GUIDE: The Ultimate Guide to Speed Up Your Mac

Is your MacBook running slow? Well, such occurrences aren’t rare occasions: even the best computers slow down over time. Of course, the older models are susceptible to slowing down over the years, and you might be having this problem if you have a 2009 Mac or one from three years ago. Unfortunately, no matter how good they were back in the day, they just can’t cope up with the much improved digital landscape.

We can’t stress that a slow Mac causes a slew of problems. For example, it hinders your productivity, leading you to not get any work done. Remember, a Mac isn’t just a thousand dollar Facebook machine: it’s your best companion in helping you to get work done.

Fortunately, it’s not a conundrum you can’t solve, since you can easily find ways to speed up your Mac. And if you’re reading this, look for further: you’ve found the most comprehensive guide on the web. We will be looking at a variety of situations and solutions.

Clean up your Mac and save space

Before you start panicking, establish and learn why your Mac is slow in the first place. Because hey, the slowness might just be because of you somehow overflowing the hard drive with years’ worth of files. This means you need to start cleaning up, and here are ways to do so:

Use CleanMyMac

Arguably the best clutter-cleaning tool for Apple computers, CleanMyMac is your best bet if you want to clear out unwanted occupied space in your hard drive. Don’t worry, the software developers are reputable and trustworthy, unlike the joke people call MacKeeper. Anyway, this program is capable of solving your storage dilemmas faster and easier – you won’t have to visit individual folders and delete lone files. Instead, it does everything for you:

  • Cleans up iTunes junk, like duplicate files and backups.
  • It finds unnecessary duplicate images stored on the Photos app, deleting them and freeing space.
  • CleanMyMac can uninstall applications and at the same time, let you see which apps and programs gobble up the most space.

Take note that this software has been extensively featured and reviewed in various websites and publications and even here on UltimateMac. This fact alone is a testament to its awesomeness: you can never go wrong in installing it.

At least keep 40% of your hard disk vacant

Speed up your mac - disk space


As a general rule, try to keep at least 40% of your hard disk unoccupied. Not having enough disk space means you won’t be able to install more apps and keep files. This also means that your Mac’s overall performance will dramatically be affected.

In order to avoid this problem, simply uninstall apps you never use and clean up unimportant files. Store your pictures and other multimedia files on external hard disks as well. Do this and you will immediately notice the difference.

Take out the trash

speed up your mac - trash

The simple action of emptying your Mac’s Trash can speed up its performance. People usually overlook that they have a year’s worth of toxic files kept in their Trash which is negatively affecting their Mac’s performance. To delete the data in the Trash folder, open it, click the cog on the top bar, then select “Empty Trash”.

Get rid of unnecessary and heavy apps

Apps can take up a lot of space on your hard drive. You might have a number of them installed, but hey, you’re probably only using a couple of them. Just because there is a multitude of awesome apps you can download doesn’t mean you should. Only get what you need and uninstall apps like:

  • That app you only needed once.
  • The game you managed to beat.
  • Apps which have the same function.

I’s also a good option to get rid of apps which take up a lot of resources, as indicated in the Activity Monitor:

speed up your mac - activity monitor

Take note that if an app gobbles up a huge percentage of the CPU processes, then you should consider installing a less taxing alternative. Moreover, these apps slow down your Mac especially if they’re open on the background: simply close them and you will notice a dramatic improvement in your Mac’s performance.

Compress the files you can’t delete

One good way to save up space if you can’t find it in your heart to delete old files is to simply compress them all. For example, you might have truckloads of old pictures, videos, and documents you think you will need in the future. Simply compress your files and keep them in a folder. After which, you may then proceed with deleting the copies of the files you just compressed. This will save you gigabytes of space and improve your Mac’s performance.

