If you had bought your Mac years ago and your performance has gone slower or worse, you’re probably interested in reading this article.
Before running to the Apple Store in search of a new Mac , you should know that there are different tricks that can make your Mac back to work quickly or improve its performance. You will no longer have to say: “My Mac is very slow”.
There are several reasons why your Mac might be running slower. It could be the age of the device, a full hard disk, Or using an operating system too old.
There may also be many programs or applications that run automatically when you turn on your computer. Or that you are using too many programs at the same time on your Mac.
One of the common characteristics of Mac users is that they do not usually turn off their Apple devices regularly. This means that some applications may have been running in the background for weeks.
If you spend some time cleaning the operating system and making some basic fixes with your programs, you’ll get your Mac running again at full speed.
At this point we offer you two options. (One of them is much longer).
- 1 Option 1. Automatic Software
- 2 Option 2. Manual
- 2.1 1. Close applications that you do not need
- 2.2 2. Use the Activity Monitor to detect programs that use a lot of memory
- 2.3 3. Edit system preferences
- 2.4 4. Stop programs that start automatically
- 2.5 5. Check how much space you have available on your hard drive
- 2.6 6. Move your photos
- 2.7 7. Move your music
- 2.8 8. Empty the trash and download list
- 2.9 9. Delete large and old files
- 2.10 10. Eliminate programs that you do not need
- 2.11 11. Make sure you update the software
- 2.12 12. Clear the cache of your Mac
- 2.13 13. Clear the Safari cache
- 2.14 14. Disable visual effects
- 2.15 15. Increase your RAM
- 2.16 16. Organize the desk
- 2.17 17. Turn off your Mac regularly
- 2.18 18. Manage Spotlight
- 2.19 19. Make your own Fusion drive
- 2.20 20. Customize Finder
- 2.21 21. Disconnect File Vault encryption
- 2.22 22. The last option
Option 1. Automatic Software
Before delving into tips and tricks on how to improve the performance of a Mac, we recommend that you consider purchasing Trim Enabler 4. That is if you want a software to automate this cleaning process.
In this way, each time you use your Mac with an SSD, this software will intelligently monitor the state of the disk to improve its performance. You can try 30 days for free by clicking on this link.
If you do not want to spend money or if you think you can solve the problem yourself, read on.
Option 2. Manual
1. Close applications that you do not need
It may seem obvious. But the best way to start is to close any program or application that is running in the background.
If you have open applications for some time, your Mac will be dedicating them memory and space of the CPU. And if they are programs that you have not used for more than a week, is it worth leaving them open?
A quick way to see what applications are running is to take a look at the ‘ Dock’ at the bottom of the screen.
The programs that are running will have a point below them. (if you can not see this point, open ‘System Preferences’. Click on ‘ Dock ‘ and make sure there is a tick next to ‘ Show indicators for open applications ‘ ).
There are several ways to close these applications. Click with the right button (or ‘Ctrl-click’) on the program icon in the ‘Dock’. And select ‘Exit’.
If you see the option ‘Force exit’ in one of those running programs, you will have identified one of the reasons why your Mac works so slowly.
2. Use the Activity Monitor to detect programs that use a lot of memory
Some applications have problems that make them absorb more resources from your system than they should.
If you want to see what applications are using the resources of your system, open the ‘Activity Monitor’ in the ‘Utilities’ folder. (Or press ‘Command-space’ and type ‘Activity Monitor’ to open it from there).
The Activity Monitor shows you all the processes that are taking place on your Mac (some of which you can not, or should not, close). Click on ‘View> Processes in windows’ before doing anything.
Then click on the ‘CPU’ button and in the ‘% CPU’ column to view all the programs by the amount of CPU they are using. You can also see what processes of ‘Memory’, ‘Disk’, ‘Energy’ and ‘Network’ are using.
If you see that a particular application is consuming a lot of CPU power, you can close it from this application by selecting the application with the mouse and clicking on the ‘x’ in the left corner of the activity monitor.
Take note of the applications that use the most energy; An update may make them work more efficiently.
3. Edit system preferences
Open ‘ System Preferences’ and look at the bottom row. This is where all custom programs are added to your ‘System Preferences’. If you are not using them, you should know that they are taking advantage of your CPU capacity unnecessarily.
