Fixing a Slow Mac


Troubleshoot a Slow Running Mac

Whether you have an old Mac or a brand new one, they will eventually slow down and you might spend a significant amount of time on load screens or waiting for apps to start responding. Whatever the reason, if your Mac is running slow, you want to fix it.

Worst case scenario, you can always take your Mac in for maintenance at your local Apple store. However, this is time consuming and may be expensive if you no longer have a warranty, or the issue isn’t a hardware problem. Instead, run through this quick troubleshooting guide to find the reasons why your Mac could be running slowly.

Memory is Low

Your computer uses a significant portion of memory to manage and access applications. Unfortunately, this builds up over time and if you haven’t restarted your computer in some time, you may find that your Mac runs slowly.

The easiest fix is to simply restart your computer. Unfortunately, if you have an old Mac and a new program, you might have an incompatible program that has become unresponsive.

You can also attempt a reset:

  1. Restart your computer
  2. Hold Command (⌘), Option, P, and R just before the startup screen appears. (You have to hold these down simultaneously)
  3. Turn your computer off. If you’re using a laptop, plug it into a power source.
  4. Press Shift-Control-Option and the Power Button at the same time. The computer should not boot.
  5. Turn your computer on normally.

This will reset your PRAM and SMC. This should not hurt your computer, but you certainly don’t have to do it unless there is a problem.

Your Hard Drive Is Full

Slow Running Mac

If your hard drive is more than 80% full, you will likely experience a slow running Mac. You can check this very quickly with the following process:

Apple Menu (Top left menu) > About This Mac > Storage

If it is getting too full, review your files and consider removing or deleting some of them. For example, your downloads and images folders are often prime places for unnecessary data buildup. If you need to keep everything, consider investing in an external hard drive and storing some of your data off of your Mac.

Too Many Login Items

Mac Login Items

If your biggest issue with your Mac is that it takes too long to start up, the issue might be that you have too many Login Items. You can clear this by:

  1. Removing items from your desktop
  2. Going to the Apple Menu (by clicking on the Apple Logo at the top left of the screen) > System Preferences > Users & Groups > Login Items. Remove any items that you don’t use when you start up the computer.

CPU Usage

Slow CPU

If you’re running an hourly antivirus, Time Machine backups, and other random things, you will notice significant slowing down of your Mac. Check anything that’s set to run automatically and try to schedule it for when you least use your computer. For example, most people can benefit from backup times set to right before they log off of the computer rather than hourly. Similarly, you can set an antivirus scan to once per day rather than hourly.

You can also open Activity Monitor (Finder > Applications > Utilities) to see what programs have the highest CPU usage and to force-quit applications that are frozen or hogging CPU resources.

System Preferences is Full

Mac System Preferences

If you frequently install and uninstall apps, your system preferences are likely a mess. Incorrect systems settings can easily be the cause of mac running slow. You can clean this up manually, or you can download a free program to do the work for you.

  1. Go to the Apple Menu > System Preferences > Other (Old Mac) Bottom Section (New Mac). Delete any applications there that you have deleted and which are still there.
  2. Visit: ~/Library/Preferences Panel and delete files you no longer use and have deleted from your computer.

You Have Malware

While not extremely likely, it is a possibility that your Mac is infected. Malware, trojans, and even spamware can all affect Macintosh computers, especially if you frequent forums or download content. You can also get computer viruses by using pirated software, downloading torrents, downloading from Usenet newsgroups, and installing programs or apps from places that you don’t trust.

Consider running an antivirus scan or downloading an antivirus program like:

    • MalwareBytes
    • AVG
    • Avira
    • Bitdefender
    • Trend Micro
    • Sophos

Your Mac Needs an Update

Unfortunately, Apple pushes updates to your Mac, which can slow your computer down significantly. This also holds true for app updates like for Microsoft programs. If your computer is unexpectedly lagging, open the applications list and check to see if you have any pending downloads or computer updates.

Your OS is Outdated

If your operating system is old and out of date, your Mac may gradually begin running slow. You should usually update your OS to the latest offered for your computer model. To see if you have the option to update your OS, go into the App store (Applications).

Unfortunately, if you have an older Mac, you cannot always upgrade so you might not be able to fix the problem.

Your Browser Has Too Many Extensions

If you’ve installed 30 plugins into your browser, you can expect it to run very slowly. Why? Your Internet browser is likely running all of these programs at once, which can significantly affect your computer’s speed.

Open your Browser, hit the Browser Name next to the Apple Logo and choose Extensions, Plugins, Extras, etc., depending on which browser you’re using. Simply uninstall any that you don’t use or need.

Your Caches are Full

Your Mac will create cache files just like any Windows computer, and you can find them for your browser, Finder, and any applications that you use. If you’ve never cleaned your caches, you could find several gigabytes of wasted data there, especially if you use apps like Google Earth.

What should you know? Caches aren’t always bad, they just build up significantly over time. In the short to medium term, like over a period of a few weeks, caches work to speed up your computer by keeping commonly accessed files handy, a bit like short term memory. However, these files can build up significantly over time, especially if you have a caching error or do not delete apps that you no longer use.

You can delete your caches by hitting Command + Shift + G and typing “~/Library/Caches/” into the search bar that appears.

What About Mac Cleaners?

Taking the time to clear up space on your hard drive is time consuming, and obviously not everyone will want to do it regularly. Mac cleaning programs can help you speed things up by putting everything in one place and automating some of the functions that you would otherwise have to do yourself. Some of the best options include CCleaner for Mac, Clean My Mac, and OmniDiskSweeper, each of which offers slightly different features.

You can choose to purchase or download these, but they are not necessary for keeping your Mac in good shape, only more convenient than doing everything yourself.

About The Author
Proliferate writer, sesquipedalian, techie, Apple fangirl (don't judge),tree hugger, yogi, tea drinker, zombie hunter. Into philotherianism & philomathy. Love my job. Visit me on Google +