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Mac Maintenance

Part 4
Maintenance Myths

Most of the activities performed by tools like Cocktail, Onyx, and Yasu, and others
that are portrayed as maintenance are, in fact, troubleshooting steps.

Accordingly, cache cleaning, repairing permissions, prebinding, and other tasks are
not regular maintenance tasks.

In some cases, such as System Cache cleaning, they can have unintended conse-
quences. For this reason, some also advise you not to let third-party utilities per-
form automated maintenance other than running the standard UNIX maintenance
scripts already described in Part 2.

Below is some narrative dispelling some of the common maintenance myths...

Cache Cleaning

System and User cache cleaning are troubleshooting steps, but not part of regular
maintenance.

Caches are used to improve the performance of both the operating system and ap-
plications. Removing System and User cache files for other than troubleshooting
purposes defeats the purpose of cache files, which will be rebuilt automatically at
your next restart or login, adding time to those processes.

Potential side effects of System-level cache cleaning are:-

Your First Restart After System-level Cache Cleaning Will Take Longer Than
Normal

Your first restart after performing a System-level cache cleaning will take a bit
longer than normal as important System-related cache files are rebuilt.

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Notifications to Again Approve Previously-approved Applications May Appear

Both Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger and the Apple "Security Update 2004-06-07" , the lat-
ter applying to Mac OS X 10.3 Panther and Mac OS X 10.2 Jaguar, implemented
a change to protect users from the possibility of opening documents that could
launch applications that might harm your system.

This change requires that you approve the launch of an application the first time
you double-click a document to be opened in that application if you have not pre-
viously launched that application directly, such as by double-clicking the applica-
tion's icon.

Once you have approved the launch of the application, no further alerts for that
application will be seen.

However, after performing a System-level cache cleaning, you may again see these
alerts for previously-approved applications as a System-level cache cleaning may
remove the
com.apple.LaunchServices*.csstore

files in your Computer > Mac OS X > Library > Caches folder. These files save,
among other things, information indicating the applications you have previously
approved for launch. Some cache-cleaning utilities retain these files to preserve
your list of approved applications, while others remove them as they are saved in a
System-related cache folder.

Under Tiger, Fonts Disabled in Font Book May Become Enabled

How fonts disabled in Font Book are handled under Tiger is very different from
Panther.

Under Tiger, information concerning fonts disabled by each user is saved in an
account-specific cache folder within the Computer > Macintosh HD > Library >
Caches > com.apple.ATS folder, aka the /Library/Caches/com.apple.ATS direc-
tory.

If your cache-cleaning utility deletes this cache, which is normally considered a
System cache, fonts you disabled in Font Book will be enabled when you next re-
start or log in to your account. If you have disabled hundreds or thousands of fonts

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with Font Book, having all such fonts enabled could result in slow performance of
your Mac.

Accordingly, cache cleaning can be an important troubleshooting step but it is
not regular maintenance.

Defragmenting Hard Drives
If your hard drive is nearly full, or if you engage in video editing, you may see
some performance benefit from defragmenting.

Otherwise, there is little benefit from defragmenting as discussed in the AppleCare
Knowledge Base document "About Disk Optimization in Mac OS X."

If you plan to use a third-party defragmentation utility with Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger,
be sure the utility is Tiger-compatible, such as Micromat TechTool Pro 4.0.4 or
later. Owners of either PowerPC- or Intel-based Macs can use TechTool Pro 4.5.x
or later is available as a Universal Binary.

Update Prebinding

In general terms, “prebinding” is a process that enables applications to launch
quickly and incorporate newly-installed fixes and changes, primarily at the system
level.

Under Mac OS 10.4 Tiger, changes in the operating system have eliminated the
need to update prebinding, even for troubleshooting purposes. For details, see:-

• The "Frameworks and Prebinding" section of the "Frameworks and Binding"
chapter of the Apple Developer Connection document Framework Program-
ming Guide.

• The "Prebinding Your Application" chapter of the Apple Developer Connec-
tion document Launch Time Performance Guidelines.

For earlier versions of Mac OS X, a cogent description of prebinding — sometimes
referred to as optimizing — is Bill Bumgarner's article "Prebinding Explained."
While this may not be light reading for some, it provides a thorough explanation.

When the Mac OS X Installer displays Optimizing... at the end of a Software Up-
date, it is updating the prebinding of the system. In this way, the Installer's Opti-

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mizing... phase and prebinding are synonymous. This phase is considerably shorter
under Tiger as other improvements related to prebinding have enabled this phase
to be limited to the prebinding of select, system-related frameworks.

Mac OS X has long had the ability to automatically address prebinding issues. If
an application could not be launched prebound, it would require more time to load
than a similarly-complex prebound application. Mac OS X would also attempt to
correct the prebinding for applications that were not prebound. With the im-
provements in Tiger, whether or not an application is prebound is generally an in-
significant factor with respect to its launch time.

Therefore, updating the prebinding of your Mac OS X installation is not main-
tenance. At best, it is a rarely-used troubleshooting step employed to resolve
widespread problems with slow application launch times in Mac OS X 10.3
Panther and earlier, primarily in Mac OS X 10.3.4 and earlier.

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