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How to speed up a slow Apple Mac

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We know all too well that Windows has form for slowing down over time but fewer people realize that Apple Macs can do exactly the same thing. The more you use your Mac, the slower it can become. Even though the operating system is much more efficient than Windows, it still leave a bit of a mess behind.

If your Mac is running a bit slow there are a few things you can do to speed it up. Rather than relying on a third-party program that purportedly helps make your Mac faster, it is much better to do it yourself. Here’s how.

Speed up a slow Apple Mac

If you are familiar with optimizing Windows, these steps will see familiar. That’s because the principles are exactly the same. We identify resource hogs and either tone them down or remove them altogether. We then make sure MacOS has everything it needs, all the updates and only uses the resources it needs to get the job done.

Check startup programs

One of the first things to check if your Mac begins running slowly is to find out what programs are set to start automatically and run in the background.

  1. Select System Preferences and Users & Groups.
  2. Select Login Items to bring up a list of all the programs set to start automatically.
  3. Select a program you don’t need when you boot and select the ‘-‘ minus button at the bottom to remove it.
  4. Repeat for all non-essential programs.

If you have owned your Apple Mac for a while and haven’t done this before, you would be amazed at what you can find there. It seems any program or app you install thinks it should boot when you boot MacOS. Sometimes we need to tell it otherwise. This should not only help your Mac boot faster is should also free up resources too.

Shut down unnecessary apps

MacOS likes to be helpful and even if you close an application it doesn’t always close it down properly. Just in case you might need it again. The easiest way to see what apps are running is to look for the black dot underneath it in Dock. If there is a black dot, it is running. If you don’t think you will need the program or app or don’t mind starting it from cold again, hold Control and click it and select Quit.

Alternatively, press Command + Tab to bring up App Switcher and work your way through the list closing anything you don’t need.

Make friends with Activity Monitor

Activity Monitor is like Task Manager in Windows. It is an interface that helps you make sense of what is running on your computer and what resources you have. Access it through Utilities and select Activity Monitor.

It shows all processes running on your computer, system resources and utilization. If you see a lot of programs running, you can close them from here too. If you click CPU at the top, you can order programs in utilization order, with the app using the most processor at the top. You can do the same for Memory, Energy, Disk and Network.

Take some time getting familiar with Activity Monitor and learn what applications you can live with and those you don’t need. Select a program and then the ‘x’  in the top left to close it.

Manage disk space

Disk space is an indirect cause of a slow Apple Mac but is still something that needs checking. If you run short of space or have gigabytes of stuff on your hard drive, it will run slower. Lack of free space compromises swap file while MacOS will have to hunt harder to find things which makes just about everything run slowly. Keep things lean and your Mac runs faster but freeing up disk space.

Select Storage from the Apple menu and let the system calculate free space. You want a minimum of ten percent free. Open Finder and Applications and remove anything you no longer use. Then empty the trash. Then use something like CCleaner for Mac to keep an eye on the dive.

Keep MacOS updated

It is important to keep your Apple Mac updated at all times for a number of reasons. Speed is just one of them. Any time an OS improvement is released, your Mac should pick it up and install it automatically. Sometimes it is just security fixes but often, serious improvements can be released that offer a performance boost. Like disk space, system updates are indirect improvements but they are important.

Select System Preferences and App Store. Then make sure automatic updates are selected to make sure you’re never left behind.

Empty the caches

System caches are another time saving innovation that temporarily stores data to speed up other programs. Unfortunately, the caches are not always that efficient at managing themselves so can become clogged up with too much data. Periodically emptying them can improve system performance.

  1. Select Command + Shift + G and then Go To Folder.
  2. Navigate to /Library/Caches and check the contents. Chances are you will find a good few gigabytes worth of files in there, especially for Safari. Feel free to delete anything you see here.

Caches are rebuilt automatically so you cannot do any damage here. Just delete the contents and the cache process will gradually begin again for very little performance degradation.

Restart regularly

One often overlooked way to speed up an Apple Mac is to restart it cleanly once in a while. I tend to send mine to sleep while plugged into the mains and I know a lot of people who do the same. While perfectly okay for day to day use, it can slow things down after a while.

Rebooting your Mac fully wipes the cache, frees up memory and allows your system to purge any files or apps that are in use.

After performing all the steps in this guide, your Mac should now boot and work as quickly as it did when it was new. Got any other ways to speed up an Apple Mac? Tell us about them below!