Top 10 MacBook Rules - dummies

By Mark L. Chambers

Want to keep your MacBook working optimally for as long as possible? Consider working these rules into your routine to keep your MacBook shiny and functional for as long as possible.

Keep your laptop in a bag

You’d be surprised how many people carry their laptops around without any protection at all. Mac owners hear phrases like “unibody construction” and “solid-state drive” and figure that their laptop can tackle a construction site, a college campus, or a hotel room with impunity.

Many folks think that a traditional laptop bag draws too much attention. If you agree, consider a well-padded laptop sleeve that allows you to carry your MacBook in your backpack.

Maximize your MacBook RAM

Like any other computer running Windows or OS X, your MacBook will benefit from all the system RAM that you can squeeze onto it. Additional memory is even more effective with a laptop using a traditional magnetic hard drive, because your laptop’s hard drive runs more slowly than the corresponding internal hard drive in a full-size desktop Mac.

Therefore, the virtual memory functionality built into Mountain Lion will be even slower for a MacBook Pro with a magnetic hard drive, resulting in mediocre performance during memory-intensive tasks such as video and image editing.

With a full complement of RAM, your laptop’s performance will rival the performance of a desktop computer with the same processor!

Install a tracker application

The unthinkable happens: Your laptop is stolen while you’re on vacation or on a business trip, and you know that the chances that it will be returned are next to nil. But wait! You might just receive an e-mail message on your desktop computer that tells you the Internet address of the thief or even the telephone number he or she is using.

Several tracker applications are available for Mountain Lion that can run invisibly on your laptop. In fact, Mountain Lion’s Find my Mac feature is a tracker application in disguise! If your MacBook is lost or stolen, you can visit, and click Find my iPhone. From the display that appears, you can choose to Remote Lock or Remote Wipe your MacBook.

If you prefer a commercial solution, check out LoJack for Laptops from Absolute Software.

Keep your MacBook drive encrypted

The Security pane is particularly important to laptop users because it allows you to encrypt your drive. Encryption prevents just about anyone from accessing the files you’ve stored on your MacBook.

In System Preferences, click Security & Privacy, click the FileVault tab, and then click Turn On FileVault. You’ll be given a recovery key that can unlock your MacBook’s drive. Mountain Lion takes care of automatically encrypting and decrypting files as necessary.

Brand your MacBook

Put your brand on your laptop! Whether with an engraving tool on the bottom of the machine or a permanent metal tag, your MacBook deserves some sort of identifying information. After all, most of the people in the world are honest, and you might not need that tracking software. You might have left your laptop by accident, and someone would like to return it to you.

Disable your wireless

If you’re not connected to a wireless network or a Bluetooth device, you’re wasting precious battery power. That’s why Mountain Lion gives you the ability to turn off your Wi-Fi and Bluetooth hardware. The energy savings you reap when you disable your wireless hardware can be significant.

To turn off your Wi-Fi hardware from the Mountain Lion menu bar, click the Wi-Fi status icon and choose Turn Wi-Fi Off from the menu. To turn off your Bluetooth hardware from the menu bar, click the Bluetooth icon and choose Turn Bluetooth Off.

Bring a surge protector for your MacBook

Why do you need a surge protector for your laptop, especially seeing as how it adds bulk and weight to your laptop bag?

  • The risk of a power spike: A surge protector is good protection from a massive power spike, such as an overload or a lightning strike.

  • Extra sockets on tap: Don’t forget that you might need several more AC sockets for external devices, such as a hard drive, projector, and portable printer. A surge protector can provide the extra access to power.

Use power-saving features

Apple allows you considerable control over your MacBook’s sleep schedule. In System Preferences, click Energy Saver to display the Battery and Power Adapter settings.

If your laptop is running on battery power and you need to conserve as much power as possible, click the Battery tab, and make sure that you move the Computer Sleep and Display Sleep sliders to 5 minutes or less.

If you’re running your laptop while connected to an AC outlet, click the Power Adaptor tab — although power isn’t a problem, don’t set the Computer Sleep and Display Sleep sliders to Never.

Use an external keyboard and mouse

Does your laptop remain at your home for long periods of time? If so, invest in an external keyboard and an external mouse for two very good reasons:

  • Adding external input devices helps lower the wear and tear on your laptop’s keyboard and trackpad.

  • External input devices are generally more comfortable and convenient to use than those offered by your MacBook, especially for gaming.

If price is no obstacle, a wireless keyboard and mouse allow you far more freedom of movement.

In fact, you can have two external keyboards if you like: one to work with your laptop while you’re running Mountain Lion and one to use when you’re running Windows under Boot Camp.

Back up everything!

If you think you don’t need to back up on a regular basis, you will eventually lose every byte of data you have. Even if you have incredible luck and don’t do something you regret with a Finder window, your MacBook is just a machine, and it will wear out. That’s why hard drive manufacturers list Mean Time Between Failures figures for their hard drives.