12 Reasons Why Your MacBook is Running Slow
“Why is my Mac so slow lately?” The occasional frustration is probably familiar to most MacBook owners. The issue is most often explained by either a large number of processes running on the device simultaneously or by memory overload. Software failures and problems that occur due to the wearout of the device cannot be ruled out either.
Let’s take a look at the possible reasons why your MacBook may be slowing down, and the ways you can fix them on your own.
- You are out of free RAM
- Your photo library is too heavy
- You have too many files on your desktop
- You’ve got unnecessary system logs and cache
- Your browser is too resource-consuming
- Your connection speed is not enough to work online
- You have malware on your computer
- You’ve got lots of startup items
- You have battery issues
- Your macOS has not been updated for a long time
- Your processor is used for cryptomining
- Your Mac is too old to support modern software
1. You are out of free RAM
Random-access memory (RAM) provides your computer with space to store information that it requires immediately and in the near future. Without it, virtually any activity on your Mac would run extremely slowly. In contrast, hard drive memory serves for long-term storage.
To understand how full your RAM is, open Activity Monitor by following Finder → Applications → Utilities → Activity Monitor, or typing in its name in Spotlight Search. There, click on the Memory tab and look for the Memory Pressure graph at the bottom of the window. If the graph is green, your computer doesn’t need more RAM and is using it efficiently. If it’s yellow, you might be close to the dangerous zone and need to free up some space. If the graph is red, your computer is running out of free RAM and you need to stop the processes that take up memory.
To make the cleaning of your Mac’s RAM easier, there is software that eliminates the need to manually stop the processes that slow down your computer. MacKeeper is an example of such software that can help you keep memory load under control.
2. Your photo library is too heavy
You may be thinking: but what if my Mac is slow because it’s full of files I saved? For example, the photo library may occupy a large amount of storage. Read more about how to clean up your photo library if you’re ready to get rid of old pictures.
Apple suggests saving files in your iCloud storage. Only up to 5 GB of information can be stored in the cloud for free, but you can get up to 50 GB for $0.99, 200 GB for $2.99, and as much as 2 TB for $9.99.
Of course, you can store information on a removable disk, but data transfer requires user participation. Besides, this is a less reliable method, since an external drive can be lost or damaged with the risk of losing the data stored there.
MacKeeper can also help you remove needless files. It can find and delete duplicates and unused apps as well as leftovers from these uninstalled apps. MacKeeper also deals with junk files.
3. You have too many random files on your desktop
A desktop cluttered up with numerous files and folder icons is a problem for many users. Yes, the desktop is convenient for when you need to quickly transfer a document, and it’s easier to store frequently accessed folders here. However, at some point, the amount of files becomes too much, and it starts affecting the speed of your MacBook. In addition, files from the desktop can overload the Music and Documents directories, and some files may simply be lost or deleted by mistake.
The solution to this problem is related not so much to the Mac software as to the user's psychology. For example, to get rid of the habit of storing everything on the desktop. You can use a beautiful image as the background, the one you won’t want to cover up with icons. Another useful habit is grouping documents into folders related to a specific project or a topic—subsequently, this will greatly simplify the search for individual files.
4. You’ve got unnecessary system logs and cache
When you use browsers and various programs, an archive of files and HTML documents that you download, create, and open through applications is saved on your Mac as cache files. The cache is needed to speed up the download if you visit the same links and open the same files again. System logs are also saved to automatically troubleshoot downloaded programs.
But these temporary files sometimes remain on the computer even when they’re no longer needed, and this may be a reason for your MacBook Pro running slowly. From time to time, you need to clear the cache to free up disk space, delete data about your visits to certain websites, and solve problems with outdated web resources. Check out this detailed article about clearing cache on your Mac.
How to clear the cache manually
2. Stop active applications
3. In Finder, holding the Option key, go to the Go menu in the top panel and select the library, then go to Caches
4. There, find the folder named after the program that saved the cache files you no longer need
5. Delete unnecessary files, or use Shift + A to select all cache files to move them to the trash
6. Empty the trash as well
Another reason for your Mac being super slow is a full browser cache. It can be cleared through its settings menu.
