How To Speed Up Your Mac in 2019

14 Ways To Speed Up Your Mac Article Featured Image

14 Ways To Speed Up Your Mac in 2019

I’ve written some fairly in depth articles on the site about how to speed up your Mac in the past. Some of the information in those articles is out of date as Macs have moved on since they were written. This article will go over how to speed up your Mac with tips, tricks and secrets that are relevant for 2019 and 2020. Read on!

Manage Applications That Start Automatically

Many of the software products that you install onto your Mac will install helper programs that start automatically when you login or when the Mac starts up. Removing any of these that are unnecessary can help speed up your Mac by reducing the amount of memory the system requires. It can also help speed up your mac by making it boot quicker when it’s been shut down. Since there’s less to start up at boot time, the boot will be quicker.

To check, and adjust which items start up automatically, go to System Preferences -> Users And Groups then click on your username. Then you’ll see a tab on the right labelled Login Items. Select that tab and check that all the items in there are actually needed. I bet there’s some that aren’t!

Speed Up You Mac By Checking and Removing Login Items That Are No Longer Needed
Speed Up You Mac By Checking and Removing Login Items That Are No Longer Needed

To remove an item select it from the list and then click the – sign at the bottom of the screen. Don’t just hide it, as that means it will still start up but will be hidden. In the example above, Google Chrome starts when you log in to the Mac. Google assumes you’re going to browse the Web with Chrome. They’re probably right. In my case I have Macs Fan Control also running at startup to keep my Mac cool. I’ll go into that a bit more in a few moments.

Disable Browser Addons

This tip will only help speed up your Internet experience. This may be the only thing you need to do though. Most people perceive their whole computer running slowly when in fact it’s just the browser.

Almost all the modern browser for MacOS allow the installation of Extensions. To be fair, if you have no idea what I’m talking about here then you probably don’t have all that many installed. I do though!

These browser extension take up memory in the browser. They potentially perform things in the background that are not normally necessary. For example, I have an Amazon Importer plugin installed in my Google Chrome browser. Most of the time it’s unnecessary because I’m not browsing Amazon. So it’s worth turning off that extension when it’s not in use. Turning off the unused extensions will help keep the memory footprint of your browser smaller. It’ll stop it using as much processing power too. And finally, it’ll probably make your browser more reliable. Many crashes of Web Browsers seem to occur because of bugs in AddOns.

If you’re seeing an extension that you never use then it can be deleted completely. If you use it occasionally, just disable the extension until you need to use it.

Disable AddOns In Safari

For Safari, exploring the extensions is a simple case of clicking the Safari Extensions… menu item on the main Safari menu.

Select Safari Extensions from the Main Safari Menu

From there you can Add, Remove or Disable any extensions. I don’t use Safari so I don’t have any installed anyway. If you do decide to install any, you’ll need your Apple ID and Apple Password.

Disable AddOns in Google Chrome

Google Chrome is one of the most popular browsers available for MacOS and Windows (as well as Android devices). One of the great features about Chrome is that AddOns are synchronised across devices. I have a Windows device and a Mac device. Chrome synchronises all the AddOns between the two.

Bear this is mind if you have multiple devices, as deleting an AddOn from one Chrome instance will remove it from all. If you only have one device then there’s nothing to worry about.

Disabling Chrome AddOns on Mac to help speed up your Mac is easy enough. Click on the 3 little dots to the right of the browser. Then choose More Tools and then Extensions. You’ll see a screen that looks like the image to the below left.

Finding the Extensions options on Google Chrome
Finding the Extensions Option
List Of Installed Extensions

Click the images above to zoom in. As you can see from the picture to the right you can click on the Remove link to remove the AddOn from Chrome completely. Or you can click the little blue switch to just turn it off temporarily.

If you find Chrome glitching or running slowly, you can disable the AddOns one by one until Chrome starts to behave normally. Then you’ll find out which one is causing the issue and can leave it disabled while you re-enable the others again.

