Most common El Capitan issues and how to deal with them

Is OS X El Capitan slowing your Mac and causing all sorts of problems? Then you’ve come to the right place.

At MacPaw, we are invested in Mac performance. Today, we are focusing on El Capitan because we continue to receive requests to help solve common El Capitan problems, which are harming Mac performance and user experience.

If you’ve been struggling with El Capitan problems, this handy guide will help you tackle some of the worst El Capitan OS X issues.

Did you know?

OS X El Capitan is no longer supported by Apple. However, it still remains a good and stable OS version for older Mac models not compatible with newer macOS versions.

Do you have El Capitan issues?

El Capitan replaced Yosemite. El Capitan brought with it a host of incredible features like the ability to use two apps at once with a split screen, the introduction of Mission Control to better organize your virtual desk, a complete overhaul of the Notes app, and a ton of new features that make old favorites like Mail and Spotlight even more powerful.

El Capitan is bringing a lot of joy to Mac users, but it’s also bringing a lot of frustrating issues. El Capitan has a software version number of 10.11 and since its release, at the time of writing, there have been six updates (10.11.6 being the most recent) focused on addressing a long list of El Capitan problems.

Before we get started on our guide, it is recommend that you update to the latest and most stable version (10.11.6) before doing anything else. The next step should be the download, installation, and scanning of your system by our Mac optimizing app, CleanMyMac X. When it comes to performance issues, there is no single solution that tackles more problems than CleanMyMac X. It’s free to download, so you can test it right away.

If you’ve updated El Capitan to 10.11.6 and cleaned your system with CleanMyMac X, it’s now time to look at the remaining issues. Below we have some of the most common El Capitan performance problems and solutions to help get your Mac performing as it should.

El Capitan OS X

El Capitan problem with installation

The first problem that we need to talk about is the most annoying — you can’t enjoy the El Capitan OS X experience if you can’t even get it installed in the first place. The initial release of El Capitan had a number of users struggling with the actual installation of the OS X. Apple gave this a lot of focus and have lessened the problem with updates, so make sure you are installing from 10.11.6.

If updating to OS X El Capitan still leaves you with a frozen screen, error messages or an installation that seems to work until you actually reboot and see that your OS X hasn’t updated from the previous version, there are a few things you can do to help.


Sometimes, your previous OS X is dealing with other problems and processes, so when you start an installation of El Capitan, problems may occur due to the resources of your current OS X being focused on other processes and apps in the background. To run a focused and clean installation of El Capitan, follow these easy steps:

  • Save all open documents and restart your Mac.
  • Quit the apps that launch on after startup.
  • Run the El Capitan installation right after that.

If you are still having freeze issues, you’re going to want to restart in Safe Mode:

  • Restart your Mac or, if necessary, hold the power down to force a shutdown (wait 10 seconds after shutdown).
  • When you hear the boot sound, hold down the Shift key.
  • When a grey Apple logo will appears, you can release the Shift key.

El Capitan is slow

Many users have experienced a slower OS X experience after updating to El Capitan. Slowness can come from a number of sources, including the re-indexing of Spotlight, which occurs in the hours after an installation of El Capitan. So, 24 hours of slowness after you’ve updated to El Capitan is not unusual and it is temporary.

However, if your Mac has been slow for more than 24 hours, the problem is not Spotlight indexing. There is a good chance that one of your apps is not working well with El Capitan, and slowing down the whole system as a result.

Start by ensuring that all your apps are up-to-date:

  • Click on the App Store icon in your Dock.
  • The numbered red badge shows you how many updates are available.
  • Click it to launch the App Store and update all apps.

If all your apps are up-to-date and the problem persists, follow these steps:

  • Click on Apple menu > System Preferences.
  • Click on Extensions.
  • Identify a problematic app by systematically disabling extensions to see if performance improves.

If this doesn’t help, make sure that you’ve run the cleaning processes of CleanMyMac.

Wi-Fi issues in El Capitan

What is it about a Youtube video that won’t stream, which makes you feel like your life is ruined? Unfortunately, as much as we love Wi-Fi, it can often go wrong. Certainly, OS X Yosemite users had a lot of Wi-Fi problems, but Apple developers have been working hard to address them.

