Macbook Pro Running Slow? Here’s How To Fix It!

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MacBooks or any Mac computers for that matter (iMac, Mac Pro, MacBook Air etc), even with their powerful hardware configurations, have a tendency to slow up once in a while, especially when you compare its current speed to the speed it showed off when you first brought it home, when it was brand spanking new.

In this post, we will show you some simple but effective tips that will help you speed up your MacBook Pro, so you enjoy your Mac’s full performance capabilities.

MacBook Pro running slow or Your Mac running slow? –  Common Fixes

1. Using Mac Cleanup Programs to Clean Up Your MacBook Pro’s Hard Disk, Resulting In Faster Speeds

A program like Clean My Mac 2 can instantly fix a bloated hard disk problem for you, freeing up several GBs of hard disk space in just a few minutes, with just a few clicks and just one single run or scan. Users have generally experienced a 45% to 60% increase from slow speeds on their MacBook Pro, after performing a single cleanup run with this program.

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

Clean My Mac 2, winner of several prestigious awards, including About.com’s Reader’s Choice Award, is a Mac Utility software that can help to speed up your slow Mac in several ways, as mentioned below. Clean My Mac 2 will also give you a great way to keep running maintenance chores on your MacBook, keeping it light and speedy.

How Clean My Mac 2 can speed up your slow MacBook Pro and other slow Macs?

  • Frees up hard disk space to dramatically improve processor and memory performance
  • Uninstalls unnecessary slow programs and apps that you never use or run
  • Cleans out your application starting line up, resulting in really fast boot up times
  • Cleans up your iPhoto folders, removing photo duplicates with just a click
  • Helps you find very large, old personal files and presents them for deletion, allowing to free up even more hard disk space
  • Deletes system junk, cache junk, languages and binary junk that can all lead to a faster running MacBook Pro

Not only will Clean My Mac 2 allow you to speed up your MacBook Pro, it can also be used as highly efficient and intuitive maintenance software to ensure that your Mac never slows in the future.

2. Hardware upgrades

Hardware upgrades, though quite expensive, can be the best way to end your slow MacBook Pro problems. Even if you are on a tight budget, you can still enjoy significant performance improvements by investing in RAM for your MacBook Pro or an SSD for your MacBook Pro.

You are looking at a max of about $200 for a 8 GB RAM upgrade and a max of about $400 for a 1 TB SSD upgrade, both of which can skyrocket your MacBook Pro’s performance levels. If you can afford it, do it by all means. There simply is no better way to speed up your MacBook Pro. Here’s a good Lifehacker article that talks about what all can be upgraded on your MacBook Pro.

3. Resetting the System Management Controller

Every MacBook Pro has an inbuilt hardware function called System Management Controller. Most people never run the reset though! While we won’t get too technical to explain its various functions, we will tell you that running a reset of this controller can sometimes tremendously help in improving the speed of your Mac.

Don’t worry, resetting this controller will not harm your Mac in any way. It won’t even change any of your content or user settings. It just resets the hardware and in most probability,will make your MacBook run faster, run much faster than before.

How to reset your MacBook Pro’s System Management Controller?

  • Turn off your MacBook Pro
  • Plug in your MacBook Pro’s power cord into the wall socket
  • Now, hold down the Left Shift + Option + Control + Power Button, simultaneously, for 10 seconds
  • When you do the above, your Mac won’t power on but a reset will be registered
  • Release all keys after 10 seconds and turn on and run your MacBook Pro like you normally do
  • Your MacBook Pro’s slow performance problems are hopefully solved!

Please note that when you press the above mentioned combination of keys, your MacBook Pro should not turn on. If it does, you probably didn’t press one of the keys properly. Do it again until you are able to press down all mentioned keys for 10 seconds, without powering up your MacBook Pro.

4. PRAM Reset (Updated on 23, March 2014)

Just like the SMC reset discussed just above, another reset called the PRAM reset has also quite a few Macbook owners fix performance problems on their MacBook Pro, putting an end to MacBook Pro running slow problems.

