Ten More Ways You Can Royally Screw Up Your Mac

OS X is a solid, reliable and mature operating system. Sometimes the biggest danger to OS X is the user. Last month, I wrote “Ten ways you can royally screw up your Mac” focusing on what you should not do. Continuing on from then, let’s look at ten more ways you can royally screw up your Mac.

1. Never shutting down or restarting.

A great way to screw up OS X and cause your computer to behave slow and erratically is to just let it run for days and weeks without a shutdown or restart. You will see problems faster if you leave applications running for days and weeks at a time as well. Anytime I see a Mac (or PC) doing something seriously strange, the first thing I do is restart it. Nine times out of ten, this solves the problem. My recommendation is to shut down your computer when you aren’t using it.

2. Unmatched RAM.

MacBooks require matched RAM to efficiently use the memory between the two cores in their processors. This means that in the two memory slots, they must be the same size and speed. Say your MacBook came with 1GB RAM. This means 2 512MB modules. If you were to upgrade to 1.5GB by buying one 1GB module instead of two, the MacBook would not behave properly, possibly worse than without the “upgrade”.

3. Never emptying the trash.

This may not be a big deal if you let the trash hang around for a while but after a few months, your wasting a good amount of disk space. I’ve seen gigabytes sitting in the trash on some Macs. Empty the trash at least once a week. Better yet, empty it before you shut down at night. As a rule – if you are saving a file for something and don’t want to delete it, don’t put it in the trash.

4. Shutting down on updates – always restart.

This one is debatable as Apple gives you the option to shut down after installing updates. However, I’ve screwed up more than one machine after some of the big OS X updates and security updates. After shutting down, upon start up the computers froze and never fully booted. They needed to have OS X reinstalled. Always restart after updates, especially the OS X and security updates.

5. Not following instructions when setting up Boot Camp.

Boot Camp is quite easy to set up. However if you don’t follow the instructions properly, one of two things happens. The first thing that can go wrong is that your Windows installation doesn’t work. This is a pain but easy to recover from – just repeat the Boot Camp process. The other thing that can go wrong is you can completely destroy your OS X partition requiring a re-install. Always follow the Boot Camp instructions. Especially the Windows Installer’s partitioning step.

6. Locking down Leopard’s firewall way too tight.

Leopard’s built in firewall is very robust. So robust in fact that you can break all networking functionality by setting it too tight. Unless you know what you are doing and want to deal with the occasional problem, either use the “Allow only essential services” or just choose “Allow all incoming connections” to turn it off.

Yes, turning the firewall off is insecure, but so is directly connecting to the internet without a router. At home, if you use a wireless router that’s properly secured, you’ll be fine. At a public hotspot, turn the firewall on.

7. Pulling out USB Memory sticks / External Hard Drives without ejecting first.

In the Windows world, you can rip out USB memory sticks and external drives without worry. Not so under OS X. I spent a few hours working on a paper, only to forget to eject the drive before pulling it out. Needless to say, I had to rewrite the paper. Always eject the drives before disconnecting with either the eject button in the Finder’s Sidebar or dragging the disk’s icon into the trash (the trash can will turn into an eject symbol).

Note: I’ve noticed that sometimes the drives take a while to eject, particularly on machines running AntiVirus programs. Always wait for the icon to disappear from the desktop and sidebar.

8. Leaving your Mac in sleep mode for weeks.

When going on a vacation or if you aren’t going to use your Mac for an extended period of time, shut it down. Leaving a MacBook or MacBook Pro in sleep mode for weeks will drain the battery to the point where it’s completely discharged. Normally, if you are using the laptop and the battery drains, it will warn you and then go into sleep mode. Most people then put it on a charger and everything is OK. If you left it in sleep mode for weeks, the battery just drains to the point of full discharge without warning. The Lithium-Ion batteries in MacBooks and MacBook Pros don’t recover from a full and complete discharge. You will need to buy a new battery if this happens.

9. Spring Cleaning in the System Folder.

Sometimes when your Hard Drive gets a bit full you may be tempted to remove files from that mysterious “Library” folder that takes up a good amount of space. The same can be said about Applications and Utilities that you aren’t sure about. A good rule of thumb for this is, if you didn’t install it yourself, don’t know what it is, or it’s something that Apple installed – don’t touch. If you delete anything by accident you are going to have to reinstall OS X to get it back. If you need more space, an External Hard Drive is recommended.

10. Never running Software Update.

Every OS has bugs, flaws and issues. Some are major and others minor. Software Update is also the best and most underrated security feature of any operating system. When bugs, issues, and security flaws are found out, eventually they get fixed. Software Update is the way Apple sends those fixes to you. Now, I’m not going to compare OS X to Windows but almost every virus infected PC I’ve had to deal with got that way because the owner didn’t run their updates. The best thing to do is let Software Update run once a week and automatically download everything in the background. It’s painless and easy. Just remember to always restart after updates are installed.

Bonus: Using a MacBook’s power adapter with a MacBook Pro.

MacBook Pros come with an 85W power adapter while MacBooks come with a 60W, Of course, its not easy to tell them apart unless you look on the low-contrast label with the light gray type. It also doesn’t help that the light will turn red for charging and green for charged, luring you into thinking everything is fine. However, the lower power MacBook charger won’t supply enough power to the MacBook Pro leaving the battery to be used along with the charger. Use a MacBook charger for long enough and the battery will die. If you let the Lithium-Ion battery drain past the point of it’s reserves it will never come back.

2 thoughts on “Ten More Ways You Can Royally Screw Up Your Mac

  1. My son plugged in my wife’s 15″ macbook pro into my 17″ (larger) charger and now the 15″ wont boot up. it chimes and the screen lights up but nothing else happens.

    is it fried? what can I do?

  2. Hi Tom,

    Both the 15″ and 17″ MacBook Pros use the same 85 watt adapter, they are ok to interchange.

    I’d say that since the laptop chimes and screen lights up, you will want to test if its a hardware issue or not. Try to boot the laptop from the DVD that came with it. If it starts up fine with the DVD, its either a software or hard drive issue and not the laptop itself.

    To do this:
    – Insert the DVD
    – Start the computer up
    – Right after the chime, Hold down the C key
    – Keep holding until the Apple with gray spinning gear (circle) appears.

    Good Luck,