How to Speed Up Your Mac – 7 Easy Steps!

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Macs are fantastic machines that most probably were among the fastest of computers when you first brought it home from the store. However, with many new exciting Macs coming out all the time and with all the system hungry software programs and applications coming out, your current Mac might pale in comparison to the latest Macs out there, when it comes to sheer speed. If you can’t afford a spanking new Mac, there is no need to stress. There are ways to speed up mac and this post will talk about just that; “How to speed up my mac!?”

Speed up my mac – The 7 Step Action Plan!

1. Clean up, speed up and organize your Mac with software

Now, if you want the simplest route to a Mac that boots up faster, works faster, connects to the internet faster and also has tons of newly found hard disk space, the use of a Mac cleanup software program is highly recommended. Though there are a lot of programs out there, Clean My Mac 2 is by far the best cleanup software available to Mac users. Mac users generally have attested that Clean My Mac 2 can provide 25% to 40% increase in performance speeds in their Mac. In our own tests on a 2011 MacBook Pro, we noticed a 29% increase in boot-up and multitasking speeds, immediately after a CleanMyMac 2 cleanup run.

Clean My Mac 2 is available for a FREE download and trial here.

With just a handful of clicks and maybe just about 10-20 minutes, you can free up GBs of hard disk space,  remove a lot of system junk, remove duplicates (iPhoto, music, movie and other duplicates) and also  uninstall programs with just one easy click.

Clean My Mac 2  is extremely well reviewed by the Apple user community and several other Apple fan sites and communities. It will also get rid of system junk, language junk, binary junk and the main culprit – cache junk, in just minutes, all with just a click or two. You don’t need any sort of technical knowledge to use Clean My Mac 2 to make your Mac faster.

2. Check what’s slowing down your Mac

If you notice that your Mac only slows down occasionally, when you run a certain set of programs or maybe just one particular application, it could be that  certain application or software program is running in an erroneous manner, causing your Mac’s processor to pull its hair out, figuratively speaking that is.

Go to Applications–>Utilities–>Activity Monitor and then monitor the activities. Sort the activity list by double clicking on the little tab that says “CPU %”. That figure is nothing but a stat that says that a certain application is using a certain % of your CPU’s resources. Generally, applications rarely require anything more than 30% of the CPU’s computing power. In some cases, some software programs will use up 90%+ of the CPU’s capacity, bringing your mac to a crawl.

When that happens, try to close that application. If you had used that application without problems before, try to re-install it to see if it will run smoothly after the re-installation, without hogging your Mac’s resources. In many cases, just this re-installation is enough to speed up mac. If however the application in question is a complex and resource hungry software like video editing software or something similar to that, you might have no choice but to go in for a hardware upgrade as your Mac might just not be fast enough to handle such applications.

3. Check your starting lineup!

Every time you power up your Mac, a bunch of programs will start as your Mac boots up. This takes a toll on system resources, causing  your Mac to take a while to boot up and be at your service. To check your starting lineup, go to System Preferences–>Users & Groups–>Login Items and then give the items a quick scan.

speed up mac by editing startup items

Check your startup items to see there are programs that you don’t need that are hogging system resources, even as your Mac starts up

If you are the type that installs a lot of programs as you browse the web, chances are that there will be many login startup items that you don’t need at all. Un-check the items that you don’t need.

Don’t worry, you are not uninstalling anything if you un-check them. You are just telling your Mac that these programs don’t need to start up every time you boot up your Mac. Once you un-check the items that you don’t need, give your Mac a quick restart to look for changes. There is a good chance that your Mac will boot up faster than before, sometimes much, much faster!

4. Reduce your desktop clutter

The desktop is a great place to quickly retrieve commonly used items. However, if you abuse it and have pretty much all the shortcuts, files, folders, applications and other things that you need right on your desktop, your Mac is going to suffer as it always has to keep these things ready for launch, using its memory, thereby severely slowing down your Mac’s performance.

How to speed up mac by cleaning desktop

When it comes to your desktop, less is better. A cluttered desktop WILL slow down your Mac!

