Macbook Pro Slow?

Macbook Pro running slow with Spinning Pinwheel

Does this sound familiar to you? You're sitting in front of your Macbook Pro surfing the Internet on Safari or working on a project. All of a sudden, you see the spinning beach ball. One second, two seconds... Finally you start to cry out: "Why is my Mac laptop so slow?"

Though Macs are generally considered to be faster than Windows PCs, it's not uncommon for your Mac to start acting up with symptoms like: taking forever to bootup, freezing while opening an application, or the mouse cursor becoming unresponsive.

You are not alone! As Apple advocates for a decade, we've probably encountered most of the Mac performance issues you may be experiencing. Fortunately we were able to fix them; and today we still use our older Macs daily.

Here we share the fixes we've discovered along the way, and you are going to learn:

  • The main reasons why a Mac may run slow.
  • Solutions to fix your slow Macbook and make it fast again.
  • Bonus tips to mitigate risk of future slow-downs.

Read on by navigating the Table of Contents below. Please note: the tips below also apply to other type of Macs such as iMac, MacBook Air, etc. 

Why is My Macbook Pro so Slow?

Whether you own an old 2009 Macbook or a shiny 2015 model, over time it can run slowly. There are numerous reasons out there, but in general they all fall into the following 4 categories.

Personal Habits

If you keep your Mac running all the time, let too many apps join the fun on startup, or multitask with many heavy applications open--more often than not, your Mac will hang.

OS X System

A newer OS X usually performs better than an old one, but no system is perfect. You may experience firmware or permission issues that impede performance as well.

Software Issues

Apps, whether pre-installed or downloaded elsewhere, can consume lots of system resources when used improperly, which slows down a Mac.

Old Hardware

Everything has a lifespan; your Macbook's hardware is no exception. An outdated hard drive or lack of RAM can cause a bottleneck preventing desirable speed.

These are just the high-level reasons. Check out this nice infographic that outlines 26 specific causes why a Mac might be running slow. You may find what's hanging up your Macbook Pro (other other Mac models).

Moving on... The Solutions!

Okay. Now that I've learned the reasons behind a slow mac, what should I do to fix it? Good question!

We break down the solutions into two categories:

  • The Manual Methods: best for those have time and possess certain technical knowledge. We include a set of things you can do manually to tune up your Mac.
  • The Quick Technique: best for beginners or those who don't have time to implement the manual methods.

Note: the solutions we provide only work when your Macbook Pro can boot up normally. If it cannot, or you hear strange sounds coming from the machine (particularly from the hard drive), contact an Apple Genius or local computer repair shop for help immediately.

How to Fix a Slow Macbook Pro: The Manual Methods (4-6 hours)

Please note: the methods introduced below are the best manual fixes we have explored. The order is based on a combination of estimated time required and effectiveness to implement. They are, however, by no means the only solutions, and you don't have to complete all the methods as it’s very unlikely you'll be able to. Meanwhile, read this post for a checklist on how to speed up Macbook Pro.

Method 1: Manage login items to tune startup times

Method 2: Clear off cluttered Desktop items & Dashboard widgets

Method 3: Clean up hard drive to free up more disk space

Method 4: Verify and repair disk permissions with Disk Utility

Method 5: Lighten web browsers to improve Internet surfing

Method 6: Identify and knock out heavy apps/processes with Activity Monitor

Method 7: Reset SMC and NVRAM to fix odd hardware errors

Method 8: Update Macbook system to the latest OS X

Method 9: Disable fancy features in exchange for performance

Method 10: Upgrade hardware (RAM, SSD) to have a real boost

How to Fix a Slow Macbook Pro: The Quick Technique (5-10 minutes)

The manual methods can be quite time-consuming and may require you to have certain level of technical skills. Fortunately, if you want to fix your slow Mac more quickly and easily, there are some tools you can rely on.

Please note: we have successfully used either option recommended below, but you only need to try one of the options.

Option 1: Using MacBooster to keep your Macbook clean and secure

MacBooster - developed by the IObit team. The software stands out for its all-in-one concept. It actually integrates a collection of handy and useful tools for monitoring overall status of your Macbook. The Security Center, for example, helps you identify possible security threats and removes malware.

To get started, simply run a quick System Status scan to find items that may affect your Mac and fix them. Later move on to the Tools section to perform further optimization.

MacKeeper System Scan my macbook result

Option 2: Using CleanMyMac 3 to scan & clean up your Macbook

CleanMyMac 3 - as the name indicates, its core value is to clean up your Mac -- by locating junks and unnecessary files through deep scan of the system: Photo/iTunes, Mail attachments, large and old files, etc. In addition, it has the functionality to uninstall programs, secure, or permanently erase files that are private to you. The program itself is very simple and intuitive, just hit Scan to get started and then Clean.

CleanMyMac Scan my Macbook

Tips to Avoid Macbook Running Slow

  • Shut down your Mac when you are away. Restart regularly.
  • Don't save everything on the boot drive (where your system files are stored). A full boot volume can lead to a slow startup and performance problems beyond.
  • Try not to install software that you don't need. It can consume a large portion of hard disk space. Additionally, outdated software can have problems running over time due to incompatibility issues.
  • Use a lightweight browser like Safari or Chrome. Try not to open too many tabs at once, and do not add too many browser extensions/plugins.
  • Clean up the hard drive on a regular basis -- e.g. once a month. You can do it manually or rely on a tool like the one we've introduced above.
  • Always keep your software up-to-date. Avoid malicious programs.
  • Don't immediately update your Mac to a new OS X version. Let the early birds test it out first. After a while, choose to update when you feel the time is right.
  • Don't blame your Mac when it's slow. Figure out the reason and fix it immediately. You never know when a small issue can evolve into a bigger one.

Do You Have Any Questions?

Is the information and technique we've shared above helpful?

Did it help tune up your slow Macbook Pro a little bit? If so, we'd appreciate it if you'd please share this article.

Also, feel free to contact us if you have any questions.

Full Disclosure

We are just normal loyal Mac fans like you. We don't claim to be Mac experts, nor have we ever worked for Apple. All the information shared above is merely a walk-through of the knowledge and experience we've used to resolve our own Macbook Pro performance issues. Due to the complexities of the subject matter, your results may vary.

Some of the recommendations contain third-party affiliate links. If you decide to purchase one of them, we will receive a commission for the sale -- part or all of the earnings will be used to maintain this site. Nonetheless, we recommend them because we use the tools with our Macbook Pros and find them to be great. Make sure you only use what works for your issue, and don't over-spend on things you don't need.

Last updated: September 30, 2016

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