Right-click on one of these elements and choose the option ‘Remove from the preferences panel’.
4. Stop programs that start automatically
Open ‘System Preferences’ and click on ‘Users and Groups’. Then click on the ‘Start items’ tab to see what programs start when you turn on (or sign in) for the first time on your Mac.
Select any program from the list that you do not want and click on the ‘(-)’ button at the bottom of the window.
5. Check how much space you have available on your hard drive
Part of the performance of your Mac depends on the space available on the hard drive. Your Mac needs enough space to be able to write and read your swap files.
Defragmenting a Mac is not necessary because macOS has its own built-in protections that prevent files from fragmenting. This is probably the reason why there is not a defrag option in the ‘Disk Utility’.
In order for your Mac to work properly you will need to have at least 10% of the empty disk drive available. If this is not your case you will have to get rid of some of your larger files.
These “larger” files include email files, backup copies, old versions of applications that you no longer need, and photos. If you save photos frequently on your Mac and download music, you may lose the space quickly.
There are some ways to find out how much space you have available. One of them is to open the Apple menu by clicking on the Apple logo in the upper left corner of the screen and then clicking on ‘About this Mac’.
Choose ‘Storage’ and the amount of storage that is being used will appear.
In the latest versions of macOS you can click on ‘Manage’ to get recommendations that will optimize your storage, such as storing photos and videos in iCloud instead of on your Mac.
Another recommended alternative is to buy programs like WhatSize for $ 29.99 (€ 24.55) that will help you manage the space on your hard drive in a more professional way and get the most out of your Mac.
OmniDiskSweeper is a free download application that also allows you to view the available space on your hard drive.
6. Move your photos
You may be surprised at how much space your photos and videos are occupying on your Mac.
Maybe in this situation you consider paying for the cloud storage system iCloud, thinking that in this way you can remove all these photos and videos from your device.
Unfortunately, iCloud does not work like that. If you delete photos and videos from your Mac, they will also disappear from your iCloud account.
If you are already using the iCloud photo library, this may be one of the reasons why your Mac works slow; Surely it is saturated with photos and videos. We recommend that you deactivate iCloud.
One of the options that we propose is to use another storage service in the cloud as DropBox or Google Drive.
In case a cloud storage service does not convince you, you can configure another storage device separately and move there all the photos and videos that are currently on your Mac.
7. Move your music
It is likely that another of the files that occupy much of the storage space is your iTunes folder, especially if you have movies and applications in addition to music.
As with photos, you can free up disk space by moving your music files to an external drive.
Your iTunes library can be re-linked through the ‘iTunes / advanced tab’ preferences .
Alternatively, you can subscribe to iTunes Mat ch (€ 24.99 per year) . Thanks to this subscription you can move all your music to the cloud to remove it from your Mac and access it from any of your devices.
Once your music is in iTunes Match, you can download the songs you want to listen to each time you want to listen to them.
8. Empty the trash and download list
Another of the most obvious ways to free up space on your Mac is to empty the trash (right-click on the trash can icon and select the ‘Empty Trash’ option )
You should also delete the files (which you probably do not need) from the ‘Downloads’ folder. Open ‘Downloads’ to see everything that has been accumulating and delete everything you do not want to have.
If you are running the latest version of macOS, you can configure the trash to delete files automatically. To do so, follow the steps below:
1. Click on the Apple logo in the ‘Menu’ bar
2. Select the option ‘About this Mac’
3. Click on ‘Storage’
4. Click on ‘Manage’
5. Activate the option to empty the trashcan automatically (this will automatically delete any file that you have in the trash for more than 30 days).
9. Delete large and old files
A quick way to recover a lot of space is to open the search engine and select ‘All my files’ that you can sort by date or size.
Choose ‘sort by size’, in order to delete the largest files. If the browser window does not show the sizes, go to ‘Display> Show display options’ and choose ‘Size’.
10. Eliminate programs that you do not need
In most cases it is recommended to delete applications that are not used. Although you can delete them simply by dragging them to the trash can icon, we recommend the use of programs such as App Zapper.
App Zapper will show you the number of applications on your hard drive and the last time you used them.
