14 Easy Ways To Speed Up a Painfully Slow Mac

Is your Mac running slow, not what it used to be, 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, especially if you can easily fix the issue yourself. You should at least exhaust all options before you decide to go that route. A lot of issues is tied into software, and that makes it possible for you to fix at home saving you some money.

With that said, the M1 MacBook Pro or Air is a great machine with a lot of performance. If you are looking to replace your machine anyway you can take a look at a quick video I made about it here: MacBook Pro M1 – Quick Look (The Best Allround Laptop?)

Or check out this sponsored link to Amazon, where you can get one for yourself: https://amzn.to/3qWuOnq. With that out of the way, lets get to the tips that should help you solve a slow running mac!

2021 Update: How to Prepare Your Mac for the macOS Monterey Upgrade

1. Shut down your Mac

Have you tried turning it off and on again? Ever heard this? Its not a joke… Your Mac can be turned on for weeks or months without any serious problems, but every now and then a shut down is recommended. It is often hanging applications and similar that in the end can make the computer feel slow and sluggish. So if you haven’t already: please start this guide with a shutdown of your computer. I promise this guide will be here when you come back online again. If you are lucky, maybe this is the only thing you have to do!

TIP: Bookmark this page, press CMD + D to add a bookmark in your browser.

  • Choose Shut Down from the Apple () menu.

If your Mac won’t shut down it could be applications that prevents it from doing so. You may have to force-quit some of them.

Press the key-combination pictured below:

In the window that pops up, try to quit the application from there.

If none of these suggestions help you just have to hold the power button down on your Mac for about 5 seconds to force it to shut down.

If you are lucky, maybe this is the only thing you have to do! If not, go back to that bookmark when you have restarted and read on.

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. Remove start up items you are sure isn’t needed because it can contribute to your Mac running slow.

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.

To remove, just right-click on an icon, and choose remove from the Preferance Page. Before you do that though, I recommend that you check if the Application you want to remove have an uninstall feature. Big software packages such as Adobe, and others usually have an uninstall utility hidden in Applications/Utilities

Poke around in those folders first.

Preferance Pane in Mac OS

4. Activity Monitor is Great for Frozen and Slow Mac Apps

Do a spotlight search for Activity Monitor and start it up. You will probably see a window looking like the one below (don’t mind the Norwegian language):

Activity monitor a tool for solving slow mac issues

What you would like to do here is to click on CPU and then sort after highest % CPU. Let it sit for a while and you could see an app that takes up a significant amount of your Macs CPU cycles. This could be one reason your Mac is running slow. If you recognize the application try selecting it and click the X button located below the small red, yellow and green window buttons. If you don’t recognize the app do a quick google search for it and find out what it is. (You obviously know how to Google since you got here!).

In the bottom of activity monitor, in the middle you have a chart that shows how much CPU load you currently have. Make sure the chart is not at the top.

Hopefully its an application making your Mac slow, and it usually is. This way you can identify It and take necessary steps. Those steps should be checking for an update of the application causing troubles. Uninstalling it, or maybe check for some alternative? If not, then read on for more useful tips and applications that could help.

5. Make Time Machine backup when YOU want

Apple likes to hold your hand, and that is probably smart in 98% of all cases. Especially when we talk about backing up your critical data.

Time Machine is a good backup solution. But it backups every single hour and especially if you work on heavy files it will create some noticeable slow Mac performance when it starts the backup process. Time Machine doesn’t have a switch that 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. Take care while messing with the backup though. Even though this app is working as it should and have done so for many years it is still third party. Meaning Apple could make some changes to Time Machine in the future that may break the settings and in worst case disable your backups. So make 100% sure that your backups are there.

You can also check: Time Machine Slow? Speed it up With This Terminal Hack!

Initial Backup Is Usually Slow and that is OK!

If you just started the backup, please realize that the initial time machine backup could slow down your Mac. This is in some cases expected behaviour and you should let it complete the initial backup. Just turn it on overnight. When its done the performance should get back to normal.

6. 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. Your Mac works best with a little free space to work with. It use a part of that free space 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 possibly a Mac running slow.

Buy Clean My Mac to clean your Mac automatically in an very easy and safe way. Also read my extended article on how to reclaim more space on your mac. Where I also review the software I suggest you buy above. Its a free download so you can see how it works on your system before you buy anything. And, no. This is not one of those “bad” cleaners out there.

