Mac slow? Try these solutions


Unfortunately, it sometimes happens that your MacBook, iMac, Mac mini or Mac Pro is slower than you are used to. Not a disaster most of the time; many of the problems that cause a slow Mac are easy to fix on your own. If your Mac is slow, read on.

In the article, we don’t just focus on software issues, a few well-known hardware issues are also covered. In most cases, you can resolve these issues yourself, but occasionally you may need to open your Mac’s case.

Be aware that this may void the warranty and you should also be careful to discharge yourself statically before touching any components inside the computer. That said, let’s get started quickly to make your Mac better!

Mac slower than normal

Sometimes it can happen that your Mac suddenly slows down or that you often have to deal with the so-called spinning beach ball of death (bbod), a somewhat macabre name for the spinning beach ball that macOS displays when an operation takes a little longer.

First, you can try to force quit a program, similar to Ctrl + Alt + Delete on a PC. On the Mac, press the Alt + Cmd + Esc keys simultaneously. If a program is causing a problem, you will see in brackets behind the program (not responding). Select the program and click Force stop.

If this doesn’t work yet and you find that your Mac is generally pretty slow, then you can try to restore the disk permissions. You can do this in the program folder before Utilities and choose the program Disk utility to open. On the left, select the disk you want to repair, in most cases this is the startup disk. Then choose at the top Disk First Aid. click on Carry out and wait a few minutes for the check and repair to complete.

The program restores read and write permissions on your disk caused by installations or copying and moving folders and files. A disk first aid never hurts and is useful for occasional transitions.

Disk utility

Restore PRAM, NVRAM and SMC

If the disk first aid has not offered a solution, the second step is to restore the PRAM, NVRAM or SMC. The NVRAM and PRAM are small pieces of memory in which settings are stored. Examples include the sound volume, the screen resolution and which disk you use as a startup disk. Sometimes these bits of memory get corrupt and cause problems. You can easily restore these bits of memory to the default settings.

Shut down the Mac and see where the Alt + Command + P + R keys are located on your keyboard. Now turn the Mac back on and immediately press these four keys simultaneously. Release the keys after about twenty seconds; on newer Macs this is the second time the Apple logo appears, on older Macs this is the second time you hear the startup sound. You have to reset the screen resolution and system volume settings after startup System Preferences.

You can also reset the SMC controller. This is a controller in your Mac that controls hardware components such as the battery indicator lights, the keyboard backlight and the sensor for opening and closing your MacBook. First, turn off the Mac. If you have a Mac with a removable battery, you have to remove it. How you the Reset SMCdepends on the type of Mac you have.

Exclude hardware problems

Of course, your Mac may have a hardware problem and you can check that with the Diagnostic Information program. Before you can do this, you must disconnect all external devices except the keyboard, mouse, monitor and power supply.

Place your Mac on a flat surface and turn off the Mac. Turn the Mac back on and immediately press the D key. Hold it down until a screen appears where you can choose the language. Select here Dutch and the Diagnostic Information will check your Mac for errors in two to three minutes. If the test finds an error, it indicates a reference code that you can show to a repairer.

If an error is found, click on To work. Your Mac will restart and you can immediately make a repair appointment. Click on the Apple logo and choose Restart to restart your Mac after this.

Test problems

Delete caches

A cache is used by a program to store preferences or to quickly load certain things from a program. This is usually useful as it saves boot time, but sometimes a program’s cache can get corrupt.

You can easily empty the contents of a cache folder. You do this by going to your home folder in the Finder (the folder on the left with your name). click on Library and then on Caches. If you already have an idea which program is not working properly, you can look for the corresponding cache folder. For example, for iTunes, this is the com.apple.itunes folder.

Delete cache

Throw the folder in the Trash and restart iTunes. The startup will take a little longer than usual and you may have to reset some preferences. You can of course also choose to discard the entire contents of Library, Caches. This can solve a number of problems, but now every program has to create a new cache.

Which program is causing problems?

Once you notice that your Mac is slowing down or things are not going well, it is often difficult to determine the exact process. A useful aid in determining which piece of software is causing problems is the app Activity view. You can find this in the program folder Utilities.

You will see five tabs at the top: CPU, Memory, Power, Disk and Network. If you click on the arrow next to it CPU, it will show from top to bottom which program currently demands the most from your CPU. The same goes for the memory when you click on the triangle. This way you can determine if a program is asking an abnormal amount of your hardware and may be the reason your Mac is running slowly. Sometimes you will find small programs that run in the background, for example. Uninstalling such a program can fix the slowness of your Mac.

Activity view

Boot in safe mode

You can boot macOS in safe mode, a simple version of macOS that loads only the minimal drivers and software components so you can identify or isolate a particular problem. Sometimes, for example, after a program update, your Mac won’t start up anymore and you are forced to activate safe mode.

You do this by shutting down and restarting the Mac. Immediately press and hold the Shift button until the login screen appears. Booting takes a little longer because macOS runs a few tests right away. You see that you are in safe mode because it has red letters at the top Safe boot mode state. Log in with your password and safe mode will be started.

Everything looks normal, but you can tell from the number of items in the menu bar at the top that you are in safe mode. You can now try to adjust certain options that may not normally have been possible. To return to normal mode, simply restart your Mac.

Implement hardware changes

If you have a desktop Mac or a slightly older MacBook, you can still exchange a lot of hardware yourself. Suppose you have a hard disk that is too small and want to upgrade it to a fast SSD with more gigabytes. It is then smart to pay a visit to the website ifixit.com. Here you will find dozens of manuals for removing and installing components.

If you are good at English, it is best to select the English flag at the top, because there are many more English manuals. In the search field, enter your Mac model, for example MacBook Pro 2015. Below Devices select the correct model and below Replacement Guides you can see which components you can repair or exchange in the Mac of your choice. Click on it and you’ll see clear guides with information on the right tools you need for the repair.

You can also order tools or parts directly via iFixit. See this as a possible solution when the software cannot be solved anymore.

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