You don’t have to have a squeaky clean desktop but you can certainly try to only keep icons, folders, shortcuts or file links that you absolutely need. As for the less important items, you can even create a folder called a secondary desktop and put all the other items in that folder. That way, you are still just two clicks away from what you need, instead of one click. It is a small sacrifice that can considerably improve the speed of your Mac and even speed up boot up times.

5. RAM Upgrade

If the above software routes don’t yield you with an increase in your Mac’s speed, you might be well advised to carry out a hardware upgrade. One of the most affordable upgrades you can carry out is a RAM upgrade. RAM, short for random access memory, is a chip that works closely in tandem with your processor, to carry out the various tasks that you assign to your Mac. If your Mac has just 1GB of RAM at the moment, it can be almost twice as faster when you upgrade it to 2GB or even 4GB of RAM.

Depending on the type of Mac that you have, only a certain type of upgrade might be possible. To evaluate this potential upgrade, talk to a hardware expert who is familiar with Mac upgrades. You could also call Apple’s customer service team to figure out how to carry out an upgrade. If you know which RAM chip to buy, upgrading can actually be done by you! All it takes is a pull and a tug to replace these RAM chips although you need to find out which RAM chip to use before you start yanking things out of your Mac’s motherboard.

Read our post on what we think is the best RAM for your Mac.

6. Check for OS Updates

Sometimes, all it takes to speed up your Mac is a simple OS X update, straight from Apple. Apple constantly tweaks its operating system and rolls out these updates to existing Mac customers. You should have automatically got a prompt when such updates come out although some people forget about it or just don’t see it.

Speed up mac with OS X update

Run an OS X update, if available, to speed up your Mac easily

You can quickly check if your Mac OS is up to date by choosing Apple (the menu item with the Apple logo)–>Software Update. If there is a software update, give it a run and then restart your computer. There will be at least some sort of improvement in speed. Please note that OS X upgrades will often require the download of fairly large files (~500MB to even 1GB) although it will be well worth the download.

In the future, if you want your Mac to automatically benefit from OS X updates, do the following. Go to Menu–>System Preferences–>Software Update and check to see if automatic updates is checked. If not, check that box and your Mac will automatically prompt you, each time an operating system update is made available for your particular Mac model.

Update d on 19th May 2014 - We know the title says 7 steps to help speed up your Mac but we wanted to share two more fairly important ways to improve the performance from your Mac. Please find them below!

7. Consider purchasing a SSD hard disk (Solid State Drive)

A SSD hard disk or a solid state drive is a hard disk without any moving parts. A SSD hard disk allows the processor to find information on the hard disk in a much, much faster manner than when compared to reading data from a conventional hard disk with a lot of moving parts.

When the processor is able to communicate with the hard disk faster, it results in bettered performance from your Mac. Solid State drives are also a very good choice because they rarely break down whereas conventional hard disks can fail at any time, because of all the moving parts that they have. It however has to be noted that solid state drives are quite expensive. Still, if ultra-fast data access speeds and the low-risk availability of your hard disk data is very important to you, the switch to a SSD hard disk still has a very strong case.

Here is a link to our post on the best SSDs for MacBook Pros and other Macs as well.

8. SMC and PRAM reset

To help speed up your mac, you might sometimes have to carry out some minor system resets, resets that reset certain hardware functions in your Mac, without affecting any of your personal data.

There are two types of these resets. One is called a SMC reset and the other is PRAM reset.

SMC reset – Switch off your Mac -> Plug in your Mac’s power cord to the wall outlet -> Hold down Left Shift + Option + Control + Power Button (all simultaneously), for 10 seconds -> Release after 10 seconds -> Restart your Mac as normal.

PRAM reset – Shut down your Mac -> Press Power -> Immediately press Command + Option + P + R (all simultaneously) -> Keep this combination of keys pressed until your Mac restarts -> Release keys when your Mac restarts with a chime -> PRAM reset is complete.

Now, please understand that these two resets will not always speed up your Mac as they only help in some cases. However, they are well worth the try as improvements that they can provide, if they provide them, can provide you with significant satisfaction in fixing speed related performance problems on your Mac. Since they don’t erase any personal data, there is no risk involved with these resets either. At the most, these resets will only require you to reset your Mac’s time, date and a few other minor system settings, settings that will take you just a few seconds to change.

