avoid this. Use your ISPs instructions to log in to the configuration screen from your web browser and find the wireless settings, then select a different channel - 3 or 8 may give better results.

 

Step 2: Reduce the Guesswork

Don’t want to guess which wireless channel is least cluttered in your area? Fair enough. There area a number of apps you can use to determine which WiFi channels are active in your vicinity. We currently like AirLock It’s pretty top look at, simple and free - but it’ll only work if your Mac, connects to WiFi using AirPort.

 

Step 3: Eke out Speed

Your router is probably configured to work in mixed mode, talking to legacy devices as well as those that understand contemporary WiFi protocols. You can eke out more speed by logging into your router’s control panel and setting your WiFi’s WLAN settings to “G only” - or “N only” if your equipment’s up to it.

 

Step 4: Fixed IP

You can speed up network connectivity by specifying a fixed IP address for your Mac. Go to System Preferences > Networking and select AirPort (or Ethernet if the connection is wired).  Click Advanced then TCP/IP. Make a note of the currently assigned network settings. Choose “Manually” from the “Configfure IPv4” drop down.

 

Step 5: Entering Details

For IP Address, Subnet Mask and Router, enter the numeric addresses you noted down at the previous stage. In the DNS section enter 8.8.8.8, 8.8.4.4 - this will use Google’s open DNS lookup service, which is faster than most ISP’s. Click Apply to enjoy your new, faster and more stable settings.

 

Step 6: Corrupt Plug-ins

Safari plug-ins can make your browser slower than a Slow Loris. Conflicts, load times, connectivity issues - who needs them? You can troubleshoot plugins by going to the Preferences in the Safari menu, clicking the Security tab, then unchecking “Enable Plugins”. Restart Safari to see if your slow browsing issues have been fixed.

 

Step 7: Deleting Extensions

Did that work? A plug-in could be the culprit if it did. You’ll find plug-ins for Safari in the folder: ~/Library/Internet Plug-Ins. This location contains plug-ins available to all users. You should also look in the Library/Internet Plug-Ins in your user folder.  Trash plug-ins you don’t need first, then restart Safari, If you’re in luck, then you should be up to speed.

 

Step 8: Top Sites

Safari’s Top Site feature creates a screenshot of every site you’ve visited and stores. After a while, the footprint of those stored screenshots can get pretty big and Safari has to search through the folder every time it starts up, adding valuable seconds onto your browser’s boot up time. The solution? Disable preview caching.

 

Step 9: Stop Sites

Open up Terminal and type ‘touch desktop/Webpage\ Previews’. This creates a new folder on your desktop. In Finder, browse to ~/library/caches/com.apple.safari in your user folder. Delete the Webpage Previews folder that’s currently there and replace it with the new version. No more preview caching.

 

Step 10: Clear Cache

Corrupt cookies, broken cached images, bad passwords - any and all of these can slow down your browsing experiences, so why not just zap the lot of them.  Go to the Safari menu and choose “Reset Safari”. A menu full of stuff to remove appears. Picking “Remove all Website data” deletes cookies and cached files.

 

Step 11: Change your Browser

Sure, Safari’s fast - but is it as fast as Chrome? Most tests suggest that the Google app has a slight edge over Apple’s default Internet browser. They’re both similar in terms of HTML and CSS support, but we find Chrome’s a bit speedier when it comes to AJAX and JavaScript powered sites. Give it a try.

 

Step 12: 32 Bit Mail

Mail causing problems post-Lion? Here’s a widely reported fix. Find the Mail app in your Applications folder. CTRL-click on it and choose “Get Info” and from there, select “Open in 32 bit mode”.  When you’ve got the 64 bit power of Lion it’s not an ideal solution, but better than sluggish access to your mail accounts.

 

Step 13: Spotlight Builder

Mail relies on Spotlight to index, display and search headers you’ve already downloaded. To keep it ship shape, you can occasionally force Spotlight to reindex - preferably before bed. In System Preferences click the Privacy tab in Spotlight. Remove the main disk to “prevent” Spotlight from indexing it, then re-add it. Leave overnight.

 

Step 14: Vacuum your Database

Over time, your mail database can become clogged with orphan links and corrupt relationships. You can compact and refresh Mail with a simple Terminal command that rebuilds the SQLite database. All you have to do is type “sqlite3 ~/Library/Mail/Envelope\ Index vacuum” into terminal, hit return and enjoy a faster loading and less glitchy Apple Mail experience.

 

Step 15: Alternative Mail

Again, you don’t need to use Apple’s built in Mail option. And Sparrow Mail could be the lightweight alternative you’re looking for. Available for both OS X and iOS, this budget app also connects to Facebook and uses Dropbox to handle large attachments. With built in preview for images, it’s a more modern approach to Mail.

 

Fix the Keychain

Beavering away in the background, your Keychain gets you into secure places, on your Mac, online and on your network. But, even your Keychain isn’t immune to the cruft of time’s indiscriminate shovel. Sometimes, you need to repair the Keychain to keep things ticking over. Here’s how.

Open the Keychain Access utility from Utilities in the Applications folder. Open the Keychain Access menu and select “Keychain First Aid”. When prompted, enter your admin password and select “Repair”. Click the Start button to let the app do it’s arcane thing. Your reward will be a rebuilt Keychain, free of cached corruption.

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