Improve performance by getting files off your OS X desktop

Keeping files off the OS X desktop is a simple way to improve system performance. Why does this make a difference?

According to Rob Griffiths of Macworld:

“The operating system treats each desktop icon just like a full-size Finder window—the icon takes up a chunk of memory, and the system has to track its position and size at all times. Drop enough files and folders on your desktop, and you may start to notice side effects (such as spinning beach balls) when you’re trying to do something as simple as open a new Finder window.”

The act of maintaining a clutter-free desktop also encourages you to file away useful documents for retrieval when needed. So be sure to put them in some kind of clearly named directory structure that will allow you to easily find things when you need them.

6 Comments for “Improve performance by getting files off your OS X desktop”

  1. posted by WTL on

    I have heard this repeated over and over, but I’m unconvinced that it is actually true – I’ve at one time had over 100 icons (long story) on the desktop, and I didn’t actually see any performance issues on my 1.8 Ghz G5.

    But, I could be wrong.

  2. posted by Jerry Brito on

    Ethan Schoonover, of Kinkless GTD fame, has a series of posts and screencasts on his site that explain how to automate your desktop using Hazel to rid it of clutter. I’ve been using the system and it’s working gangbusters.

  3. posted by Betsbillabong on

    Wow, that’s really interesting. I didn’t realize that. I’m doing a laptop performance tonight that is stressing the CPU, so I’ll be sure to put it all away!

  4. posted by Joel on

    Why not use search and a single directory, rather than a “clearly named directory structure” to locate files. I’m thinking it takes more time putting files into folders than it does to put them all into a single folder. Plus it’s hard to remember where they go anyway.
    I make exceptions for single folders for working projects.
    What do you think?

  5. posted by Betsbillabong on

    You know, Joel, I was thinking about this yesterday in fact – many people I know now put their emails into a single searchable folder.

    The problem with this searchable, random-access approach is that it works great when you know exactly what you’re looking for (ie who the email was from, the copy of your receipt from Apple, etc) but it fails completely for browsing. I like being able to look at a project folder ordered by date modified – but I might not remember exactly which month a particular draft was written in, for example.

    Iconic film/sound editor Walter Murch wrote an amazing book, In The Blink of an Eye, about editing, in which he devotes a large section of the book to the difference, and advantages/disadvantages, between analog and digital film editing, This question of file hierarchy vs search reminds me of that.

    Oh, and now that I’ve written all that, I see that you’ve made exceptions for working project folders. And of course, when the project is over, you can just put the project folder away, named. Oops!

  6. posted by PJ Doland on

    We’ll actually be devoting several upcoming posts to file organization. In particular, we’ll be discussing the relative merits of hierarchical organization vs. flat organization in detail, so please visit again.

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