Again, like the SMC reset, the PRAM reset will not delete your user generated data when you run it. The only thing you might have to restore after carrying out this reset is probably some system preferences like time, date etc., something that will take you just a two minute run, at the most.

How to carry out a PRAM reset to fix slow MacBook Pro problems?

  • Shut down your MacBook Pro
  • Press the power button
  • Press Command + Option + P + R in combination, all at the same time, before you see the grey startup screen
  • Press and hold until your MacBook Pro restarts
  • Release the keys when you hear the familiar startup chime sound that your MacBook Pro makes when it starts up
  • Your PRAM reset should be complete

5. Check for Power Hungry Apps

Sometimes, your MacBook Pro running slow performance problems can be caused by just one or two apps, apps that are very resource hungry, apps that hog all your processing and memory resources, causing your MacBook to run slow.

To check if your MacBook is being affected by such apps, please carry out the following check.

  • Go to the Applications Folder
  • Select Utilities
  • Select Activity Monitor
  • Select CPU tab, shown at the bottom
  • Check the % Idle statistic
  • If your % Idle statistic is always less than 60% or 50%, some of the apps you are using are using up way too much memory than what is normal
  • Check the list of active apps to see which apps are the culprits, the culprits that are slowing down your MacBook Pro
  • Uninstall thise apps. If you need the apps, look for an alternative apps that are more compatible to run on your MacBook Pro. You can also try re-installing that app to see if it will consume less resources after a re-install


6. De-Clutter Your Desktop

If you are like many of the amateur MacBook Pro users out there, chances are that there are about a 100 icons on your desktop. What you must understand is that these icons are not static. In other words, your MacBook Pro’s processor is constantly checking up on these icons, every time you run your Mac, making sure that the links are always live and ready to go.

That process takes up a lot of memory and CPU resources. Try to limit your desktop icons to just 10 or 15 icons. As for all the remaining ones, you can put them all in a folder called, let’s say,  “Second Desktop” (Folder name is just an example, you can use what you like). That way, you will de-clutter your desktop and also not be too far away from all the shortcuts that are important to you.

Other ways in which you can potentially fix your MacBook pro running slow performance problems is to buy and install more RAM, install a SSD (Solid State Drive) hard disk and also use just a few apps at one particular time, reducing your multi-tasking work. All these fixes can help speed up your MacBook pro to various extents. Many of these tips will also help you keep your MacBook running fast, in the long run as well.

We hope this post helped you find at least some answers to your question; “Why is my MacBook pro so slow!?” If you have any personal tips, strategies or advice that you used to speed up your MacBook Pro, please share them with us. We would love to hear from you! Use the comment box below to get involved!

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. Stefenie84

    I had no idea that there was something called a system management controller in my MacBook Pro! And yes, resetting it made a huge difference!

  2. Maciek

    Resetting the SMC on Mac portables with a battery you can remove

    I’m not sure if you’re right. That’s the official instruction:
    Note: Learn about removing the battery on MacBook and MacBook Pro.
    Shut down the computer.
    Disconnect the MagSafe power adapter from the computer, if it’s connected.
    Remove the battery.
    Press and hold the power button for 5 seconds.
    Release the power button.
    Reconnect the battery and MagSafe power adapter.
    Press the power button to turn on the computer.

  3. GeneliaIn

    Wow, the cleanup software really helped. Turns out my MacBook’s hard drive had just 248 MG of hard disk space left. The software freed up 17 GB of junk. Incredible. Made all the difference to both booting and browsing speeds. I use my MacBook to just browse!

    No wonder this post got shared on Prismatic :) Kudos – Keep it coming!

  4. DC

    Early indications are that reseting the SMC has made a noticable difference.
    Thank you for this tip.

