Mac Running Slow? Fix Your Slow Mac Now!

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“Why is my mac running slow?” First of all, relax a little! This is a question that is asked by thousands of other Mac owners and not just you. The good news is that your Mac’s slow performance problems can probably be fixed and fixed quickly, if you apply some, all or a few of the suggestions made below.

Problem 1 – Bloated Mac Hard Disk

If you have had your Mac for a while, even if it is just for over 6 months, there is a good chance that your Mac’s hard disk has a lot of bloat simply sitting around, doing absolutely nothing, nada! Such junk can take up 5 GB, 10 GB or even 20 GB or more of hard disk space sometimes.

Every mac has junk files like system logs, foreign language files, cache files and unnecessary binary files. On top of that, if you have many duplicate files, hundreds of photo clones in your iPhoto album and large and old files that you have just forgotten about, your Mac’s hard disk is most probably suffocated and struggling to give you the performance levels you expect of your Mac.

The easiest way to clean up this junk, thereby also significantly speeding up your Mac in the process is to use a cleaner software, something like CleanMyMac. CleanMyMac, an award winning Mac software, produces results in 10 minutes or less, allowing you to enjoy a faster and lighter Mac in just moments from running a scan and fix.

CleanMyMac 3 is available for download here.

Problem 2 –  Malfunctioning Hardware

Though quite rare, it is not entirely uncommon for your Mac’s hardware to fail sometimes. As an example, one of your RAM chips might not be working at all or maybe a part of a important circuit might have gone defunct. Thankfully, Apple have provided you with an in-house way to check your Mac’s hardware, using the steps described below.

Before you run the Apple Hardware Test

First, you must make sure that you abide to the following checklist, before running the Apple hardware test.

  • Check if your OS X version is 10.7 or newer (See note in italics below if you have older OS X versions)
  • Disconnect USB drives, external hard disks or any other device OTHER than your keyboard, mouse and Ethernet cable
  • If your Mac is a portable, connect it to a wall outlet so you don’t run out of battery while running the test
  • Give yourself a minimum of 15 minutes (Quick Hardware Test) and a maximum of 45 minutes (Full Hardware Test)

How to run the Apple Mac hardware test?

  • Shut down your Mac if it is on
  • Press the power button to start up your Mac
  • Immediately press and hold the “D” key, before you see the grey startup screen
  • Release the “D” key when you see AHT (Apple Hardware Test) start up
  • Choose English or a language you are comfortable with
  • Click on “Test” for a quick hardware scan or click on “Perform Extended Testing” (Recommended) to begin hardware test
  • Wait for test results
  • Restart or shut down your Mac as usual

Now, if something is wrong with your hardware, the test results are easily going to point it out to you, allowing you to then go in for a hardware replacement that will hopefully end your mac running slow problems.

*** If you purchased your Mac after June 2013, carrying out the above steps will run Apple Diagnostics instead of the Apple Hardware Test. Apple Diagnostics is quite similar to the Apple Hardware Test although it goes the extra mile to try to fix hardware problems if your Mac’s hardware problems are related to software drivers or firmware.

*** If your Mac uses OS X 10.5.5 or an older version of OS X, you will have to start up the hardware test by inserting the Applications Install Disc 1 or Disc 2.

Problem 3 – OS X Troubles

A corrupted or malfunctioning OS X can really make your Mac crawl. If you are thinking that my mac is running slow all of a sudden, for no reason at all, it might be prudent to do a safe boot, to rule out OS X problems.

  1. Safe Boot – To run Safe Boot, Shut Down -> Press Power Button -> Wait to Hear Startup Tone -> Immediately Press Shift Key, AFTER hearing the Startup Tone -> Release Shift key when you see the Progress Indicator and Spinning Gear Icon

If your Mac starts up correctly in safe mode, simply shut it down and then restart your Mac in normal mode. Most OS X problems will automatically fix themselves if you managed to successfully startup your Mac in safe mode. If the problem persists, continue on to the next step.

2. Disk Utility – To run Disk Utility, click on Utilities -> Disk Utility ->First Aid Tab -> Select Hard Disk Volume on which your Mac’s OS X is installed (It will say so on the disk that has OS X on it) -> Click Repair

If disk utility also doesn’t fix your OS X problems, a reinstall or an upgrade might help fix your slow mac problems. We will assume that you know how to reinstall OS X and will just tell you about how to upgrade your OS X.

3. OS X Upgrade – To see if your Mac’s OS X is up for an upgrade -> Apple Menu -> System Preferences -> Software Update -> Update Now

Please remember that upgrading your OS X might be a double edged sword in the sense that it can help improve your Mac’s performance, while also posing the risk of further slowing it down. While in most cases an OS X upgrade can only help, it can weigh down your Mac if the minimum hardware requirements don’t meet the recommended hardware requirements of the OS X upgrade in question.

As an example, installing OS X Mavericks on an iMac bought before 2007 or a MacBook Air bought before late 2008 will slow down the Mac as the hardware just isn’t good enough to handle the powerful OS X Mavericks.

Problem 4 – Mac’s System Controllers that Need Resets

Though Apple haven’t publicized the use of specific resets, they have been very well known to fix mac running slow problems. As an example, there is a reset called SMC reset or a System Management Controller reset that can essentially fix your slow MacBook problems in a few minutes.

You can learn more about to reset your Mac’s SMC in this post that discusses fixing of MacBook Pro running slow problems. There is another reset called PRAM reset that you can learn about in another post of ours where we discuss steps that will help you clean up mac.

We hope the above tips gave you enough suggestions that should hopefully put an end to your mac running slow problems. If you still face slow performance from your Mac, despite applying all or some of these fixes, leave us a comment with the specific problem you are facing and we will do our best to give you a fix!

CleanMyMac 3 is available for download here.

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. Howell

    OS X errors can sometimes make your Mac crawl, like you say. I recently upgraded to Mavericks on my 2006 MacBook and it was a bad, bad mistake. You need newer MacBooks to be able to run Mavericks.

    Rolling back to Mountain Lion however fixed the problem for me.

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