With that said, we have free options as well, so continue to scroll down and check out those first if you want. 🙂

7. 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 and running it could help speed up your Mac.

Onyx can solve slow mac problems

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.

8. Download Malwarebytes Anti-Malware for Mac (it is free)

Malwarebytes Anti malware

Maybe you have clicked on something that you shouldn’t click on and your computer got some adware slowing it down? Malwarebytes Anti-Malware is a free (accepts donations) application that scans your computer for known adware and removes it.

9. Update software to prevent a slow Mac

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.

Updating software on your Mac is done through the App Store.

Click the icon and see if you have anything to update.

10. Move your Photos Library to an External Drive

If you have a lot of photos and videos, they can take up a lot of storage on your Mac. If you sync everything with your iPhone it could fill up fast. Many of us skimp on storage space in our macs. Because its expensive. Especially in newer models where you have no option of upgrading after buying.

Newer Macs have features that automatically optimize the internal storage, but doing that optimization also demands system resources. That is why moving your photo library to an external drive could be beneficial.

Its pretty easy, and here is the short version:

Make sure that photos is shut down. Then, copy the entire photo library to your external hard drive. This may take a while depending on size of library, speed of hard drive, etc..

  1. When the copy operation is done, you hold down the Alt/Option key and launch Photos.
  2. “Choose Another Library” and navigate to your external hard drive and select the library you just copied.
  3. In Photos, go to preferences and click Use as System Photo Library.

Use the Photos app for a bit, add some photos. Delete some photos that you dont like. Shut down the Photos app, open it again. Just to check that everything works.

When you have verified that the photos library on the external drive is operating correctly. You can delete the library on your main drive. Thus reclaiming a lot of storage space.

I recommend having backups, in case something goes wrong.

11. Turn off Visual Effects

visual effects preferance pane
Screenshot in Norwegian, but you see the window layout at least! 🙂

Most macs are made so they are able to run their operating systems smoothly with the default visual effects. If you want, some visual effects can be turned off and it may give you a small increase in speed.

Go to: System Preferences > Dock and disable the following:

  • Magnification
  • Automatically hide and show the dock
  • Animate opening applications

You can also change “minimize windows” to scale effect.

12. Try a PRAM / NVRAM 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. If you have issues regarding sound, display resolution, startup drive selection, time-zone and kernel issues a pram reset could help.

Turn your Mac off, then turn it on and immediately hold all keys pictured above down. That is option + command + P + R. Release the keys after about 20-30 seconds. Your Mac will probably restart during this. For older Macs that have the startup chime you can release the keys after the second chime.

For iMac Pro you can let go of the keys when the Apple logo shows and disappears for the second time.

SMC Reset

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.

13. 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 you should be able to start from the recovery partition if you hold CMD and R when you restart. From there you can reinstall.

The Quick Version:

Start up from Internet Recovery: hold Command + Option + R when you boot until spinning globe appears. Then let go of the keys. 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.

14. Upgrade your Slow Mac with SSD & RAM

This tip mostly applies to older Macs you can upgrade. Mostly pre 2012 models.

Hard Drive

If your computer is very slow it can 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.

Ram 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 older Mac to an SSD. If you havent experienced SSD storage you are in for a treat! It will blow your mind in terms of speed and it can breathe new life into older computers for sure. That is probably why the entire Mac lineup is SSD-based now.

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!).

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. Also check out Clean My Mac. It is a suite of tools that help with deep cleaning. 

Download Clean My Mac X over at MacPaw

This article contains affiliate (ads) links to macpaw and amazon.com.

120 thoughts on “14 Easy Ways To Speed Up a Painfully Slow Mac”

  1. If my mac has been behaving very slow over the past few months, what are the chances it is due to a poor performing hard drive? I’ve been thinknig about getting a SSD but don’t know how to check if it is my hard drive that is failing.

    Any advice?

  2. Bjørnar, ….now you really have me scared. Good helpful information and I will try…. implimenting…. (as long as you stay close-by), but what concerns me most, besides my “slow script” and that rotating color wheel I see constantly, is that I stupidly installed MacKeeper on my computer a good while ago. I’ve since shut it off and would like to remove it permanently. It “took over” my computer and I think I got some files wiped out that shouldn’t have been. Have had the slow script since MacKeeper.

