7 Ways to Speed up MacBook and Make Your Mac Amazingly Fast

man work on a MacBook computer drinking coffee

A MacBook that runs slow can be a burden on your life.

New research shows that a slow computer not only wastes your time, but it's also a source of immense frustration and constant stress. In short, a slow computer is bad for your health.

Is your MacBook running slow? MacBook Air, or Pro, it doesn't matter. You might be wondering how you can speed it up.

We've figured out seven proven ways to make a MacBook run faster. Depending on your Mac situation, some methods may work better than others. Make sure to do thorough research before implementing some of these methods because you wouldn’t want to make your MacBook problems even worse.

Please note: the techniques we introduce below are those likely to give your Mac a real performance boost. We've left out many other tips and tricks that are either outdated, ineffective; or too easy (which we assume you already know).

Let's get started...

1. Clean up Your MacBook and Free Disk Space

A clean Macintosh system with decent amount of free disk space will reduce times that Macbook keeps freezing or becomes unresponsive, and help tune up your Mac quite a bit. The easiest way to clean up your MacBook hard drive is to use this app CleanMyMac 3, it scans and cleans system junk and unnecessary files automatically.

Get CleanMyMac 3 to Clean up Your MacBook (Free Download)

If you are a power user, you can get this done manually though it would take some time. The first steps are to empty the trash, clear your downloads and remove any duplicate files. For example, when purchasing a movie on iTunes, you are provided with the standard version and the HD version. For a two hour movie, the HD version probably takes up more than twice the amount of space the standard version does. Also, space-wasters like unnecessary files, apps and games collect and suck up precious GBs without your knowledge. To take a closer look at what’s taking up the most space, go to Apple logo > About This Mac > Storage.

Another manual way to clear up space is to get rid of old iOS backups for devices. Whenever you backup a device through iTunes, the information is stored but not replaced, as you periodically backup information. You only need the most recent backup, so make sure to clean out old ones. Learn how to do from this iMore article. In addition, apps purchased in iTunes also take up way more space than you’d think. Deleting apps you don’t need will surely free up space on your MacBook. To take this a step further, you can also delete old app backups manually in iTunes.

2. Remove Adware (and Malware)

While Macs have built-in protection from traditional viruses, they are still affected by adware and spyware. Malware, or ad-injection software, comes from third-party download sites, according to Apple. If your MacBook runs extremely slow, you can run Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac to scan and see if you’ve accidentally downloaded something that infected your Mac.

Get Bitdefender Antivirus to Secure Your Mac Now

You may have adware on your Mac if you are experiencing ads in strange places where there previously were none if your Mac is running very slowly or by scanning to confirm an infection. You can also use Bitdefender for Mac to help point out the adware so you can address them.

There are safety precautions you can take to avoid ever having this problem if you’ve never dealt with malware on your MacBook. Some good practices are disabling Java in browsers as well as Java in your whole system, regularly updating Apple and OS X software and disabling Adobe Flash and Acrobat Reader. In general, it’s best to be wary of what you’re downloading and installing on your Mac.

3. Reset SMC and NVRAM

The SMC, or, System Management Controller is hooked up with power management, keyboard backlights and fan control among other features. SMC issues can result in slow performance and other problems, like a noisy fan. Resetting the SMC can improve the overall performance of your MacBook. It will never erase anything and will help speed up your Mac, resolve startup issues and fix Wi-Fi hardware problems. Learn how to reset it from this video tutorial:

Non-volatile RAM, or NVRAM, includes information about relevant settings for your startup disk, screen resolution, time zone and speaker volume. If you feel your MacBook starts to act up with signs like sound issues, resolution problems, or slow boot in startup, etc, you may need to reset the NVRAM. How to do? It is simple.

  1. First, remove all external devices (such as USB drive, memory card, etc)
  2. Shut down your MacBook and power it back on.
  3. When you hear the power on sound, hold the keys Command-Option-P-R.
  4. After hearing the startup sound again, check your system preferences for Date & Time, Display and Start Up Disk.

If you run into other problems while resetting the NVRAM, check out this official guide from Apple.

4. Run the Right OS X Version

If you're someone who finds updating your Mac inconvenient, since that may require shutting everything down and it takes a little bit of time, ignoring updates could be slowing your Mac down. But it's also critical to keep your Mac updated with the right version of OS X.

