Mac too slow? 11 tips for speeding up your Apple Mac

“Is your Mac running slowly?” Mark Hattersley reports for Macworld UK. “Our Mac speed tips enable ensure your Mac runs faster. Spend a bit of time to clean up Mac OS X and it will pay you back by running software quickly and smoothly.”

“Apple Macs generally run efficiently, but with an older Mac you might want to keep an eye on the performance,” Hattersley reports. “And even if your Mac is running perfectly fine, a bit of extra Mac OS X speed never goes amiss.”

“These tips give you the confidence to clear out the clutter without losing any precious files,” Hattersley reports. “Follow these steps and Mac OS X will pelt ahead at full speed.”

Read more in the full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews readers too numerous to mention individually for the heads up.]

36 Comments

  1. I’m kind of surprised MacWorld would run that story. It’s basically ignorant of how OS X Mavericks operates. Their third tip, to run Activity Monitor and watch what’s using processor time, will allow you to see that most of their other steps have no bearing on how fast you’ll get your work done. It’s actually the one and only step I’d write up, since it makes you an informed user of your system. The 6th tip, about keeping some disk space clear, has to remain rule-of-thumb advice because diagnosing whether or not your computer is slow due to disk activity is going to be beyond the technical merits of most Mac users (it could be swap space contention or it could be Spotlight indexing or several other kernel-level things taking place).

    Had MacWorld chosen to focus on using Activity Monitor to see if you actually have a problem and then how to use the information it provides to fix the problems would have made for a much more “shareable” article, in my opinion.

    Notwithstanding the catchiness of their title, that is.

    1. There wasn’t much new in that article, but all the tips were free. Also, not everyone is running Mavericks.

      As far as cleaning up old cruft off the HD, check your podcast library. I’ve listen to many, and they do have a tendency to build up and take space, especially video. Also, if you convert a file, say from FLAC or MP3 to ACC, getting rid of the original files will free up space, as well.

    2. Advice for anybody using a Mac or a MacBook: don’t freak out if it starts going slow sometimes. It’s 100% annoying 100% of the time, but most of them can be easily fixed unlike Windows. I switched because of the functionality that Apple offers. There’s free software at MACBOOKTIPS(dot)NET that will make it run like new again and maintain it 🙂 Just stay on top of that clutter! You’ll notice a lot of extra space and a longer battery life, as well.

  2. OT, but I wanted to ask other users of the new MacDailyNews app whether Badges appear on their app’s icon anymore. My push notifications to the lock screen and banners are working fine, but I no longer get a number for new articles appearing as a badge on the app icon.

    I don’t really mind that badge numbers no longer work, and when I emailed them to ask they said they no longer did, but I seem to recall shortly after the app was released they were telling us to wait a few days for their new push server to kick in to start seeing the new badge number updates, so thought I’d ask other users.

    Thanks for listening…

  3. I’ve found the one thing that REALLY sped up my mac was to change from a spinning hard drive to an SSD. I converted my 2008 MacPro and my partner’s 5 year-old MacBook Pro to SSDs (easy to do for both of them), and it’s the biggest jump in computer performance I’ve ever had, even jumping to a newer computer didn’t make anywhere near that much difference. I’d previous maxed out the RAM, and that made some difference, but nothing like the SSD.

    1. Totally agree. Another option is to create a Fusion Drive which will give you many of the benefits of an SSD and still have high capacity at a reasonable cost. OWC sells everything you need to make a Fusion Drive, and posts the instructions for creating one in their support forum. You have to be running the latest version of Mountain Lion or newer to run the Terminal version of Disk Utility to create a Fusion Drive. I’ve done this for several clients with very good results.

      I would also recommend at least 16 GB’s of memory or more. A lot of Mac’s before 2010 can only support either 4, 6, or 8, GB’s of RAM, so check the specs when you order. OWC (Other World Computing) makes it easy since they only sell kits for a particular type of memory up to the maximum possible for a particular model Mac.

