Whether your Mac is new or old, you could probably always do with a little extra speed. Though there are lots of things you can do to improve the performance of your Mac, here are the top 10 tips that will have the biggest impact when it comes to making your Mac run faster.
Keep your Mac's performance up by regularly shutting down apps you're not using.
1. More RAM
The more RAM you have, the better. One reason that Macs can run slowly is because apps and processes consume lots of RAM, leaving little for the others. But RAM is expensive, and adding it after you’ve bought a Mac is becoming difficult. The next best option? Minimise how much you use. Don’t keep lots of apps running if you’re not using them, and close Safari tabs. Use Activity Monitor to identify apps that are hogging your RAM and then quit them.
2. Hard Drive Space
The more storage space you have on your boot drive, the better. OS X uses it as a cache when it needs more room than is available in RAM. At the very least, keep 10% of your storage available for use. Open a Finder window and select “Show status bar” from the View menu to see how much is available. Archive documents you don’t need to access regularly, and consider using an external drive for your iTunes Library. Empty your Downloads folder. Use an app such as Gemini to identify and delete duplicate files.
3. Reduce Desktop Clutter
Those files on your Desktop slow down your Mac, too. OS X draws a new window (complete with Preview) for every file on the Desktop, hogging system resources. If you have dozens of documents scattered around, they will incur a performance hit. File them, Trash them, or put them in a new folder called “Desktop Clutter” or the like.
4. Spotlight and Time Machine
Spotlight and Time Machine are both terrific features, but they can cause performance issues, particularly if you backup to a network drive or allow Spotlight to index an external volume. To stop Spotlight indexing an external disk, go to System Preferences > Spotlight > Privacy tab. Drag the volume into the window or press “+” and select it. If Time Machine slows you down, you can pause a back-up. Consider using a local external drive for backup.
5. Shut Off/Delete Unused Apps
Apps running in the background use resources and most apps now launch very quickly, so there’s no reason to keep them open when you’re not using them. Quit them, either by right-clicking their icon in the Dock and choosing Quit, or hit Command + Tab to pull up the app switcher, tab to the app and then hit Command + Q. Unused apps tie up disk space, so get rid of them. Use a tool such as AppZapper to go nuclear on them.
6. Restart Your Mac Regularly
Many of us (especially those who use a MacBook Pro/Air) only restart our Macs when we have a problem. It’s so much easier just to close the lid and let it sleep. But restarting your Mac clears out its cache and re-initializes hardware, so rebooting regularly can have performance benefits. Also, modern Macs — especially those with SSD drives — boot almost as quickly as they wake from sleep. If your Mac is running slowly, restart and see if that helps.
7. Turn Off Visual Effects
If you have an older Mac, animations — such as the way the Dock slides up and down and app icons balloons — can affect performance, so consider switching them off. Go to System Preferences > Dock, or choose Dock from the Apple menu if you’re not on Yosemite. Uncheck the boxes marked “Magnification,” “Animate opening applications” and “Automatically hide and show the Dock.” Click the “Minimize windows” menu and choose “Scale effect.”
8. Empty Safari Tabs/Clear Cache
Safari’s tabs can be very RAM-intensive. The more you have open, the bigger the performance hit. Close the ones you’re not using — bookmark them if you think you’ll need them again. Next, open Preferences from the Safari menu — we’ll clear its caches, for a full performance boost. In pre-Yosemite versions of OS X, click Reset Safari in the Safari menu, then choose Remove all Website Data > Reset. In Yosemite, choose “Clear History and Website Data” from the Safari menu and pick an option from the drop-down menu. These do clear your history, though!
9. Reduce Login Items and Restart
Login items are those apps and processes that automatically start when you restart or log in to your account. They’re often related to software you no longer need or use. Go to System Preferences > Users & Groups > Login Items. Click the padlock at the bottom-right of the screen, then enter your password. Click the first login item you don’t need and click the “-” at the bottom of the window. Repeat for every login item you don’t want. Now restart.
10. Keep Software up to Date
Out-of-date software can cause performance problems. In open apps, click the application menu and select “Check for Updates”. Download and install them if there are any. Now, go to the App Store pane in System Preferences and check “Automatically check for updates,” “Download newly available apps in the background” and “Install app updates.”
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