If your Mac begins running slowly then it's probably time to review the most likely culprits -- and learn how to deal with them.
[ABOVE: Feed the machine -- Macs love RAM, so max it!]
First step: When your Mac performance degrades please quit your active applications and restart the machine. It's also a good idea to backup in case of drive failure.
Max your RAM
The best way to accelerate any Mac is to install more RAM. When you don't have enough then apps use virtual (disk-based) memory, which is slower.
You can check if RAM is impacting performance using Activity Monitor and selecting the System Memory tab. How much free memory do you have? To get memory back, quit apps you aren't using. (You may also want to read "OS X Mavericks: What is Activity Monitor?" at this point.)
Relaunch your browser: these consume increasing quantities of RAM the longer they are left open. Some Websites also use more memory when left open.
To maximize the value of my memory I use the free Memory Cleaner app to flush RAM that might not have been released by applications.
The best step is to install as much RAM as you can afford into your Mac (up to the maximum). Don't buy from Apple -- you'll find better deals from Crucial.
[ABOVE: Available in your Utilities/Other folder, this is Activity Monitor. Activity Monitor is your BFF. Get to know it.]
Mavericks installers complained Spotlight slowed their systems when they upgraded. Spotlight indexes drive contents, but automatically reindexes following an OS install. You may also see performance degradation if Spotlight tries to index an external drive.
Check if Spotlight's slowing your system by clicking on the Spotlight menu: If you see an indexing status bar then your Mac is indexing, which can take time.
Too much stuff
OS X swaps data between RAM and hard drive during normal use. It will "cache" data between the two when you use applications. That's fine when you have plenty of space, but a problem when you don't.
Check available drive space by opening a Finder window. Now access the View menu and select Show Status Bar -- the amount of free space you have available appears at the bottom of the Finder window.
Try to ensure around 10 percent of your drive is empty -- if it's not then archive or delete old files (empty the Downloads folder for a start).
Apps like Gemini will search for and delete duplicate files.
Reboot the Mac once you've deleted files. Has performance improved?
Some apps use every ounce of your system's processing power. These demands may be temporary as your app tries to complete a process, but you will see general system performance degrade while the process takes place.
(Safari tip: If it's running slow click Reset Safari in the main menu and select Clear history and Empty the Cache and then Reset).
Check for processor pigs using Activity Monitor. Select the CPU tab and observe how much of your processor is idle. If that number is consistently under 60 then it is likely an app is to blame. Check which one(s) by clicking CPU at the top of the Activity Monitor interface to list apps by processor usage. If you aren't using the top-listed app(s), quit them to free CPU.
Quit all apps you aren't actively using.
Do you have hundreds of files on your Desktop? The consider this: your Mac will draw each as a separate window, complete with preview. Each one uses up system resources -- it adds up. What should you do? File everything, or create a new folder ("Stuff") on the Desktop and place those files inside.
If none of these steps seems to make much difference take a look at this excellent guide for more advanced troubleshooting tips. Thanks for reading!
Mavericks Tips and Tricks
- An A-Z guide to OS X Mavericks (A-M)
- An A-Z guide to OS X Mavericks: Part two (N-Z)
- A simple guide for Android to iPhone/iOS switchers
- Troubleshooting tips for Apple Mail on OS X Mavericks
- OS X Mavericks, iOS 7: Text Shortcuts explained
- OS X Mavericks: Fixing wireless keyboard/mouse connections
- Quick guide: OS X Mavericks for Windows switchers
- OS X Mavericks tips: Control the information you share with apps
- How to improve Mac performance: OS X Mavericks edition
- More Tips and Tricks
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