Disable AddOns in FireFox

Finally, for this section about disabling browser AddOns, we’ll look at how to disable AddOns for FireFox.

Click The Gear Icon In The Top Right To Get To This Screen
Click The Gear Icon In The Top Right To Get To This Screen
Add or Remove AddOns From FireFox
Add or Remove AddOns From FireFox

The image to the above left shows how to get to the FireFox extensions screen. This screen will be shown after you click the small Gear Icon in the top right of the firefox browsing screen. Once you’ve opened the options, choose the Extensions option and you’ll see the screen on the above right. From that screen you can add or remove AddOns as you desire.

Reduce Desktop Junk

I see so many people with MacOS desktops that are absolutely chock full from one side of the screen to another. I have no idea how these people manage to find any of their applications or documents but they do. It would drive me insane. It also drives your Mac insane if you have so many icons on the desktop. That’s because each individual icon requires RAM to be displayed – and processing power to produce the little preview icon.

For every day use, it’s better to create a subfolder on your desktop to house all the items you want quick access to. Then move all your desktop icons in to that folder. You’ll only have one icon on your desktop then even if you have hundreds inside the folder. This will free up RAM and processing power and should make your Mac run faster.

Make Sure Your Mac Is As Up To Date As It Can Be

With a few exceptions, almost every version of MacOS is quicker than the previous version before it. So if you’re experiencing a slow down it might be worth upgrading to the latest version of MacOS. Some older Macs can’t run the very latest version of MacOS, so you’ll need to check based on which Mac you have.

Also, making sure you have the very latest release of the version of Mac that you can will help speed things up. Apple release regular ‘point updates’ for their MacOS operating system. These point releases will often contain optimizations that will speed up your mac as well as making it more secure.

My Mac Is Updated To The Latest MacOS Mojave (at time of writing)

Find Processes That Are Slowing Things Down

It can often be that the quickest and easiest way to speed up a mac is to have a look at the Activity Monitor and stop any processes that are using a lot of resources. These resources could be RAM or CPU or even Hard Disk.

To open the Activity Monitor you can open Finder and then navigate to Applications -> Utilities and then choose Activity Monitor.

Use Activity Monitor To See Which Processes Are Using CPU Power
Use Activity Monitor To See Which Processes Are Using CPU Power
Use Activity Monitor To See Which Processes Are Using Lots Of RAM
Use Activity Monitor To See Which Processes Are Using Lots Of RAM

Kill Processes That Are Using Lots Of CPU Resource

Click on the individual images to zoom in. From the image on the left you can determine which, if any, processes are consuming a lot of CPU power. Some applications break on occasions and get stuck in loops, chewing up processing power and achieving nothing. You can kill an application that is persistently using too much processing power by selecting it in the Activity Monitor and clicking the X symbol in the top left to Force Quit the application.

Be careful to make sure you know which process you are killing though. It might be a system process and killing it may make your system unstable. If you kill the wrong process then you may need to reboot your Mac to get it working again. If you kill the wrong process you won’t do any permanent damage though. Restarting the Mac will start them all up again.

Kill Processes Using Lots Of RAM

Looking at the image to the above right you can see which processes are consuming a lot of RAM. If a process is consuming a lot of RAM there may not be enough left for other processes. When there’s not enough left then the MacOS System will swap some of the contents of RAM out on to the hard drive. If your Mac has an SSD this will be a relatively quick process – although much slower than not having to do it at all. If your Mac has a spinning disk still then this will be painfully slow.

Close any applications that are consuming a lot of RAM. In the example above you can see Android Studio is consuming a lot of RAM. It’s not a problem in my case. I know it will consume a huge amount of RAM and I need it for some Android Studio work I’m doing in the background.

Stop Spotlight Indexing The Disk

Spotlight is a great tool that allows you to search your Mac quickly and easily for files or folders that contain specific things that you can search for. In order to return these searched items to you quickly, Spotlight maintains an Index file.

