How to speed up a Mac in 11 tips

Every Mac user needs to learn a few simple steps they can take to tweak a little more performance from their Apple machine.

Apple, Mac macOS, how to, Mac, iMac, MacBook

Enterprise, creative or home user — everyone with a Mac should learn a few simple steps they can take to tweak a little more performance from their Apple machine. This short collection provides an essential guide.

1. Update the Mac

It’s possible you haven’t updated your Mac for some time. Each OS update brings a bunch of useful under-the-hood improvements, some of which may boost performance. To access them, you need to upgrade the system on your Mac. Open the App Store, tap Updates and install.

2. Activity Monitor

Take a look at Activity Monitor (Fastest way to open the app? Command-Space>Type Activity Monitor, tap Return). This illustrates how your Mac is running. Look at the CPU and Memory columns to see if you can recognize an application that seems to be demanding a lot from your system. If there is, just quit that app until next time you need it.

3. Start up

Do you have any apps that launch themselves when you start up your Mac? Take a look in System Preferences> Users&Groups > Check for your User Name. Enter your password, and you can look at your LogIn items. Select any you don’t need to have start up automatically and tap the Minus – button to remove them from the Start up items list.

4. Limit the visuals

Macs are great for visuals. All the same, to tweak a little more performance from your computer, you may want to switch some of those effects off.

In System Preferences>Dock uncheck the following sections:

  • Magnification
  • Animate opening applications
  • Automatically hide and show the Dock
  • And set Minimize windows using to Scale Effect.

You may also want to reduce transparency effects. This you can do in Settings> Accessibility > Display, check Reduce Transparency.

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5. About this Mac

macOS has some really helpful built-in tools to help you boost Mac performance by getting rid of items you no longer need.

Open About this Mac in the Menu and tap Storage to access these. Wait a few moments, and you should see a visual representation that shows what is taking up space on your system.

That’s interesting, but to get to the tools tap Manage.

Here you’ll see a selection of different items (Mail, iTunes, iCloud Drive, among others). Tap these to get more information and to find app-specific recommendations. You’ll also see a Recommendations item. Tap this, and you’ll find a series of ideas to help you eliminate space wasting items from your Mac, likely to include:

  • Store in iCloud: Stores all your Photos images and videos in iCloud and lets you reduce the size of the collection kept on your Mac.
  • Optimize Storage: Enable this and in the future, iTunes movies and TV shows you’ve watched already won’t be kept on your Mac. Only recent Mail attachments will be stored on your Mac when storage is low.
  • Empty Trash Automatically: Anything in your Trash will be deleted after 30-days.
  • Reduce Clutter: This tool lets you explore and delete large files, downloads and other items from your Mac.

6. iTunes collections

iTunes likes to collect apps you install on your iOS device. You can use the Reduce Clutter tool to delete apps you no longer use from iTunes. However, it makes much more sense to do this within iTunes because you can better tell which apps you are deleting. It’s a little time-consuming, but therapeutic — it’s also a bit like an app history lesson as you explore those early efforts you installed way back in 2007.

7. Finder tips

Do you see all your files in the Finder each time you open a new Finder window? You may see a very tiny performance boost if you change this. In Finder open Finder Preferences and in New Finder windows show choose an appropriate folder, such as Desktop, or make an In Progress folder into which you save work in progress. In the future, rather than having to figure and display information about All Your Files, the Mac will just open the folder you have defined.

8. Web browser tips

Web browsers and mail applications can become system hogs. When you have Web pages open in Safari you can get a sense of this by opening Activity Monitor and looking at which of your processes are taking up the most CPU performance. You’ll often find these are the pages you have open on your Mac, which are running annoying scripts that consumer your processor when it should be doing something else. The best thing you can do is quit your browser when you are not using it, and keep tight control of the number of websites/tabs you have open in the browser at any time. You should also reduce the number of active browser extensions you are using.

9. Mail tips

After a while, Apple’s Mail can become a little unwieldy. That’s not true for everyone, but is certainly true if you get a lot of email and have been using the same accounts for years (like me). When Mail hangs it can slow your entire system. Three things you can try if you want to tame Mail app include:

  • Delete: Delete spam, empty your deleted items box, delete any items you don’t need.
  • Rebuild: Mailbox>Rebuild. This operation can take some time to complete.
  • Reindex: Take a look at this process in this report.

There are a few other suggestions you might want to try here.

10. Add more memory

Maximizing the amount of RAM you have installed in your Mac is a surefire way to get better performance from your machine. That’s why it’s deeply sad Apple doesn’t make it easier for us to install more ourselves. You can find out what sort of memory your Mac requires and how to install it among these pages on the Apple website.

11. Reinstall OS X

When all else fails, try reinstalling your OS — just make sure you’ve backed everything up first (for bootable backups, try SuperDuper, MacBackup Guru or Carbon Copy Cloner). Once you back up your files, follow these instructions to reinstall OS X. Be sure to take a note of your Wi-Fi password before you begin.

I do hope these quick tips help you tweak a little more performance from your Mac.

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