Mac Performance

Mac is Running Slow

For Mac owners, there are few things as frustrating as poor performance. Apps take ages to open, browsing is lagging, and you’re frequently left waiting while your computer freezes before deciding what to do next. It’s a nightmare. But why is your Mac extremely slow sometimes? There are many causes for this slowness, so our team has honed in on a few that tend to occur the most often.

 

Before we start

 

Have you ever found yourself frustrated by the pace of your Mac running slow wondering, why is it lagging and freezing so much? More often than not, it's the result of accumulating digital clutter, bringing your system to a crawl. The good news is we have a solution that can help.

 

MacKeeper's Safe Cleanup is a handy tool that offers a preventative solution that streamlines the process and ensures your Mac operates at its peak. You can confidently speed up a Mac in just a few simple steps:

  1. Download MacKeeper
  2. Launch the app, choose Safe Cleanup, and click Start Scan
  3. After the scan is complete, review the results and select the junk you want to delete
  4. Then click on Clean Junk Files.

How often have you dealt with the notorious spinning wheel that seems to never disappear but instead reminds you that your Mac is slow? It might be obvious that your Mac is lagging and freezing, but understanding why is not always as easy to spot.

 

The most common reasons for a slow-running Mac:

  • You’re running low on RAM
  • Your hard drive is too full
  • There are too many files on your desktop
  • You have apps storing too many log files and caches
  • Your browser has too many extensions installed
  • You have too many browser tabs open
  • You have malware on your Mac
  • You have lots of startup items
  • Some of your Mac’s hardware is failing
  • Your hard drive or SSD is corrupted
  • Your Mac is overheating
  • Your Mac is too old to support modern software.

How to find out what is slowing down your Mac

Searching for the elusive culprit behind your Mac working slowly can feel like navigating a vast sea with no clear answer. In many instances, the constant freezing and slowness can be attributed to issues relating to RAM storage or Malware just to name a few.

 

For now, let’s focus on the common symptoms associated with a slow Mac:

  • Persistent freezing
  • Delayed response time
  • Extended boot-up time
  • Unresponsive applications
  • High CPU or memory usage
  • Slow internet browsing
  • Noisy fan operation
  • Overheating issues
  • General sluggishness.

If your Mac keeps freezing, begin by reading this guide to make your problem-solving much easier.

Ways to speed up Mac

To make your Mac run faster, you may need to boost your Mac's performance with a combination of hardware upgrades, cleaning up clutter, or optimizing your settings. The following tips can help unleash the full potential of your Mac:

1. Increase the amount of RAM

Your Mac’s RAM is where it stores temporary information for quick access. The more you store in your RAM, the higher the risk of your Mac working slower. A suitable solution here would be killing background processes as this can claw back some speed.

 

Here’s how to see if your Mac’s RAM is full:

  1. Go to Applications > Utilities > Activity Monitor
  2. Go to the Memory tab and look for the Memory Pressure graph at the bottom of the window. If the graph is green, you have plenty of RAM left, yellow means you’re running low, but red indicates it’s nearly full.
To check if your Mac's RAM is full and contributing to any lags you are experiencing, open Finder to then be able to access Applications > Utilities > Activity Monitor. Here you'll be able to check your memory pressure and usage.
Step 1. Go to Applications Folder > Utilities > Activity Monitor
 The Memory Pressure graph at the bottom of your page will show green if RAM storage to good, yellow if it's getting full but red if it's full about close. Based on the colour of the graph on your device, you'll know whether you need to clean up your background processes.
Step 2. Go to the Memory Tab and look at the Memory Pressure Graph

Simply quitting some apps can be enough to free up a portion of your memory to reduce lags. In such cases, you can rely on the Activity Monitor to terminate those lingering processes.

 

Some cleaning apps also often come equipped with a Mac memory cleaner feature, designed to automatically declutter your RAM. These tools efficiently halt processes that are no longer necessary, allowing essential ones to continue running smoothly.

2. Free up space on the hard drive

Your Mac needs spare storage space to run properly. When it reaches or gets near capacity, it can be painfully lagging and will likely freeze until you optimize your data.