    I have a OS X 10.5.8 and would love up upgrade it at least to a 10.6 (Snow Leopard), but I’m scared to death w/all this going on. I don’t want to hurt my computer any more than it has been. And my files…. I’m scared for my files. I do alot of graphics and games. I don’t have external Time Machine device for saving files.

    • You should definitely backup your files to some sort of external hard drive, or memory stick depending on how much data you have. When you have done that perhaps a complete format and reinstall is the best thing for your computer.

  3. That’s very helpful. I’ve tried (almost) all of your suggestions but my poor old 2008 iMac hasn’t really sped up very much. I get a lot of spontaneous Spotlight Re-Indexing and several apps (iPhoto, Dropbox, Safari) go slow and this seems to be associated with “QTKit Server” process that appear (in red) in the Activity Monitor.

    I’d read that “QTKit Server” was to do with a bug in Safari but I don’t get it on a newer machine and it isn’t restricted to Safari on my old machine (Dropbox and iPhoto too), so I have my doubts about this suggestion.

    I’m using 300 GB of a 500 GB HDD, so it’s not weird because it’s full. I’m thinking that it might be that the HDD is about to fail. Do you think this is likely or, better still, do you know of a way to test for this? I’m thinking about replacing the HDD.

    Cheers, Jasper

    • You can test and repair your hard drive using Disk Utility. You find it in the /Applications/Utilities folder. Maybe I should add that as a tip.

      Did you try running Onyx as mentioned above? (Tip nr 7). Haven’t heard anything about QTKit server process problems myself, sorry.

      • Thanks,
        – decided to wipe the hard drive and reinstall Mavericks. Things are MUCH faster. I’ve not made any formal/techie measurements but it feels as good as my office machine (which has double the RAM and is only a year old).

        I’ve not finished reinstalling all my original apps so it could start spinning again but so far, so good.

        In case anyone’s interested in doing this too, I used this guy’s tutorial: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eyjWd2Bs57c

        1. Boot up with ALT pressed
        2. Open Disk Utility (one of 4 options in this mode) & Erase the HDD [I did this at the uppermost hierarchical level but it maintained the name of the HDD and used my new HDD at a lower lever. This is just what it looked like before]
        3. Go back to the 4 options and choose to Boot Up from the SD card with Mavericks on it. Took about an hour.

  4. OK, Bjoernar, can you please walk me through how to get rid of MacKeeper …. it was telling me that I had an astronomical number of terrabytes of useless files and info ….. and I reckon that THIS program is what is strangling my machine.
    Thanks … Jorge

    • Jorge, I may be able to help you…. somewhat.

      I don’t think it’s possible to get rid of MacKeeper, because it does have such a strangle-hold on your computer (I have MacKeeper, too, unfortunately…. and it did some serious damage to my files, even removed files it shouldn’t have) ……however, even though you can’t get rid of it, you can stop its interference.

      First, in your finder mode, go to “find” and locate all files under “MacKeeper” – you’ll be able to move all these files, including the application MacKeeper, to the trash. Once in the trash, you can lock each one, except MacKeeper. I have not as yet tried to empty my trash to see if MacKeeper will be permanently removed. But have no fear. My experience is that once a file is in the trash the computer cannot open or utilize them.

      Hope this helps you. It did help me.

    • Thank you sooooo much for hunting this, Bjoernar. We wouldn’t know where to look ourselves. You’re the best!!!!

  5. You could add that it helps to delete your user/library/cache folder as well. When apps go very slow, you can check applications/utilities/activity viewer (sort by percentage) to see which app is using too many resources. Kill it from the activity viewer by “Stop process”. Also, people could resort to creating an extra user account and see if the mac also performs slowly in that account..if so : go back to the original user account and delete user/library/application support, cache and preferences. You’ll have to start from scratch regarding application settings but at least you keep your files and dont have to rebuild a whole account.

    When all else fails : install your OSX and applications fresh and just copy your files.

    ..And MacKeeper sucks so much, the ugly mascott, their bad product…very annoying ! I am happy you specifically warn against it.

  6. Hello,

    thanks for the useful guide. I was wondering if you suggest me to upgrade mi OS, I’m now running the old 10.6.8 on a MacBook Pro 2.66ghz Intel Core 2 Duo with 4gb 1067 MHz DDR3 RAM.

