Why is my Mac so slow & how to speed it up

One day your Mac will break. And don't get me wrong, it is a brilliant and reliable piece of technology. But unfortunately, like everything else, it has an expiration date. Over time it will begin to show noticeable signs of aging: Mac running slow, windows and apps becoming unresponsive, and loading time increasing endlessly. All these red flags mean your Mac needs a boost.

In this article, I’ll explain why MacBook is running slow and give you ten miraculous fixes to bring it back to speed. Let's start! 

Why is Mac running slow?

Browsers are getting more memory-demanding. Apps demand a good chunk of your Mac’s memory, which, in the end, is finite. And finally, we are filling our hard drives to the brim with media files like photos, videos, and other heavy data. In a nutshell, Mac is running slow because of data overload.

What can you do to speed up your slow Mac and prolong its life?

Use my ten proven ways described below, and your beloved device should fly in no time.

10 Guaranteed solutions to quicken a slow Mac

1. Too much running in the background

If your Mac can no longer handle simple tasks and you desire to find answers to the ‘why is my Mac so slow?’ question that haunts you day and night — the first place to look is Activity Monitor. Your goal is to track all processes running in the background and liquidate the ones you don’t need.

Quick fix: Shut down processes with Activity Monitor

Activity Monitor will show you what processes consume too much of your system resources. Quitting an app that’s taking up a lot of processing power could make a huge difference in speeding up your slow Mac. Here’s how to do it:

  • Open Activity Monitor. Check out the real-time apps and processes running on your Mac. Pretty complex, agree? But here, you can see what’s causing trouble on your Mac.
  • Click on the Memory tab, then the Memory filter at the top of the list; this sorts the programs by the amount of RAM they’re taking up on your Mac. The math is simple: the higher the number, the more memory they use.
  • Click the “x” icon at the window’s top-left corner to shut down those heavy-consumer apps or processes. Don’t remove anything you don’t know!

2. Hard drive is getting full

Nothing slows down Mac more than an overloaded hard drive. So if there is a chance to lighten the load on your Mac, take it! I guarantee you’ll see an increase in speed almost instantly.

Quick fix: Clean up your hard drive

Sadly, this isn’t as painless as it sounds. Cleaning up old movie files, organizing your Desktop, and searching your Mac for old files is relatively straightforward. However, the hard part comes with cleaning up your entire system and figuring out all the stuff that can be safely removed.

Suppose your iMac is running slow or any other Mac model you’ve got. In that case, the best option is to use a utility tool like CleanMyMac X. Its innovative technologies clean up your entire Mac, knowing what to clean and where to clean. The app safely removes caches, logs, language packs, and more to help you speed up your Mac.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Download CleanMyMac X for free.
  2. Install and launch the app.
  3. Go to System Junk.
  4. Click Scan.

Once the scan is completed, hit the Clean button to remove junk. Or, click Review Details to check what files will be deleted. All done!

3. Mac is overheating

Our Macs manage to handle the most intensive tasks, but they still overheat when too many CPU-heavy processes are active. Other causes of overheating include high ambient temperature, clogged or blocked fans, malware, or frozen or unresponsive apps.

If you notice that your Mac’s getting hotter, try first to avoid direct sunlight and clean it properly. Then go ahead and try these fixes.

Quick fix: Manage your browser tabs, check CPU usage & update your Mac

Browser tabs are probably the most resource-intensive processes on your Mac: if they are open, they continuously run and consume RAM and CPU resources. The best way to fix slow MacBook Air or any other model caused by overheating is to close all tabs you’re not currently using. Bookmark the pages you need and come back to them later. In Safari, click the Share button > Add Bookmark > Add.

CPU usage is your main indicator of intensive apps. Quitting those will help you reduce the heat. Use Activity Monitor to see what’s running and what needs to be shut down:

  1. Open Activity Monitor (Finder > Applications > Utilities).

  2. Click the CPU tab.

If you still ask why my MacBook is so slow after completing the chores above, make sure your Mac has all the latest updates.

4. Visual overload

Animations and rich graphics are incredibly resource-hungry. And don’t get me wrong, we are not suggesting you switch your Mac back to 1984-style simplicity. But what would you rather have, a slow Mac with high-quality visuals or a fast Mac with good-quality visuals? The choice is yours!

Quick fix: Cut down on animations

Open System Preferences > Dock

Disable the following items by unticking:

  • Magnification
  • Animate opening applications
  • Automatically hide and show the Dock

Next to “Minimize windows using,” change Genie effect to Scale. The scale is a much simpler zoom and less taxing on memory.

5. Storage is not optimized

Apple developers have already anticipated the problem with slow-running Macs. Use their helpful recommendations on managing and optimizing your Mac’s storage.

  1. Click the Apple menu > About This Mac.
  2. Here choose Storage, then select Manage.
  3. In the new window that opens, you will see some suggestions.