5. Your browser extensions and tabs take resources
Your browser might be another factor that slows down your Mac. What usually takes a lot of resources is extensions and multiple tabs.
Extensions can be useful if you want to make your web browsing easier. But still, some of them lead to a slowdown in performance. Extensions on the Mac can be removed both manually and automatically, using applications
If you are using Safari
Apple’s recommendation is to use only official Safari browser extensions: they are more compact and less prone to be potentially malicious. However, if you have too many of them, your Mac can get really slow.
To remove extensions, select Preferences in the Safari main menu. Then click on the Extensions icon—a list of available extensions will open, and you can delete the unnecessary ones. If you are not using some of the extensions at the moment, but are going to use them later, choose Disable.
You can also update extensions by clicking on the Updates icon in the sidebar on the left in the App Store.
If you are using Chrome
To search for extensions that are overloading your Mac’s RAM, go to the task manager through Chrome’s Settings. There you can sort the extensions by the amount of occupied memory, as well as by the load on the processor or network.
To delete an extension, click Next in the top right corner of the Chrome browser, go to Advanced Tools, and from there to Extensions. Click Delete and Confirm to remove overly heavy extensions.
Some useful extensions include MacKeeper’s StopAd, which blocks ads when you browse; LastPass, which stores and protects data for authorization on sites; and Pocket, which saves and synchronizes the content you are interested in with other devices.
You also might have noticed that your Mac runs extremely slowly when you open a lot of browser tabs. When working in Safari, open your Activity Monitor, and in the Memory tab you will see how much RAM each tab you have open uses. In Chrome, this can be seen through the task manager (it is shown in the Windows tab of the top menu).
However, not all tabs are constantly loading the RAM—if there is no updated information on the page, the memory is used once at the loading. But social networks, instant messengers and sites that play videos create a constant load. Having too many tabs open will slow down not only your browser but all processes on your Mac.
To prevent this from happening, we recommend closing the background and unused tabs.
6. Your connection speed is not enough to work online
If your MacBook Pro, Mac Air or iMac is running slow, but you don’t see CPU or memory issues, it might be because of poor internet connection. Connection speed can be checked in two ways.
The first way: open System Information and scroll down to Network. In the Wi-Fi section, you’ll be able to see the connection features under the Interface heading. There you will see the maximum speed your network adapter is transmitting information at. The ideal value for the signal should be between -20 and -75dB. Your transmit rate can be up to 1200 Mbps, and higher values mean higher speed of transmission.
The second way: search for Network Utility in Spotlight (Control + Space) and open the application. In the Ping menu, enter your MAC address—you can find it in System Information → Network → Wi-Fi next to the MAC address heading.
Once you’ve done that, run the option to send an unlimited number of pings. This will launch a program that will display the time it takes for 64 bytes of information to be sent (which is equal to one ping).
If you detect a response to the ping, your basic connection proves to be good. If you also run the ping utility on other hosts in your network, it will produce a report signifying the quality of your connection based on the minimum round-trip time for a ping.
7. You have malware on your computer
This could happen if, for example, you visited suspicious sites, installed programs from unofficial sources, downloaded and opened files from unverified resources, or clicked on advertising banners. All these actions can lead to an uncontrolled installation of malware that slows down the work of the necessary programs.
To prevent this, go to the Security & Privacy settings in the System Settings menu.
Once you are there, disable the download of any applications that are not downloaded from the Mac App Store. You may also want to clear the cache, remove unnecessary extensions, and install a reliable antivirus app such as MacKeeper.
While we are on the subject, take a look at our research about the spread of malicious software.
8. You’ve got lots of startup items
It is possible that your Mac is running slow at startup because it is trying to launch too many programs at once. They consume lots of laptop resources at a time, which is why you have to wait longer than you would like from pressing the Start button to the full loading.
Therefore, you need to find and switch off unnecessary processes that are launched at the startup. To do this, open Activity Monitor (for example, using Finder or Spotlight), and click on % CPU. You will see all active processes ranked by processor load rating. Select an unnecessary program that creates a heavy load on the processor, click on it and select Quit Process, and then Force Quit.