Any time a new file is added this file is scanned by Spotlight and added to the index. If your Mac is busy doing other things, adding the extra load of keeping the Index up to date can slow it down.

Sometimes, the Spotlight index needs to run for some time to rebuild itself. This can really slow your Mac down, particularly if the drive isn’t an SSD.

You can temporarily or permanently disable Spotlight indexing for your disk though quite simply. But remember if you disable Spotlight indexing you may have trouble finding that document which contains ‘worlds best chocolate shop’ when you need it. For example ๐Ÿ™‚

Choose which types of data to index with Spotlight
Choose which types of data to index with Spotlight
Choose which items not to add to the Spotlight index
Choose which items not to add to the Spotlight index

To change the Spotlight settings, use System Preferences -> Spotlight. The screen to the above left is the screen you’ll see when you click on the Spotlight icon in the System Preferences application. That screen allows you to select the types of information that Spotlight will index for you. So if you know you will never want to use Spotlight to search for Music you could disable this category.

The image to the above right shows you the areas of your hard drive that will not be indexed, irrespective of category. If you click on the image it will zoom in. From there you can see that I have decided to exclude the ‘Untitled’ drive from Spotlight. In this case that is the name of my hard drive, so I have excluded the whole drive from being indexed.

Whole Hard Drive or Just Categories?

Choosing the whole hard drive will stop Spotlight from taking up any time in the background while you’re trying to use your computer. This will potentially speed up your mac considerably. But the inconvenience of not being able to open anything without knowing exactly where it is might not be worth it.

If you’re finding Spotlight taking up lots of resources you can temporarily add the whole hard drive to the privacy exclusion. Then before you go to bed in the evening you can remove that privacy exclusion again and let Spotlight complete the indexing while you’re in bed.

Generally once the index is built or rebuilt, then Spotlight behaves itself fairly well unless you import a huge amount of data onto your hard drive suddenly.

Reset The SMC and PRAM

Sometimes, for reasons that are largely unknown, the system controllers that keep everything running smoothly can get corrupted. These are the SMC – the System Management Controller – and the PRAM – Parameter RAM. They hold data that can on occasion become corrupted.

Usually if either of these are to blame you’ll notice other weird things happen with your Mac. For example the keyboard lights may stop working. Your sound may be too quiet even with it set to maximum volume. It may be that your battery doesn’t charge properly or doesn’t hold a charge well. It may be that your Mac resets itself randomly. Or it may just be running very slowly with no other apparent reason.

Resetting the SMC and PRAM can, on occasion, help to speed up your Mac.

Resetting the SMC differs depending on which type of Apple device you are using and Apple have laid all the instructions out nicely for you here :- How To Reset The SMC On Your Mac (Apple). Similarly, resetting the PRAM is outlined by Apple at Reset NVRAM or PRAM On Your Mac (Apple).

Upgrade Hard Drive to SSD

If your Apple Mac is using a spinning platter hard drive then upgrading to an SSD drive will be the most amazing thing you can do to speed up your Mac. Unfortunately, Apple has lately been making this upgrade much harder than it used to be. For example, more recent iMacs have the glass glued to the chassis and it’s very difficult to separate the glass without breaking it.

It is possible. It’s just difficult. It’s not something that’s worthwhile for the average user to perform themselves. But it might be worth taking it to a repair centre and getting done. Check Google for local places that can do this for you.

To determine if you have an SSD drive already installed, or whether you have a spinning disk, go to the top left hand corner of the screen and click on the Apple icon. Choose About This Mac and then select the System Report button. From there, choose Storage as per the image below. If you have a faster SSD drive your system report will show SSD in the Medium Type.

Checking the Storage Type in a Mac
Note how the Medium shows SSD in this Mac?

If the medium type shows SSD you’ll be unlikely to gain any significant speed advantage by changing the hard drive. Having said that, you may be running low on disk space. Low disk space can cause a Mac to run slowly too.

