How to Fix Your Slow Mac Post-El Capitan

Although most users are saying good things about OS X El Capitan, it is not devoid of problems.

Like its predecessors, it does have a number of problems including it somehow causing your Mac to be rather slow. This is a common occurrence, especially in older Macs… though newer ones have also been affected. The El Capitan is designed to make your computer run faster – after all, it managed to free up space. In some users though, it has done the opposite: making machines run slower than they did on Yosemite.

Despite the new features and improvements, some users went as far as dubbing it “El Crapitan”, highlighting the need for fixes to make their slow Mac computers run more smoothly. Apart from which, there are also quite a few problems hounding it: some have been fixed, while others are still around.

Regardless, it’s important to possess a clear mindset and remember that every problem has a solution. We’ve compiled a list of problems, including the speed-related ones, along with their respective fixes.

Speed and performance issues

A slow Mac computer running OS X El Capitan is more common than you think: numerous Mac users have been complaining about it in the Apple Support Forums. Although there are some who claim that their computers’ performance dramatically improved, certain users say the opposite and complain of the following problems:

  • Frozen apps. People with this problem had to use the Force Quit option to gain some semblance of control from their computers again.
  • Spending time with the spinning beach ball. This is always an unwelcome sight in Mac computers: the spinning beach ball signifies that a Mac is loading slowly or is freezing.
  • Slow boot up. Sure, Macs their time when booting up, but the problem has become noticeable to some Mac users. One even complained that the Dock takes its sweet time to load.
  • Saving files takes longer. This happens regardless of the program you use, whether it’s a word processing one, or a photo editing software.
  • Typing and cursor lag. Though this sounds rather unheard of in today’s computers, several users have complained of delays whenever they type something or whenever they move their cursors. This wouldn’t be surprising if there are programs running in the background.

Fixing a slow Mac

There are several methods you can employ to get rid of the speed issues hounding your Mac. If you don’t want it to run like a “one-legged donkey”, taken from the words of another user in the forums, here are your options:

Clean up your hard drive

The issue may not even be an operating system related one in the first place: it could be that your hard drive is on the brink of being full. If you lighten the strain on your hard drive, your computer is sure to speed up a notch and solve most performance issues.

However, searching for individual files, particularly videos and uninstalled applications, isn’t that simple on a Mac. Consider installing third-party software like CleanMyMac (read our review), an app which can help you get rid of cluttered files that take up a ton of space from a single, central program.

Repair disk permissions with Disk Utility

One of the main reasons why some users are experiencing performance issues in El Capitan is mainly because of the wrongly configured disk permissions. Basically, these are file settings which affects the computer’s ability to read, run, and execute a file. If the permissions are wrongly configured, then the software that uses the file may not be able to run it correctly, causing speed issues.

However, in El Capitan, disk permissions are protected and you can no longer access it. However, you can still repair it using CleanMyMac by going to the maintenance tab and proceeding to the “Repair Disk Permissions”.

Apps running in the background

If you’re complaining that your Mac is running slow when you have a iMovie, Photoshop, and a game running in the background, then you should probably quit all the programs in the background first before airing your grievances online.

You can check out the programs causing the performance issues on the Activity Monitor. To access this simply go to Spotlight or go to the Utilities folder via Applications.

Reinstall El Capitan

If the above mentioned fixes don’t work, then you might have to reinstall El Capitan. You never know, something might have gone wrong during the installation phase. Note that you should only do this as a last resort (unless if you’re willing to downgrade to Yosemite) before you head over to the Apple Store.

To reinstall the operating system, here’s a guide.

Revert back to Yosemite

Yosemite's desktop. Image: Apple
Yosemite’s desktop. Image: Apple

If you think you’ve done everything you can to salvage your computer and at the same time, keep El Capitan, but to no avail, you can revert back to Yosemite if you want. Do so, especially if you haven’t had any issues with it in the past. However, the whole process will require a lot of effort and a few hours. Here’s a guide by Gotta Be Mobile.


Also note that if your hardware is old and your RAM is four gigabytes max, then you’re bound to have performance issues. In this case, your best bet would be to purchase a new Mac computer.

Apart from the speed and performance issues, there are other, more specific problems as well. Fixing them is a must because after all, they touch on the Mac’s basic and most-used functions.

Slow WiFi problem

Although the slow WiFi problems hounding Yosemite have barely been carried over into El Capitan, you may still encounter some problems. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to fix this, including:

  • By simply restarting and unplugging your router and the modem. Keep them off for at least 30 seconds to several minutes. This usually does the trick in most cases.
  • Turn your WiFi off on your Mac and turning it back on again after a minute or two.
  • Go to Network Preferences > Advanced then delete the WiFi network the re-add it.

Microsoft Office problems

When Mac users installed El Capitan, the most telling problem was the unresponsiveness of Microsoft Office, which is highlighted by lag and slow loading speeds.

Fortunately, Apple has recently released an El Capitan patch that fixes the problem. You can install the newest patch by heading over to the Apple icon on the left side of the menu bar and by performing a system update. Microsoft also released a patch of its own.

Printer problems

Apparently, El Capitan has trouble printing landscape documents – this arises when users try to print PDF landscape documents using the Preview feature.

Though the best way to solve this problem is to not print PDF documents directly from Preview, there’s one way to fix it by resetting the printing system. Do this by heading over to System Preferences then to Printers & Scanners. Click on the Print tab and right click on the printer and select Reset Printing System. After doing so, restart both your Mac and printer. After doing so, you will be able to print documents without worry.

Battery Life

If you’ve noticed that your Mac’s battery life is shorter than usual after the upgrade, then it’s mainly because of Spotlight. It could be indexing files, which is why it’s using more power than usual. Try to let the whole process finish so Spotlight will be able to run smoothly.

However, if the battery life issue still hasn’t been fixed, you can resort to the following solutions:

  • Using Safari instead of third-party browsers. Sure, Chrome and Firefox may be better compared to Safari, but if considering that Apple’s own browser manages memory better than others, it saves power. The difference may not be initially noticeable, but it works.
  • Reducing screen brightness. Not only does a bright screen hurt the eyes, but it also drains your battery rather quickly. Reduce screen brightness by going to System Preferences then to Displays. Dim down the brightness and be sure to uncheck the Automatically adjust brightness option.

Slow Safari

Another post El Capitan problem is the slower Safari. If you’re experiencing lag and slow loading speeds, simply fix the problem by clearing the cache. Do this by heading over to Safari in the menu bar, clicking Preferences, then Privacy, and finally clicking on the Remove all website data option.

Basically, the cache is designed to quicken loading times by saving certain elements in web pages that you visit often. For example, if you happen to visit a particular blog everyday, the browser takes note of this and downloads certain elements present in it. However, doing too much of this can slow down the browser experience, especially when some of the already-downloaded elements are now outdated.


Overall, a slow Mac can always be fixed . Though it has had its host of problems, this does not change the fact that it’s arguably one of Apple’s best operating systems in recent memory.


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