Anal-Retentive System Optimizer for OS X
July 25, 2013 7:25 AM   Subscribe

I know that system optimizing/maintenance programs for Mac OS X are 90% pointless/useless, but I nevertheless get a pathological thrill out of using them. A person has to have hobbies. There are some pretty crazy ones on the Windows side, with all kinds of "program accelerators" and the like, but the ones I've used on OS X haven't been all that satisfying. Is there a program (paid or free) for OS X that's as insanely anal-retentive as System Mechanic Pro or TuneUp Utilities on Windows? I have used Onyx, Cocktail, iBoost, Magican, and Applejack. It doesn't have to actually accomplish anything -- it can even hose my system for all I care -- it just has to be crazily elaborate.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
OSX is not designed to be optimized, it's designed to be reliable and relatively fast. There are no manual levers on purpose.

Instead of using OSX to get your jazz on for this kind of thing, why don't you do your experimentation on Darwin (upon which OSX is based) either using a VM or another computer, and then see what you can apply from that to OSX? Linux, BSD, or even getting OSX running as a hackintosh on PC hardware will give you many, many more options for optimization and will definitely satisfy your tinkering urge.

If you really like optimization, I'd suggest running something more like Gentoo linux. You can be up and running on Kernel 3.11 with a custom-compiled everything in no time at all. You can dual-boot if you don't have other hardware or still need access to work on stuff that only runs on a Mac.
posted by SpecialK at 7:40 AM on July 25, 2013 [3 favorites]

Have you tried poking around in terminal? That takes the cake for most elaborate.
posted by oceanjesse at 7:41 AM on July 25, 2013

Yeah, if you really want to tinker, learn Terminal. Proceed at your own risk.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:45 AM on July 25, 2013

Best answer: Agreed. As Macs run unix (FreeBSD, technically), most tuning happens at the unix kernel level. And Mac's are exceedingly well tuned as Apple knows what hardware they need to run on. Still if you must tinker, look at the man pages for "sysctl" and "defaults". There's plenty of levers under those two commands.
posted by chairface at 7:50 AM on July 25, 2013

Best answer: Have you read Fearless Leader's write-up on making your own fusion drive? That's elaborate, potentially system-nuking, and will result in a genuine speedup (unless you already have a fusion drive or SSD).
posted by adamrice at 8:34 AM on July 25, 2013

Install linux (from scratch!) on a partition or in a VM. Apple pretty much handles optimization for you.
posted by destructive cactus at 10:49 AM on July 25, 2013

This is like pouring random spices into your car's gas tank to see if it will make the car go faster.

Captain's log: day 49. Cumin: no. Garam masala: promising, but no. Tarragon: definitely not.
posted by a halcyon day at 6:43 PM on July 25, 2013

You can download Xcode, which comes with Instruments. One of many things you can do with Instruments is have it watch an app, then see how much memory it allocates (in real time).

That's mostly about observing. If you want to mess with stuff, one way to start is to right-click on apps and select Show Package Contents. Once in there, you can prod an app's guts a bit. There'll probably .plist files that configure the app, as well as resources like .png files that you can mess with. ~/Library/Application Support (not /Library/Application Support) can be an interesting place to poke around as well.

Also, if you've never opened Keychain Access, that may be worth a spin. It has little to do with performance, but you can check out all the passwords and certificates OS X is saving for you. Over in the Terminal (or iTerm 2), you can gawk at/Google the output of "ps aux".
posted by ignignokt at 7:46 PM on July 25, 2013

I know where you are coming from. In the good old days, you could tweak hard disk drivers and OS parameters and think things were getting better. And they often were. But those were the good old days. The hardware and software is so integrated and advanced, this kind of tweaking is unnecessary. Who defragments their HD's any more? The OS does it way better than you ever would.
posted by diode at 8:14 PM on July 25, 2013

Based on what he wrote about not caring if it actually improves anything, I think this is more about exploring internals than about optimization. Like taking apart a toaster.
posted by ignignokt at 7:23 AM on July 26, 2013

« Older Is taking Pristiq and 5-HTP together going to...   |   What should we do in Spain/Andorra/Northern... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.