Browser woes

speed up your mac - browsers

Regardless if you’re using Safari, Chrome, or Firefox, web browsers are designed to create a cache of every website you visit. Over time, these caches can build up and in turn, grow to extremely large sizes. Unfortunately, this slows down your browser, so it’s imperative to clean it up: here’s a guide that will help you in this endeavor. Additionally, here are some tips to speed up Internet browser (regardless of what you’re using):

  • Delete unnecessary plugins. If you have plugins installed on your browser that you no longer use, get rid of them.
  • Update your browser. Sometimes, all it takes to get rid of bugs and enhance the performance of your browser is to simply implement a software update.

Reset your Mac’s PRAM

Resetting your PRAM – or Perimeter RAM has helped numerous Mac users, particularly those running the MacBook Pro. Basically, a PRAM is the type of memory found only on Mac computers which contains your system settings. To restart it, here’s what you need to do:

  • Shut down your MacBook.
  • Press the power button, like when you’re turning it on.
  • Press the key combination of Command + Option + R before you see the gray startup screen.
  • Press the keys and hold until your MacBook starts.
  • Release as soon as you hear the familiar startup sound.
  • PRAM restart completed

Take note: restarting the PRAM will require you to adjust your time, date, and other settings. Don’t fret however, since this doesn’t delete anything on your Mac.

Check the apps that start whenever your Mac boots up

Your starting programs are essentially the programs that start whenever you Mac boots up. This feature is pretty convenient especially if you want to dive into your work right away. However, there’s a downside to this: since they essentially run in the background when your Mac starts, they can slow it down. So yes, it’s best to disable the programs you aren’t using.

speed up your Mac - startup

To do so, simply go to System Preferences > System > Users & Groups > Login Items. From there, check the programs and apps which are listed there. Only activate the apps that you need – there’s no point in activating taxing apps that can cause your Mac to fully start in 20 minutes.

Get rid of desktop clutter

Though this won’t actually speed up your Mac, this helps clear your mind and help you work more productively. Organize your desktop by adding folders for your files. For example, if you have 30 work documents strewn all over your desktop, then create a folder entitled “Work Documents” and keep them there. Remember, sometimes all you need is a little organization to speed things up.

SMC reset

Resetting your SMC (System Management Controller) can have a dramatic effect on your Mac. People do this whenever they clean up their Macs (in the software aspect, of course). However, this should only be done once or twice a year – don’t do this often.

With that said, here are ways to reset the SMC in different Apple computers.

MacBook and MacBook Pros with removable batteries

  • Shut down your Mac.
  • Disconnect the MagSafe Protector
  • Remove the batteries.
  • Press and hold the power button for at least 10 seconds. After which, release.
  • Put the batteries back.
  • Connect the MagSafe connector and power on your MacBook.

Apple computers with batteries that cannot be removed

  • Shut down your device.
  • Connect the MagSafe adapter to a power outlet.
  • Press the combination of left shift + control + option + the Power button at the same time and hold them for five seconds.
  • Turn on your device.

Re-install taxing apps

Let’s say you’ve used an app or a program before, and it ran smoothly. However, one day, it inexplicably started acting up, causing all the other programs which are running with it to dramatically slow down. We can safely say that this is a typical case of the program being greedy and gorging your processors.

In such cases, your best option is to reinstall the said program and see if it will run smoothly after doing so. A simple reinstallation is usually the quick fix, but if the said program is a game or a video editing software, you can bet that it’s due to the app’s typical nature.

Lastly, update your OS

speed up your mac - el capitan

Perhaps the most important – and effective – tip, is to upgrade your Mac’s OS to the latest, which is El Capitan. Sure, Yosemite is ok, but you should now let the captain steer your ship.

This is because the latest updates have addressed bugs and glitches which existed in the earlier versions. Moreover, it will fix existing security vulnerabilities and even dish out new features for your device.

Slow Mac after the El Capitan Upgrade

Since MacOS Sierra is still in beta phase, we’ll reserve that talk on a latter date.

When it first rolled out, El Capitan was met with numerous complaints from Mac users who swore that OS X Yosemite was way better. Regardless, the current flagship OS X introduced a number of new and nifty features, all capable of making the whole Apple experience better.

