How Can I Speed Up My Mac? The Ultimate Guide

Keeping your Apple Mac computer clean is the best way to guarantee its fast and steady work. Few Mac users know how to get rid of annoying apps and extensions slowing down their device (e.g., Quicktime plugin). With a gazillion of Mac OS optimization tips available online, having a slow Mac is a shame! Is there a cheap and reliable way to speed up your Mac? Read on to learn about all the available options.


mac speed

My Mac Is Slow. Why?

Approximately 30% of Mac’s disk space is occupied with unwanted files, applications, or system junk after a year of use. Over time, such data accumulates and takes up more space, causing a drop in performance, glitches, slow boot time, etc. If less than 15% of free space is left, problems get real. Eventually, ‘Your startup disk is almost full’ alert comes as a wake-up call.

So why is this happening to Macs? For two reasons, mainly: limited SSD storage space and user negligence. Configuring your default SSD to a larger one is easy; however, most users can’t make themselves follow regular cleaning routines. There are three options to keep an average Mac’s performance on point:

Manual cleaning

Using Mac onboard utilities

Using third-party cleaning apps

Not all of these options are available to users of older devices and earlier Mac OS X versions. For instance, Optimized Storage utilities became available starting with macOS Sierra. Third-party applications for Mac cleaning and maintenance are generally effective. However, they raise concern among users due to possible safety issues.

How to Speed up an Old Mac?

So, what should you do if you’re using an old Mac? Before you deal with software issues or install cleaning apps, upgrading hardware could be helpful. If the hardware is not the problem, here are the five things to start with:

Disable window/Mail animations

Give up all the eye candy for the sake of better performance. To switch off all window and Mail animations, use the following Terminal command:

defaults write NSGlobalDomain NSAutomaticWindowAnimationsEnabled -bool false
defaults write DisableSendAnimations -bool true
defaults write DisableReplyAnimations -bool true

Repair disk errors

Corrupt caches and permissions, as well as disk errors, can lead to your Mac’s slowdown. However, this can also be a sign of a failing hard drive. In older Macs, using Disk Utility for drive check-ups and permissions repair can help improve the overall performance. Launch both Repair Permission and Verify Disk -> Repair Disk.

Check RAM usage

Specific memory-intensive apps can significantly slow down your old Mac and eat up system resources. Go to Applications -> Utilities, and then check Activity Monitor to locate the RAM eaters and quit them.

Defragment your hard drive

Has your old Mac experienced several OS X upgrades and app uninstallations? If yes, defragging its hard drive is a must to get a performance boost. However, if it runs on an SSD, this procedure is unnecessary.

Reformat and perform a clean install

The most radical and time-consuming way to speed up your old Mac is to re-install the operating system from scratch. Fresh Mac OS X installation can perform miracles! Make sure to back up all your files and applications before you proceed.

Useful Tactics to Speed up Mac OS X

The typical cleaning procedures are the same for all Mac computers and Mac OS X versions. However, users need to know about the specific tactics applicable to a particular system.

How to Elevate Mac OS X Lion Performance

Restore windows

Switch off Auto-Resume

OS X Lion arrived with an Auto-Resume feature allowing the apps to save automatically and resume. It can cause slow performance of older Mac machines. To switch off Auto-Resume, go to System Preferences -> General. After that, untick the ‘Restore windows when quitting and restoring apps’ option. Alternatively, you can also use a keyboard shortcut ⌥⌘Q (Alt-Command-Q) to quit an app and its windows.

Keep Your Apps Organized

Mac OS X Lion acquired full-screen apps and Mission Control. On old machines, these features can cause clutter by keeping inactive app windows open. To optimize the launched apps and workspaces, go to Mission Control and close the unused items.

How to Boost up Mac OS X Mavericks

Optimize Spotlight Search

Users of OS X Mavericks reported having issues with Spotlight search slowing down their Macs after the upgrade. By default, Spotlight creates an index of the drive contents. However, it automatically re-indexes the internal drive after the OS installation. The Spotlight may also slow down the performance when trying to index an external drive. Checking the Spotlight menu to see if there is an indexing status bar can help identify the issue.


Disable Files Preview in Finder

On older Macs, file preview thumbnail generated from the list displayed in the Finder window can slow down the performance. To switch it off, go to View -> Show View Options (Command-J in Finder), then untick the Show icon preview.

How to Make Mac OS X Yosemite Faster

Disable Widgets & Extensions in Notifications Center

Apart from disabling the animations and graphical user interface effects, it is possible to switch off the widgets and extensions in Notification Center. Older Macs can suffer from longer reboot and login times because of the extra eye candy. To turn off the widgets and extensions, do the following:

  1. In the Apple menu, go to System Preferences -> Extensions.
  2. In the left sidebar, click on Today and deselect the unnecessary options (Weather, Social, Reminders, etc.)

Slow boot time

Due to the bug reported by many Mac OS X Yosemite users, FileVault encryption can cause system slowdowns. To solve this issue and speed up your Mac’s loading time, disable the FileVault in Disk Utility.


How to Speed up Mac OS X El Capitan

Mac Mail

El Capitan users have reported that default Mac Mail app was causing a slowdown in their Macs. If you use this application, check Activity Monitor (Applications -> Utilities) to see the app’s RAM consumption. If Mac Mail consumes over 5% of your RAM, abandon the app in favor of a lighter program like Outlook.

Optimize Login Items

Removing the unnecessary apps from login items can help to speed up your Mac’s startup time. Go to System Preferences -> select Users & Groups. Deselect the unwanted apps in a chosen user account.

How to Speed up macOS Sierra

Users of macOS Sierra and High Sierra have Optimized Storage toolkit to speed up their Mac’s performance. There are four available features: Store in iCloud, Optimize Storage, Empty Trash Automatically, and Reduce Clutter. With their help, users can free up the disk space by storing rarely used files in iCloud, deleting large and old files, and making settings to remove Trash automatically. The Optimized Storage toolkit helps to automate specific disk cleaning procedures by making them less time-consuming.

Using Third-Party Apps to Optimize Your Mac

Third-party applications can help elevate your Mac’s performance and reclaim the disk space. This method is more effective and less time-consuming compared to manual cleaning and using onboard macOS utilities. Applications developed by trusted third-party vendors provide the following advantages:

  • Secure removal of apps and leftover files;
  • Loading and reboot time speed up;
  • System performance boost;
  • Disk defragmentation capabilities;
  • Background system maintenance.

Cleaning applications are extremely handy for users with little Mac maintenance experience. Some of them have so-called Smart Assistant functionality when the app monitors the state of the system in the background and alerts users about issues. Removing file duplicates, big and old files, system junk and trash becomes easy and hassle-free. Using third-party apps allows troubleshooting Mac OS X issues fast and effectively.

Final Thoughts

Keeping your Mac clean and maintained guarantees its fast performance. There are three options to speed up your Mac: manual cleaning, using onboard Mac utilities or third-party applications. Cleaning procedures are generally similar all Mac computers and versions of Mac OS X. However, depending on the system used on a specific Mac computer, some cleaning and maintenance tactics may differ. Utilizing third-party apps proves to be the most effective way to boost up your Mac’s productivity.