Top OS X tips

Want more speed from OS X? The operating system is pretty good at keeping itself in good shape, so there isn’t actually a whole lot you can do to improve OS performance. You can, however, give it a few little boosts. None of these techniques will turn your aging G3/500MHz iBook into a new dual-G5 Power Mac—but every little bit helps.

Reduce desktop clutter

The desktop can be a great place to drop stuff, but because of the way OSXhandles desktop icons, putting stuff there can also slow your system down. The operating system treats each desktop icon just like a full-size Finder window—the icon takes up a chunk of memory, and the system has to track its position and size at all times. Drop enough files and folders on your desktop, and you may start to notice side effects (such as spinning beach balls) when you’re trying to do something as simple as open a new Finder window. Here’s one simple way to cut down on the clutter (and system drag) without losing that handy storage place: create a folder or two on your desktop (call them Need To Look At and Things To Do, for example), and then move all the items from your desktop into the new folders.

Tweak the Finder

For machines with older video cards, disabling some of the Finder’s visual animations (zoom effects, scrolling info panels, and so on) can provide a notable increase in speed. Although you can do this in Terminal, the easiest way is to install Marcel Bresink’s TinkerTool utility ($9). In the Finder section, remove the check marks from all the boxes in the Animation Effects part of the page, and then click on the Relaunch Finder button (see top screenshot). And here’s another tip: in the Dock section of TinkerTool, you can enable the Suck In effect, a third animation style for minimizing windows. This is probably the fastest of the three (the other two are Scale and Genie), but it’s available only in TinkerTool (or via Terminal).

Skip disk image verification

When you mount a disk image, OS X first verifies the disk’s checksum to make sure that nobody has tampered with the data on the disk image. Theoretically, that step is important. But when you’re dealing with disk images from trusted sources (which is most of the time, I hope), it’s redundant. (In five years of OS X usage, I have yet to have a checksum test fail.) Thankfully, you can easily disable this feature. If you downloaded TinkerTool earlier, just look in the Applications section and choose the Skip Checksum Verification When Opening DMG Files option. If you don’t have TinkerTool, open Terminal and type

defaults write skip-verify true
. From now on, you won’t see the checksum-verification progress box. To reenable it, repeat the above command but change

• For more on checksum security, see the sidebar on Page 2.

Change the Dock animation

Open the Dock preference pane and change the Minimize Using pop-up menu to Scale Effect. (If you have TinkerTool, you can use that utility’s Suck In effect, which is faster than Scale.) On many machines, especially those with slower video cards, you’ll notice that windows minimize to the Dock much more smoothly when this effect is enabled. While you’re in this preference pane, deselect the Animate Opening Applications option; when this option is turned off, you’ll no longer have to waste time watching an application’s icon bounce around before the app opens.

Speed up your keyboard

Switch over to the Keyboard & Mouse preference pane and open the Keyboard tab. Then set the Key Repeat Rate setting to Fast and move the Delay Until Repeat slider closer to the Short end of the bar (see bottom screenshot). Both of these changes will make your machine feel more responsive. For instance, text will disappear at a much quicker rate when you hold down the delete key. You can do a bit of experimenting to find the settings that work best with your typing style.

Although the Finder’s various visual animations can be nice eye candy, they can also be real resource hogs. TinkerTool makes it easy to turn them off.When you increase the key repeat rate and decrease the delay before repeat, you can make your keyboard feel faster.
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