  5. Michelle Smith

    Great! Glad to have helped in some small way :)

  6. a.yk

    the shift control option power does work! thanks

  7. Renee

    Thanks! Was helpful.

  8. TheFultons

    smc reset is an awesome way to boot performance on your MacBook Pro. I usually end up using it at least once a month and it always seems to do the trick….have to try clean my mac yet..

  9. Rob

    Thank you… your material is succinct and very fast/easy to perform… my MacBook Pro is running much better now :-)

  10. dave

    I did all you said but using the power button because mine broke.its still so slow (using my iphone). it just drastically reduced itself out of nowhere yesterday. I bought my computer new and didn’t come w a disc. updated to mavericks.all my data is backed up. but I use my computer 10 hours a day and sending it off to be fixed would affect me greatly.anything else I can do? can I reset it wo a disc? thanks

  11. Michelle Smith

    Hi Dave. It sounds like your Mac badly needs a SMC reset for which the power button will have to work. Is there someone savvy enough to get the power button working. If that could happen, you could try the SMC reset and I have a feeling it will help.

    Also, how much hard disk space do you have? If it isn’t a lot, you must try clearing it up as added free disk space can make a big difference to performance levels.

  12. vern

    Thank for the info , kit has helped me. Vern

  13. Lizzy

    Thank you for the information. I reset the system management controller. It seems to be helping but I haven’t had enough time to know for sure. I did declutter my desktop. I already knew that was a bad thing to do and it wasn’t that bad, but it’s much better. I still think my MBP is running too slowly though, but better than it was. Frustrating!

  14. Michelle Smith

    Hi Lizzy

    Did you try the PRAM reset as well? Also, how much free disk space do you have on your MacBook pro? A full hard disk can also really slow down your MacBook’s performance, even if it is a SSD!

  15. Iqbal Kabir

    Thanks for this useful article. SMC reset worked like a magic to speed-up my MacBook Pro.

  16. Stephanie Francisco

    Hi, I tried to do everything but it’s still running slow. Also, my idle statistic are always 80-90%. I’m getting frustrated because I really don’t know what to do anymore. My laptop is only 1 year and a couple months old.

  17. Michelle Smith

    Hi Stephanie. Sorry to hear that. Can you tell us what specifically your MacBook Pro is doing wrong? Booting up slowly, not being able to multitask or maybe just hanging up all the time?

    If you are more specific, we can maybe try to help you with some fixes. Can you also go to our site’s search bar and type in Apple Diagnostics and then go to the post that mentions it. There, you will find instructions on how to do a hardware test. I suspect that some hardware component might have failed in your MBP

  18. Stephanie Francisco

    It just keeps on hanging up. Like even if I type something, I need to wait for a minute before it appears.

  19. Michelle Smith

    Wow, that is really bad. I would try the SMC and PRAM resets again. Are you sure they worked the first time around? If the resets don’t fix it, I think you might need to take it to a service station. It could be that your hard drive is corrupted or damaged as well.

  20. Luis

    Hi Michelle, this is my first time here! Thanks for all of your tips.

    I’m pretty sure I have my macbook pro cpu’s damaged, due to overheating. I have already cleaned up my fans and solved the overheating problem, but the problems remain. Upgraded my OS, run apple hardware test (nothing came up) and everything is still the same. I can not even watch a movie here. a lot of bumps, the image stops while sound keeps on going, non-responding programs, etc.

    My question is: is there anyway to repair my cpu or do i need to buy a new one? If I buy a new one (don’t want to :/), what can I do with the current one? It’s a Macbook Pro 15″ early 2011, 2.2GHz Intel Core i7, 4 GB memory, etc. This mac was supposed to last for a long time and i’ll be really sad if it’s just garbage.

    Thanks in advance!

