Trying to solve slow mac performance? Your Mac isn’t what it used to be, it starts to feel sluggish, slow and unresponsive? Sometimes when this happen people go out and buy a new computer or learns to live with it. Buying a new computer is probably not a smart move to make especially if you can easily fix the issue yourself. You should at least exhaust all options before you decide to go that route. Thats why I wrote this little guide.
Quick Tip: Check if your device is covered by some of Apples Repair Programs.
1. Restart your Mac
Granted the Mac can be turned on for weeks or months without any serious problems, every now and then a restart is recommended. It is usually applications that “leak” memory that in the end makes the computer feel slow and sluggish. So if you haven’t already please start this guide with a restart of your computer. I promise this guide will be here when you come back online again.
2. Check your Startup Items
When you install applications during the time you use your Mac some of them may add themselves in Startup Items. This causes them to start at every login and thus take up a little memory and a little CPU usage. If you do the following: Apple Menu > System Preferences > Users & Groups > Login Items. You will see how many startup items you have. If you want to remove some of them just click the name of the startup item and then hit the minus button. Just make sure you know what you remove so you do not remove any critical system component.
3. Clean up in System Preferences
While we still have System Preferences open take a look under the section called Other (or at the bottom section). If you have a lot of items down there there is a chance that some of them is not in use by you. They might be left overs from some application you tried out, or something else. You should clean out these too. In most cases you can turn it off from the preference pane itself. If that doesn’t work you will need to remove it from the folder ~/Library/PreferencePanes.
4. Make Time Machine backup when YOU want
Time Machine is a good backup solution. But it backups every single hour and if you work on heavy files it will create some noticeable slow Mac performance when it starts the backup process. Time Machine apparently doesn’t have settings that can enable you to start the backup off working hours but there are people that have solved this problem. The free app TimeMachineEditor will help you with that. I have tried it myself and it works just as advertised.
5. Clean up your hard drive
Eventually your hard drive will fill up, it doesn’t matter how big it is. Many people experience this and many also ask themselves where all the free space have gone? Maybe your Photos library starts to grow? Maybe you are editing videos that take up a lot of space. Or you might have a lot of downloaded stuff you never got around to delete. What you need to know is that the Mac works best with a little free space to work with. Your Mac uses the free space on your hard drive as virtual memory and that memory is important for your Mac to work optimally. Please make sure to delete unneeded files and also remember to empty your trash! If you forget to empty the trash you will still have the free space problem and slow Mac performance.
6. Download Onyx or CCleaner (it is free)
Onyx verifies the Startup Disk and the structure of its System files, it also allows you to run miscellaneous tasks of system maintenance. It can clean the cache, repair system permissions and also execute maintenance scripts. This tool is old and trusted among many Mac users.
Another good cleanup tool is CCleaner. I use this tool to clean up Windows computers and now its available for Mac users. These two tools may overlap some but you won’t do anything wrong if you try both.
7. Downlod AdwareMedic
Maybe you have clicked on something that you shouldn’t click on and your computer got some adware slowing it down? AdwareMedic is a free (accepts donations) application that scans your computer for known adware and removes it.
8. Keep your Mac up to date
Once in a while Apple releases software updates. It is wise to install these because they often contain improvements. It can be security improvements or performance enhancements that can solve slow Mac performance in some cases. Even firmware updates in some cases. Also check if you can download updates to your already installed third party applications, this can also improve performance and stability.
9. Try a PRAM and a SMC Reset
If you dont know what is wrong with your Mac and just want to try something. Do a PRAM reset. This will not damage your computer or remove anything from your hard drive. But it may solve strange problems.
- Shut down your Mac.
- Locate the following keys on the keyboard: Command (⌘), Option, P, and R. You will need to hold these keys down simultaneously in the last step
- Turn on the computer.
- Press and hold the Command-Option-P-R keys before the gray screen appears.
Hold the keys down until the computer restarts and you hear the startup sound for the second time.
Release the keys and check if this mac troubleshooting tip solved the problem.
Another thing you could try is an SMC reset. Especially if your laptop have problems accepting power or wont charge. Strange fan behavior or low performance.
- Shut down your Mac.
- Plug in the power adapter to a power source and to your Mac.
- On the built-in keyboard, press the (left side) Shift-Control-Option keys and the power button at the same time. (it should NOT boot) but the LED on your MagSafe adapter may change.
- Power on the computer.
10. Reinstall your OS / Install the newest OS X, its free!
If nothing of the above helps maybe a full format of your hard drive and a reinstall of the OS may be the only viable solution. If you have a fairly new Mac (2010 – 2011 ish) you should be able to start from the recovery partition if you hold CMD and R when you restart. From there you can reinstall OS X. (You can also try forcing Internet Recovery by pressing Command + Option + R) before the boot sound.
What you could do is start up from Internet Recovery and hold Command + Option + R when you boot. When you see the spinning globe you can let go. Let it load and reinstall OS X this way. When your computer and account is set up. Open App Store and update to the newest OS X available for you. Even if you have a old Mac it may be able to upgrade to a newer version of OS X.
11. Bad HardDrive?
If your computer is very slow it can also be a symptom of a hard drive that is going bad especially if it makes strange noises. This applies to all types of computers not only Macs. Make sure to check the hard drive using Disk Utility and if it finds any errors make sure to backup what you can right away.
12. 13-Inch MacBook Pro (non-retina) slow.
If your 13 inch macbook pro is slow, you have replaced the hard drive and still have problems? Try getting a new SATA cable for it and replace that. You find it on ebay.
13. RAM / SSD Upgrade
Max out the RAM in your computer, especially if you run a lot of apps at the same time. Another extremely recommended option is to replace the hard drive inside your Mac to an SSD. If you havent tried SSD yet do it! It will blow your mind in terms of speed and it can breathe new life into older computers for sure. Solving slow mac performance using money to buy new hardware is one option of course. But you should try the others first. (Although SSD is extremely nice to have, you never want to go back!). Nowadays most macs are delivered with SSDs though.
PS. Stay away from MacKeeper. Its software is not good. They want to pay me to recommend it to you but the free alternatives are just as good. I have blocked their ads on this site but they tend to change the URLs so let me know if you see ads for MacKeeper and I will remove them pronto!
I hope this guide helps you to get your Mac in shape. If you liked this guide, it will really help me and this site if you share it with others on Facebook, twitter etc. You will find the buttons for that below. Take your pick! Thanks.