 

How to get an overview of your Mac’s disk space:

  1. Click on the Apple icon
  2. Select More Info
  3. Now scroll down and click on Storage Settings to see a breakdown
  4. Hover over the colored sections to see what they are.
Step 1. Apple icon > About this Mac
Now you can click on More Info to get a full break down of what apps, add-ons or extensions are using up most of your memory to help you identify if any need to be disabled or uninstalled to reduce lags.
Step 2. Click More Info
Scroll down until you see your device storage and click Storage Settings for a full breakdown of how much of your memory is been used up and what by.
Step 3. Scroll down and click Storage Settings…
You can now click on storage and hover over each coloured section to see which applications, extensions or files are taking up the most space. You'll then know what you can declutter and where from your hard drive.
Step 4. Click on Storage and check how much space is taken

Consider moving some files to the cloud to address when Mac is slow. iCloud offers 5GB of free space, with options for more space at a reasonable price.

Another option is storing files on a flash hard drive.

 

In many cases, the best approach to speed up Mac is to uninstall unnecessary apps. It’s also wise to declutter your laptop or PC system by removing unwanted downloads and eliminating duplicate files. Learn more about this in our guide to freeing up disk space.

3. Clean your desktop

Your Mac's desktop is a lagging point for files where having too many can lead to a performance decline. MacOS creates previews for these files; if your desktop is clogged, your Mac will slow down.

 

Here’s how to turn off icon previews, to prevent lags:

  1. Click on your desktop, then select View > Show View Options from the menu bar
  2. Untick Show Icon Preview
  3. Now all the icons on your desktop will be shown as generic without file previews.
how to enter the View Options by clicking on the View button from the menu bar and selecting corresponding option.
Step 1. View > Show View Options
The Show View Options pop-up window with highlighted selected Show icon preview option
Step 2. Show View Options
Desktop icons without any file preview to use less RAM
Step 3. Icons on desktop without preview

4. Clear app storage, log files and caches

To make Mac run faster, it's crucial to clear caches and log files. It’s also a good idea to clear these log files to free up additional disk space, protect your privacy, and solve speed issues.  

 

Here’s how to manually clear your app caches on a Mac:

  1. First back up your Mac
  2. Quit any apps you have opened
  3. In Finder, hold the Option key and select Go > Computer
  4. Navigate to the Caches folder
  5. Find the folder that corresponds with the app whose cache you want to clear
  6. Move files to Bin and empty Trash to delete them permanently.
To start manually cleaning app caches, open the computer from the Go tab in the menu tab.
Step 1. Go > Computer
Click on your device storage and then follow the path from Library > Cache folder.
Step 2. Click on System Storage > Library > Caches
Now you can move any unnecessary cache files into your Trash simply by right-clicking on the needed items and selecting the Move to Bin option.
Step 3. Move to Bin files

You can further your understanding of clearing caches with our guide to clearing caches on your Mac.  

5. Remove unnecessary extensions from the browser

Extensions in your web browser can make your Mac run slow, often causing erratic performance. Removing these extensions, whether manually or automatically, can significantly minimize these issues and boost your browsing experience.

 

Here’s how you can remove extensions from Safari:

  1. Select Safari > Settings
  2. Click Extensions
  3. Check the list of available extensions and click Uninstall to delete the unnecessary ones
  4. To only temporarily stop an extension from running, uptick it.
To start removing extensions in Safari, go to Safari browser and then open its settings.
Step 1. Safari > Settings
Now you can select the Extensions tab to see your full list of installed and running Safari extensions.
Step 2. Go to Extensions
Select the unneeded extension that you want to remove from Safari by clicking on the Uninstall button under your chosen Extension.
Step 3. Click Uninstall
On the left-hand side of the Extensions window, you'll see an option to tick/uptick more than one Safari Extension at a time. This feature allows you to Uninstall multiple extensions at once to help improve your Mac's RAM.
Step 4. Look through the other extensions in Safari

Here’s how to remove extensions from Chrome for Mac:

  1. From Chrome’s menu bar, go to Window > Extensions
  2. To delete an extension, find it in the list and click Delete
  3. Click Remove.
To start removing the extensions, you need to see which of them take the most of recourses. Click on Extensions option from the Window tab.
Step 1. Find and open Extensions
Select the unneeded extension and click on Remove button to delete it
Step 2. Check extensions
Select extension to delete and click on Remove.
Step 3. Remove Extensions

While MacKeeper’s StopAd blocks ads when you browse, MacKeeper’s Smart Uninstaller helps you to delete the unnecessary extensions in the bud. This will elevate your browsing experience in Safari and Chrome even more.

