Speed up Dashboard

Depending on who you talk to, OS X 10.4’s Dashboard is either an insanely great feature or a tremendous waster of CPU power and screen real estate…OK, so maybe there’s a middle ground, too. If you fall into the “great feature” camp, and enjoy the great variety of widgets that Dashboard has made possible, today’s tip just might make your Dashboard experience a bit quicker.

Over time, depending on which widgets you use and how often you use them, you may notice that Dashboard grows slower—each time you activate it, it might take a bit longer, or you may experience delays when working with a given widget. If this is the case, the following tip might help the situation—but it certainly won’t hurt anything to try it.

As you work with various Dashboard widgets, the Dashboard application caches information—that is, it creates a local copy of various widgets’ data. So if you need to access that data again, it’s available locally, instead of requiring a trip to the Internet. These cache files are stored in your user’s Library -> Caches folder, in a folder named DashboardClient.

So here’s the tip: drag all the cache files in that folder to the trash and empty the trash. After doing this, you’ll need to restart the Dock (as that’s the program that controls Dashboard). You can do this by using Terminal (type killall Dock ) or through Activity Monitor (in Applications -> Utilities; type dock into the search box, click once on the Dock process, then click the Quit Process button, then the Quit button in the resulting dialog). The Dock will restart automatically; after it does, try loading Dashboard and see if it’s not faster for you.

I was initially quite doubtful—cache is supposed to speed , not slow, access to information. But after testing it on my own machines, there’s no doubt it made a difference. Since these are only cache files, you can’t hurt anything by trying. Worst case, you’ll find no change in speed, and the cache files will be recreated as needed.

If it works, and you’d like to permanently prevent Dashboard from creating any cache files, that’s quite simple to do, too. Navigate to the DashboardClient folder, select it, then open the Get Info window (Command-I). In the General section of the Info window, click the Locked checkbox. That’s it—once the folder is locked, Dashboard won’t be able to write to it any more. (Obviously, to reverse this, just open Get Info again and uncheck the Locked box.)

As I noted, this may or may not make any difference for you. My cache folder was nearly 20MB in size (mainly due to PearLyrics’ cached lyrics), and Dashboard was notably quicker after emptying the cache. A friend’s machine, however, had only about 100KB in cache, and he saw no benefit to erasing the files. As they say, YMMV.

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