Mac: Three common causes of OS X Slowdowns

“If your Mac is as slow as molasses or you’re seeing the dreaded spinning beach ball of death a lot, it’s time to do some sleuthing,” Melissa Holt writes for The Mac Observer.

“Of course, slowness can often be attributed to age — just because your 2010 MacBook Air can run Yosemite doesn’t mean that’s gonna work out amazingly well for you — but even so, it’s best to figure out what’s going on,” Holt writes. “To that end, let’s start troubleshooting the three most common causes of sad, slow Macs!”

• A lot of people misunderstand what RAM is and how it works.
• If you get too low on free space on your disk, performance will suffer.
• Something’s wrong with your startup disk.

All three points above discussed in-depth and what to do about each in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: A good comprehensive look at three typical cases of Mac slowdowns – Bookmark it!


  1. I’ll add as my #4:

    – Nefarious Launch Agents, Launch Daemons and other CPU hog startup processes.

    Example: You do NOT want Adobe’s Launch Daemon “com.adob.fpsaud.plist’ installed and running in your /Library/LauchDaemons/ folder. It runs its CPU hogging process periodically all day long, forcing Sit&Spin mode over and over again. Just trash it and reboot. OS X already notifies you when the latest security fix for Flash is required.

    Sorting through the installed Launch Agents, Launch Daemons, Login Items and other processes loading at boot can be a headache. But if you’re an advanced Mac user, it’s worth climbing the learning curve and getting used to keeping an eye on what crapware processes you may want to cull. Just remember to keep ahold of whatever you remove, just in case you want to put it back again later. I created folders such as “LaunchAgents (disabled)”. I currently have 15 items in that folder on my main Mac for a variety of applications that installed them and that I rarely use.

    1. Thanks Derek. I removed it. It’s the only thing that was occasionally slowing down my late 2008 Macbook unibody. Otherwise, it had no problem running Yosemite after I upgraded memory to 8GB and the HD to 1TB, 7200 rpm.

      1. These days I do most of my work at home on a 2011 Mac mini and a 2013 MacBook Pro. I upgraded their RAM to 16 GB. But I STILL end up hitting the RAM ceiling all too often, which of course can cause major slow downs. Therefore, I regularly use the FreeMemory application to clean out the crap.

        Remember when 250 MB RAM on a Mac was massive? I remember how great it was when I put 2 MB into my Mac SE.

        IOW: Another cause of slowdowns is of course RAM hog software.

        1. BTW, I had to log in as root to delete it, and when I looked at Unix permissions on the file it looked like it was being executed by root with root privileges. Very dangerous if true!

          1. It’s part of providing the admin password when installing Adobe software. That’s how the .plist is allowed into the /Library/LaunchDaemons/ folder. Otherwise, it could only go into a comparable folder for the user’s account.

  2. Well, comparing to previous versions of OS X, the memory compression technology on Mavericks and Yosemite doesn’t make a significant difference, if any.
    I find these two last OS X versions are more RAM hungry. Memory pressure graph gets maxed out too easily and the computer gets slow quickly.
    I remember my first Mac: a 2GHz iMac G5, single core, 2GB RAM. It was fast. Now, a 2,5GHz dual core i5 with 4GB can’t run Safari with 10-12 tabs + Mail + Notes without getting slow? With Memory compression + more and faster cores + more and faster RAM + faster FSB, etc?
    On both versions I first installed the OS over previous version and after getting slow I formatted the drive and made a clean install. On both cases and for both OS X versions the computer got slow after 1-2 weeks. All third party software was always installed on day one, so the slowdown isn’t connected to later installations. Well…

  3. 4. You are using a hard drive, not SSD. The single best thing you can do to speed up your mac.

    Not enough free space for OS X to work with is also important.

  4. Services that hog CPU power are often the cause of slowdowns.

    Run Activity Monitor, click on the CPU tab and then order the running processes by percentage. The ones near the top of the list are the ones that are making the CPU work hardest.

    When any of my clients complain about a slow Mac, Activity Monitor frequently reveals some sort of service ( very often from Adobe ) using disproportionate amounts of computational capacity.

  5. I know what I need. More RAM. I should probably have twice as much as what I have on it. I’m just too lazy. I don’t want to pay for Apple memory, but I don’t look forward to the hassle of shopping for memory, or ordering it online and having to hope everything goes okay, because I can’t just drive it back to the store.

    Probably the release of El Capitan will light a fire under my butt and get me to do it.


    1. This is the dark side of Apple soldering components permanently. If you owned a 2009 Mac, you could easily upgrade RAM as Apple updated its OSes and as your needs grew.

      But if you buy a new Mac, you are supposed to guess how much memory Apple software will require in the next 5 years. That’s just not user friendly IMHO. The Mac should bring back easy-to-upgrade architecture.

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