If you are using a brand new MacBook with good hardware configuration (enough RAM, disk space, etc), then updating your Mac frequently to latest OS X will have it running consistently in great shape. However, if your MacBook is several years old, it may not be compatible with the most recent OS X. For example, OS X El Capitan is the most current version as of April 2016. It requires minimum 8.8GB of storage space and 2GB of memory to install, according to Apple. If you run it on your old MacBook, most likely you will not be happy about the performance.

So, it's clear — know your Mac and run the right OS X! Kind reminder: make sure to back everything up first before you upgrade or revert to another version. Most recent updates are usually available in the Mac App Store.

5. Replace Your MacBook Hard Drive with an SSD

If you use an older MacBook with an HDD (hard disk drive), Replacing your hard drive with an SSD, or solid state drive, can make it run much much better — not only faster, but more silent. Matt Johnston from BusinessInsider was able to shine his 2011 MacBook Pro with this trick. Not sure if your Mac has an HDD or SSD? Go to Apple Menu -> About this Mac -> System Report -> Hardware -> Storage to find it out.

To begin with, it's best to give Apple a call and figure out the warranty matters in case anything would go wrong. Then it's best to do your research and shop around for an appropriate SSD (good price + decent disk volume), we'd recommend you check out Crucial.com to save hassles. Because different Macbook models may vary regarding the upgrade options. Crucial displays these options in a nice way. After that, a set of small Torx wrenches is necessary if you decide to replace the hard drive on your own. Last but not least, the whole process requires you to be extremely careful especially when you uncover MacBook mainframe. Thankfully, many YouTube tutorials can show you how to install an SSD with precautions. We find this one very helpful:

Note: you will also need to reinstall a fresh version of your OS X system after upgrading your MacBook with an SSD. We recommend you take your Mac to Apple Genius Bar as they are more efficient in dealing with system software.

To conclude, the upgrade to an SSD is worth it if you need a more robust system to run larger apps. Buying an SSD isn’t cheap, but it's a viable option compared to buying a new MacBook.

6. Add More Memory (RAM) to Your MacBook

While swapping out your Mac hard drive can make a huge different in your MacBook's speed, adding extra RAM, or random access memory will be a performance booster as well — particularly if you are a heavy app user. Installing more RAM lets your MacBook run more apps of any size simultaneously without slowing down or freezing. Utilizing extra RAM will result in less use of hard drive (no matter it's an HDD or SSD) when loading data.

MacBooks are made with 4-8 GBs of RAM, and Apple has made it pretty easy to add more. First, you must find out if your MacBook is equipped to handle more RAM. For example, extra RAM is not possible on the MacBook Air and the Retina MacBook Pro. Also, if your MacBook is eligible for additional RAM, you must find out how much it can handle and what type. You can find some of the pertinent information by going to Apple Menu -> About this Mac -> Memory.

Installing RAM is pretty simple, but it does involve removing the bottom cover of the laptop. You can see the breakdown of steps here. Sharon Profis on CNET has share a detailed step by step tutorial.

7. It's Time to Change Your Habits

Many a time it’s not your Mac wants to run slow, but it's you are using it in an inappropriate manner. OSXDaily pointed it out that many users like saving a lot of files on the desktop, causing Macs slow down especially on startup. Other habits such as never shutting down a Mac for months, running too many programs at once, or having enabled loads of fancy features, etc will surely drag down your MacBook performance.

So, you get the point — developing good using habits will extend your MacBook life and avoid many slowdown situations. In general, here are a couple of things you can try:

  • Keep your Desktop clean by saving files into fewer folders.
  • Less-multitasking, close applications that you’re not using.
  • Reduce the number of applications that auto run on startup.
  • Frequently shutting down or restarting your Mac, instead of just folding it because even when it goes to sleep, the hard drive is still running.
  • Back everything up regularly and remove unnecessary files.
  • Don't forget to periodically delete unused apps, clean out junk and remove trash from your trash can too.
  • Make sure to check your OS X system when new updates are available instead of ignoring the notifications.

Conclusion

There could be many causes if your MacBook starts to run slow or keeps freezing randomly, but usually they all fall into three main categories: hardware, software, user habits. That's why we create the above guide to give you some ideas about where to start if you want to speed up your MacBook.

Sure, there are dozens of other ways out there to make a Mac faster. But these 7 methods are probably the most effective. Typically, a combination of these methods to improve your MacBook's performance will do the trick. Some methods might work better than others depending on what you’re trying to fix and which MacBook you have.

Feel free to let us know if you've found any other ways to make your MacBook run like new.

Last update: August 4, 2016

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