Ten easy ways to improve the performance of your Mac [tutorial]

All computers, whether Macs or Windows, tend to slow down as they age. For some, sluggishness may be a result of poor maintenance while others due to wear and tear. Macs are initially great — they run smoothly at first but they’ll eventually slow down a bit with each passing day. That’s not necessarily bad. And it’s not good either. We understand you want to have the same performance in your machine all the time. Fortunately, improving Mac performance is an easy task. Below are the things that you can try to speed up your favorite computer.

Before we proceed to the main topic though, we would like to remind you that we accept requests for assistance regarding their Windows computers. If you have a problem that you can’t seem to find a solution to, send us your issue by following the link at the bottom of this page. Just remember, windows problems can sometimes be difficult to diagnose so kindly make sure that you give us very detailed description of the problem. You want to mention relevant history that may have led to the issue. The more information that you can provide, the higher the chance of us diagnosing the issue more efficiently. We also expect that you mention whatever troubleshooting step/s that you may have done before contacting us in order to prevent repeating them in our article. Again, the more details you can give us, the faster it is for us to pinpoint the cause and its corresponding solution.

Step #1: Do a simple Restart

You may wondering why our first suggestion is the lowly restart. Well, in most cases, performance issues Mac users encounter are not caused by issues that require drastic solutions. In a lot of these cases, a Mac may only appear to be sluggish because they’ve been running for an extended period. Restarting the machine is an easy fix as it closes all running programs that may be clogging the system. If you don’t regularly shut your Mac down for days at a time, restarting it should give it a good boost performance-wise.

Restarting a Mac is very easy. Just do these steps:

  1. Click the Apple menu button in the top-left corner of your screen.
  2. Click Restart.
  3. Click the Restart button in the pop-up menu to confirm. If you want to load the same windows after a restart, be sure to put a checkmark on the box for Reopen windows when logging back option.

Step #2: Reduce the number of startup applications

Many Mac applications are designed to launch automatically when your computer starts up. While this design feature can be a convenient one for those wanting to have such apps up and running when the system is fully ready, it can actually backfire in terms of boot up speed. Having a lot of startup items allowed can significantly slow the system down when you reboot it. It also means that a lot of unnecessary apps will be running  in the background once the OS has loaded. The more apps run simultaneously, the harder your machine will have to work as it tries to allocate resources for all of them. In general, it’s beneficial to reduce the number of startup items to those you only absolutely need right away upon booting up. The rest can be opened later as demand for them arise.

In order to control the number of startup items in your Mac, here’s what you need to do:

  1. Go to System Preferences.
  2. Go to Users & Groups and then click on your username.
  3. Click on Login Items.
  4. Select a program you don’t need on start up, and click the “-” button below.

Remember, the lesser the apps allowed to launch on startup, the better. If you have a long list of startup apps, decide which one you need most of the time and disable the rest.

Step #3: Purge temporary files (caches)

Your Mac uses a set of compiled temporary files to allow quick loading of apps and to speed up its overall performance. These caches, while temporary, can take up a lot of storage space in the long run. While caches may be useful for the system, it can transform into problematic heap of files once its size becomes too unwieldy. Sometimes, it can even become the primary reason for unexplained glitches in the system. In order to keep your Mac’s caches always manageable, you can delete them from time to time. Your machine will then build a new cache on its own.

In Macs, there are two ways to delete the caches — one is by manually erasing them yourself and the other is by using other applications. To be on the safe side (as most of these cache cleaners can sometimes cause problems themselves and may even compromise your data), we suggest that you invest some time to manually clear the caches yourself. Here’s how:

  1. Open a Finder window and click on Go to Folder in the Go menu.
  2. Type in ~/Library/Caches and hit enter key. This will open the folder for you.
  3. Go into each of the folders and clean out everything. Make sure NOT to delete the folders; only their contents.

To make sure that you are covered, you can also try to copy everything to another folder somewhere in your computer before deleting the caches. This will serve as your insurance in case something goes wrong.

Once you’ve deleted the first set of folders, do the steps below and delete another group of caches:

  1. Open a Finder window and click on Go to Folder in the Go menu.
  2. Type in /Library/Caches and hit enter key. This will open the folder for you.
  3. Go into each of the folders and clean out everything. Make sure NOT to delete the folders; only their contents.

Keep in mind that the only difference in the first set of steps is that you replaced ~/Library/Caches with  /Library/Caches.

Now that you’ve cleared your Mac’s caches, be sure to also empty the Trash folder. To do that, just control-click on the Trash icon in the dock and select Empty Trash. After clearing Trash, restart your machine.

Step #4: Install app and OS updates

Macs are supposed to install updates by themselves but in case something caused your machine to not run the latest macOS, you can always check it manually. The same is true for applications. Sometimes, outdated applications can cause incompatibility problems which may manifest as performance issues. To minimize problems due to outdated software, try to make it a habit of checking the status of your macOS once every few months. To check the macOS version:

  1. Click on the Apple icon at the top left corner.
  2. Click About this Mac.
  3. Check what’s the latest version of the operating system. Alternatively, you can click on the Software update button to tell your Mac to check for available updates.