    My fear is that it will go terribly slow (more than now!). I work a lot with Photoshop/Illustrator and Ableton Live. I really want to install th latest xCode as well.

    Please let me know your opinion!


  7. i seriously need help and leaving my text number for anybody that is real good with mac computer,this is my first one and i open it brand new 3 months ago and i am already having a slow loading problem,i dont do much on it exsept get on facebook once ina while and i play tagged the pet game all the time and some time i get on yahoo and watch youtube and thats it ,i should have no problem just doing that,i load up picture but still should do that,i am not doing nothing crazy or going on sites i dont suppose to and if i did the apple warns you,so here my number for text 857 928 7154 the name is BEAST and thanks for the support

  8. Just wanted to say thank you for posting this advice, Bjoernar; it has been very helpful and I appreciate the effort on your part.

  9. You might enjoy this list:


    I found your comment about MacKeeper funny. The list is of various tools used for disk and system testing ranging from the free, like Disk Utility and smartmontools to the expensive. It’s not a review, just a list of features.

    ….never the less…the post almost, but thankfully didn’t turn into yet another “MacKeeper food fight”

  10. Hi Bjoernar, this is my first time here! Thanks for all of your tips.

    I’m pretty sure I have my macbook pro cpu’s damaged, due to overheating. I have already cleaned up my fans and solved the overheating problem, but the problems remain. Upgraded my OS, run apple hardware test (nothing came up) and everything is still the same. I can not even watch a movie here. a lot of bumps, the image stops while sound keeps on going, non-responding programs, etc.

    My question is: is there anyway to repair my cpu or do i need to buy a new one? If I buy a new one (don’t want to :/), what can I do with the current one? It’s a Macbook Pro 15″ early 2011, 2.2GHz Intel Core i7, 4 GB memory, etc. This mac was supposed to last a long time and i’ll be really angry if it’s just garbage.

    Thanks in advance!

    • You are welcome!

      If you have reinstalled OS X (clean wipe of your hard drive and clean install) it shouldn’t be a software problem. To me it sounds like some kind of hardware problem. It could be anything really, your hard drive, motherboard, memory. Or too much cooling paste on the CPU.

      I think you should get someone to take a look at it. Parts inside computers can fail, even expensive Macs.

  11. Hey, Bjornar!

    I need some advice. I was seeing new MBP and I noticed that the 15″ are quad-core and the 13″ are dual-core. a higher dual-core processor is better than a lower quadcore? What’s exactly the difference? Which one of these is better and why? Can I upgrade memory of the 15″ later?

    For example, is the first MBP better than the second one? Can i buy more memory to the second later?

    13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display
    2.8GHz Dual-core Intel Core i7, Turbo Boost up to 3.3GHz
    16GB 1600MHz DDR3L SDRAM
    512GB PCIe-based Flash Storage

    15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display
    2.6GHz Quad-core Intel Core i7, Turbo Boost up to 3.8GHz
    8GB 1600MHz DDR3L SDRAM
    256GB PCIe-based Flash Storage
    Intel Iris Pro Graphics

    I need my mac to run editing programs (photos, audio and video, because i’m a journalist) and I want it to handle gaming as well (cuz i’m a dude, ehe).

    Thanks in advance!

    • The 15-Inch is obviously faster. Editing media can also make more use of the additional CPU cores the 15 Inch have.
      It is not possible to upgrade the memory on the retina model.

  12. hi my mac has been acting up. i originally thought it was my Itunes that was the problem but it’s not. my macbook pro keeps stopping (the colorful pinwheel will pop up) for a minuet or so and then carry on. if my Itunes is on the song that’s playing will freeze for a short while before playing again (sometimes i have to press the play button to get it to play again). i’ve tried a lot of things (repairing the disk drive, updating my systems, updating everything) but nothing is working. it’ll be fine for a while and then the pinwheel will pop up and i have to wait until it goes away. is my makbook being slow or is it something else? it’s three years old, i got it in August of 2011.

  13. Hi Bjoenar. Thanks for the great ideas on keeping my Mac clean and running in top shape. Can I ask you a question? I recently bought a New Mac Pro, with 6 cores, 32Gb RAM, 1Tb SSD. I am using a Thunderbolt external drive as my Time Machine. But the computer still seems incredibly slow to find files in the Finder. I wonder if it’s the TM that’s slowing the NMP down? Do you have any thoughts? Thanks.