Even though things have greatly improved, Wi-Fi problems can still exist with El Capitan. If you are one of the unfortunate people that are having to deal with the frustration of a slow El Capitan Wi-Fi connection, it’s time to take a look at our solutions below.


This is a hard problem to troubleshoot so here are a few things you should try to fix your slow Wi-Fi:

  • Make sure El Capitan and your router firmware are up-to-date.
  • Unplug your router and modem for a minute.
  • Click the Wi-Fi icon on your Mac and turn it “off” for a minute and then back “on”.
  • Go to System Preferences > Network > Advanced and under Wi-Fi delete your network connection. Turn Wi-Fi “off” and then “on” again to set up a new connection from scratch.

El Capitan issues with Handoff

We love Handoff. If you have a lot of Apple devices, Handoff is the perfect feature for users that want to stay efficient and productive while on the go. Start work on your Mac in the office and then finish it on your phone in the elevator. What could be cooler than that?

However, when it doesn’t work, you’re left feeling like a relay runner whose teammate dropped the baton. If Handoff has stopped working since you upgraded to El Capitan, and logging out and back in on your devices doesn’t help, it’s time to look for a fix.


This is a really simple fix that has worked for a lot of users struggling with similar El Capitan Handoff problems:

  • Turn off Bluetooth on your Mac.
  • Delete /Library/Preferences/ or ~/Library/Preferences/
  • Turn Bluetooth back on.

El Capitan problem with AirDrop

Another great productivity feature is AirDrop, a native app to make file sharing between your Mac and other Apple devices as easy as can be. When it works, it enables you to feel in control of your digital world. But when it doesn’t work it leaves you feeling rather frustrated.

If AirDrop no longer works and you’ve tried the usual rebooting and logging in and out of devices, it’s time to try a proper solution


The AirDrop not working on El Capitan fix is the same fix that we posted above for users experiencing problems with Handoff:

  • Turn Bluetooth off on your Mac.
  • Delete /Library/Preferences/ or ~/Library/Preferences/
  • Turn Bluetooth back on.

Crashing apps cause El Capitan issues

We know this feeling. A new Mac OS X version feels like Christmas, but the joy of the occasion can turn sour when you notice that not all of your apps are working as they once did. If you have certain apps that are crashing or behaving strangely on El Capitan, compared to how they worked on your previous OS X, then you’ve got a problem that needs to be addressed.

Luckily, we have some solutions that may help to get your apps and El Capitan working together as they should.


The most important step is to make sure that all of your apps are up-to-date, as these updates could contain the fixes you seek. If you’ve updated an app and it is still crashing, try uninstalling and performing a fresh installation of the app. This will often solve the app crashing problem.

You should also download and run CleanMyMac X, as it will remove the kinds of conflicts that can cause apps to crash. You can also use its Uninstaller tool to reset the problematic application.

Uninstaller module in CleanMyMacX

Safari crashes and El Capitan freezes

Safari has been something of a disaster on El Capitan. The 10.11.4 update introduced some nasty Safari crash problems that had users of both low-end and high-end systems fleeing to Chrome and Firefox in order to simply browse the internet.

Unfortunately, much to the annoyance of the Mac community, update 10.11.5 has not solved the problem, leaving many users unable to use Safari on El Capitan. For some, it is so bad that Safari actually freezes up their entire system.

Before you change to a different browser, there are a few things you can try.


There are three solutions that could be just the fix you are looking for. Starting from easiest to most complicated.

Option 1Download CleanMyMac X and use it to clean your Safari cache and history. This has been shown to help some of the users affected by the El Capitan Safari problem.

Option 2 — Turni off Safari Suggestions has been successful for a number of users experiencing the problem. To turn it off, follow these steps:

  • Launch Safari and click on “Safari” in the Mac menu.
  • Select “Preferences.”
  • Click on the “Search” tab.
  • Uncheck the “Include search engine suggestions” box.

Option 3 - We once again turn to CleanMyMac X’s bag of tricks, only this time we are going to use the Uninstaller to select Safari and then choose to Reset. This will be a completely fresh install of the app so be aware that you will lose your bookmarks and settings.

What we’ve learned about El Capitan issues

We want to be clear, El Capitan is a great operating system and we love it ourselves. These days, we have to accept that our operating systems aren’t going to be perfect, which is why we will continue to develop tools like CleanMyMac X to help improve your Mac performance and squash those annoying bugs.