9. Repair disk permissions 

Once in a while, you must make it a point to repair your Mac’s disk permissions, as such repairs, if applicable, can significantly help you speed up Mac.

Ideally, you want to repair your Mac’s disk permissions every two weeks or so.

To run repair disk permissions, please follow the following steps; Applications -> Utilities -> Disk Utility -> Select Hard Disk (Especially your OS X Partition) -> Verify Disk Permissions -> Wait for Scan to Complete -> Click Repair Disk Permissions if Repairs are Applicable -> Restart Mac after Disk Permissions Repair.

If you liked this information on how to speed up your mac, do share it on your choice of social networks, to help others with Macs also get just that little bit of extra oomph from their Mac processors! Use the social share buttons on the top right and to the left of this post, to spread the word. We would greatly appreciate it!

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About the Author
Michelle, author at Mach Machines. A tech lover and an insatiable latte drinker. Michelle blogs about improving the personal computing experience.
  1. Cindy Reply

    Thx 4 the tips. The desktop cleanup really helped me loads. SO much faster now that I removed about a 100 icons that I had on there. The software was great as well. Gave me 10GB of free hard disk space. More space for my iTunes..Yay!!! :)

  2. BluBear90 Reply

    My login list was bloated beyond belief. A cleanup now allows me to boot up my Mac Pro in no time! Highly recommended. Already shared this on FB!

  3. The Bransons Reply

    I use CleanMyMac 2 and have put it on automatic schedule to run every week, on Sundays. Does a pretty good job and always gives me great new hard disk space.

    The iPhoto cleanup is pretty impressive, especially if you are a shutterbug who takes and edits a lot of pictures.

  4. NicoleAz Reply

    if you can afford a RAM upgrade, there is nothing like it… Nothing speeds up your Mac like more RAM!

  5. Brooklyn_fem Reply

    I can vouch for clean my mac. It can definitely speed up your mac, especially if your free hard disk space is low. If you don’t have at least 50% of your hard disk space as free space, performance can suffer….Try to delete junk or let clean my mac do it for you.

    You won’t regret the difference it can bring to your Mac’s performance levels.

  6. SimpSomatic_76 Reply

    A bloated desktop is a definite no-no. I would clean that up first, before doing anything else to try to speed up my mac!

  7. Vishal Reply

    Hi Michelle, I have been using Mac from last couple of years and on few occasions I have found my machine slow & sluggish. I wondered why my Mac is slow despite of 4GB of RAM? My 2 years R&D made me summarise following factors that are held responsible for a slow Mac. Firstly, the room temperature of the Mac if too hot or humid can slow down very basic operations of the OS X like starting & shutting down. Computers are subjected to few performance problems when they are exposed to tropical climate conditions. OS X updates play potent role in smoothing up the OS X performance. However, the same can also play opposite of what a user might expect. Take the case of OS X 10.9 update where user suffered slow Mac. HDD issues are not to be ignored at all because it the HDD which is the single most factor in slow or fast Mac. If hdd is out of space then fast Mac is dream. It would be great if you use a freeware like Onyx to del cutter your mac from junk files. I installed Stellar Speedup Mac OS X and free 7gb of junk data in free version itself. If I had a paid version of the same I would have removed extra 4 gb. Mac hdd now seems to be much faster than before.

  8. Michael Drips Reply

    Great informative article! Thanks! I learned some new things about my Mac from this piece.

  9. Maxurbn Reply

    Which is better MacBooster or Clean My Mac?

    • Michelle Smith Reply

      Definitely CleanMyMac. Their reputation is unquestionable. They have been awarded reader’s choice awards from big name sites like cNET and About.com. I think MacBooster is relatively new. MacBooster might be good but I don’t think they have nearly as impressive a track record as Clean My Mac.

    • Alfonso4Ever Reply

      CleanMyMac is established from what I know. MacBooster is a knockoff, at best!

  10. LoopPlay Reply

    @Vishal – Temperature really does have an effect on your Mac’s performance. This is why I use a cooling pad every time I use my MBA. That being said, there are some software settings problems that can also cause your MacBook to over heat.

    I believe Michelle herself has written a very useful post about how to eradicate high heat problems, especially in MacBook Pros. Use the search bar to find that one..It is a gem! :)

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