Laptop performance checks

Energy Saver is the System Preference pane that controls your Mac’s energy-saving features. These vary hugely depending on the Mac and version of Mac OS X. Pre-Intel Macs with versions of Mac OS X up to Leopard had the ability to decrease processor speed to conserve energy. Called Dynamic Power Step, check for this option in Energy Saver if you’re running an older machine and disable it. You’ll get less battery life on a laptop but better performance.

Mac laptops can run hot – very hot under intense processing. This can also occur for a few days when installing a new version of Mac OS X as it runs through its initial tasks. Is this unhealthy? Let’s put it into perspective. Mac Intel chips have an in-built safety feature called thermtrip that will temporarily suspend the processor if it gets hot and shut it down altogether if things get too hot.

Speeding up the fans will keep your laptop running cooler. smcFanControl (free, www.eidac.de) lets you set the fan speed above its default value and monitors the processor temperature. Anyone with the 2008 MacBook Pro model that suffers from the Nvidia graphics chip problem should use this. iStat Menus ($16, bjango.com) provides a more comprehensive set of monitoring tools.

Keep your laptop’s sensors under check with iStat Menus

Cool runnings for your laptop with smcFanControl

Tidy up the Login Items list

When you install some applications, they may set themselves up to open automatically at each restart and then run in the background. Alternatively they may install a ‘helper’, a small app that they require.

If you navigate to System Preferences/Users & Groups (Accounts in older versions of Mac OS X) and look at the Login Items tab for your current user you’ll see what has been installed. Mountain Lion only installs one such app (iTunesHelper); previous Mac OS X versions installed others including System Events. 

Some login items are useful and essential to the running of your utilities, especially those that reside in the menu bar – Growl, Dropbox, PopChar, SMARTReporter and smcFanControl to name but a few.

Not sure which app an item belongs to? Control-click on it, select Reveal in Finder and then use Show Info to see which app owns it and decide whether it can be deleted. Just select it and click the minus button below the list. Make sure you know what you’re removing though otherwise a favourite utility may just have bitten the dust!

Get rid of any Login Items you don’t need any more

Too many features

Do you really use all the features on your mobile phone? Probably not and it’s the same case with Mac OS X. If you don’t use it, lose it. 

Go to System Preferences and see whether some unwanted features are currently active. Check Accessibility (previously Universal Access) and make sure functions like Speakable Items are turned off. Are you using devices that need Bluetooth wireless sharing? If not, deactivate it. How about various sharing aspects? Printer Sharing? Internet Sharing? Decide if you need any of the functions on offer and uncheck the remainder. Are you using the new Dictation & Speech? If not, make sure it’s switched off. 

Another place to look is at the Dock preferences. Do you really want applications to be animated when they open? Or to use the genie effect when minimising windows? Switch them off and save processing power.

Do you need any of the sharing services? If not, turn them off