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 wonder how you can speed it up.

We've figured out seven proven ways to make a MacBook run faster. Depending on your Mac's situation, some methods may work better than others.

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 We have thus left out many other tips and tricks that are either outdated, ineffective, or too easy (which we assume you already know).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

A clean Macintosh system with decent amount of free storage will reduce times that Macbook keeps freezing or becomes unresponsive, and help tune up your Mac's overall performance.

For beginners and non-tech users, the easiest way to clean up your Mac hard drive is to use this app CleanMyMac 3, it can save you time by finding and cleaning system junks and unnecessary files automatically.

Get CleanMyMac 3 to Clean up Your MacBook

If you are a power user, you can also do this manually, though it would take some time. The first steps are to empty the trash, clear your downloads folder. 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, duplicates, apps and games collect can 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. Check if you've too many duplicate or similar files (especially photos) stored on your Mac. You can do so with the help of Gemini 2 -- an intelligent duplicate finder app.

Another manual way to clear up space is to get rid of old iOS device backups. 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, still adware and spyware may have caught you. Malware, or ad-injection software, comes from third-party download sites, according to Apple. If your MacBook runs extremely slow, run Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac and have it scan your machine to see if you’ve accidentally downloaded something that infected your Mac.

Get Bitdefender Antivirus to Secure Your Mac Now

There are safety precautions you can take to avoid ever having this problem if you've never dealt with adware or malware on your MacBook. Some good practices include disabling Java in browsers as well as in the entire Macintosh system, regularly updating Apple and macOS software and disabling Adobe Flash and Acrobat Reader. In addition, be wary of what you've downloaded and installed 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 many other issues, like a noisy fan. Resetting SMC can improve overall performance of your MacBook, such as speed up 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 symptoms 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 any problems while resetting the NVRAM, check out this official guide from Apple.

4. Run the Right macOS Version

If you find updating OS X (now called macOS since 10.12 Sierra) inconvenient, since that may require shutting everything down and taking a little bit of time, ignoring those updates is a bad idea as it could slow down your Mac. But it's also critical to keep your Mac updated with the right OS X version.

If you use a brand new MacBook Pro/Air with advanced hardware configuration (enough RAM, storage, etc.), then updating your Mac to latest macOS Sierra will help the machine run more smoothly. However, if your MacBook is several years old, it may not a good idea to upgrade to latest macOS because of hardware limitation. For example, macOS Sierra requires minimum 8.8GB of storage space and 2GB of memory to install, according to Apple. If you run Sierra 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 macOS!

My mid-2012 Macbook Pro still runs El Capitan in 2017

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 Pro/Air with an HDD (hard disk drive), replacing the hard drive with an SSD (solid state drive) can make your Mac run a lot faster yet 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 > Storage to find out.

To begin with, it's best to give Apple Support a call and figure out the warranty matters in case anything goes wrong. Then do your own research and shop around for an appropriate SSD (good price + decent disk volume), we'd recommend you check out Crucial.com or Amazon. Because upgrade options may vary depending on the Macbook model you're using. 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 your MacBook mainframe. Thankfully, many YouTube tutorials can help you overcome the technical challenges you may encounter. We find this one very helpful:

Note: you will also need to reinstall a fresh version of your macOS system after upgrading your MacBook with an SSD. We recommend you take your Mac to Apple Genius Bar as those geeks are more efficient in handling this for you.

SSD upgrades are surely worth it if you need a more robust system to run heavier 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 difference in your MacBook's speed, adding extra RAM (random access memory) will be a performance booster as well — particularly if you are a heavy app user. Installing more RAM lets your MacBook capable of running apps of any size simultaneously without slowing down or freezing. Because utilizing extra RAM will lead to less use of hard drive (whether 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 it supports. You can find 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 your 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's fault to run slow, but it's you who 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 drag down your MacBook performance as well.

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

  • Keep your Desktop clean by saving files into fewer folders.
  • Less-multitasking, close applications you aren't using.
  • Reduce the number of applications that auto run on startup.
  • Shut down or restart your Mac, instead of folding it because even when it goes to sleep, the hard drive still runs.
  • Back everything up regularly and remove unnecessary files.
  • Don't forget to periodically delete unused apps, clean out junk and empty Mac trash.
  • Make sure to check your macOS system when new updates are available instead of ignoring the notifications.

Conclusion

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

Sure, there are dozens of other ways out there that could make a Mac faster. But these 7 methods are probably the most effective ones. 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 (Pro or Air) you have.

Last updated: April 28, 2017