Which leads us conveniently on to;

Clean Up Your Mac Hard Drive

This is a massive topic which could take pages and pages to go through. But the gist of this is that if your Mac is running out of disk space it can cause your Mac to run slowly. This is probably more true on the older spinning hard drives than SSD drives, but some people have suggested that mac running slowly can be caused by running out of disk space.

The most obvious place to check to see if you can free up some hard drive space is in your Downloads folder. It’s quite likely to be full of cruft in there and you’ll be surprised how much rubbish you can get rid of manually.

Apple has an excellent resource available online detailing how to reduce the amount of storage space required on your Mac – though it does assume you’ll have enough space on your iCloud account instead. Have a look at https://support.apple.com/en-gb/HT206996 for more information and tips about that.

Add Extra RAM

Whether this is an option or not depends almost entirely on which model of Mac you have. Some of the older Macs are fairly easy to upgrade the RAM on as they either have a RAM hatch or the bottom comes off if they’re a MacBook / MacBook Pro.

Adding Extra RAM can speed up your mac dramatically
Adding Extra RAM can speed up your mac dramatically

Unfortunately, in recent years Apple have decided that it’s too much risk for people to upgrade the RAM in their computer themselves and have taken to soldering the RAM chips directly to the logic board on many of their Macs. We don’t like this idea at all and can only assume it’s because Apple want to charge you significantly more than you should pay for a RAM upgrade…

Nonetheless, if you’re lucky enough to have one of the following Mac models you can upgrade your RAM;

Mac Models With Upgradeable RAM

  • MacBook Core 2 Duo
  • MacBook Unibody
  • Mac Book Pro 13โ€ (Mid 2009-Mid 2012)
  • MacBook Pro 15โ€ (Late 2008-Mid 2012)
  • MacBook Pro 17โ€ (All Models)
  • iMac 17โ€ (All Models)
  • iMac 20โ€ (All Models)
  • i Mac 21.5โ€ (All Models)
  • iMac 24โ€ (All Models)
  • iMac 27โ€ (All Models)
  • Mac Mini (Mid 2010-Late 2012)
  • Mac Pro (All Models)

Unfortunately, although the models above are all listed as being upgradeable, things get a little more murky.

Some of the models – the latest 21.5″ iMac models, for example, are upgradeable but doing so isn’t as easy as opening a flap designed for the purpose. The latest 21.5″ iMac screens are stuck to the chassis with very strong glue and there’s a risk of breaking them trying to get into them. It is possible, but it’s not for the faint of heart.

Before buying RAM for your Mac, check the specific model you have for it’s upgrade difficulty.

Mac Models That Cannot Have RAM Upgraded

  • iMac Pro (All Models)
  • Retina MacBook (All Models)
  • MacBook Air 11โ€ (All Models)
  • Mac Book Air 13โ€ (All Models)
  • MacBook Pro 13โ€ with Retina Display (All Models)
  • Mac Book Pro 13โ€ with Touch Bar (All Models)
  • MacBook Pro 15โ€ with Retina Display (All Models)
  • MacBook Pro 15โ€ with Touch Bar (All Models)

All of the above models have their RAM soldered to the logic board and cannot be upgraded. You’ll need to make sure you buy the right amount of RAM when you buy the machine originally.

How Much RAM Is Enough Anyway?

This rather depends on what you’re planning to do with your Mac. For the average user 8Gigabytes of RAM is plenty. But if, like me, you’re using something heavy like Android Studio with multiple Chrome tabs open so you can program your Android App effectively you may benefit from 16Gigabytes. Apple XCode developers would similarly require 16 Gigabytes.

For standard web browsing and the occasional e-mail, even 4 gigabytes should be sufficient for a reasonable running Mac.

Re-Apply Thermal Paste

This one is definitely not for the faint of heart but if you are a little bit technically minded and don’t mind getting your screwdrivers out. The processor (CPU) and graphics processing unit (GPU) generate considerable amounts of heat during their normal operations.