Another frequent problem is those iOS applications that are hanging around the iTunes library (in case you backup your iPhone on your Mac). Many of these applications are quite large.
Remember that once you have downloaded an application from the App Store, you can always download it again without having to pay twice, so do not worry about eliminating them.
IOS apps on your Mac can be found in the iTunes folder, which is located in the Music folder.
11. Make sure you update the software
Make sure to perform a software update for macOS and also update all the applications installed on your Mac.
Click on the Apple icon in the Menu bar and choose ‘ Software update ‘ (or open ‘ Software update ‘ in the App Store).
If you have applications that are not purchased in the App Store, you must update them separately. Usually, you can do it if you click on the name of the program in the menu bar.
AppFresh is an application that can help you keep track of all your software and constantly check for available updates. Some applications can also be updated automatically if you use AppFresh.
You should also make sure that macOS stays updated. Click on ‘System Preferences> App Store’ and make sure the ‘Check for updates automatically’ option is checked.
You can also check ‘Install application updates’ , to ensure that all your applications will update automatically.
12. Clear the cache of your Mac
The Macs use several caches , these are small files retained in the hard disk, since they are going to be used again. An excess of accumulated cache memory can affect the performance of your Mac.
Some cache memories are controlled by the operating system, others by individual applications. For example, a web browser will cache the web pages so that when you return to visit that same website, the pages can be read from the hard disk instead of having to re-download them.
The problem is that not all applications make good use of the cache. Take a look at your own cache by opening the ‘Cache’ folder.
Surely you will be surprised to see the amount of gigabytes that reside in this folder. The largest cache files are probably from your web browser, iTunes or Spotify.
You can safely eliminate cache memory, especially from applications that are no longer used. Safari, Firefox and iTunes allow you to delete caches directly from the applications.
There are programs such as OnyX (free) or Sierra Cache Cleaner (14.99 dollars or 12.16 € approximately) that are very useful in this area since they will help you manage the accumulated cache memory.
Recommended: How to use a VPN on your iPhone or iPad
13. Clear the Safari cache
As we mentioned the cache, it should be mentioned that Safari is one of the applications that accumulates more cache memory. If you clean Safari data, you can achieve better performance.
Open Safari and choose ‘Safari> Reset Safari’ and check ‘Delete all website data’. (Leave the other options unchecked).
Then click on ‘Reset’. This can help speed up web browsing.
There are several very useful applications such as OnyX (free) or Sierra Cache Cleaner ($ 14.99, that is, € 12.27 approximately). This type of tools will help you to erase cache and to have it always controlled so as not to accumulate more than necessary.
14. Disable visual effects
Most Macs can run macOS without any problem. However, it is convenient to deactivate some functions that may slow down your Mac.
For example, some users prefer to keep the ‘Dock’ static to avoid slowing down the device.
Click on ‘System Preferences> Dock’ and uncheck the following boxes: – Double click on the title bar of a window to zoom – Open animated applications – Hide and show the Dock automatically
Now click on the option ‘Minimize windows using’ and change the ‘Aladdin effect’ to ‘scale effect’.
15. Increase your RAM
Historically, updating RAM was the reference solution for improving the performance of a Mac. However, before spending money, it is worth trying to discover the difference that RAM will really mean to improve the performance of your Mac.
The easiest way to do this is by accessing ‘Activity Monitor’ (it’s in ‘Applications / Utilities’), clicking on the ‘Memory’ tab and observing the ‘Memory Pressure’ , in the lower part of the window.
If it’s permanently green, you probably will not see a big difference when updating. If it turns red regularly, it will be worth the expense.
The amount of RAM you add and how you add it depends on your Mac. However, the effort involved (and cost) makes it worthwhile to install all the RAM possible at once.
This will often mean that you will have to remove the existing modules and replace them.
Remember that many modern Macs can not be updated by the user.
16. Organize the desk
Each file on your desktop is a “window” with an image, either an icon or a preview of the file.
Each of these “windows” and their content is stored in RAM so that when you switch to the desktop or use QuickLook, your Mac can show you what is in the window.
In other words, the more files you have on your desktop, the more data will be stored in RAM. This could make your Mac work more slowly, especially if your Mac’s memory is already under limits.
