Welcome to the world of technology, where there is no one single answer to that question. It might be due to one or several of the following factors:
Background processes that drain your performance: macOS does a bad job of informing you when a process constantly consumes precious CPU cycles or memory. This can happen, for example, if a process is buggy or has crashed, or even (worst-case scenario) when your Mac has been infected by a virus. To avoid anything more severe, check your Mac for viruses using our free Avast Mac Security (contrary to popular misconception, Macs get viruses too!).
Fancy visuals: Even though Apple has dialed back a lot of the eye candy over the years, macOS is still cluttered with a lot of visual effects that put a heavy tax on older Mac hardware. This affects battery performance, too.
Outdated apps or macOS: Chances are that new versions of your OS or your installed apps run faster or have fewer bugs that cause slowdowns. So it might be time to update.
These are just some of the possible reasons why your Apple might be running slower than usual.
Is it just the internet that’s slow?
Before we move into the solutions, you should check whether it’s not an outside influence that’s slowing you down. Slow internet or browsing speeds might be caused by problems with your router or your internet connection in general — meaning that your Mac is perfectly fine! That’s why our first troubleshooting tip is to check and diagnose your internet connection before you start fixing a Mac that doesn’t need it.
First, go to www.speedtest.net and check your internet connection speeds.
If your results are lower than usual or inconsistent, chances are that it has something to do with your connection. To fix that, try to reset your router or move closer to it. If that doesn’t work, check your internet connection speed and then find ways to improve it.
In addition, we recommend cleaning up your browser history and deleting any unnecessary browser cookies.
How to speed up your Mac in 9 steps
Time to fasten your seatbelts, because we’re heading straight into the most effective performance optimization techniques to speed up your iMac, MacBook, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, Mac Pro or whatever other Mac you might have.
Here are the top ways to speed up a Mac:
1. Clean up system files and documents
A clean Mac is a fast Mac. File clutter can lead to unresponsive applications and reduced disk space, which in turn can slow things down quite drastically. Removing old files, such as temporary trash data or junk files, will help alleviate these issues.
You can clean up your Mac yourself, but if you want to go down the easy path, Avast Cleanup for Mac will get the job done in no time. We’ll also find old documents and files you’re no longer using, then get rid of them in no time!
2. Detect & Kill Demanding Processes
If things are slower than usual or if your Mac gets hot for no reason, an out-of-control process could be slowing things down. Here’s how to see what’s happening on your system:
Click Go in your macOS system bar and select Utilities.
Click Activity Monitor. This is where you’ll find all sorts of information related to your performance, but it’s a lot to take in. Let’s start with CPU:
The CPU (Central Processing Unit, or just “processor”) is the heart of your system, as it computes everything you do. If it’s occupied by something else, all your activity will slow down to a crawl. To see what’s bothering it, make sure you’re in the CPU tab and click %CPU to sort all processes by usage.
You can safely ignore everything that’s related to macOS, such as WindowServer, kernel_task, sysmond or anything that’s launched under the root, _hidd, locationd, or _windowserver user names. If the entry under User reads your user name, it means that it’s an application that you’ve installed or that you’re actively using — these are what you should pay attention to.
Find anything that’s consuming more than 5% to 10% of CPU time? Time to get to the root of it! An easy one would be this example right here:
YouTube consumes 4.4% of CPU time. If that’s bothering you, time to end your viewing session. If a given entry does not ring any bells, then you might want to Google it. Once you’re sure you don’t need the process, you can simply kill it by clicking the X button and selecting either Quit or even Force Quit (for those truly stubborn processes).
Unfortunately, the CPU isn’t the only hardware component vulnerable to process-induced slowdowns. Switch to the other tabs to find processes consuming Memory, Energy (battery life!), your Disk, or even your Network if your internet connection is slow. Under Energy, for example, you can use the sub-tabs to sort by 12 hr Power consumption to get the top battery draining apps from the last 12 hours. In my example, this is a mixture of Spotify, Safari, Messages, Outlook, Slack, and others. So watch out for those resource-draining apps when you’re on the go!
Again, if something is popping up all too often and is too high on the list, it will definitely slow things down and should be disabled or even uninstalled from your system.
3. Speed up startup time: Manage startup programs
Does it take ages for your Mac to boot up and get going? Time to disable startup programs, speed up boot time, and cut down on background processes. Here’s how to do it:
Click the Apple logo in the top-left corner. Then go to System Preferences and Users & Groups.
From here, click Login Items. See anything you don’t need upon startup? Select it and then click the minus icon. You will need to click the lock and type in your password to make changes here.
There are other, more hidden locations where you can also find startup items. To access these, click Go in your macOS menu bar and hold then the OPTION key on your keyboard. This will bring up a new item called Library. Click it.
Scroll down until you see LaunchDaemons and LaunchAgents. Both of these are pieces of installed applications that launch automatically. If you’re sure you don’t need it, remove it!
This should prevent any unwanted startup items from running on your Mac.
