The most common Mac user mistakes

I have seen many people use their Mac, some of them very experienced users.  There are very, very few who do not exhibit at least one of these mistakes.  This blog should advance your use and enjoyment of your Mac:

#1 - Clicking the red button in the upper left of a window to quit an app. In almost all cases, clicking the red dot does not quit an app.  I know very experienced Mac users that still stumble on this one and before they know it a dozen apps are open on their Mac and their Mac has become slow.  All of this is because they thought they were quitting apps but they were not.

Let’s test it: open Safari.  Do you see that it says Safari next to the Apple logo the upper left of your screen?  Do you also see that there is a light on under the Safari logo in your Dock?  Both of those indicate that Safari is running.  Now, click the red button in the upper left of the Safari window.  Safari appears to quit because the window goes away, but notice that it still says Safari in the upper left and the light is still on under Safari in the Dock!  Aha!

There are several ways to properly Quit an app on a Mac.  My favorite is to hold command (⌘) and tap Q on your keyboard.  You can also click on the name of the app that is running and choose Quit (note that the keyboard command is listed there ).  You can also right (or control) click on the Dock icon and choose Quit.

This is so very important because every app that is running is using system resources, especially memory (RAM), whether the app’s window is open or not.

#2 - Not backing up.  If you have read any of my blogs or taken any of my classes there is one thing I preach over and over is that every computing device needs to be backed up regularly.  All computing devices can fail at a moments notice - being dropped, having liquid spilled on them, suffering from a voltage surge, being stolen or just suffer from common everyday hard drive failure.  How will you replace your pictures, your tax records, your documents, movies and more?  Read my recent blog about backing up, click here.

#3 - Believing Macs get viruses just like any other computer.  Macs generally do not get viruses, therefore antivirus software is not needed on them.  Antivirus software will not find viruses and will simply slow your Mac by evaluating everything you do on your Mac.

However, Macs can get malware or adware.  These are apps that are loaded on your Mac by websites that trick you.  You think you are loading a certain app, yet other apps are loaded with it.  Malware or adware are apps that try to re-direct your web surfing to other sites and/or extract information from you.  They often change your homepage, your search engine and some cause popups to appear on your browser.

Never fear, there is a great little free app you can download that will delete these pests.  This app runs when you want it to (not all the time).  It is called Adware Medic and can be found at

I think the day is coming that Macs will get viruses, especially as the bad guys realize that there really are a lot of Macs in the world.  When that day comes we will all probably need to run anti-virus software, but that day is not today.

#4 - Leaving the battery charging at all times.  Leaving your Mac laptop battery charging will indeed hurt the battery over the long haul.  Use your battery like you use the gas tank in your car - let it get mostly empty before you fill it.  When the green light appears on your charger that charging has completed - that is your cue to unplug the charger.

#5 - Not using “right-click”.  All Macs have a right-click feature (which reveal a contextual menu).  The feature can be enabled in System Preferences > Mouse or > Trackpad.  Apple calls it “secondary click”.  On trackpads it is often done by clicking with two fingers.  If all else fails, you can right click by holding the control key on the keyboard and clicking normally.

#6 - Not using keyboard shortcuts.   Macs have keyboard shortcuts just like Windows PCs.  In fact, virtually all Windows shortcuts work identically on a Mac, the difference is you hold the command (⌘) key to get the keyboard shortcut instead of the ctrl key like on a Windows PC.  Examples: ⌘-C is a Copy, ⌘-V is a Paste, ⌘-P is for Print, ⌘-A selects all contents of a list and, of course, ⌘-Q Quits an app.  For a handy cheat-sheet you can print on a 3x5 card, click here.

#7 - Storing more than a handful of items on the Desktop.  This is just a bad habit.  The desktop is a fine place to store a few items that you are currently using, but as soon as they become not current, file them in the appropriate folder that your Mac has provided for you (Documents, Music, Pictures or Movies).

#8 - Not knowing how to download and install apps.  This is a common challenge that even experienced Mac users face.  Installing apps is a two-step process: 1). Downloading, 2). Installing.  After you download an app or an update for an app, the app is not just magically installed, it is waiting for you to do that.  Open Finder and go to your Downloads folder.  If you cannot find it, use the Go menu in the menu bar and choose “Downloads”.  Find your recently downloaded app in that folder (sort the folder by date to make it easy) and double-click it to install the app.

The installation process uses one of two methods: 1. There may be an icon of the app with an arrow pointing to an icon of your Applications folder. It wants you do drag the app icon on top of the icon of the Applications folder.  Do that.  2. An Installer app will start, simply follow the directions to complete the installation.

Finally, will likely be an icon on your Desktop that is the container that the app was delivered in.  Simply right-click that icon and choose Eject or drag the icon to your Trash.

So now you know - go forth and become a Mac power user with just these few tips!