The more work you’re asking your computer to do, the more heat these components generate. To dissipate this heat away from the CPU and GPU these components are covered by a heat sink. Usually this is a piece of copper (good heat conductor) that’s located on top of the processor and GPU. The heat generated by the components is conducted into the copper heatsink and conducted away from the CPU/GPU. Usually a fan is employed to move air across the heatsink to blow the heat out of the computer case.

The surfaces between the CPU/GPU and the heatsink don’t touch perfectly, due to manufacturing tolerances. To overcome this, a thermal conductive paste is applied to the CPU and GPU to bridge the gap.

Most computer manufacturers skimp quite heavily on this thermal paste. Often not applying enough thermal paste. Taking the computer apart and re-applying the thermal paste can make this bridge more effective and therefore dissipate the heat away from the CPU and GPU better.

The reason this can speed up your mac is because as a component gets hotter it will be throttled back in speed to protect itself. The warmer it becomes, the slower it becomes. Therefore, keeping it cooler allows it to run faster.

In a similar vein then….

Use Macs Fan Control Software

Macs Fan Control keeps your mac cooler
Macs Fan Control keeps your mac cooler

Apple in their infinite wisdom (sarcasm) prefer to rely on the computer slowing itself down when it gets too warm rather than running ‘noisy’ fans. The fans in most Macs only engage when the system has already begun to slow down. This process, called thermal throttling can be one of the biggest reasons your mac is running slowly.

Fixing this problem can be one of the easiest and cheapest ways to speed up your Mac.

Macs Fan Control is the best software solution I’ve found for adjusting the speed of the Mac’s fans to get them to work a little harder and therefore a little noisier (but barely). Running the fans harder keeps the components cooler and prevents or reduces the thermal throttling.

I’d rather have a little bit of noise but a fully functioning laptop/computer.

Remove The Fluff

In this case I’m referring to actual fluff. Leading on from the section above, if the computer has fans sucking in cool air and expelling warm air then it stands to reason that the air that’s sucked in will contain some dust.

The amount of dust build up in your Mac will depend entirely on the environment in which it’s used. A dusty environment will lead to a lot of dust in the computer. Dust does not conduct heat well. It is a great insulator. This means that the heatsink will stay warm even if the fans are running fast.

As I explained above, a warm/hot CPU will thermal throttle to prevent damage to itself. Thus it will run slower.

Open up the computer if you can, and blow out all the fluff and dust, particularly around the areas where the fans are situated. This alone can give a slow old Mac a new burst of speed. The best way to do this is with a can of specially prepared compressed air. The reason this is best is that there will be no water vapour in these cans. Water vapour can cause corrosion on delicate electrical components. Using your breath for example will contain water vapour.

Software That May Help Speed Up Your Mac

I’ve used and reviewed Clean My Mac X which is a great way to automatically remove most of the cruft (except the physical fluff!) from your computer. You can do all the optimization manually yourself for free, but if you value your time then something like Clean My Mac can help speed up your Mac much more efficiently than you can.

Clean My Mac can speed up your mac
Clean My Mac can help speed up your mac

One other area that can cause issues with drive space is the Photos that you may have taken on your phone and then uploaded to your computer. Quite often there’s lots of duplicates in these photos – ranging from HDR copies that are in your phone through to multiple images of almost the same thing because you took loads of the same thing. In this case something like Gemini 2 (also by MacPaw) can help as it applies some clever image processing techniques to find photos that look similar but are actually separate files. We’ve written a Gemini 2 Review too so check that out if you’re struggling with disk space.

Both of these software products have been around for over 10 years now, and MacPaw generally get fairly favourable reviews elsewhere on the internet. Some people don’t like them because – as is highlighted in the reviews themselves – you can do everything that they do manually. But manual is time consuming and risky. The MacPaw products do make like easier.

For more information and a very in depth article on how to use it – check our Clean My Mac X Review.

For more information about Gemini 2, including how to use it and what it can do for you – check out our Gemini 2 Review.

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