Step #5: Disable resource-hungry apps

If you recently noticed that you Mac seems to be slowing down significantly, it’s possible that it may be running low on resources. Some applications are designed to eat up a lot of resources than others so if your computer is really low on, say, available RAM, it may perform poorly quite a lot. To check what apps may be eating resources, you can use Activity Monitor. Activity Monitor is a built-in app that will show you important numbers about your system including apps that uses resources. It will give you a breakdown of five different type of resources: CPU, Memory, Energy, Disk, and Network usage. If you’re experiencing slow overall performance, you should pay attention to both CPU and Memory by clicking their respective tabs.

To open Activity Monitor, go to Applications folder, open Utilities folder, and look for Activity Monitor. Alternatively, you can use Spotlight to look for it.

If you think a particular app is using too much Memory or CPU resource, you can close it by choosing it and clicking on the X in the left-hand corner of the Activity Monitor.

Step #6: Uninstall apps

Just as too much caches can hurt overall performance of your Mac, too many installed apps may have the same result. The less apps you have, the faster a computer works. This is true in Macs and in other platforms like smartphones and Windows computers. Unfortunately, to remove apps completely does not just mean dragging them to the Trash icon; you also need to search for their associated leftover system files! To do that, you need to navigate to each folders and find the apps you want removed. Once you find the files with the app name, you can then drag them to the Trash.

When removing apps from your Mac, make sure that you go over each of the following folders individually and erase the apps and their files (format is types of apps and files, then location):

  • Binary and dock icons — /Applications/
  • Application support files — ~/Library/Application
  • Support Caches — /Library/Caches/ and ~/Library/Caches
  • Plugins — ~/Library/Address Book Plug-Ins/
  • Library — ~/Library/
  • App preferences — ~/Library/Preferences/
  • Crashes — ~/Library/Application Support/CrashReporter/
  • App saved states — ~/Library/Saved Application State/

Some system critical files are hidden so you technically don’t have 100% access to all folders and files. Also, some apps can’t be deleted from the system so you’ll have to limit yourself to removing some apps only.

Step #7: Disable Mac visual effects

If you got an old Mac model, it may help if you turn off visual effects to allow your machines to allocate resources needed to run them to other things. This will definitely make your Mac less smart and pretty but it can significantly boost its struggling system to do other more important tasks.

In order to disable visual effects in your Mac, follow these steps:

  1. Click System Preferences.
  2. Select Dock.
  3. Untick these boxes:
    • Animate opening applications,
    • Automatically hide, and
    • show the Dock.
  4. Click on Minimize windows using and change Genie effect to Scale effect.

Step #8: Repair disk permissions

Each file in your Mac have specific permissions or settings that tells how the operating system reads, writes, or executes it. If a certain file has incorrect permissions, an app or the operating system that uses it may not work correctly or encounters an error. In the least, such a situation may lead to slow performance while at worst, some serious glitches unexplained, random glitches such as crashing may occur.

To ensure that there no or minimum number of incorrectly set file permissions in the system, you can repair disk permissions. Here’s how:

  1. Go to Applications folder.
  2. Select Utilities.
  3. Open Disk Utility
  4. Choose your startup disk.
  5. Click the First Aid tab.
  6. Click Repair Disk Permissions to repair any inconsistent permissions.

NOTE: Repair Disk Permissions is only applicable for older Macs that runs OS X Yosemite or earlier. Beginning with OS X El Capitan, repair disk permissions has been retired as system file permissions are now automatically protected.

Step #9: Use Cloud sync smartly

Many of us have the tendency to keep our photos in our Mac without thinking how much storage space they’ve already used. This can cause serious performance problems for your Mac because the system will take longer to scan everything everytime. Sadly, syncing several GBs of photos to iCloud can take a very long time. On top of that, removing photos from your computer will also delete copies of those photos in iCloud. This means that whatever photos you keep in your Mac, they’re also backed up in the cloud. Since freeing up more space by deleting photos from your Mac is not an option, you can do other alternatives to keep your photos saved somewhere.

The first suggestion we have for you is that you dedicate hours in a week to browse your photos and delete those that you don’t need. For example, if you have a lot of duplicates or near duplicates, like burst shots from your iPhone, make sure to purge some of the least memorable ones.

The second suggestion we have for you is to turn off iCloud Photo Library in your computer and simply keep a local copy of selected photos. If you want to keep copies of photos in the cloud, you can try third party cloud services like Google Drive or Dropbox instead.

Another good suggestion is to use an external hard drive. Bigger capacity hard drives have become more affordable at this time so dedicating, say, 1TB HDD for your photos and videos is a great idea. Moving photos from your Mac to an external hard drive can surely speed up your Mac in no time.

Step #10: Upgrade the hardware or add more RAM

If all our suggestions above won’t improve the overall performance of your Mac at all, it’s probably high time to upgrade the hardware (especially if you’re not planning on getting a new Mac soon). For instance, you may be able to speed up the system significantly if you switch from a hard disk drive to Solid State Drive (SSD). SSDs are way faster than old-school spinning drives.

Adding or upgrading RAM may also help in this case, especially if you think Activity Monitor keeps on showing that the system constantly runs out of Memory all the time. In general, the more RAM your Mac has, the more apps it can support actively at the same time. This means you’ll be able to open more tabs and more apps without sacrificing speed.

If you intend on doing this final suggestion, we recommend that you talk to a professional. Not all Macs have upgradeable hardware so you don’t want to buy an upgrade component only to realize that it can’t be added to the system at all. Of course, physically removing and installing components may also be a bit overwhelming for the uninitiated so you’ll need profossional help to do it.


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