Mac running slow? Here’s what you can do to speed up your Mac

“Computers run much faster than they did just a couple of years ago. The latest Macs with multi-core processing are apparently surprising a lot of testers, but there is a cycle: as manufacturers produce faster and faster chips to cope with software, so the developers produce software that demands faster processors. My current MacBook Pro is OK, while the previous one that sits upstairs in my office, creaks. However, even the latest computers slow down at times for a variety of reasons,” Graham K. Rogers reports for A M I T I A E.

“If I receive an email from users with the idea that their Macs are running slow, ‘What can I do?’, I am tempted to offer tea and sympathy,” Rogers reports. “There are so many potential causes that a little more detail is useful before I can come up with a maybe answer. If it were my computer, I could analyse, which many users — particularly new Mac owners — may not know how to do. There are several causes for a slow Mac, and indeed the slowness may manifest itself in different ways depending on the cause. The main causes, however, probably relate to the running of applications as well as their relationship with the operating system, or the hard disk (full or dying). Ascertaining the cause (or causes) can be done in a number of ways, but there will be some overlap.”

Much, much more in the full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Fred Mertz” for the heads up.]

42 Comments

  1. Uninstall Flash. Major improvement for me. Once Flash opens in Safari, it never closes. Use Chrome, with its integrated Flash plugin, for those rare occasions when Flash is needed. And because it’s integrated, when you quit the browser, you quit Flash as well.

    1. I created a service with an assigned keyboard shortcut to open pages in Chrome for me. When I come across Flash that I want to see, I simply hit Shift-Command-C, and Chrome opens the current page.

          1. I should add:

            1) Place the service in userFolder/Library/Services

            2) Go to System Preferences -> Keyboard -> Keyboard Shortcuts and add your keystroke of choice to activate the Service.

            3) Install the YouTube5 Safari extension, it’ll force a few popular websites to serve you HTML5 video.

      1. Gruber explained it at DF. Go to Keyboard Shortcuts in Prefs. Then create a new Shortcut. The problem is you have to type the whole name for Chrome. You’ll see what I mean.

        1. I did a service, rather than just setting a key to the Develop menu like Gruber did. It’s much easier this way, and I don’t have to worry about the version number changing.

        1. I’ve never had any problems with Click to Flash.
          Run it on both my Power mac and MBP.
          Then again, i dont run Safari either.. Firefox all the time. And i wouldnt install Chrome in my house… I block everything Google as it is. (no Script)

    2. “Once Flash opens in Safari, it never closes.”

      No. The Flash plug-in process automatically quits within 20 seconds after I close all browser pages where I allowed Flash to run. I can watch this occur in Activity Monitor.

      So, huh?

      Note that I am using both ClickToFlash and FlashFrozen. But neither of them automatically kill Flash processes as far as I am aware. From my experience, this is what Internet plug-ins are supposed to do: Quit when they’re not needed.

      The problem with Flash is that if you have any page open that once Flash playing, the plug-in remains running, and because the plug-in is so poorly written, it continues to eat your CPU alive instead of going idle. To stop this crapcode ‘race condition’ effect, simply close all your browser pages with Flash on them! The end. You don’t have to quit your browser. Therefore, what is the point of using Chrome instead?

      I’d actually think that using Chrome would cause the real problem, if indeed Flash is built in such that it is always running. I’ve avoided Chrome, so I plead ignorance regarding its function.

    3. Flash media player has become a vector-rich environment for hackers and Adobe had to release five patches since January, a couple of which were emergency fixes, to keep it from wreaking havoc on the desktop and to keep Flash out of the headlines

      Chrome sandboxes Flash, not to make it more stable, but to keep it isolated from malware. Google and Adobe have worked together to develop processes to protect HTLML and Javascript from hacker aggression, and that’s becoming a full-time job

      According to Brad Arkin, Adobe’s director of security and privacy, the biggest challenge was getting full functionality out of Flash, in a sandboxed setting. (Duh! Steve Jobs already said as much.) But he says this as though, they’ve accomplished just that. I beg to differ.

      Chrome still crashes when Flash goes sideways. Stability or security, either way Flash is still a bag of hurt.

      I was using the Mac-Gruber fix for a few days and then just reinstalled the Flash plug-in for Safari, after realizing Flash continues to leave Chrome unstable. Methinks Google and Adobe have yet to arrive at a stable solution. Besides Flash is problematic enough as a plug-in, without resorting to Google’s Flash sandbox problems into the mix.

      Activity monitor: Learn it. Love it. Live it.

      Even as I write this Flash Player (Safari Internet plug-in) is using 0.1 CPU% and has 6-threads in the soup. Kudos to MDN for finally getting rid of all the flash-based crap on this site.

  2. memory upgrades are where it’s at. The more you install the more memory it takes. Every new version of the OS takes more and more too. upgrade your RAM and watch your mac fly.

    1. I had 3GB in my 2007 Macbook, and it worked great. For some reason the last couple of versions of Safari use tons of RAM and VM. I thought my version of Macbook had that 3GB ram limitation so I never installed 4GB. Interestingly, I gave up and bought another 2GB stick, and guess what? It uses less VM than before.

      1. Totally. Safari sucks the RAM and VM and many more CPU cycles too.

        I have my limit of 4 GB on my iMac (up from 2 which made a huge difference), but when I run Safari for anything length of time, it will suck all available memory and then page it out to VM and the computer slows down to a crawl. Quit Safari and BOOM. 2 GB of memory opens up and I have a brad new computer again.

        And this is Apple’s browser!