However, if your Mac was in a better state during Yosemite than in El Capitan, here are some quick fixes to address its speed issues (or the lack of it):

Use CleanMyMac to fix disk permissions

Before El Capitan, you used to be able to clean and speed up your Mac through Disk Utility. Unfortunately, this feature has now been protected, meaning you can no longer access it. Note that these file settings and permissions affect your computer’s ability to read, run, and execute files. However, you’re still able to run the “First Aid” function, like this:

speed up your mac - disk utility

Fortunately, you can use CleanMyMac to repair it. The app has a feature on the maintenance section called “Repair Disk Permissions” which fixes everything for you.

For more El Capitan problems, here’s a comprehensive guide which will surely help you out.

Hardware fixes

Cool down your Mac

Like all electronic devices, Macs don’t deal with heat pretty well. Though cooling it down won’t actually help in speeding it up, doing so will make it stay on your work table a little longer. To ensure that it doesn’t overheat, be sure to stop using it the moment it feels like it could scald your finger tips. Jokes aside, remember that placing it on a cushion or on a foamed surface can likely cause it to heat up pretty quickly. Cushions trap heat pretty quickly, so take note of this the next time you use your Mac in bed. However, before thinking of getting a new Mac, consider doing this first:

Get a RAM upgrade

speed up your mac - ram upgrade

At times, it’s not the software that’s a problem: the fault solely lies on your hardware. In cases like these, your only option is to upgrade your RAM or read only memory – it’s safe, easy, and affordable. RAM chips can range from less than a hundred dollars to several hundreds: the larger the capacity, the more expensive they are.

Basically, a RAM’s function is to work with your processor to enable your Mac to perform the tasks you assigned. For example, if you run a game, your RAM will shoulder some of the burden experienced by the processor. If the game requires 1 GB of memory to run, then your RAM will be temporarily be occupied by a single gigabyte. And yes, the larger the RAM, the better it is for your computer. Increasing your RAM from 2 GB to 16 GB will work wonders – this can make your Mac go twice as fast, or even more.

Take note however, that certain Macs can’t be upgraded, so check your model first before buying RAM online. Moreover, some may have limited upgrade capacities. For example, a specific type of Mac can’t have its RAM upgraded by more than 16 GB, which means you will have to settle for it.

Though you can change the RAM yourself, your best bet is to talk to a hardware expert or the helpful employees of an Apple service center. Before pulling them out of your motherboard though, check out which chips are compatible and educate yourself fully beforehand. An upgrade can go wrong, and it will certainly cause problems for you and your Mac in the long run.

Consider buying a Solid State Drive, or SSD

If your slow Mac woes continue to pile up despite the many fixes you tried to employ, the next step is to consider purchasing an SSD. Basically, most Macs are equipped with an HDD – a hard disk drive – and this has movable parts, unlike the SSD. This fact alone means a world of difference: a disk with immovable parts allows processors to gather and read data faster than those with moving parts.

With that said, getting an SSD installed will definitely result in a better performance. Furthermore, given their build, they are quite durable and it would be difficult to break them. Whereas hard disks have moving parts: a drop may cause it to fail and not function properly.

However, it’s important to consider the costs: SSD drives are relatively more expensive than conventional HDDs. Regardless, it’s worth the investment if you’re looking for something to speed things up.

Buy a new Mac

Sometimes, there’s no way to go around it: old Macs need to be replaced. For example, if you’re running a device from seven years ago, then it’s bound to be slow even if you installed El Capitan. We understand that the money involved in buying a new Mac is too much, but it’s a worthwhile investment – you of all people would know. Also bear in mind that there are people who regularly resell their old, yet functioning Macs  – check out Internet forums, Ebay, and ecommerce websites.

Overall, speeding up your Mac might be a little tedious, but it’s worth it. Remember, you might be heavily relying on your Mac, especially if you use it for work and entertainment purposes. This makes it a must to find ways to speed it up. Making it do things a little faster will enable you to get your priorities done, and over time, the minutes add up.

If none of these tips work, your next option – and possibly your best – is to contact an expert and have him help you out. Go to your nearest Apple service center or hire a technician to determine your Mac’s problems and ways on how to fix it.


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