If you find your Mac is running slowly and you want to know how to speed it up, you’re in the right place! There are a number of potential causes for a Mac to run slow, there are also a number of good habits and things you can check to help your Mac run as fast as possible.
1. You’re doing too much at once / you’re running low on memory (RAM)
It’s not uncommon these days for users to think they’re not doing much, whilst their Macs is in fact juggling multiple tasks; checking emails, refreshing a number of browser tabs, streaming music, whilst staying connected in Slack/ WhatsApp/ Teams. All of this activity adds up and uses up the Memory in your Mac.
In short, your Memory (RAM) affects how many apps and processes you can run simultaneously and with a higher rate of performance. So Memory, along with how many apps, tabs and background tasks you have open has a big effect on how fast your Mac runs. By quitting apps you’re not using and closing down tabs you don’t need, you can better manage how much work your Mac is doing. Two ways you can keep on top of this are using your Dock and Activity Monitor.
Check your dock
If you look at the bottom of your dock, the apps that are open will have a small circle beneath them. If you spot any apps open that you’re not using you can quit them. To do this; Control-click the app’s icon, then click Quit.
If you open Activity Monitor (open Spotlight, search Activity Monitor), then check the Memory tab you can see how much memory you have (Physical Memory), how much is being used, and what is using it. Here you’ll notice professional apps like Adobe CC and Final Cut Pro typically use more memory.
If you notice any processes in red, these aren’t behaving properly. You can highlight and then press stop in the top left to end these.
2. Your browser has too many tabs open
This is one of the most common culprits, particularly when using Google Chrome. Every tab you have open will use memory on your Mac, if you have lots of tabs open you’ll often see multiple lines in Activity Monitor naming the browser like in the above image.
Nowadays, websites have a lot more going on; social media and news sites have continuously updating picture and video content, collaborative sites like Google Drive, Slack and Notion are feature rich and also update regularly. I would recommend trying to get in a good habit of closing down tabs you are not using - I have to check this myself multiple times throughout the day 🤫.
3. You’re running apps that are too demanding for your Mac
If you’re running professional apps like Adobe CC, Final Cut Pro, Logic Pro or CAD it’s worth checking whether your Mac meets the recommended system requirements.
For example, for Photoshop Adobe recommend 16GB memory or more, a 4GB GPU and SSD storage for Intel models, and a 16GB memory model for Apple Silicon models. If your Mac doesn’t meet these requirements it will likely behave slower and more so if you have other things open at the same time.
4. You’re running out of storage
Your Mac has internal storage, which is a storage device that contains the apps and information used by your Mac. If this storage approaches full, for example you have less than 10GB free, you may not have enough free space for your Mac to run properly.
You can check and manage this to a degree by clicking the Apple menu > About This Mac, click Storage. Here you will see a bar chart which shows you how much storage you have and how much is being used.
If you click Manage, Apple has features to help you optimise your storage. In my experience, the best way to tackle this (though you may not want to hear it!) is to manually sort through your Mac and delete files and apps you don’t need or move them on to an external storage drive / online to the cloud. Some quick wins are your Bin, your downloads folder and checking if there are any unused apps youcan delete.
5. Hardware issues
If you think your Mac may have a hardware issue, you can use Apple Diagnostics to help determine which hardware component might be at fault. Apple Diagnostics also suggests solutions and helps you contact Apple Support for assistance. If you follow the link here you can see Apple’s instructions to run Apple Diagnostics.
6. Software Issue
Software issues can be tricky to pinpoint and aren’t always easy to solve without restoring the Mac to factory settings. If you are experiencing performance issues within a particular software, or notice that an app is often unresponsive, the app may have an issue. The first step here is to make sure your software and operating system are up to date. If the issue persists, check the app's requirements to make sure your Mac is up to the task.
The surest way to resolve a software issue is to reinstall a fresh copy of macOS. I would recommend backing up your data then use macOS Recovery to perform a fresh reinstall of macOS. Once the installation is complete I would recommend starting your Mac as new rather than restoring your data from a backup - this way you do not run the risk of reintroducing the issue, you also keep your storage drive clean.
7. Is your Mac getting too old?
We are advocates for making tech last, however it’s possible that the age of your device might be why you’re not getting the performance you expect. Over time, the way that we use our Macs, the software, the background tasks and websites we visit evolve. To help with this id’ recommend trying to keep your operating system and the software that you use up to date. If your Mac no longer supports the latest version of macOS, or doesn’t meet the recommended requirements for your software it might be time to consider a new Mac.