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 usually; many of the problems that cause a slow Mac are easy to fix yourself. If your Mac is slow, read on.

We don't just focus on software issues in the article, we also cover a few known hardware issues. In most cases, you can fix these issues yourself, but occasionally you'll need to open your Mac's case.

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

Mac slower than usual

Sometimes your Mac may suddenly slow down or you may 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 force quitting 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 parentheses after the program (not responding). Select the program and click force stop.

If this still doesn't work and you find that your Mac is generally quite slow, you can try repairing disk permissions. You do this by going to the program folder for Utilities to choose and program Disk Utility to open. On the left, select the disk you want to repair, in most cases this will be 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 be completed.

The program restores read and write permissions to your disk caused by installations or copying and moving of folders and files. A disk first aid never hurts and is useful to carry out every now and then.

Restore PRAM, NVRAM and SMC

If the disk first aid didn't help, the second step is to reset the PRAM, NVRAM, or SMC. The NVRAM and PRAM are small pieces of memory that store settings. Examples of this are the sound volume, the screen resolution and which disk you use as the startup disk. Sometimes these bits of memory get corrupted and cause problems. You can easily reset these bits of memory back to the default settings.

Shut down your Mac and see where the Alt+Command+P+R keys are on your keyboard. Now turn the Mac back on and immediately press these four keys at the same time. Release the keys after about twenty seconds; on newer Macs, this is when the Apple logo appears for the second time, on older Macs, this is when you hear the startup chime for the second time. You have to reset the screen resolution and system volume settings in 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 must remove it. How you reset the SMC depends on the type of Mac you have.

Rule out hardware issues

Of course, your Mac may have a hardware problem and you can check that with the Diagnostics 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. Keep it pressed 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 will provide a reference code that you can show to a repair technician.

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

Delete caches

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

You can empty the contents of a cache folder just fine. 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 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.

Toss the folder in the Trash and restart iTunes. Booting will take a little longer than usual and you may need to reset some preferences. You can of course also choose to delete 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?

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

You'll see five tabs at the top: CPU, Memory, Power, Disk, and Network. If you click on the arrow next to CPU, then it will show from top to bottom which program is currently using the most of your CPU. The same goes for the memory if you click on the triangle. This way you can determine if a program is abnormally demanding on your hardware and could 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.

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. For example, sometimes your Mac won't boot after a program update and you're forced to enter safe mode.

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

Everything looks normal, but you can tell by 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 might not normally be possible. To return to normal mode, simply restart your Mac.

Making Hardware Changes

If you have a desktop Mac or a slightly older MacBook, you can still swap out quite a bit 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 in English, it is best to select the English flag at the top, because there are many more English manuals available. In the search field, enter your Mac model, for example MacBook Pro 2015. Below Devices select the correct model and under Replacement Guides you can see which components you can repair or exchange in the Mac of your choice. Click on it and you will see clear manuals with information about 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 it can no longer be solved with software.

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