MacBook Air Running Slow? Tutorial – How to Fix?

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macbook air running slow

Editors note: this post was originally published in August 2015 and was updated in February 2017 to reflect new reviews and experiences.

The whole point of having a MacBook Air is to have a snappy computer that boots and allows you to do your work on the go. A slow MacBook Air can put a damper on your portable computing experience. There’s a lot you can do to fix your issues with a slow MacBook Air!

1. Try software optimization programs to speed up your MacBook Air

One of the simplest ways to speed up your computer is through software built for this purpose. We recommend CleanMyMac 3 from MacPaw. CleanMyMac 3 is simple: it rids your MacBook Air of useless junk files and cleans up your start program list.
Though there are many software programs out there, CleanMyMac 3 is the most popular among the Mac user community. It won reader’s choice awards from thanks to its ability to fix issues for hundreds of thousands of Mac users around the world.

CleanMyMac 3 is available for download here.

Save space on your HDD with CleanMyMac 2!

2. Reset your MacBook Air

Once in a while, your MacBook Air needs a reset. We’re not talking about a full system wipe. Instead we are refreshing particular hardware components that control your Macbook Air. These are always good options and they should help all your computer’s parts work in sync with each other and speed up performance.

Basic reset by restarting

If you are one of those Mac users that never shuts down your Mac, it’s time you restarted your MacBook Air. A simple restart can sometimes do wonders for your MacBook Air. You can restart by clicking on the Apple Icon and then by clicking on “Restart”, from the drop down menu.

PRAM reset

  • Shut down your MacBook Air
  • Wait till all processes are closed and the MacBook Air is completely shut down (off)
  • Press the Power button and the following buttons IMMEDIATELY after pressing the Power button: Command + Option + P + R
  • If you pressed the above sequence correctly, you would have heard a two tone startup sound
  • Your PRAM reset is complete

SMC Reset

  • Turn off your MacBook Air
  • Plug your power adapter to the wall outlet (or power strip) and make sure the power cord is also connected to your MacBook Air
  • Press the following keys in combination (all at the same time): Left Shift + Control + Option + Power Button
  • Release all the keys
  • Press Power button again, to restart your MacBook Air with a successful SMC reset


3. Low on disk space?

MacBook Airs don’t come with huge hard drives because of their compact sizes. Dealing with a full hard disk is never fun — nobody wants to delete things every time you download a new movie or album.
To check your free disk space, open Apple icon > About this Mac > Storage
macbook air running slow
CleanMyMac 3 will free up plenty of hard disk space without deleting your personal data. It offers one of the simplest ways to free up disk space on your Mac.
If you have a lot of large files (movies, music, and photography) you can also consider copying them on to an external hard drive for your Mac.

4. Install OS X on a SSD

An SSD can be a fantastic investment. Unlike a traditional hard disk, SSDs use flash memory and gives you faster read and write speeds.
Once you have your SSD, you can follow this detailed tutorial to understand how to move your copy of OS X onto the new SSD. You won’t see huge performance gains without moving your macOS install to the new hard drive.

5. Repair Disk on your MacBook Air

Apple gives you a free tool in within the “Disk Utility” section that can repair your Mac’s hard disk. This repair might not always speed up your MacBook Air, but it’s worth a shot.
To run  your Disk Repair,
  • Restart your Mac
  • When you hear the startup chime press Command + R
  • Release the keys when you see the Apple logo
  • Disk Utility > Continue
  • Select Disk for repair
  • Click First Aid
  • Click Run


Running down this list should reduce any problems you have a with your slow MacBook Air. Please leave a comment if these steps didn’t help and we’ll try to find a fix for your problem.


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About the Author
Kylie Larson is a content wrangler, helping both small businesses and large organizations get their message up and out. When she's not writing and organizing online, you'll find her walking the dog, with a camera in hand, riding the Chicago blue line, and in the midst of a home renovation project that never ends. Connect with her on Twitter @kylieslarson.
  1. The Alchemist Fan

    The resets definitely helped. I don’t know which particular reset helped the most but thanks for the share!