  14. Hi Bjoenar. Well, I disconnected the external diskdrive TM, and surely the Finder access is much faster! So now I have another question: why does simply having the TM setup with an external drive, even thought it’s the fastest interface available (Thunderbolt) slow the Finder down so much?

    • The initial (first) TM backup is always a bit slow. Have you let it run its course? If not maybe your external drive is bad. Run Disk Utility and check it.

  15. Every time I download something from the internet using Safari, my computer lags completely and the only remedy is a force restart. Any way to fix this?

      • Every time I download something the CPU usage on Installer goes through the roof, then the entire computer lags and there’s no way to fix it.

  16. Guy n gals if you don’t have spare had or usb device. Use Dropbox it’s free to back up files. I have 15 gb of space.

  17. Nothing brings my anger issues to the surface like that blasted pinwheel. I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to punch my computer. (Kidding…maybe).

    Thanks so much for this info. The pinwheel is officially MIA. This article was so very helpful. Many thanks.

  18. Thanks for the advises.
    None of them worked though for a mac mini server version 2010.
    The mac started behaving super slow after a crash due to overheating of the 500gb system drive as later found out.
    a 2nd 500gb in the mac is now promoted to the system drive.

    The old drive’s smartctrl parameters did not reveal anything bad,
    – checked with the disk manager, healthy
    – did the server diagnostics taking more than 16 hrs, no errors.
    – used onyx to clean up but it did not reveal anything weird.

    But then Superduper and carbon copy trials were the savers 😉
    – Every time when started Superduper to copy the system image it would stop with error due to file i/o error and mainly with files having date attribute of the day of the crash.
    I just manually deleted these files from console window every time. System response got faster due to deletion of cache files and log files which onyx did not catch.
    however after 10 or more itterations got impatience with this trial and error after it stopped again at 90% success. The superduper trial requires to delete all files at destination drive every time.
    Here is where CC trial version came in handy.
    CC copied the last files quickly.
    I made the 2nd drive startup disk.
    It was already made bootable by superduper.
    Now the new system drive works perfect and the old system drive is 100% healthy again after reformatting.
    It is a very sophistcated job to take out the harddrives and renew them.
    The way how the mac mini is designed it actually has to become too hot when not in an airconditioned environment.
    I just put it up-side-down with the cap removed.
    since I dont use this in professional production just as a media youtube viewer
    no direct need to replace the harddrives 😉

    • btw wud not recommend timemachine.
      CarbonCopy is a much more reliable backup and cloning tool. Unfortunately it is not free of charge anymore.

        • from my understanding and experience Time Machine doesn’t create bootable backups. If your system does not boot you are in trouble. Time Machine backups need to be restored to a functioning drive, meaning you must first get your system back in working order before they can be used. Users for whom instant recovery is less of a concern, however, will find Time Machine more than adequate.

  19. FYI: A Mac mini server with OS X 10.6.8 upgraded to OS X Mavericks does not include the server additions. These have to be bought from the application store.
    Several applications compatible only until OS X version 10.6.8 like Google Chrome or XBMC will have to be upgraded manually for higher OS X version.
    If an application is not from Apple/Application store then it will be automatically blocked. You will need to unblock it in Security preferences.

  20. Ever heard of Clean My Mac? It’s an amazing program which works perfectly, couldn’t be any more happier with it. It’s got a nice, clean, simple interface with powerful tools to speed up your Mac.

    The only downside to this is the price :l

    • Haven’t tried the software myself so I can’t say if its good or not. I dont think I have heard anything bad about it though.

      • Hi Bjoernar
        I have a Mac book pro 12 inch which has worked well since I got it. A couple of days ago I got a message about my iTunes being bad, and that I should remove and re download it, I tried but you couldn’t remove it and instead only removed parts of it.

        I got a prompt to restart my Mac, and when I did I get to the enter password page, I go through that and the same page re appears only this time it’s frozen and I don’t have access to my computer. I ve tried rebooting it and the same thing happens over and over again. Any ideas on what I could try?


  21. This is contradictory:

    PS. Stay away from MacKeeper. Its just BAD. They want to pay me to recommend it to you but the free alternatives are just as GOOD. [caps mine]

    Is it bad or is it good?

