Declutter your Mac!

This will only be of interest to (a few) other Mac users. But, for what it is worth …

For years, I’ve taken the easy option and just installed one version of Mac OS on top of another, and migrated files from one computer to another. And, all credit to Apple, the easy option has worked just fine. Well, almost. Still, there was a lot of legacy software cluttering up my laptop, loads of ancient files buried in the Library, even bits and pieces of OS 9 stuff, and it wasn’t always clear what could and couldn’t be trashed. And there was a growing number of small glitches (at the level of e.g. some DevonThink scripts not working, Skype always forgetting my account details, a newsreader never quitting gracefully, and so on — you know, the sort of thing you decide you can live with after you’ve spent the first hour failing to sort it). But the newest glitch was the new MobileMe sync service just not recognizing the laptop. And unlike the others, this bug was more seriously annoying. So yesterday I thought the time had perhaps come to clean things up and get back to basics.

I took the nuclear option. With some trepidation. So I archived calendars and address book, made a backup of the whole drive (a second proper clone, not a TimeMachine archive), did an erase-and-install for Leopard, and ran the system updates. Moved back Safari bookmarks, address book, calendars (the mail lives on anyway). Installed iLife. Copied back the main documents folder — which was in any case in a reasonably tidy state — and the iPhoto library. Installed the latest MacTeX LaTeX distribution. Downloaded the latest versions of NoteBook, DevonThink Pro and SuperDuper (the three bits of non-Apple software I’ve bought and still make serious use of), and then the free TextWrangler, Camino and Skype.

And that’s about it, apart from syncing with my iPod. (If I find I actually need anything else, I’ll reinstall it from the backup, as and when. Since you can QuickLook at Word documents, I think I can probably even manage without Open Office.)

It took about five hours in all. Everything is working again now just fine. I have oodles more hard disk space. The little glitches I knew about have disappeared. MobileMe seems very happy. And a lot of other things are just a bit snappier (or is that imagination?). So, it all seems to have been very well worth doing. And the process was painless.

So if like me, you have a cluttered Mac, with annoying little bugs here and there, it really is worth drawing a deep breath, hitting the erase button, finding a good book to read as you watch the progress bars, and putting back together what you actually need. And — being kinda useful, even if not what you most ought to be doing — it makes for another great bit of structured procrastination.

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