Don't wait for Snow Leopard: Slim down, speed up a Mac now

You can get lean and fast computing with your current version of Mac OS X. Here's how.

The International pane in System Preferences (left) lets you choose the preferred languages for applications to use. You can manually remove language files from applications via the Languages section of the Get Info window (right) for each application.

The International pane in System Preferences (left) lets you choose the preferred languages for applications to use. You can manually remove language files from applications via the Languages section of the Get Info window (right) for each application.

Apple hasn't done much talking about Snow Leopard, the next-generation update to Mac OS X that's due to be released in 2009 (possibly within the first quarter of the year ). But in what came as a surprise to many, the company has said that the new operating system will contain a limited number of new features.

Instead of going the route of Leopard, which added more than 300 new features, Snow Leopard is designed to focus on the underpinnings of the operating system. The result, according to Apple, will be an operating system that takes greater advantage of multicore processors, is able to leverage the often-untapped power of graphics processing hardware for general computing operations and extends 64-bit architecture compatibility -- all of which will deliver much higher performance over Leopard.

At the same time, reports indicate that Snow Leopard will actually slim down the code required by Mac OS X and its installed applications, not only improving performance, but also freeing up large amounts of hard drive space in the process.

It seems clear that Apple's biggest focus with Snow Leopard is slimming down and speeding up its flagship operating system -- both of which are attractive to any computer user. But why wait until Snow Leopard ships? There are a number of ways you can slim down and speed up your machine right now.

While the following tips probably won't deliver the dramatic improvements we expect to see in Snow Leopard, they can make a noticeable difference -- particularly on slightly older Macs or those where hard drive space is getting cramped.

Warning: A number of tips in this article require modifying system or application files. Be sure you have a solid backup of your system before trying them in case you experience any problems or need to restore specific features later on.

1. Get rid of the languages you don't speak

Mac OS X has always supported a wide range of world languages. The entire interface (menus, dialogs, help files, etc.) is localized for over a dozen languages and included in the Mac OS X system files automatically during installation (the exception being languages that require non-Roman alphabets, such as most Asian languages). This makes it easy to switch the language used on your Mac using the International pane in System Preferences.

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Ryan Faas

Computerworld
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