Organize the files correctly in the appropriate user folder -Documents, Images, Movies, etc.- and you will appreciate an improvement in the speed of your Mac.
That said, from macOS Sierra you can choose to share the desktop among several Macs, so that your desktop files are stored in iCloud.
17. Turn off your Mac regularly
One of the Mac issues that causes the most controversy is what to do when you finish using the Mac at the end of the day: turn off or rest?
The old theory of leaving the Mac always on relied on the wear and tear on the hard drive to turn it on and off frequently. However, the theory of shutting down your Mac regularly has something more sense.
The main advantage of “resting” your Mac is being able to continue where you left it quickly. However, the disadvantages can be much worse in proportion, especially if you are short of RAM.
Mac OS uses interchange files, spaces on the hard drive that allow your Mac to see that it has more RAM than it really has, for virtual memory.
When the number of swap files exceeds five (approximately), your Mac starts to slow down. That’s when it’s time to restart or shut down.
Depending on how you use your Mac and RAM, this may be necessary several times a day.
The MenuMeters program (free) shows the number of exchange files along with the free memory used and other useful information. The reboot also deletes all temporary files, and system cache.
If you run maintenance scripts or backup copies at night, your Mac can be set to turn off after these programs complete their tasks.
If you leave your Mac running at night, keep in mind that the caches will not be emptied and that the applications that store it will load it.
Restarting your Mac clears the cache and turns off applications. The result of resetting frequently is an updated Mac with better performance.
If for some reason your Mac stops firing, do not worry, at Macworld we have the solution. Click on the link to read what to do if your Mac does not turn on.
18. Manage Spotlight
Spotlight (especially in the recent versions of macOS and OS X), is an excellent tool. But if you use multiple drives, particularly on older Macs, Spotlight may take too long to load the file system. This in turn will slow down your Mac.
The solution is to properly manage Spotlight to limit the files it indexes. This is done in the Spotlight panel in ‘System Preferences’.
Once you have opened the panel, click on the ‘Privacy’ tab . Now you can drag any folder that you do not need to search in the window.
This will prevent Spotlight from indexing the folder and, therefore, will reduce the amount of files you need to index, which means that you will spend less time on indexing and improve the performance of your Mac.
19. Make your own Fusion drive
Most current Macs come equipped with SSD storage instead of hard disk. An SSD is smaller, consumes less power and is much faster than a hard drive. (It is also more expensive).
To provide high-capacity economical storage along with the speed benefits of SSD, Apple created the Fusion drive, an SSD that your Mac displays as a single volume.
You can make your own Fusion drive if you have a spare hard drive bay on your Mac, or if you have an optical drive that you do not need.
20. Customize Finder
By default, when you open Finder, you will see ‘All my files’.
If you have an old Mac and many files, especially if they are image files or videos, it could be the reason for the low performance of your Mac.
Change the folder that is displayed when you open a new window in Finder by going to ‘Preferences of the search engine’ , clicking on the ‘General’ tab and selecting a different folder from the drop-down menu.
21. Disconnect File Vault encryption
File Vault allows you to encrypt every file you store on your Mac to keep it safe from prying eyes. It also uses many processor cycles to encrypt and decrypt those files.
If you use it, turn it off and see if you notice a difference in the performance of your Mac.
Click on the ‘Security and privacy’ tab in ‘System Preferences’ , then on the ‘File Vault’ tab . Click on the padlock, enter an administrator password and click on ‘Deactivate File Vault’.
22. The last option
If you have tried all the previous steps to repair your Mac and it is still running too slow, then you have only one option left: a reinstallation of the operating system.
It is not a job that should be undertaken lightly: you should eliminate the entire boot disk.
You will erase all files that have been collected in the system library and user libraries over the years and that may be causing your Mac to run slowly.
In Macworld Spain we tried to resuscitate an iMac 2009, which was running with Lion and worked too slowly. By installing a more current operating system (El Capitan), our iMac 2009 works as if it had just left the Apple Store.
Remember to make at least one (preferably two) full backup copies of your unit of bits before starting so you can copy documents, images, music and everything you want to recover once you have installed the new operating system.
The performance of your Mac computer will be greatly improved.