Ride a Pirated Pony…

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Hard to think about beach balls in winter, but regardless of the temperature, we’ve all seen them at one time or another on our Macs.  We click something on our screen and the delightful, multicolored beach ball spins where the cursor once was.  Joy.  We then wait for an agonizing eternity (4.5 seconds) for it to stop spinning and do what we asked it to in the first place. If we start seeing beach balls a lot, it’s a cause for concern for more than just our blood pressure.

Spinning beach balls can mean your hard drive is overinflated and cannot find a place to store the latest life altering animal video your crazy Aunt in Indiana just emailed you.  Or it can mean that you haven’t done any cleaning and maintenance on your computer since the day you bought it and, just like government, there is software in-fighting and corruption growing.  Or worst of all, it could mean something ominous like hardware failure.  Hard drives that are about to die, often get a lot of spinning pinwheels.  These should be regarded as an early warning sign as obvious as amorous teenagers who sneak away from the group in a scary movie.

Before going on… let’s get one thing straight.

Hard Drives and RAM are two completely different things.  They have totally different jobs.  If you confuse the two, you’re in good company.  Most computer users throw out the words interchangeably with casual abandon.  My wife is always urging me to come up with simple analogies that make these terms easier to understand.   The best one I’ve been able to come up with so far is the car analogy.

RAM is sort of like your car’s engine.  Adding more RAM to your computer makes your Mac’s engine stronger.  You can drive faster up hills, haul a trailer, or just get on the freeway more quickly.

Hard Drives are for storage.  Imagine the cabin interior and trunk of your car as the total space you have to store stuff.  A Prius for example would have a small hard drive, while a VW Van could be said to have a large one.  At least that’s what a guy that used to live in his van once assured me.  You have cars out there with plenty of RAM and very small hard drives – think Porsche.  Overcompensation or not, the Porsche can drive very fast with little hesitation, but you can’t carry much.  Try getting 4 people with luggage and egos into that.

The opposite is true with cars that have large hard drives, with very little RAM. (I will not make a joke, I will not make a joke…)  Think of the VW Van from the 60’s and 70’s.  It has enough space for the Brady Bunch & Alice, as well as their luggage, but it will not likely top 40mph going up San Marcos Pass.

Ideally, we’d like a computer to have plenty of both RAM and hard drive space.  Plenty of RAM means fewer spinning wheels.  More programs can be in use at the same time without slowing down the Mac and seeing lots of beach balls.  It means a faster, more responsive Apple computer even if you’re just doing ordinary things like checking email or surfing the web.  Enough RAM means your hard drive will be less stressed and grouchy.

A larger hard drive (with 20% or more free space) will allow you to store longterm more photos, movies, music and documents.

The bottom line is that your Mac may be a lot faster  and more responsive than you think it can be.  Not only might it be capable of running the very latest operating system, but with more RAM and hard drive space, you might delay having to shop for a newer model for at least another year or two.


RAM/Memory =  Engine/Speed
Hard Drive    =   Storage Space.

Brought to you by your friendly Apple Technology Coaches at Mick’s Macs.

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