Diagnosing a Slow Mac

9 Ways to Make Your Slow Mac Faster

Diagnosing a slow Mac can be tricky, and often requires multiple steps to rule out potential issues. If your Mac is running slowly, you may think it needs additional memory, an updated operating system, or new software. However, these are just general solutions for a slow computer and not specific to your Mac.

Thankfully, there are several things you can do when diagnosing a slow Mac to find out what’s causing the sluggish performance. Slowdowns on Macs are usually caused by something easily rectifiable such as software or storage problems.

The best way to diagnose if any of these are the reason for your computer’s slowness is by following the 9 different steps below. Each one offers unique insight on various factors that may be slowing down your machine and hopefully point you in the right direction towards optimising your computer to make it faster.

What’s slowing down your Mac?

If your computer is running slowly, you may not be able to complete tasks as fast as you’d like. Poor performance on your Mac can occur for a number of reasons, but you can follow few simple things when diagnosing a slow Mac.

    1. Restart.
    2. Check your storage space.
    3. Update your system.
    4. Exit unused apps.
    5. Check for software issues.
    6. Uninstall unnecessary software.
    7. Confirm no hardware is failing
    8. Upgrade your machine
    9. Buy a new Mac

1. Restart your Mac

Yes that’s right, it’s the first rule of IT support, the “switch it off and on again” trick, especially if you haven’t restarted for a few days (or in some cases weeks). Restarting your computer shuts off any apps currently running in the background and any unresponsive apps. This will free up resources that your computer can then use to run more efficiently. If your machine is slow to start up, it’s worth checking your Login Items, which can be found by accessing System Preferences > Users & Accounts.


If you have several apps starting up at login it may be worth removing them to speed up the startup process, or just be aware that these will slow down the start up process.

2. Clear out storage space

If your computer’s hard drive is full and you don’t have enough space to run programs, it will slow down your machine. You can delete unnecessary files to make room for more important documents. Click on the “printer and storage” section in your computer’s settings. From there, click on “Manage Storage” to see how much space is being taken up. You can delete unnecessary files from your computer to free up space. It is recommended that you try to keep 20% of your disk space free with an absolute minimum of 10% free. To check how much space is available on your Mac, select the Apple icon in the top left your screen and select “About This Mac”, a small window will appear with information about your Mac, select the storage tab and this will show you how much storage space you have.

One of the most common place for files to build up is your downloads folder, you should try and clear this down as often as possible. Using an such as Clean My Mac can often free up considerable amounts of space but it’s always worth doing a backup before getting rid of large amounts of data.

If you use applications such as Dropbox & OneDrive, they can use up storage very quickly and very discreetly. Check your selective sync options within the apps to make sure you’re being efficient in the way you manage these files, and where possible keep files in the cloud.

3. Update Software

If your computer is running slowly, it can sometimes be caused by your software being outdated. Outdated programs can sometimes be responsible for slowing down your computer. If you haven’t updated your computer in a while, it could be holding you back. In System Preferences select the Software Update icon to see if there are any updates. Other installed applications may also need to be updated. If they have been installed via the App Store, simply navigate to the Updates panel to see if any updates are available.

4. Exit Apps You’re Not Currently Using

If you’re not currently using an app, close it. The more apps running in the background, the more resources your machine has to use, and the slower it’ll perform. Look for any apps with a little black dot under the icon in the dock to indicate if they’re running in the background.

If you aren’t actively using an app, close it, you can do this by click and hold the icon in the dock until a menu appears, and then select “Quit” to close the app.

5. Check for software issues

If your Mac is running slowly, check to see if there are any software issues. There is a utility installed on your Mac called Activity Monitor, which will show you what Apps are running and if there are any issues with them. You can see how much processing power is being used by an individual app, how much system memory they are using.

6. Uninstall apps you don’t use often

If your Mac is running slowly, you may not be able to complete tasks as fast as you’d like. The more apps running in the background, the more resources your machine has to use, and the slower it will perform. If there are any apps that you don’t use often, or apps you don’t think you need, you can uninstall them. Uninstalled apps won’t take up space or resources on your machine. Your Mac will usually come with Apps such as GarageBand and iMovie installed which are great if you use them, but they take up a fair chunk of space.

7. Confirm no hardware is failing

When diagnosing a slow Mac it’s important to consider that it can sometimes be the result of a hardware failure. Since June 2013 every Mac has shipped with a Diagnostic feature which allows you to check that your computer hardware is functioning as expected. If you have an Intel Mac simply power up your Mac and hold down the D key immediately until you see the Apple logo on screen. On Apple Silicon Macs power up hold down the CMD + D key immediately until you see the Apple logo. You’ll need to connect to the internet via Wifi or Ethernet to run the Diagnostic tool. If any hardware issues are found it’s a trip to your local Apple Store Genius Bar. Make sure you backup your data before taking it in.

8. Upgrade your machine

Changing your hard drive for a larger one to increase storage capacity or upgrading the RAM to increase system performance is an option that means you don’t need to purchase a new machine. Sadly on newer Mac’s it is not always possible to increase the RAM or change the hard drive but if you use Crucial.com’s memory configuration tool, it will tell you what upgrades are available for your machine. If you don’t fancy doing this yourself you could also consider a local computer specialist who may be able to offer upgrades to your machine.

9. Buy a new Mac

If nothing on this list works, it may be time to buy a new Mac. In my opinion a Mac should last for up to 5 years and longer if you’re not so concerned about having the latest operating system. However, that said, as your machine gets older and you continue to stay up to date with software updates it is likely that your machine will begin to slow down. Newer models are faster and more efficient than older models. Apple.com is obviously where you will find the latest Mac Studio, MacBooks, iMacs and Mac Pro’s, but it is also worth considering Apple’s store on Amazon, there is often a cheeky discount to be had .

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