  22. Adrian! You either don’t know much about MacKeeper or u work for them. I prefer to think ur in the former category and just don’t understand the obvious.
    As English is my first language, I didn’t have any trouble understanding Bjoernar’s comment. Perhaps english isn’t ur first language in which case I would recommend that you carefully reread the comment again.
    I really hope it will make more sense to you the second time around.

    • BTW, this comment was made without malice but as a genuine attempt to correct, what in my view was, a very obvious misunderstanding.

      Regards Fred

  23. Easily one of the better performance articles! One program I’d recommend along with Onyx is Piriform’s CCleaner for Mac.

    • Thanks! I tried to make this post as good as possible. I will add CCleaner as a suggestion because I used that software a lot on Windows machines. It works pretty good and its free. 🙂

      • Question: Onyx looks like it’s on a sketchy website. Just want to verify that it’s not sketchy…? I mean it sounds like it’s the best of the best but it just doesn’t look reliable. Don’t want my computer to have anything on it that’s not good for it…

        • The design of the site is pretty old yes. But the software is up to date and safe to use. If I recommended something bad I guess it would show in the comments don’t you think? 😉

          • This software demands each use, you have to enter in a name
            and a password. I don’t use a damn password on my mac so I cannot use it. Then when I added one it said the password was wrong. This obsession with names and passwords by these GEEKS is just nuts.

          • This is the password for your Mac. Something you should have chosen yourself. If you dont have any password set for your Mac just press enter and it should start.

  24. I dragged onyx into my applications folder. Do I need to do anything else to make it run? I am not computer savvy as you can tell. Thank you in advance!

  25. Thank you so much for this tips. I recently purchased Imac and this is my first mac machine.. It was difficult for me to move from window to mac as my Imac was super slow. Having 8GB RAM i thought that it will be super fast But I was wrong. Your tips helped me to improve speed of my Imac.

  26. Thanx for the help for my Mac mini . I have speed again. I have also installed external hard drives. 3T for back up and 1.5 T for graphics and photos. I am an artist and rely on my computer for many things.
    This has saved me a great expense.

  27. I have an almost opposite issue with sleep mode. I Run Mavericks and doing a first time backup to a NAS drive and although i can get it to copy relatively fast at almost 1 Gbyte /min when i work at the Mac, it slows down to a tenth of that when i leave the Mac alone and allow the screen to lock. Every time i unlock it the pace goes back to 1GB/minute and then drops to less than .1 GB/minute when i leave or overnight. Really strange, i would have expected Time Machine to speed up when no one else is using it but it it the opposite . I have disable the energy saver features and the screen saver now , but to no avail.

    • more information : used time machine now with a firewire attached hard drive as well and i see the same pattern : activity monitor shows speeds up to 66MB/sec while the screen is active and although this is not a constant speed depending on the files TM is back in up at that point, it stays relatively high. At these speeds i would have the full 800MB done in less that 800 min at average speed of 1GB/min. i left it working overnight when 360GB were copied and in 8hours it only copied 22 GB… why is the TM not able to sustain these speeds when the screen gets locked ??? in the time i wrote this post it already backed up another 20GB so at certain points it is still blazing fast. I reinstalled Mavericks yesterday, which seems to make the system a little more responsive ( less spinning ball), but did not result in a lot of speed change.

      • Not sure why this happens. Never heard of time machine slowing down when the lockscreen is on. Maybe set the power saving settings temporarily off while you do the initial backup and set them back again when its done.

  28. Many thanks for this article. My MACBOOK Pro (mid 2011) stated to ” severely limp”. I have MAC Keeper, and it didn’t help
    Using the tools recommended in this article made the difference – my computer is fast again

  29. Hi, I’ve got two relatively new iMacs – one at the office, one at home. Both have gone increasingly slow this last couple of weeks. I’ve tried Sophos, Onyx and had no luck. I only upgraded to Mavericks about 6-8 weeks ago and have all of the latest Adobe CC (2014) software on. Was getting worried it could be something more sinister. Getting the coloured wheel constantly, even just clicking on a folder to see its contents can take anything from 5-10 seconds. Any suggestions?

  30. I don’t know what to think!! I’m trying OSX for the first time (on a Mac Mini), with also Windows 7 installed over Bootcamp. I like the OSX visuals a lot but… Bottom line, Windows is way faster! Faster in everything!! Even replacing the desktop wallpaper takes a lot more time in OSX than Windows. Its simply boring… Have I forgotten something??…

    Machine: Mac Mini (Late 2012) I5 2,4 Ghz / 4GB RAM

  31. If you’ve got Spotify installed; change the caching preferences to max 1GB! This was a big time changer for the performance of my iMac 2009.

