Optimising your Mac – Essentials for Mac Efficiency
1. Know your system
Blackmagic Disk Speed Test
Understanding your computers performance abilities will help you when it comes to optimising your Mac system and keep it running at its full potential.
It’s always useful to get a reading of the performance of your computer against its specification to see if you have issues.
A great free app to download from the app store is the Blackmagic Disk Speed Test, and it will give you a quick ballpark figure to how well your drive is performing.
Simply download and open the application, press start and let the app perform its tests.
A total must-have for anyone, this should be your first step in getting the best performance from your Mac and being completely free what’s not to love.
Another fantastic application that can be used to get a better understanding of your system is DaisyDisk which allows you to see how much space on your hard drive is available and being used. Unlike the Blackmagic Disk Speed Test application, DaisyDisk is a paid app, yours for £9.99.
What DaisyDisk does is gives you a visual breakdown of the space on your disks from their very useful interactive cooler map, revealing the most significant space wasters and allowing you to delete using its drag and drop feature.
DaisyDisk allows you to scan internal and external drives. Giving you an ultimate understanding of all your drives and take charge over their data management and allowing you to get the best out of what disks you have.
Preventing the unnecessary purchase of more external drives when you can just free up some more space on what you already have.
2. Disk Cleaners
A huge part of optimising your Mac’s performance is its disk health. There are fantastic disk cleaning software products that will scan your disk and delete any useless files that when untouched can build up and take up more space than you think like browser and application caches.
First-timers to these pieces of software can expect huge amounts of gigabytes to be freed up.
CleanMyMac X is software that does just that and more. It gives you a system breakdown and finds solutions to speed up your system, everything from start-up applications to RAM. A one-stop-shop for getting your system performing to its optimum level.
CleanMyMac X can be purchased for a one time fee of £76.95 or an annual fee of £29.95.
Disk Cleaner – Free HD Space
Another option for optimising your Mac systems disk but for a fraction of the cost compared to CleanMyMac would be Disk Cleaner from the Apple App Store. It has a one time purchase cost of £2.99.
While it may not have as many bells and whistles as CleanMyMac and an ability to have multiple users, Disk Cleaner performs the same fundamental task of optimising your systems disk.
3. General Housekeeping
It may seem like in order to optimise your Mac up to speed and performing well you need to spend money downloading applications, here are some tips that you can use that won’t cost anything and are simple and easy to follow.
Managing Start-Up Items
Starting at the start-up phase of your Mac. An excellent way to get your Mac performing well from the get-go is to get the start-up process as smooth as possible, and by that manage what applications open on start-up.
Having several irrelevant applications that are not needed while recording is going to have an impact on your Macs performance. By going into system preferences and deselecting applications in the users & groups list, you can allow your Mac to have a clean start-up and not waste any of its performance on these applications.
Empty Your Downloads Folder
One of the most common places where large files are forgotten about is the Downloads folder. This folder should be a transitory folder and you should regularly move files out of here either to a permanent folder for storing or if it’s an application installer or zip file it should be dumped to the trash and permanently deleted.
Reduce Desktop Clutter
A simple trick that can aid in getting your Mac to run at full potential would be regular upkeep of your desktop. Any items on your desktop will be taking up RAM space, and by having a messy desktop covered in hundreds of items won’t be doing your system any favours.
By reducing what’s on your desktop, you won’t be using precious RAM on items that could be better placed somewhere else. Keep it clean; keep it fast.
Turn Minimise Visual Features Off
An even more straightforward trick to optimise performance is by reducing visual effects in your operating system. It may look cool when you minimise a window by the genie effect, but it’s unnecessary.
It’s a small change to make, but in the long run, it can only help, there’s no point in wasting your systems processing power on small visual cues. Turning this off in the dock settings in system preferences is too easy.
It does what it says on the tin and monitors your Macs activity. This mac app is very useful for seeing what applications are using up system resources and highlighting any potential problems with them.
It allows you to monitor the amount of ram being used and also the core processors which give you an insight into how much you’re driving the computer’s capabilities.
Software updates are designed to improve user experience, security and fix any possible issues, so it is always advisable to perform software updates. There are however some caveats to this;
- If you are performing a major OS upgrade always check that the software you are using and reliant on is compatible. Also make sure you backup before any major updates or upgrades.
- If it’s not broken don’t fix it. If your system functions well you should evaluate the updates before carrying out as even minor updates can cause problems between software apps.
4. PRAM Reset
A PRAM reset is a viable option if you’re having issues loading specific plug-ins or if your DAW crashes and quits unexpectedly. Performing a PRAM reset will flush the computers RAM and rid of any bugs with certain connections. An excellent option to give it a good clean if you’re experiencing issues.
To perform simply press and hold:
Command, Option, P and R while on power up the computer, after you hear the sending second chime release the keys and allow the machine to finish startup.
5. Using external hard drives with your mac
A fantastic way of optimising your Mac is by storing as much of your audio plugins and recording sessions on external hard-drives.
This will ultimately allow unlimited growth and expansion for your project load, as having a 1TB external hard you store all your projects in, you’ll never run into the problem of running out of space.
From a performance aspect running as much as you can from external drives will take a lot of the load off your systems disk and allow it to perform better in the running and efficiency of your DAW.
They’ll make the workflow much smoother and reduce recording latency, plus the added safety option if the unthinkable happens to your Mac, you won’t lose all your precious data.
6. Solid State Drives
If and when possible, an essential move in the right direction for any recording set up would be moving away from mechanical drives to solid-state drives. The benefits of using solid-state drives are huge.
For one, the sheer performance improvements over traditional HDD’s are incredible, HHD’s usually read around 100MB a second whereas SSD will often read around 500MB a second. Gone are the days of mechanical components, physically finding the data.
Another factor is the sheer reliability of SSD drives compared to traditional HDD drives. SSD’s have no moving parts that can wear over time like HDD drives. Meaning SSD drives will last much longer, which is always a bonus as no-one wants their data lost.
Lastly, an advantage SSD has over HDD is that due to it not having any moving parts, there won’t be any performance background noise going on in your recording studio. The last thing you need when recording or mixing is the sound of HDD drives making noise in the background.
7. It’s Only Logical
Lastly, we’ll look at some tips and tricks you can use while working in your digital audio workstations to maximise performance and efficiency, so you’re not running into any trouble while working on your projects.
Turn Off WIFI
A good practice when working in your DAW would be to turn the WIFI off. When you turn off the WIFI the performance of some DAWs can improve, as being connected to the internet can draw some of your systems valuable CPU.
The results of this can be in Logic the prevention of CPU spikes. Plus turning off the WIFI will stop the temptation to go on the internet and drift from the task at hand and stay in the zone.
Adjusting The Buffer Size
Changing the buffer size in your DAW can have enormous benefits for the performance of your Mac. If you’re having performance issues, these steps can help.
When recording if you set the buffer size to 32 this will fix any latency issues. But during the mixing process you won’t need the buffer size this low so set it to 1024 as during mixing timings won’t be as much of an issue.
Bounce In Place
To save on the CPU power of your Mac when working in your DAW, a great way to optimise would be to commit to the effects on your tracks by bouncing in place and then making the existing channel inactive.
By doing this, you’ll only be editing audio affected by the effects you were working on, meaning you’re freeing up all the CPU power that was being used to process multiple channels with multiple effects, now you’re just editing bounced audio from these.