To unlock seamless Mac optimization, rely on MacKeeper's Smart Uninstaller tool to enhance your browsing experience in Safari and Chrome by removing any unnecessary extensions. After the scan is complete, choose the redundant extension and click Remove Selected.

6. Close the browser tabs

Juggling too many browser tabs can also slow down your device. Each tab is a separate process, consuming memory and causing performance dips. To speed up Mac and prevent slowness, minimize your tabs.

 

Here’s how to identify which Safari tabs are using up your Mac’s memory:

  1. Open Finder, go to Applications > Utilities > Activity Monitor
  2. Click Memory
  3. Now look for any web addresses under Process Name
  4. If any are using up a large amount of memory, close them.
Select the CPU tab to check how much CPU cycles takes each app
Step 1. Open the CPU tab in Activity Monitor
To free up RAM, open Activity Monitor, look for the apps that take most of the memory and close them
Step 2. Select the process to quit

Some web addresses might be browser extensions rather than open web pages. If so, you can follow the above steps to quit and disable them.

 

To see which Chrome tabs are using your Mac’s memory, follow these steps:

  1. In Chrome, select Window > Task Manager
  2. This opens Chrome's task manager, where you can see how many resources are being used by each tab. Look to see if any are using a lot of RAM or processing time
  3. Close any that are using up a lot of resources
  4. You can then click End Process.
To start removing the extensions, you need to see which of them take the most of recourses. Click on Task Manager from the Window tab.
Step 1. Find and open Task Manager
Sort Memory, CPU and Network tabs to see what processes take the most recourses
Step 2. Check CPU, Memory, and Network columns
Quit the selected app that take much RAM.
Step 3. End process

7. Scan your Mac for malware

While Mac laptops and PCs are generally secure, they can get viruses and malware from sources like unsafe websites, file-sharing apps, and spam emails with cryptic ransomware. These threats can intentionally cause your device to be super laggy or use its resources for other malicious activities. To enhance security and reduce slowness on your MacBook, restrict app installations to the App Store.

 

Here’s how to restrict Mac app installations to App Store only:

  1. Click the Apple icon and System Settings
  2. Click on Security & Privacy  
  3. Scroll down until you see Security. Then choose the App Store option. You will be asked for your username and password to execute this.
To start removing extensions in Safari, go to Safari browser and then open its settings.
Step 1. Apple logo > System Settings
From here, you can click on the Privacy and Security tab on the left-hand side menu which will allow you to alter what apps your Mac device can download from the App store only.
Step 2. Click on Privacy and Security
Step 3. Scroll down to Security to select App Store

If you suspect malware is behind your Mac’s freezing or slowness, read our guides on how to remove malware and how to check for malware on your Mac. Alternatively, give MacKeeper a try as it offers built-in antivirus scanning and removal features.

8. Reduce the number of startup items

The more your Mac has to load on startup, the more it’ll lag. So if you find your Mac has accumulated a lot of start-up items, it’s a good idea to reduce them.

 

How’s how to safely disable startup items on your Mac:

  1. Open your Mac’s System Preferences
  2. Search Login Items
  3. If you have any apps you don’t want to automatically load at startup, select them and click the minus symbol.
Click on the Apple icon and then System Settings to begin the process of reducing the number of items that launch with Mac startup.
Step 1. Apple logo > System Settings
Search Login items to see if you have apps or extensions that you want to remove from opening automatically as you log in.
Step 2. Search Login Items

This only applies to some of the processes that run at startup, as some are likely to run in the background as well. Dealing with those is a slightly different process, though. Read our guide to changing startup items to learn more or download MacKeeper and rely on its Login Items feature to do the trick for you.