  32. i have uninstalled mac keeper as it is slowing my Mac pro down. I have also followed your steps on this website and it is helpful. However, i still receive mackeeper ads and i want to know how to prevent them from happening?

  33. I only have 5 GB of free space left on my HD and it’s slow as a snail. I’ve gotten so tired of that spinning wheel…. I know it’s because my internal HD is packed too full, but I don’t want to remove any more than I have. Then this EUREKA moment came to me…. I used to have an external HD for my Mac SE years ago and it turned the trick for me then, so I figured “why not… again.” I just purchased the G-Tech 1TB G-DRIVE mobile USB 3.0 Hard Drive (5400 rpm) – Special Edition from Apple for my iMac. Price was unbelievably affordable! 1TB is 1000 GB’s of storage space. That’s more than I’ll ever need. It’s small…. just the size of an index card, but it’s got very high user ratings. And I understand it’s pretty fast, too. That ought to do it! It comes in tomorrow. I plan on moving my iTunes, iPhoto, my Games, etc. over into it to allow room on my main HD. I’ve been told that will speed up my internal hard drive again. I’ll let you know….

  34. Bjoernar. . . .As Gomer Pyle might say: “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!”  It took me about 15 minutes to follow several of your suggestions and now “HAL” is running quite nicely!! [I got my first computer in 1985 (an IBM PC jr with zero memory other than a cartridge or a 500 KB floppy) and ever since then, I’ve named my computer(s) “HAL” after the Malevolent Evil Being who attempted to kill the three astronauts in “2001: A Space Odyssey”]


  35. My mac pro is infact couple of years old (2009), but it’s 8core 2,33 ghz (or something like that), SSD startup 500gb, 12gb ram, prety fast video card and it is TERRIBLY slow. I.e. I work with audio (sometimes video too) i.e. when i do search for files using software that collaborate with finder’r search engine it takes 10 – 20 sec to show a list of found files, while it was taking 1 sec average max even year ago. And i didn’t really install anything unusual. The cpu has rarely even 5 percent load on idle or 50 on heavy encoding/exporting.
    Even when working on music videos on FCPX the cpus are breathing easily but the fcpx is slow as hell (12gb ram, working from SSD drive, Graphics Radeon HD 7950. It suggests disks? ram? motherboard? OSX? no clue really. Tried all the little apps but all the advices above doesn’t do any significant change and after cleaning some junk the apps do not do anything more. 🙁

    I realise, programs get more demanding, hdd wear and slows down but to such point ????

    I suspect the HDDs most but maybe any extra suggestions why it can be so slow?, i don’t want to throw $500 for new disks only to see very little change, and can’t afford $3000+ on new mac. Was thinking on upgrading the motherboard but friends suggest it’s a blind corner and the prices of used 2011+ macs are mad anyway

    Thanks for any advice 🙂

    • At first glance I suspect that this issue could be related to a failing hard drive. Some drives can show symptoms like you describe. That they are slow if you access files on them. Make sure to have a backup in place the first thing you do now. Then start up disk utility and run it all of your drives to check them.

      • Thx a lot!

        Yes i do expect that too, though i wasn’t sure and couldn’t believe hdd performance can fall so drastically, while disk still working of course cos it would be obvious if it just break completely, hope problem ends with disk’s expense only


  36. Thank-you very much for these comprehensive and easy-to-use step by step instructions – useful even for those who are not actually experiencing problems but would like to go through a cleaning process for prophylactics. Well done, thanks!

  37. I just used macpaw on my macbook pro. It started a serious typing lag and spinning wheel last week. I am 71 years old and not able to figure some of this stuff out. It is not usable to me this way. Frustrated and not sure what to do next.. It did clean it up a lot but still wheel and lag.

    • Bonnie: If you managed to clean your Mac and it still is slow and showing the spinning wheel it could be a hardware failure. Maybe your hard drive is acting up. I am not saying that this is the case for you, but slowness can be one symptom of hardware failure.

      I would suggest you try the other software I have suggested in point 6 and 7. If that still doesn’t maybe you have to get someone to take a look at your Mac. Make sure there are no hardware problems.

