Note: the instructions in this tutorial correspond to a Mac running Mac OS 8.6. While an attempt has been made to account for variations between versions of the Mac OS, your computer may be quite different. Inexperienced users are advised not to attempt this tutorial.
One of the more common misconceptions about the Mac is that the desktop - the default view you get when you're not running any particular application - is equivalent to the operating system itself. This is not the case. In fact, what you see when nothing else is running is an application called the Finder.
The Finder is responsible for opening files, saving files, deleting files, locating applications, and many other housekeeping duties. It is essential to almost everything you do on your Mac, and almost every application you use draws on the Finder for its own file-handling functionality.
Note that I said "almost" every application - not all of them use the Finder. In fact, most serious games bypass the Finder altogether, to get the most out of your hardware. This is because the Finder is a large application - very large. And it's largely built on oldish bits of code, some of which don't work together terribly well. Applications that want to maximise the grunt of your hardware make do without it.
Aside from games, there are other performance-intensive applications that slow down to accommodate the Finder. If you use Virtual PC, for instance, the performance of Windows 98 under emulation is notably enhanced if the Finder is not running. Since Virtual PC uses its own file-handling architecture, you only really need the Finder running if you switch often between the Mac and Windows environments. It is possible to configure your Mac to run Virtual PC without launching the Finder, but I won't go into that here.
In Mac OS X, the Finder is a discrete application that runs only when needed, and doesn't take up memory or processor time when it's not. In earlier versions of the Mac OS, however, the Finder is there all the time, even when neither you nor an application is using it. Yet, it's almost impossible to make it go away.
Note that I said "almost" impossible. Using ResEdit, the hacking tool I've been exploring in the past couple of issues, you can fairly easily add a key command to quit the Finder, free up system resources and make your gaming (or PC-emulating) experience all that much better.
RESORT TO RESEDIT
For a start, you'll need ResEdit, which you can download from www.resexcellence.com. Have a look at the past couple of issues of PC World for the best way to set up your ResEdit folders. For this particular hack, you'll also need a Finder menu template for ResEdit, which you can download from http://126.96.36.199/files/fmn2_TMPL.hqx.
After you've downloaded that file (called Mac OS 8.x Menu TMPL, although it will still work in Mac OS 9.x), you should find it sitting on your desktop. Move it into your ResEdit folder. Then, open up your System folder and locate the Preferences folder. Inside there, locate your ResEdit Preferences file, and duplicate it using
Start ResEdit, and open both the template file and your ResEdit preferences copy. In the template, you'll find a single resource, called TMPL. Click once to highlight it, and press
Next, move the copy of your preferences file back into the Preferences folder inside the System folder. Move your original preferences file into the ResEdit "originals" folder, and rename the copy in the System folder, removing the word "copy" from its filename. It is very important, when deleting the word "copy", that you also remove the space before the word.
Now, while you've got the System folder open, duplicate the Finder application, and move "Finder copy" to the ResEdit folder. Start ResEdit again, and open the Finder copy.
As always, you're confronted with a series of resources, arranged alphabetically. The one we're interested in is called fmn2; double-click to open it. You're then confronted with a list of resource IDs within fmn2. One of these will represent the File menu as seen in the Finder. Usually it's ID#522, but in some versions of the Finder it's ID#521. The way to check is to open the resources and scroll down - read the "MenuItem" field and see if it looks like it's the File menu. There's no harm in opening a few of them to be sure.
Note that in Mac OS 8.x, the "Count" field reads "19". If the resource you've opened doesn't have 19 in this field, open another one. Mac OS 9 users should see 20 - as long as you're sure it's the File menu. When you've found the right one, add two items: so, Mac OS 8.x users should enter 21 in the Count field, Mac OS 9 users should enter 22. We're adding a separator and a Quit command.
Next, scroll down the window until you find the last item, which should be a row of asterisks. Click to highlight the header. Then, from the Resource menu at the top of the screen, select Insert New Field(s) twice (or press
Next, enter the information for items 19 and 20. Be sure to enter this information exactly as it appears here. Note that I have used the "\" key, located directly above the return key. This is because this key is rarely used on the Mac, and the Finder in Mac OS 9 uses
as the "Log Out" command for multiple users.
Then, quit ResEdit and save your work. Move the Finder copy back into the System folder, making sure it is at the root level of the System folder, and not inside another folder. Then move the original Finder into your ResEdit "originals" folder, and rename the copy in the System folder, deleting the word "copy".
Note: it is VERY important to remove the word "copy" and the extraneous space. If this file is not called "Finder", you will not be able to restart your Mac.
Next, restart your Mac. Under the File menu, you should now see a command allowing you to quit the Finder. Next time you run one of your graphics-intensive games (or Virtual PC) use
Why quitters are winners
Every Mac owner knows (or should know) that rebuilding the desktop periodically is an essential part of keeping your Mac running at its best. However, it's easy to forget to do, especially since the standard way of doing it is to hold down the
However, you can also rebuild the desktop simply by restarting the Finder application. Even without using ResEdit to add a quit command, it is possible to quit the Finder in such a way that it will restart immediately.
With no other applications running, hold down
Very quickly, press
Of course, forcing the Finder to quit isn't the nicest thing to do to it, and you may find sometimes that a dialogue comes up telling you that "the Finder has Quit unexpectedly" (even though you told it to). If this happens, it's best to restart your Mac. Using the Quit command, as described in this tutorial, helps avoid this type of error.