9. Check your Mac’s hardware for health

Computer components have a limited lifespan, and their longevity depends on usage frequency. When your Mac is slow, it might be due to a failing component, often the hard drive or SSD.

 

Here’s how to check if your Mac’s hard drive or SSD need fixing:

  1. Open the Disk Utility from Applications > Utilities
  2. Select your Mac’s main drive from the list on the left
  3. Now click on the i symbol in the top right
  4. If there are any errors on the disk, you may see them here.
 how to select the needed hard drive from the list in Mac Disk Utility
Step 1. Disk Utility window
How to open info box about the hard drive in Mac Disk Utility
Step 2. HD info icon
Step 3. HD info

10. Check the hard drive or SSD for damage and replace if necessary

Occasionally, some of the data on your Mac can get corrupted, leading to issues like lagging and slow performance. This might happen, for example, if your Mac is powered down suddenly while it’s running. MacOS’s Disk Utility can often help fix these disk errors, optimizing your Mac's performance.

 

How to fix Mac disk drive errors using Disk Utility:

  1. In Disk Utility, select your main disk drive
  2. Click First Aid
  3. Click Run
  4. If you see a warning about the scan taking a long time, click Continue.
 how to select the needed hard drive from the list in Mac Disk Utility
Step 1. Disk Utility window
A Disk Utility window showing highlighted First Aid button.
Step 2. Disk Utility window > First Aid
A Disk Utility window showing a pop-up window asking to start the First Aid process of your hard drive.
Step 3. Click Run
A Disk Utility window showing a pop-up window asking to confirm the start of the First Aid process by clickin the Continue button.
Step 4. Confirm the First Aid start

MacOS will verify the data on your Mac, looking for errors. If it finds any, it will try to fix them. For more detailed guidance, check out our tutorial on fixing disk errors.  

11. Monitor your Mac’s temperature

When a Mac gets too warm, it may increase the speed of their internal fans to reduce heat generation. This precautionary measure helps prevent critical parts like your laptop or PC processor from overheating and suffering permanent damage. However, the overheating will result in your Mac working slowly.

 

Overheating is less of a concern for Mac Pros, given their roomier cases. However, iMacs, MacBook Pros, Airs including the M1 and M2 as well as Minis face greater challenges in heat regulation. For those reasons, it’s advised to regularly monitor your Mac’s temperature.

 

As macOS doesn’t come with any default apps to check the temperature, you’ll need to search for ‘temperature’ in the App Store to install one.  

An AppStore window with the search results of the apps that allow you to check the temperature of your Mac.

If your Mac is extremely slow and hot, these quick ways to stop your Mac overheating might also help.

12. Check the compatibility of your macOS with modern versions of programs

Sometimes, the sad truth is your Mac is running slow because it’s just too old. It might have been fine when you bought it, but newer software is generally more demanding which causes older Macs to struggle to keep up.

 

Here’s how you can check the age of your Mac:

  1. Click the Apple in the top left of your desktop
  2. Select About This Mac
  3. On the Overview page, you can see some basic information about your Mac, including when it was released.
how to open the About this Mac window by clicking on the Apple icon and selecting the corresponding window from the list.
Step 1. Apple icon > About this Mac
A screenshot showing how to open the About this Mac window by clicking on the Apple icon and selecting the corresponding window from the list.
Step 2. Mac info window

Using the tips in this guide, you might be able to speed up an old Mac a bit. But eventually, its age will get the better of it, and there’s not much you can do.

 

If you’re feeling brave, you can speed up an old Mac by replacing its hard drive with an SSD. This can significantly increase loading times, but it’s not easy to do, and you can damage your Mac in the process.

Speed up your Mac with MacKeeper

We’ve now shared several methods you refer to enhance your Mac’s performance and reduce any lags you’re experiencing. This includes increasing your RAM, freeing up disk space, removing unwanted browser extensions, and limiting the number of browser tabs to just mention a few.

 

Now, assuming your Mac doesn’t have anything physically wrong with it, MacKeeper’s Safe Cleanup can also help speed it up by emptying all unnecessary cache and removing log files in just one click. These are by far some of the most common reasons for a slow Mac—and with our tool by your side, you can deal with them efficiently. Give it a try, and see what it can do.

 

More guides:

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