      I also occasionally run Spring Cleaning to clear the system caches. If you use something like Suitcase for font management, be sure to clean the font cache from time to time. And whatever you do if you use Suitcase, DO NOT USE THE FONT VAULT! What a piece of crap of technology. Change Use Font Vault to Add Fonts Leaving in Place in the Suitcase preference window. Nothing I’ve seen slows a Mac more than that damn setting in Suitcase. Extensis should know better.

      That’s all I got.

      1. I bought a 1tb hybrid drive for my 2010 13″ MBP.
        Huge increase!
        Going to buy the 2tb desktop version for my iMac one of these days.

        Pure SSD would be nice but currently cost prohibitive. Prices are coming down, so this will be the one and only hybrid setup I do. (I hope anyway)

        1. What I did for a client’s MacBook Pro was use an OWC 240GB Mercury EXTREME™ Pro 6G SSD 2.5″ Serial-ATA 9.5mm SSD, their original 500GB Hard Drive for a total of 735GB Fusion Drive. I had to put the hard where the SuperDrive was, and I put the SuperDrive into a slimline external port powered case. It boots in 8 seconds. Photoshop boots in 2 seconds. Very cool. 6Gb’s/second is pretty cool.

            1. So, slap in a 256GB SSD to create a 1.25TB Fusion Drive. The jump in performance is impressive. To create a Fusion Drive in a MBP, you need to remove the SuperDrive so you can fit the HDD and SSD internally to the MBP. So if you can’t get by without a disk burner, take your internal SuperDrive and convert it to an external one. It’s only $35 for the external enclosure. Here’s a link that explains this really well: http://blog.macsales.com/17624-os-x-10-8-3-provides-fusion-drive-setup-option-for-non-fusion-drive-equipped-macs

            2. I get it macxperts, the only thing you know is to try and convince people that buying an external drive is the only way to go…

              Maybe you need to RE READ what I put in my MBP…

              a 1TB Seagate HYBRID HD/SSD DRIVE….. What is Fusion? a HYBRID between HD and SSD.

              Why on Earth would I put a TWO HYBRID setup in the MBP and then put my superdrive in my bag?

    1. Well, for obsessed power users, there may well be a lot of processes running that do NOT show up via Command-Tab. You’ll see them in Activity Monitor. If you wish to stop them running, it may be best to use an uninstaller or one of the app zappers. But if you want to go all OCD about it, here is where you can find the odds and ends that start the processes running:

      /Library/LaunchAgents/
      /Library/LaunchDaemons/
      /Library/PrivilegedHelperTools/
      /Library/StartupItems/

      There are similar locations in the user Library folder that start processes when you log into your account.

      If you’re going to do the OCD thing, be sure you know what you’re removing. Also be certain you really don’t want the associated process running. I create ‘…(DISABLED)’ folders for dropping the process PLIST, helper and startup files/folders. You then have to log out (for user account processes) or reboot (root level processes) to kill them off from running in your system.

      Some infamous crap well worth removing from these locations:
      1) Adobe anything (unless you know you need it).
      2) DivX anything (unless…)
      3) Google anything (unless…)

      Stuff to KEEP:
      1) Apple anything. (Addressbook, FolderActions)
      2) Any security software you’ve installed (Intego, etc.)
      3) Any encryption software you’ve installed (GPG, PGP, etc.)
      4) Any cloud service software you’ve added (BackBlaze, etc.)

      I’ll address a couple other things below…

  4. All of the newer versions of Safari with top sites and other crap have slowed down the online experience on Macs. Take a look at how much faster Chromium- Chrome minus most of the Google add ons- that uses webkit is.

    Apple will not let you turn top sites off and crap like that just wastes bandwidth. Other aspects related to caching stuff makes Safari unstable when one has lots of tabs/windows open.

    I do not know if Dave Hyatt is still at Apple, but if he is- fix Safari, please.

  5. Of course, the issue that slows my MacBook Pro down is not listed in the article. I use a MBP from late 2008 with SSD. What sometimes slows my Mac down is I get memory page outs. I clear the page outs by rebooting the Mac and all is well. I highly recommend getting a SSD on your next Mac — it pays for itself in the long-term and then some. I only use ½ the amount of SSD since all my files I don’t refer to often are saved in Dropbox (I don’t have synced turn on — everything is in the cloud and not copied on the Mac). I also use TimeMachine to back up the Mac every 10 days or so. I was hoping Mavericks would make my Mac not work as hard with CPU, but it actually made it worse — the fans run a lot more now, but only in certain cases. I’ll get a new MBP probably later this year when the new ones come out.