Quick fix: Manage your files and data

Transfer your files and data to iCloud to save up some space on your Mac. Just click Store in iCloud and choose the files you want to save to iCloud storage. Another helpful tip is to optimize storage on your Mac by removing large files such as Apple TV films and TV shows. Finally, always empty the Trash and clean up your folders.

6. Not enough RAM

RAM stands for Random Access Memory. This memory is like fuel for all your apps. So when you get the “Your system is out of application memory” message, one solution is to pay to upgrade your RAM. Or, just use this free shortcut.

Quick fix: Flush your RAM using Terminal

You can perform this operation if your system urgently needs a fresh memory. Native macOS tool, Terminal, has a special command to release your available RAM.

  • Go to Applications > Utilities > Terminal.
  • Now copy-paste the following command into the Terminal window: sudo purge
  • Enter your user password to confirm.
  • Enjoy the results!

If you followed the tip from the previous section and downloaded CleanMyMac X, you should be able to perform another trick that proved quite effective on most Macs. From our experience, it does boost up the performance of many applications.

  • Launch CleanMyMac X.
  • Click the Maintenance tab.
  • Tick “Free Up RAM.”
Free up Mac RAM with CleanMyMacX

Running this command helps to clear your Mac’s memory with a few clicks. Try it and see how your Mac is doing. In the same app, there are controls for your “Hung Applications” and “Heavy Memory Consumers” in the Optimization module— use them to disable your biggest memory hoggers.

    7. Slow internet connection

    Quick fix: Audit your internet connection

    What if your Mac is not slow, but your internet connection? Then the fix is more simple than we thought. Outdated network settings, the distance between your Mac and the Wi-Fi router, or even your network plan can make your Mac software and applications sluggish. Luckily, there’re a few ways to deal with these issues.

    Try first to fix the internet connection issue with these proven methods:

    • Using an Ethernet cable instead of a wireless connection
    • Move the Router Closer
    • Reset your Wi-Fi Router
    • Close Unnecessary Tabs
    • Remove Existing Wi-Fi Preference
    • Reset Mac Wi-Fi to Default
    • Use Wireless Diagnostics

    8. Too many unused apps

    As your Mac may be behaving slowly due to storage issues, it’s good to check whether you have some free space left. Unused apps are the biggest space-wasters. All of us download applications that seem helpful and exciting at first but turn to clutter up our disk instead of being used frequently.

    Quick fix: Uninstall unused apps

    Answering the question “why is my iMac so slow?” from our users, the first thing we recommend is getting rid of those dead-weight apps. And here’s how:

    1. Open Finder and navigate to the Go menu.
    2. From the drop-down list, select Applications.
    3. You will see all applications installed on your Mac. Organize the list by size to reveal the largest apps.
    4. Right-click on the app and choose Move to Trash.

    Mind the fact that if you delete the apps, some leftover files usually stay on your Mac. That’s why it’s a good idea to clean your device from remnants with tools like CleanMyMac X. Its Uninstaller module shows how many apps you have and conveniently gathers all leftovers in one tab.

    Leftovers in the Uninstaller module of CMMX

    Delete apps you don’t need or quit them to reduce CPU waste. 

    1. Click the Apple menu and select Force Quit. It will launch the Force Quit menu.
    2. All your active apps will be listed in the window that appears.
    3. Select the app you don’t use.
    4. Click Force Quit and confirm.

    Now, these apps won’t be secretly using your Mac’s power.

    9. Cluttered Desktop

    If you use your desktop as a file dump, it’s high time for a cleanup. Not many people know this, but every desktop icon is, in fact, a little active window that your macOS has to render and process. If there are myriads of icons, no wonder your Mac is slow.

    Quick fix: Plow through your desktop items

    To make your Mac run faster, organize files on your Desktop into separate folders. Right-click on your desktop and select Use Stacks. Then, you can move them to another location. Never hesitate to send to Trash things you rarely use. Cleaning the Desktop isn’t fun, but it does pay off.

    10. Too many open windows

    If you didn’t know, the Finder is very memory-demanding. Unlike Windows, windows in Finder often overlap and go into the background. This is true for Preview, Mail, and many other apps. So you’re faced with dozens of open windows without even knowing where they are located.

    Quick fix: Click “Merge All Windows”

    This lesser-known trick has been hiding in plain sight and will soon become your best weapon against windows overload. “Merge All Windows” works for Finder as well as Preview. You can find it inside the Window menu in the upper bar.

    • Click Finder
    • Click Window
    • Click “Merge All Windows”

    All your scattered windows are now joined together in one. From there, you can close them one by one, thus saving your precious memory resources.

    Final thoughts on how to fix Mac running slow

    So we have run over the main methods to speed up a slow Mac. They all boil down to one simple idea: give your Mac some space to breathe. Eventually, any Mac will be filled with garbage that consumes resources, memory, and disk space. Use this article as a guide to speed up your Mac manually, or use an app like CleanMyMac X (which does 80% of the things described in this article). 

    Laptop with CleanMyMac
    CleanMyMac X

    Your Mac. As good as new.