4. Remove unused apps
Let me share one of my habits with you: Once a month, I go through all the programs installed on my Mac and make sure there are no “zombies” lurking on my drive. By that, I mean applications that I haven’t used in weeks and which I might not even need anymore. Here’s how to get rid of downloaded apps or macOS applications you no longer need:
Open up Finder and go to the Applications section. Click the little grid icon highlighted here:
Chose Date Last Opened. This will sort all your apps by when you’ve last used them. See apps you haven’t used in weeks? Prevent them from taking up valuable space or even CPU cycles by dragging them to your Trash and emptying it.
That’s all it takes to get rid of unused applications on macOS! No annoying uninstall processes or anything. Empty the trash, and they’re gone for good.
5. Run a macOS system update
In the past, new macOS releases used to slow down older Macs. Those days are over. With the latest releases, Apple focuses on trimming features and optimizing resource usage, which will often speed up your MacBook, Mac Mini, or even Mac Pro. macOS Sierra and Yosemite accomplished a lot in that department, and the new Catalina is optimizing things even further. Always keep your operating system up-to-date and make sure to enable automatic updates. To check for operating system updates and speed up macOS:
Click the Apple icon in the top-left corner and select System Preferences. From here, select Software Update.
macOS will now look for available updates.
Hit the Update Now button if an update is available — this will probably take a while, but you’ll likely see quite the performance boost. Also make sure that the Automatically keep my Mac up to date box is checked.
6. Upgrade your RAM
If all of the above didn’t help, and if things are still slow, then your hardware might be the limiting factor. The best way to increase the speed of your hard disk is usually by adding more RAM. RAM is the short-term memory of your Mac.
Unfortunately, Macs aren’t exactly known for their upgradability, which is why we recommend checking out Apple’s support pages on which MacBooks, Mac Pro, or iMacs permit memory upgrades. Follow these instructions closely to make sure you’re doing everything right.
We recommend an upgrade only if you have less than 4 GB of RAM. Unless you’re a professional working on video rendering or coding, you’re likely not exceeding 8 GB or even 16 GB of RAM. You will, however, see a huge jump if you’re upgrading from 1, 2 or even 4 GB. Last but not least, we recommend checking your RAM on a regular basis for errors.
7. Swap your HDD for an SSD
Want to see an even bigger jump in performance? How about upgrading from an old-school mechanical hard disk to a blazing-fast SSD? You’ll be going from something that loads your data and programs at 100 MB per second to up to 3500 MB per second — yes, the difference between HDD and SSD is that big. Since SSDs have come down in price quite drastically, getting one is one of the cheapest ways to upgrade your Mac.
8. Reduce Visual Effects
macOS comes with some eye candy that doesn’t just impact the performance of older MacBooks or iMacs, but it may even cause motion sickness if you’re sensitive to that. To speed up your Mac, you can turn off these visual effects and animations quite easily.
To do that, click the Apple menu and select System Preferences.
Next, select Accessibility.
From here, switch to the Display category and check the Reduce motion checkbox.
That’s it! This can speed up older Macs by eliminating all those motion effects.
9. Reset PRAM and SMC regularly
I have solved more problems than I can count by resetting the SMC and the PRAM on my Mac. Weird overheating issues? Solved! Bluetooth connection problems? Gone. Slow boot-ups? Away they went!
But what exactly is this? Every Mac motherboard has a System Management Controller that controls the computer’s basic functions such as Wi-Fi, power management, and hardware connections. The PRAM (Parameter Random Access Memory) contains crucial settings like volume, keyboard lighting, and performance information.
If things go awry on your Mac, try resetting the SMC and PRAM to fix it.
Resetting the SMC: Step by Step (MacBooks with non-removable battery)
These steps only work on MacBooks with non-removable batteries, such as the 2016-2019 MacBook Pro Retina models with the Touch Bar. To reset the SMC, first turn off your MacBook. Then, hold down SHIFT + CONTROL + OPTION on the left side of your keyboard and press the power button. Hold down all those keys for 10 seconds, then release them and power on your Mac normally.
Resetting the SMC: Step by Step (MacBooks with removable battery)
This works on MacBooks that still have a removable battery. Shut down your MacBook, unplug the power cord, and then remove its battery. Next, hold down the power button for 5 seconds, then put the battery back and plug your MacBook in.
Resetting the SMC: Step by Step (on Mac Minis, Mac Pros, iMacs)
This one is incredibly easy: Turn off your Mac completely and unplug the power cord. Wait at least 20 seconds and then plug it back in. Voilá! SMC reset achieved.
Resetting the PRAM: Step by Step (all Macs)
To reset the PRAM, you need to shut down your Mac. After pressing the power button, push and hold down the COMMAND, OPTION and P buttons. Keep them pressed until your Mac reboots, then release the buttons!
This will have hopefully fixed all of the issues, including performance problems, you have with your Mac.
Next Stop: Clean it up!
The only fast Macs are clean Macs. If you’re running out of disk space, you will definitely encounter performance issues. That’s why we recommend cleaning up your Mac by using Avast Cleanup for Mac, which removes junk files, duplicate data, and even poor-quality photos to boost speed and restore performance.
Not just your Mac that’s slowing down?
We all have more than one device in our household. Now that you’ve got your Mac clean and fast, why not do the same for your other devices? Check out our following guides to speed up all the other devices you might have: