Even older Macs can get improved performance Mac Centric

October 12, 1998|By Dave Zeiler | Dave Zeiler,SUN STAFF

Are you satisfied with the speed of your Mac? I doubt it. Unless you have a brand new 333 MHz G3 (and even if you do), you want to squeeze every last iota of performance out of your Mac.

Many people don't realize that a few minor adjustments can yield a noticeable boost in performance. You can start by putting your Extensions Manager Control Panel to work. This Control Panel allows you to turn off other Control Panels and Extensions so they won't load into memory when you boot the machine. The less you load, the faster your system.

Unfortunately, your Mac needs a lot of that stuff, so you're limited in what you can safely turn off. Some suggestions:

Easy Access: Makes the Mac easier to use for those who dislike the mouse and holding down two or more keys to execute a function. Few folks use it.

Anything to do with a PowerBook: If you have a desktop Mac, you can turn off or trash any PowerBook Control Panels and Extensions.

File Sharing Monitor, Sharing Setup and Users and Groups: If you're not on a network, you don't need them.

Unused Printer Drivers: If you don't have a LaserPrinter or ImageWriter, turn those drivers off.

ColorSync: Apple's color management software. Unless you're producing professional color documents, you don't need it.

Speech: While the Mac's speech capabilities are marvelous - PowerMacs can recognize voice commands - this software hogs system resources shamelessly. Turn off all speech extensions and control panels.

Next, let's open the Memory Control Panel. You'll see several options. The Disk Cache is a portion of your RAM the system uses to store recently used information. When the information is needed again, the Mac reads it from RAM rather than off the disk, speeding the task appreciably. The general rule is to multiply the number of megabytes in your system by 32 to get your cache setting. Thus, if you have 32 MB of RAM, set the cache to the up arrow until you see the number you want.

Another item in this Control Panel is Virtual Memory, which allows you to use a portion of your hard disk space as RAM. If you have a 68K (non-PowerMac), turn it off. The old Virtual Memory scheme is a notorious troublemaker and hampers system efficiency.

But if you have a Power Mac, turn Virtual Memory on. As crazy as it sounds, PowerPC-native programs actually use less RAM when Virtual Memory is turned on.

While we're on the subject of RAM, one frequently overlooked way to improve the performance of individual programs is to increase their RAM allocation.

To do this, click on the application's icon once to highlight it and type Command-I to bring up the Get Info box. In the bottom right corner of the box you will see a Suggested Size, a Minimum Size and a Preferred Size.

While most programs benefit from at least a small boost in the Preferred Size, some programs (mainly graphics applications and games) will use as much RAM as you can give them. Check your programs' documentation; often it will suggest a Preferred Memory Size.

Another great way to improve performance is to pare down your fonts. With thousands of fonts available at little or no cost, some folks keep dozens, if not hundreds, in their Fonts Folder. Bad idea.

Each font file takes a small toll in system speed. Keep only the fonts you use frequently and move the rest to a separate folder outside the System Folder. You can drop a font back into the Font folder temporarily if you want to use it for a project.

Pub Date: 10/12/98

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