      Good luck!

  38. This is definitely not a “little guide” as you wrote at the beginning! It’s the most comprehensive guide I’ve read about troubleshooting Mac performance issues. From software/system to hardware, you covered almost every aspect of the topic. Great guide!

    Just two cents about my personal opinions over several of your tips 🙂

    I’m not sure if we should trade Time Machine backup for better system performance. I mean I get your point that hourly backup may be too much, and TimeMachineEditor does seem to be an awesome app to adjust backup frequency. I just worry that some Mac users may underestimate the significance of data backup, thus set backup schedule improperly (before it’s too late). Last month, one of my best friends almost cried out when her MacBook Pro’s hard drive died suddenly (after taking it to Apple Genius Bar, and the geek told her it’s totally gone). It was a 2012 Macbook with a Hitachi hard disk drive. Worse yet, she couldn’t find the latest Time Machine backup that could have saved all her recent work. As a result, she lost a few hundred photos and some word docs. Had she applied a more aggressive backup schedule, the data loss strategy could have been avoided. After winding down from the suffering, she has replaced the dead HDD with a shiny SSD. Yep, like you mentioned in your last tip — blowed her mind!

    A quick headsup about AdwareMedic you mentioned in Tip #7 — the app is now part of the MalwareBytes Anti-Malware family. It was a really nice app to speed up web browsing experience. I hate adware and crapware too. It seems Macs aren’t safe any more. In case you have time, Lowell from Howtogeek recently wrote an article called “Mac OS X Isn’t Safe Anymore: The Crapware / Malware Epidemic Has Begun”, may worth a read.

    By the way, it seems you forgot to mention that a good computer habit may help us stay away from mac slow issues as well. I use an iMac, and reflected the point on my blog https://www.imacslow.com/ (yes, it’s a similar guide, but yours is definitely more comprehensive). In fact, one of the main reasons that my friend’s Macbook hard drive struck early was be because she often left her Mac open for days — bad habit.

    Anyway, thanks for reading it, I know my comment is long 🙂

    • Great insights Nikki and you are absolutely right about the Time Machine part. Having an up to date backup is more important than saving a few CPU cycles. I just may change that part in this guide. And also change the link in Tip #7.

      Yes it is true that Macs arent immune to malware anymore. I had a customer call and ask for advice because their system got infected by cryptolocker. Not good! Thats not really malware… its ransomware, but still.

      Nice site you got there, and thank you for the feedback! 🙂

  39. Do you mind if I quote a couple of your posts as long as
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  40. I’ve got a link for those who wish to uprade their their macbook hardware and hope it is not seen as spam on everymac.com there is an entire list of mac machines specs for those who wish to kwow on computer hardware specs and in there was a link to macsales where got a staggering fast hardrive a 1.92 TB SSD for a macbook 2012 nonretina and 16GB memory and a battery above Apples build in capacity with it comes online support in the varrenty period tool needed and easy to follow video instructions but yes as I wrote I hope it’s seen as a help for you who wish to upgrade as it is indeed an online shop but I got a machine without any of the above mentioned issues upon getting this shipped to the door

  41. I had to try several of these steps to get my Mac back to normal ops. It had become painfully slow. (mid 2012 manufacture) Thanks for such helpful tips!
    Since technology and software updates change over the years, is there anything we should look out for or are there any new tips that you could add to this page?
    Thanks again for all of this wonderful info!!

  42. I almost never hear people mention this yet it’s rampant in the Mac world. The hard drive goes defective and acts intermittenly and horribly sluggish. For those who tried everything and I mean everything yet the beach balling persists and nightmares of random, unpredictable lags where a simple click of the mouse can take over a minute to engage. Your hard drive is bad and needs replaced.
    Mac hard drives from around the 2013 period onward were and are the most vile POS ever made and Apple should be deeply ashamed for selling such garbage quality. $1700 for a stinking Imac only to have the Hard drive go to shit in two or three years is reprehensible. For that kind of money customers deserve hardware that lasts longer.

    • Apple had some issues with their 3TB hard drives in the iMacs. Apple launched the 27″ iMac 3TB Hard Drive Replacement Program in light of this. The spinning hard drive in the iMacs aren’t anything special, its a Seagate drive if I remember correctly. Remember, always have backup of your data!


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