  2. SimonSays

    Carried out all the suggestions made in this tutorial and have to say that my MacBook Air is back to normal. It was crawling along and making me pull my hair out before I fixed it though.

    Appreciate the tutorial! Thx

  3. Danno

    Please excuse double post above.
    Was really interested in reading the “detailed tutorial” about moving OS X to a SSD, but the link goes to an article about Windows OS, not OS X. Is there an article for Mac?

  4. Michelle Smith

    Hi Danno. Thank you for pointing out that error. We have now updated the link to correctly point to a tutorial that shows how you can move your OS X from an HDD to a SSD, to allow for faster performance.

    Thank you for pointing out the other points as well! We really appreciate it.

  5. PizZaManiaC

    I have clean my mac installed on my MacBook Air and iMac. Pretty useful for quickly clearing out junk on your hard disks, to keep them light and with a lot of free disk space. It is quite useful in cleaning up your iPhoto folder as well.

    Btw, would you recommend a SMC and PRAM reset even if there wasn’t a significant problem with performance?

  6. Michelle Smith

    Both SMC and PRAM resets do not delete any user generated data. The only negative that comes out of these resets is that system preferences can sometimes change, needing to be reset.

    If you are up for that little task, you can definitely carry out these resets once in a while. It can only help. That being said, there’s also a pretty famous saying “Don’t fix it if it ain’t broke!” 🙂

  7. Khalid AlSharif

    Can someone please confirm that the reset won’t delete anything? I have lots of important files and applications that I cannot afford losing. Thank you

  8. Andy Bird

    My MacBook Air has suddenly started running slow.
    Activity Monitor shows that the Kernel_task is taking up most of the Processor usage.
    Currently the only applications running are activity monitor and Google Chrome.
    System usage is around 77%, User 10% and Idle 13%.
    I have 57Gb of store available.
    Opening applications takes a long time, internet access slow and Playing movies are very jerky.
    Any suggestions or do I have to take it to an Apple centre?

    Bets regards


    Very good article. I am facing a few of these issues as well..

  10. Jennifer

    Thank you for this article!!!! My MacBook Air was running so slow, I just purchased the CleanMyMac 3 and it’s back to like new. Thank you so much!

  11. Chris Owen

    My Mac Air was running really slow, and shutting itself down randomly. So I tried resetting SMC and PRAM, and it really worked. Thanks so much. As regards Clean my Mac, do you recommend the free download, or the paid version ?

  12. Abigail Smith

    This an easy method to fix and speedup MacBook air. Thanks for pointing out errors and solving issues.

  13. Mohammed Arif Khan

    Nothing’s working with the above solutions

  14. Pingback: Macbook Air Is Gradual –

  15. CHELLE

    THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!

  16. sharon

    As a complete computer idiot with an almost full Macbook air – so far, BEST 40 bucks I’ve spent. It cleaned up almost 1/3 of space for me, quickly and easily. So far, I haven’t found anything I “need” that is missing, either! 🙂

  17. Melissa

    For the disk repair option, there is nothing to click for run (did click first aid)

  18. Kylie Larson

    Yes! On some operating systems that’s all you need. Hope it helped!

  19. Ben

    whenever I open up my MacBook, it goes so sluggish; even the cursor goes choppy. whenever I try to play games like terraria, it’s like I’m in slow-motion. also, if I go over 480p on youtube, it loads the video again every 2 seconds. does anyone else have this problem, or knows how to fix it? I’ve tried the resets and downloaded cleanmymac3, but they don’t help very much.

  20. Greg

    WOW, my machine sped up in an unbelievable way, thanks. PRAM and SMC reset made a huge difference in performance.

  21. Kylie Larson

    Hi Ben – Have you checked your free disk space (this article explains how: I’m not familiar with Terraria, but check the minimum system requirements first and make sure your machine meets those.

  22. Rajesh

    Thanks a ton. PRAM reset did wonders. The kernel_task CPU usage dropped from 400% to sub 10%. Machine has become super fast. Took me just 10 secs.

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