Speed Up Your Mac

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From my original article How to Make Your Mac Faster.

So you want to make your mac faster without buying new hardware.  You want it to run fast like it used to.  Everyone knows you can increase speed with some more ram or an SSD – but there are actually a ton of ways to speed up your Mac without having to spend any money!  Don’t give up on your slow poke Apple machine yet. This article will show you how to fix your computer by making it speedy again.

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Let’s start with the more obvious ones.  The first thing you should do is clean out your startup items.  These items open every time you start your computer, and generally run nonstop.  Go into preferences and click “Accounts”. Click the “Login Items” tab and remove anything you don’t need.

Clean off your desktop! A cluttered desktop can make a huge difference.  If you have to have things on the desktop, stick them all in a folder.  I’d even recommend you go so far as remove the disk and device icons so there’s literally nothing on your desktop – Open finder, go to Preferences, click the General icon, and uncheck the boxes under “Show these items on Desktop”.  Having a data backup like time machine really helps to keep things clean – you’ll feel a lot more at easy moving things you probably don’t need into the trash

Free up some space! A nearly full hard drive will slow your Mac down. Move stuff you don’t need onto your data backup and delete it off your main drive. See my eHow article on freeing up disk space for more ideas on that.

Remove some widgets from the dashboard.  You have too many.  I know you do. Every single widget takes a bit of memory to run.  If you don’t actually use it, remove it. I know it makes you giddy to open up dashboard and see a hundred widgets, but do you want to fix your computer or not?

Keep your programs updated and run lighter apps.  Some apps are just memory hogs.  If you notice your performance slowing when you use a particular application, see if they’ve fixed the problem with an update.  If they haven’t, consider finding a faster alternative to the program. If the switch turns out to be a bad move, just restore the old program from your data backup.

The smallest things can really throw a wrench in the works.  One problem most people don’t even know about is corrupted fonts.  If you have a corrupted font in your system, it could slow down almost anything that uses fonts! Find and fix the problem by opening font book.  Go to File in the menu bar and click validate font. If there are any corrupted fonts, they’ll come up.  Remove them and close out the font book.

Mail is one of the programs most people leave open all the time.  It would make sense that a slow Mail makes for a slow Mac.  If you’re going to fix your computer, we should probably take care of that by optimizing the mail database.  Open up terminal and enter the command “sqlite3 ~/Library/Mail/Envelope\ Index vacuum;” (without the quotes). This should be done once a month.  You can tell your Mac to do this automatically – for instructions, see the eHow article “How to Speed Up Apple Mail (Mail.app) Instantly”.

If iTunes is taking forever to open, the problem might be your playlists.  If you have a lot of smart playlists, consider removing the “live update” feature.  Right click on the playlist, select “Edit Smart Playlist” and uncheck “Live updating”. Then click “OK”.  You’d be amazed how much that’ll speed up iTunes.

Clean your Mac’s air vents.  If your Mac is really dusty, air won’t flow properly and this can cause the computer to over heart!  This isn’t a common problem, but I’ve worked with several computers that simply slowed down or crashed because of heating issues.  If overheating persists, you can try a program like smcFanControl to turn up your fans.

If those steps didn’t fix your computer, you need to fire up the Activity Monitor. With any luck you’ll be able to see what’s hogging all the resources.  If you don’t know what something in the list does, Google it to find out.  See if there’s a lighter alternative, or if you even need it in the first place.

When all else fails, don’t be afraid of wiping your computer and starting over. This is pretty much guaranteed to fix your computer.  If you keep a data backup like time machine this isn’t even that complicated.  Backup, use the install disks to reinstall your system, and restore your data from the backup.

Additional Tips

  • I know I mentioned it a few times, but if you don’t already have a data backup you probably need to hear it again – get a backup solution going before you destroy something.
  • Don’t repair your god forsaken disk permissions.  In fact, if a site tells you to repair your disk permissions to speed up your computer, close the page.  This is voodoo – test have shown over and over it doesn’t do anything.  In fact, it can actually screw things up. Just don’t do it.
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