  21. Michelle Smith

    Hi Luis. Thank you for your comment. Unfortunately, there is no way to safely replace or upgrade just your MacBook Pro’s CPU or motherboard as these are soldered on during manufacturing. If someone were really technically savvy, they could probably replace it with a newer CPU for you although I doubt if they will give you any sort of guarantee that the fix will work. If anything, it will be a trial and error fix. Are you sure that your hard disk is OK? Can you run Verify Disk by running disk utility. To run it, please use Applications -> Utilities -> Disk Utility -> Select Your Hard Disk -> First Aid (On the left hand side menu) -> Verify Disk.

    If that program finds errors, it will also help you repair those errors. Please give it a shot and see if it fixes your MacBook Pro.

    P.S. – You will see that the repair disk option will not be available if your disk has OS X installed and running on it. However, you can still repair your OS X disk by doing the following.

    1. Restart your MacBook Pro
    2. As soon as your MacBook Pro begins to restart, hold down Command + R at the same time (In some model MacBook Pros, you might have to hold down the Option key as well)
    3. Choose “Recovery HD” from the menu that will pop up
    4. Choose the OS X hard disk that disk utility found errors in
    5. Click on Repair Disk
    6. Finish the repair and continue to boot your MacBook Pro
    7. Hope for the best!

  22. Luis

    Thank you for your quick answer, Michelle. I’ve already ran all kind of tests that Apple offers. Minimal errors were found and fixed, but nothing important.

    Guess I don’t have another option but to buy a new mac. Although, I’ve already been told that the new MBP retina also have the overheating problem. Can you confirm that? I’m a journalist, so I use my mac for editing, etc. I use ‘heavy’ programs, such as final cut, photoshops, etc. Overheating is not welcome :)

    Thanks a lot again!

  23. Michelle Smith

    Hi Luis. Yes, we are seeing many people reporting overheating problems on their retina display MacBook Pros over the past few months. It looks like the high power resolution combined with the heavy workload you require from your MBP is just a bit too much for it to handle. Before you buy a new Mac, we would however recommend that you try a high quality laptop cooling fan to see if it can be good enough to keep temperatures down, even when you have Final Cut and other types of graphic editing software running at full tilt.

  24. Esther Bezalel

    Hi Michelle, I will just do the SMC reset. But my idle was between 80-90%, how can I fix that?

  25. Michelle Smith

    Hi Esther

    If your idle is high, it means your processor has a lot of bandwidth available. That shouldn’t be a problem. Is your MBP still slow after the SMC reset?

    What problems are you exactly facing?

  26. Lance Frazer

    Hi Michelle,

    Thanks for the post. I went through the steps listed, and everything is A-OK when my computer is NOT plugged in. Weirdly enough, when I plug it in, my MacBook is rendered useless. The touchpad becomes pretty much unresponsive as my mouse is jumping all over the screen. Really not sure what to do here. Any ideas?

    Lance

  27. Michelle Smith

    Hi Lance. That is a very unusual problem indeed! From what I know, your type of problem only occurs when your charger is faulty. If you have more than one MacBook or if you can borrow your friend’s MacBook charger for a day, swap it with your old charger and see if the problem persists.

    I have a feeling that your charger is the problem and can be pretty easily fixed!

  28. kiran

    Hi Michelle,
    Thank you for the information. Tried the SMC reset; but the laptop would start within 10 seconds; and it takes a very long time to start and gets stuck with the opening screen. Can you tell me how to fix this problem?
    Thank you,
    Kiran.

  29. Michelle Smith

    Hi Kiran. Sorry to hear about your problem. It sounds like your OS X may be corrupted. Can you try booting your MacBook in safe mode? Power off your Mac and then power it on again. After you hear the startup beep, press and hold down shift. When you see a grey Apple logo, release the shift key and allow your Mac to boot up in safe mode.

    Once inside, run Disk Utility and run repair disk permissions on your OS X partition. Hopefully, after it is done, you shouldn’t have any problems with your Mac.

  30. Andrew Watts

    Usually we think that deleting duplicate, junk and caches files will speedup the Mac but don’t wipe disk space by doing this. Use Activity Monitor, hard drive sleep mode and hardware issues for slow speed problems. Apart from checking these, if speed can not accelerate then there are many efficient tool like Stellar Drive Defrag, iDefrag etc. for defragmenting Mac drive.

  31. Gary Bennett

    Hi Michelle. You are my latest and greatest Mac hero. Since the advent of Mavericks, my Mac has been running slower than syrup running uphill. More despite being a Mac user for nearly 10yrs – and thinking myself knowledgable all things Mac – I have been unable to get it back to my Macs of old. Enter Michelle, and voila!!! After finding your page by chance and then following every single one of your points, I confirm that everything is running fantastic – and at great speed. Only TWO issues: (1) from start-up, the Apps are still taking a whilst to kick in (no prob really, as once they have started, I quit the app and start it up again at lightening speed)….(2) I dont know if related, but all my probs (I think) were stemming from the mail-Gmail-Mavericks…I have now (at least for now) ditched mail and running with Mailplane 3…..A combination of the above now has my Mac back to near ‘new’ performance, and I would like to thank you for your help…I’ll be sure to read more about your Mac advise….Cheers

  32. Dave Thwaites

    Yes!!! You’ve just totally fixed my mac with the SMC update gem. Legend! My mac was one more ‘beachball hang’ away from testing it’s beachball qualities by throwing it out the window, but you’ve saved its bacon, and my wallet!! Thank you!

  33. Christine

    Hi Michelle

    Does the SMC and PRAM work on older macbooks?
    Mine is not a pro, but a white one app. 2008

    Thanks, Christine

  34. Michelle Smith

    Hi Christine

    I am not entirely sure about this but this is what you can do. Try the SMC instructions we have given you in the above post. If you don’t notice any kind of reset happening, try the following instructions instead. They are more specifically given out for older MacBooks.

    1. Shut down your MacBook
    2. Turn it over and open the metallic door on the underside
    3. Identify a physical SMC reset switch that will be labelled as SMC_RST (You will most probably find it under the notification LEDs. We recommend that you use a non-metallic point like a pencil nib to push this reset button)
    4. Install the door back on
    5. Power up your MacBook

    Hope this was of some help to you. Please do post back if it helped!

  35. ali

    Hello would this also work on an iMac?

  36. Michelle Smith

    Yes, the suggested resets will also work on your iMac. Use our search box to find a iMac related post. We have one just for that!

  37. Alex

    Hi Michelle,
    I was just wondering is there a reason why you haven’t mentioned Defragmenting the hard drive as one of your suggestions?
    I have heard that with a mac it is not so necessary to do it as often as a PC, but I have had my MBP for 4 years now, and was wondering if I should try that as well, or would the Clean-My-Mac be good enough?

  38. Michelle Smith

    Hi Alex

    OS X is designed to automatically defrag the Mac’s hard disk on a continual basis. Though the defrag option is available in Disk Utility, it isn’t something that needs to be run regularly, like how you would need to defrag a Windows hard disk. Hope that helps.

  39. Twitch

    WOW! I just reset my SMC…haven’t never known about it before…and my mac is running like a dream now! I can’t believe it!
    What use to take me 2 or 3 minutes to restart my computer, took less then 30 seconds…and once it did start back up, things loaded damn near instantly!
    I’m in a bit of shock right now! haha :P It’s like I’ve been given a brand new computer!
    Thank you SO much for this! I did a lot of the things you suggested in this list and now my macbook is running VERY fast!

  40. Reza

    Thanks for this intresting post. Unfortunately, none of these tricks solved my problem. Last year I upgraded to Mavericks and everything was going well until I instaled an antivirus and upgraded Java. Since then, my macbook is very very slow. However, I am not sure if this was a true reason or just a coincidence. I even wiped my laptop and installed Yosemite and tried all suggested recommendations, but nothing changed. It is so slow that my pointer does not move smoothly, stops and jumps! FYI, it is a 2011, 2GHz Core i7, 4GB, 500 GB SATA (487 GB free). Its battey is dead and it should be plugged always. I would truly appreciate if there is anything else to recommend because my laptop is useless in this condition, and I need it, and miss it!!

  41. Michelle Smith

    Hi Reza

    It sounds like your antivirus or your firewall might be the culprit. Is your antivirus still running on your MacBook? Have you installed MacKeeper? Give us the name of your antivirus and tell us if you have uninstalled it. I would recommend that you do a thorough cleanup of your application list, getting rid of all programs that you don’t need. Then, re install OS X on your existing OS X partition and then reboot. I really hope it fixes your problem. Maybe others can also pitch in with their help for Reza.

    If all else fails, try taking it to the Genius bar. Even if it is out of warranty, I suppose you could pay them to fix your MacBook, as a last resort.

    P.S. Can you try running SMARTReporter, a disk monitoring utility. Search for it in Google and download it. If it finds a problem with your hard disk, maybe you might have to replace your HDD.

  42. bOsO

    I upgraded my macbook pro to LINUX No more problems fly

  43. janine satioquia

    YAY! resetting the system management controller worked for me THANKS HEAPS!!!!!

  44. Felix

    I own an early 2011 MacBook Pro which had the common graphics issue. I found a service provider which replaced the AMD Radeon and I think the VRAM too. Either this or another company did a mistake unmounting or mounting the logic board (broken capacitor), which has been repaired as well. Since the repair job the battery doesn’t work and what bothers me more the CPU performance seems to have dropped. I have therefor compared the BOINC benchmarks from now and one month ago and the newer ones are at about 28 % of the older ones. Is it possible that the CPU doesn’t get enough Volts probably due to a higher resistance? iStat shows a CPU VCore voltage of 0,66-0,75 V.

  45. Michelle Smith

    Hi Felix

    Unfortunately, your question is a bit too technical for me. I would rather accept that I don’t know the answer than try fluffing one. Maybe some of the other readers here can chip in with their opinion.

  46. Isaac Canales

    I seem to be having a problem with my Mac Pro as well. Very recently, i’ve tried playing games that i normally do (specifically League of Legends) and i had extreme fps issues that were averaging about 15 from my usual 60 to 70. I also noticed that my processor didn’t seem to be working faster or speeding up like it normally does whenever i do an intensive action. the fan would normally speed up and i would hear it but now it sounds like the mac is at critical battery or idle all the time. I run programs like GarageBand and its extremely slow, yet the processor and the fan seem to be snoozing. My battery is fully charged and i have the “Put hard disks to sleep when possible” option unchecked in Energy Saver options but the processor still isn’t even trying. I also tried an SMC reset and nothing happened however i think i may have done it incorrectly as i don’t remember if i held it for at least 10 seconds. I really hope this isn’t serious and i don’t want to have to take it to Best Buy since my warranty is expired. Please Help!

  47. Michelle Smith

    Hi Isaac. Sorry to hear about your many problems. Can you try reading through this very detailed resource on addressing video RAM problems on a Mac? blog.conradchavez.com/2012/06/07/does-your-mac-graphics-card-have-enough-video-memory/ I have a feeling it might help you at least figure out your problem, if not help you fix it for good.

  48. Isaac Canales

    Well i read the info about the RAM and through checking in activity monitor, i see it does reach high usage percentages whenever i try to use a program. However, i don’t feel like i need to upgrade on the cards due to one simple thing that just leaves me absolutely puzzled… why is this happening now and not before. As i said before, this happened very very recently. I’ve never had problems with RAM or CPU usage in general. it all started happening about 5 days ago when the processor appeared to stop speeding up when using a program. It feels like the hard disk is frozen in a sleep state since it doesn’t even heat up faster while the fan is silent. I don’t know why this is happening but i hope i can figure out soon.

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