        1. And yes I know most of it is due to Flash, but not all. Safari is a memory hog big time. Installing ClickToFlash doesn’t give a huge boost if you have a decent broadband connection, although it takes away the ugly ads. Safari should be able to make better use of memory even with Flash running.

        2. Safari is indeed a memory hog. Mine is currently using 647MB, and I’ve only got 5 tabs open and, as stated before, Flash isn’t installed on my system. I still prefer Safari though. Firefox has always been ugly on Mac, and Chrome is a Google product, ’nuff said.

        3. You’re problem gives me a headache!

          Why on earth would Safari need 2GBs of RAM?

          I have four tabbed windows open in Safari right now and it’s using 328.9MB of Real Mem. Flash Player plug-in is using 17.3MB of Real Mem and between them they are using 403.7VM and 6.0 CPU%… even as I write this.

          Something is wrong with your computer if Safari is using that much RAM. No…. you know… I don’t believe you. You’re full of shit.

          Safari doesn’t need 2GB of RAM!

  3. I’ve tracked down a slow computer on 3 separate systems. Mine, my wife’s and my sister’s. The culprit? A slow DNS server. (Yes, the slowness is only experienced when using the web, but for most, that’s about all the time.) Changing to one of the many free DNSs fixed the problem. And for me & my wife, changing ISPs REALLY fixed it. And, I fixed it even better by throwing out that Netgear router and getting an Apple Airport Extreme. You’d be surprised at that last one. Running P2P and downloading from 100 people and my d/l speed was 50-200KB (I normally get 1500KB when doing a d/l test from a single website), and trying to use any other service on the net was next to impossible. That was with a Netgear router, and before that a LinkSys. With the Extreme I consistently get my set limit of 900KB from 100 people, AND it seems to have near zero effect when using some other web service at the same time.

    1. You don’t even need to change ISPs. I use MegaPath for my T1 connection, but I set the DNS to 66.51.206.100, which belongs to DSL Extreme. It read a while back that it was rated the fastest DNS. I use the MegaPath DNS IPs as secondary and tertiary backups.

      1. Google has a free cross-platform tool, called namebench, that tests many of the most popular DNS servers, and tells you which servers are the fastest from your present connection. In my personal experience, it works well. At one location, OpenDNS was the fastest by far, at another, Google DNS eked out a victory.

      2. I’ve had good results with OpenDNS.org:
        208.67.222.222
        208.67.220.220

        If you have the geeks skills and patience, Steve Gibson has provided a terrific DNS server testing system to, among other things, help you find the fastest DNS server for your area and ISP. It is part of his:

        DNS Nameserver Spoofability Test

        Highly recommended.

  4. Try Memory and larger hard drive. BUT before any of that, clear out your Caches (use OnyX, it’s free) & Repair Permissions. Use Diskwarrior (99 USD) to repair the directory. Install ClickforFlash, (Free). You would be surprised at how just these simple things can speed up your slow Mac.

  5. My brand-new 15″ MacBook Pro is completely useless (and this is coming from a die-hard Mac fan with every Apple product known to man and huge capital gains thanks to AAPL — so you can’t dismiss this).

    It’s a very fast machine, so I’m blaming Adobe CS5.

    1. There are settings in the preferences for CS5 apps that can help speed it up. Read through the Help on Preferences.

      And as always, most Adobe apps require all the RAM you can throw at them. CS5, at long bloody last, can handle more than 4 GB of RAM if it is running in 64-bit mode. Therefore, max out your installed RAM and do a Get Info on each CS5 app to be sure it is NOT set to ‘Open in 32-bit mode’.

  6. My thoughts:

    1) A free and useful utility I always use is MenuMeters. It runs in the menu bar. It can show you how much your CPU is being used over time, how much RAM is being used, when you’re spilling over into virtual memory, as well as drive access and network access.

    When I see my RAM has been used up I know it is time to lay off the virtual memory and close something. Once your RAM has been used up, expect VM disk access to slow down your Mac significantly. I always max out the amount of RAM my Macs can handle.

    2) Don’t overload your Mac with background processes. This includes both boot processes and user account processes after you log in. When I want to max out my speed and available RAM, I log in and immediately hold down the SHIFT key to stop further processes from loading into my account. You can permanently remove processes in the Accounts System Preferences. You can control other startup items using by installing the Diablotin System Preferences utility. It’s only 32-bit but still works great.

  7. I like to format and reinstall the OS fresh every year or so. By doing a clean install and formatting the drive you remove all the junk and temp files and it’s almost like having a new machine for a while. The only downside is reinstalling all the software you use but you if you keep that software handy it’s not bad. You also get to see what’s essential to you and what’s not. I try to keep my documents on a separate disk as well.

    If you do a clone of your drive, you’re bringing back all the temp files and other junk you’re trying to get rid of in the first place. MobileMe is nice since you can store all your preferences on the cloud (eg bookmarks,mail settings, etc) and then bring them back when the Mac does a resync. I use IMAP for e-mail as well so I can be up and running in a few hours without losing any mail.

    1. I understand not cloning after using the system for a while, but why not clone as soon as you do a fresh install of the OS and all of the apps? You won’t get any more temp files than are going to be there anyway.

      In fact, if you clean install the OS, apps and any updates, manually clean the temp files then clone; the next time you format and restore the clone your system should be theoretically cleaner. Then you have the advantage of enjoying a latte whilst the restore runs, and when it finishes all you apps, settings and email are ready to use. Of course it’s a little more work the first time you set this up, but each next time is easy as pie.

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