One of the most common tech support questions I get from teachers is asking “Why is my Mac so slow?” (Or some variation of that theme). There are (literally) hundreds of reasons why this could be the case. Some of them are simply due to the physical hardware of your computer showing its age. But many more have to do with the way that you’re using the computer. The good news is, these are easy to fix! Below are a few of the most common problem areas and how to address them.
1. Too Many Items On The Desktop
Does your desktop look like this? If so, you’ve got too many files on the desktop. Mac OS (the operating system on your Mac) is very graphical and has lots of slick features. One of those is how it shows a preview of the file as the icon on your desktop (or in a Finder window). The downside of this is that when you have lots of files on the desktop, you are devoting a lot of your system’s resources to generating and maintaining those little preview icons. If you have a super-cluttered desktop, simply moving most of those files into a folder could give you a very noticeable improvement in performance! Check out this Lifehacker article for more info – and a cool utility that will help you automate this process.
2. Not Enough Free Disk Space
Do you have every photo you’ve ever taken saved on your hard drive? Have you never once emptied your trash or downloads folder? Do you have local copies of every cat video ever posted to YouTube? Then chances are your hard drive is close to being full. The method for determining this depends on your computer. If you have a white MacBook, just open a new finder window. It will tell you the amount of free space at the bottom. If you have a silver MacBook, click the Apple logo in the top left corner of your screen and select “About This Mac.” Then click the button that says “More Information.” This will open a window that tells you all about the computer. Click the tab at the top that says “Storage” and you will see a nice visual of you hard drive usage – similar to the one you see on an iPad or iPhone.
The general rule of thumb is that you need to have at least 10% of your hard drive free at all times. Less than that and you will notice your computer slowing down. If you are in the danger zone, try cleaning out the downloads folder or the trash. If that’s not enough, think about archiving some of those pictures and videos to an external drive or cloud storage.
3. Too Many Applications Running
This is a common problem for folks who are used to working on a Windows computer. Unlike Windows, when you click that little red ball in the corner of a Mac window it does not shut down the application – it just closes that window.
To actually close the program, you can either click the name of the program in the menu and select “Quit xxxx” from the list, or press command+Q. You can tell what programs are running by looking for a little white dot below the program’s icon in your dock. (Side note – you cannot quit Finder. It will always be running)
4. Reboot Once In A While
One of the great things about using a Mac is that you don’t have to shut down the computer all the time. Most of the time I leave my Mac running and just close the lid when I’m done. When I open it later its ready to go right where I left off! The disadvantage of this convenience is that we may often go very long periods of time without rebooting the system. Often, something as simple as a reboot will help “clear the cobwebs” and get things running more smoothly. I generally try to reboot my computer about once a week, just to reset everything.
Like I said before, there are lots of reasons why your Mac may be running slow, so I may not have addressed your issue here. But, these are simple things that every user should be able to do – and you don’t even have to call the helpdesk! If, however, these fixes don’t work for you, don’t hesitate to give them a call so that they can try to follow up with more advanced solutions.