Another way to disable unnecessary elements: Apple icon → System Preferences → Users and Groups → Login Items. Select the items that you don’t want to automatically load at startup.
Alternatively, you can use MacKeeper to easily check out your login items and remove those you don’t need each time.
9. You need to replace the battery
When your battery is worn down, the device begins to need more energy to support the programs. Each Mac computer has a specific number of full battery charge and drain cycles. The limit of such cycles for Mac is 1000. This is the official information from Apple—in reality, wear can occur faster or slower if you do not fully charge your battery or discharge it to zero.
You can see the “mileage” of your Mac’s battery using the following method. While holding down Option, go to the Apple menu → System Information and find the Power option in Hardware. The data on charge-discharge cycles is saved there.
10. Your macOS has not been updated for a long time
Your macOS needs updates, and it needs them regularly. The security and speed of your Mac depend on how long ago the operating system was updated. The update package also includes updates for macOS built-in programs: Calendar, Safari, Mail, FaceTime, etc. Delayed installation of updates can be a reason causing your laptop to slow down.
Updates for macOS are easy to get: go to the Apple menu, open System Preferences, and you’ll see Software Updates. By clicking Update Now, you will download all the missing updates.
You do not have to do this manually all the time—just select the Automatically update my Mac option, and the further updates will be installed without user participation. You will see a notification only if a reboot is necessary. But if you have an old Mac, then updating your macOS requires going to the App Store and clicking Updates in the toolbar. Using the Update button, you will be able to download updates for each program.
11. Your processor is used for cryptomining
Cryptomining software that installs itself on a computer is one of the most popular types of malware. It is quite difficult to detect that such a program has taken hold of your Mac, but there is an indirect sign that you may notice. The laptop starts slowing down, and every process you need lags as well. In addition, sometimes the laptop starts making more noise.
How do you confirm or deny suspicions that your MacBook is being used for cryptomining? First, go to Activity Monitor. If you see an active program that you do not remember installing, and that seems suspicious to you, stop it manually. Click Quit Process, and then select Force Quit.
However, that’s not a totally reliable way to detect malicious activity if you are not a cybersecurity professional. To avoid cryptominers and other malware, install an antivirus on your Mac. MacKeeper might be a good choice!
12. Your Mac is too old to support modern software
Even though Macs are reliable laptops that can work for 10 years without breaking down, one day you might think about purchasing a new Mac that will be able to match to modern software requirements.
If you can’t install the latest version of macOS and other programs, or if the laptop is still unforgivably slow although you have already gone through all the other steps that could speed it up, then it might be time to think about buying a new model.
Although Apple does a lot for owners of old Macs (for example, the latest macOS Catalina can be installed on 2012 laptops), these computers still cannot support many modern multimedia and games.
Other possible reasons behind your Mac running slow
You need to restart your Mac
In some cases, rebooting the laptop is the simplest and the most effective solution to this problem. Doing it stops the programs that you will not launch after the reboot. This action also automatically installs updates to a number of programs, which can speed up their work.
Too much running in the background
Background processes can be invisible and virtually unnecessary. The easiest way to reduce their number is to stop the automatic launching of background applications that are not really needed all the time.
You’ve got old hardware
Old hardware is a source of various problems. Sometimes it is possible to replace components with new ones, but in the case of general wear, it makes more sense to buy a new Mac.
You have too many unused apps
An overabundance of installed programs slows down the functioning of the computer even when these programs are not activated. If you have applications that are unused or rarely used, we advise uninstalling them.
Graphics and multimedia (such as videos or animations) create a large load on the RAM. To reduce the load, go to System Preferences, select Dock, and in the panel that opens, switch off zooming and auto launching of animation in applications and tabs.
FAQ: How do I find out what is slowing down my Mac?
To do this, you need to clear the cache, free up the memory from unnecessary files, and stop those programs that you are not currently using. For easier cleaning of your MacBook and additional protection against viruses and malware, try MacKeeper. With sufficient connection speed, this should already be enough to speed up your Mac device. If none of the steps help, you will need to consider the possibility of problems in the operating system and/or individual programs.