Speed up a Slow Mac

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This is a post that I have put together for keeping my Mac running fast. It will start with the simplest ideas first. I will then finish off with hardware improvements.

  1. Update your OS and Restart. Click on the apple icon (top left), “Software Update”. If there are no updates just restart.
  2. Close any applications that you are not using. This is as simple as it gets but even the smallest applications, Dropbox to large, Photoshop will drain CPU (central processing unit – Processor) and/or Ram. Even when idle. Apps

    This includes the programs running at the top right of your screen (menu bar). Top Apps

  3. Remove Login Items. Unless you really need an app to open every time you start up remove it from this list. I have never needed to have anything in the login items list. When you install software the software will sometimes add something to this list Click on the apple icon (top left), “System Preferences”, “Accounts” or “Users & Groups”, “Login Items”


  4. Always have sufficient free space available on your hard drive. Leave at least 20GB on your hard drive free. More is better. Open “Finder” at the bottom you will see the space you have available (164.45GB available). If you cannot see this info in “Finder” click on “View” (from the top menu), “Show Status Bar” Bar
  5. Clear Files and Folders Off your Desktop. At the very least create a folder on your desktop and place all your files into it.
  6. Use the Fastest Web Browser. Typically the most up to date version of Safari is the fastest browser on a Mac, though many swear by Chrome as well. Whichever browser you choose, limit the number of tabs and windows you have open.
  7. Mail. If you have a massive mailbox with thousands of messages it’s going to take longer to load. At the very least create a folder called “2011 and before” and copy all your old mail into it.
  8. If you are finding your browser slow try clearing the caches. Tick which you want to delete, as shown below.

    Safari Cashes Safari Cashes

  9. PRAM reset. Resetting your PRAM clears out caches on your logic board that can sometime be responsible for a sluggish system. To reset your PRAM: reboot your computer and immediately after your Mac has shutdown, hold down [Option] + [Command] + [P] + [R] together during the boot process. After a few moment your Mac will reboot again after which you can release those keys. You have now successfully reset your PRAM.
  10. Safe boot. Starting your Mac in safe boot will clear out your cache stored on your hard drive. This process can take a bit more time than resetting your PRAM but is another way to purge some files that can sometimes cause performance issues. To safe boot, simply reboot your computer and hold down the [Shift] key during the boot process until you reach the login screen. If you succeeded you will see the words Safe boot within the login pane. Log in and reboot to complete the process.
  11. Activity Monitor. Tucked away in the Utilities folder is Activity Monitor, a useful app that’ll provide you with a comprehensive overview of CPU usage, system memory, disk activity and network performance to help you locate any issues with your hardware. Before troubleshooting with any of the tips below, a perusal of your Mac’s vitals will make it easier to diagnose, prescribe and dispense the proper medication. Activity
  12. I can’t recommend any software to clean & speed up your Mac as I have never used any. One that I have see mentioned is OnyX plus it’s free. Please let me know if you know about this software or have tried it out in the comments section below. Make sure you download the correct version for your OS. There is a link at the bottom of the page that will take you to older versions.
  13. Done the above? If yes try another restart.

Before you do any of the items below please backup your computer. Or copy the folders that you are editing so that you can easily revert back.

If you have tried the above but your computer is still running slow. Try the points below.

  1. Corrupt Preference Files Preference files can easily become corrupt and can make programs act weird or run slowly. If your Mac is slow using a particular application you can try deleting its preference file and relaunching the app (applications create a new file when they are relaunched if they can’t find an existing one). Preferences
  2. Caches, Log files and Temporary Items. Clear out built up Caches, Log files and Temporary Items. Cashes
  3. Clean install. Only to be done as a last resort. Really you should not ever have to do this but if nothing else works and your Mac is still running very slow, give it a go. If you are going to do this you might want to look at the hardware upgrades below first.

Upgrade your Hardware

  1. RAM. Software can only take you so far. Upgrading your RAM will probably give you the biggest speed increase out of any of these tips. You can use the Activity Monitor application (under Utilities in the Application folder) to check if your Mac would benefit from more RAM. Click on System Memory tab and have a look at the pie chart at the bottom. If the chart is largely red or orange you are running out of RAM. Also take a look at the Page Ins and Outs numbers, if these are continually increasing, its time to upgrade your Ram. Activity
  2. Hard Drive. If your hard drive is nearly full get a larger drive or if you have the money even better get a SSD (solid-state drive)

2 thoughts on “Speed up a Slow Mac

  1. Fully agree with the last point… have a 2008 Mac Pro w 14Gb RAM and just installed two SSD drives… one for boot and second for active working files… a very noticeable performance gain for an older machine