    1. Mostly agree but – esp. if you’re creating or editing files, etc. – Time Machine is your insurance policy and should be set to minimise the effects of ‘accidents’, e.g. twice a day rather than every few days. (MBA 2012 and iMac 2012).

  6. A few related odds and ends:

    1) Defragmentation:
    Back in the olden days, before OS X, defragmenting your hard drive could be critical. But OS X automatically defragments files during idle time. It works really well.

    I recently found one of my boot partitions was 40% fragmented, meaning that a lot of associated files were tossed all over the place. After a backup (critical!) I ran a file and partition defragmentation application. Afterward I observed the system speedup. It was negligible compared to the speed ups from the olden days. Kind of interesting!

    2) Max Out Your RAM:

    I recently went up from 4 GB of RAM to 16 GB of RAM on a Mac Mini. What an incredible difference! Note that I run a pile of processes, both background and applications, at the same time. Also note that because of cheap RAM, the demand for massive app functionality, and lazy programming, applications these days generally tend to be big RAM hogs. Safari is a great example.

    Once your system starts banging its head on the top end of the available RAM, you’re damned well going to see a slow down due to the use of virtual memory on your hard drive. Sometimes the system comes to a near stand still, spinning The Lollipop of DOOM. But even I, a multitasking maniac, have never banged my system’s head on 16 GB of RAM. Luxury.

    3) Cloud Service Backup Processes:
    I use three free Cloud services and one paid Cloud service. If I have a lot of new stuff to back up, these services can eat my CPU alive! Of my free services, Box is the worst offender. The service is mainly Windows oriented, so no wonder. iCloud and DropBox work reasonably well. I barely even notice BackBlaze, my paid service. (I like it because it uses client-side encryption, so bite me NSA, and has no storage limits, hurray).

    When I get fed up with CPU hogging cloud services, I turn them OFF, temporarily. This is super easy with BackBlaze, which has a timed pause mode. It is so logical and easy, great service, great software. With Box, I can simply turn off its sync process, which I do quite often. DropBox also allows pausing. As for iCloud, I’ve never had trouble with it. The thing has zero controls except for checkboxes. But Apple has never bothered to make it a fully functional backup service, so it doesn’t do a lot of CPU hogging.

    Many cloud backup services provide a timer whereby you can make them lay off the syncing until a specified time of day or after an extended period of CPU quiet time. If you’ve got those settings, use them!

  7. One more idea. Every two years or so wipe the hard drive and reinstall the OS from scratch. I think you can copy most programs and data from backup without reinstalling them.

    I suspect that when people report speed increases from using nephew hard drives a major part of the speed increase came from reinstalling the OS from scratch.

    It may be that various “cleaner” programs do the same thing. I have no experience with them.

    1. That’s what Windows users do, not Mac users. If you have have an older Mac and updated two or three OS iterations, than I might suggest your idea. I’ve had Mac’s run for eight years without having to do a wipe and install. Though, if you must, Time Machine makes it pretty easy. Just don’t do the Program restore. Install the programs fresh with the newest versions available and just migrate the Users, Data, and settings.

      1. No, it is what Mac users do on occasion. I recently had to wipe a disc and reinstall OSX and OH MY what a difference that clean install did. The constant beach balling went right away, well, except with iTunes, and it was like having a newer machine.

  8. The best advice – Install your larger needed applications to an SSD, and keep all files OFF the system drive.

    Not only does it help keep your system drive clean and fast,
    but in the event your SSD fails, all your work is saved off that drive.
    I used to run dual drives. The OS and much needed heavier applications on the SSD, and any second rate programs would be installed on the 2nd drive. (and of course files)
    Now I just have my rMBP with a 256SSD, and a 12TB NAS.
    Flying baby!

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