The ultimate Mac speedup guide to boost performance

Time, speed and performance are all related - the faster you go the less time it takes!

New Apple Macs are great and they offer excellent performance. After a while and after numerous OS X updates, apps, games and so on, they slow down. Here’s how to speed up up your Mac and recover that lost performance.

Each of the following tweaks to the system do almost nothing on their own, but if you do all of them, the effect is cumulative and when combined they can boost the speed of the Mac a little. You don't have to do all of them, but the more you do the more benefit you will gain.

Turn off font smoothing

Retina displays have brought a huge improvement in the quality of the image on the screen, but it is not the only way to make things look better. Text is made up of tiny pixels (dots) and to improve the look of text on the screen, OS X can smooth the edges of characters using anti-aliasing (using grey pixels to smooth the boundary between back and white for example).

Anti-aliasing text involves extra work for the processor and this adds to the Mac’s workload. Turn off anti-aliasing to help speed up the Mac.

Go to System Preferences, General and down at the bottom clear the tick box Use LCD font smoothing when available.

Turn off font smoothing on the Mac

Minimise Dock effects

When applications are minimised a genie effect is used to twist, distort and suck the window down into the Dock. This is interesting the first few times you see it, but after that it becomes boring. Any fancy graphical effects require extra processing power and take time to carry out. Eliminating them speeds up the Mac.

Go to Preferences, Dock and turn off magnification by clearing the tick box. As you mouse over the Dock icons, they will not grow and shrink. It does not look as impressive, but it is fast and functional. In the Minimise windows using menu, select Scale effect, which is simpler and therefore faster than the Genie effect. Clear the tick against Animate opening applications.

Time tips

There are lots of time and date options for the menu bar and some of them slow down the Mac because they require more work. OK, we are only talking nano seconds here, but every little bit counts.

Go to Preferences, Date and Time. Clear the tick against Display the time with seconds (you don’t need them), and Flash the time separators (you can live without it).

Screen saver and desktop

Keep the desktop simple and do not use apps that change the picture, animate it or display information on it. Go to Preferences, Desktop and Screen Saver, and choose a desktop image. Do not use the option to change it - it can be set to change every five seconds, which is a crazy time waster and will ruin performance.

Set the screen saver to start after a long period of inactivity so that it is rarely activated, or set it to Never. You should not see the screen saver because in Preferences, Energy Saver you can put the display to sleep when the Mac is inactive anyway. Set a timeout of 5 or 10 minutes or whatever you prefer.

No spelling check

Go to Preferences, Keyboard and select the Text tab. Clear the tick against Correct spelling automatically. Again, this reduces the amount of work OS X has to do in certain circumstances by a tiny amount, speeding up the Mac.

Spell checkers are often in applications anyway, so it is not much of a disadvantage to turn it off.

Remove login items

Some apps are automatically started when you log in to your Mac. They run in the background and they require processing power and memory. The Mac will be faster and will have more memory for running apps if you eliminate as many as you can. This one is really important for boosting speed.

Go to Preferences, Users and Groups, then select the Login Items tab. Select each item you don’t need and click the minus button below the list to remove them.

Apps you remove can be run from the Applications folder when you need them, rather than running them 24/7.

Apple Mac login items

Manual brightness

The Mac can monitor the amount of light in the room and adjust the screen brightness to automatically adapt to it. That's nice, but turning off everything that is not essential will help to speed up the Mac, so go to Preferences, Displays, and clear the tick against Automatically adjust the brightness.

This feature is more irritating than useful anyway. Use the function keys to adjust the screen brightness, such as F1 for dimmer and F2 for brighter.

The keyboard also monitors the light in the room and automatically adjusts the backlight. Go to Preferences, Keyboard, and on the Keyboard tab clear the tick against Adjust keyboard brightness in low light.

As with the screen brightness, there are function keys to manually adjust the brightness - press F5 for dimmer and F6 for brighter.

No sound effects

If you use the Mac with the sound turned up, you will have noticed that various sounds are made when you perform actions, such as moving, copying or deleting files, scrolling windows and so on. Finding and playing a sound on the disk takes processing power and your Mac will be quicker if it does not have to do this.

Go to Preferences, Sound and on the Sound Effects tab clear the tick against Play user interface sound effects, and Play feedback when volume is changed.

Turn off system sounds on the Mac

Limit trackpad features

You can do all sorts of things with the trackpad, such as two finger taps and swipes, three finger taps and swipes, multi-finger pinch and spread, and so on. You probably cannot remember and therefore don’t use half of them though. Apart from a couple of obvious ones like tap, pinch and spread, what else do you use?

Disable ones you do not use by going to Preferences, Trackpad. There are three tabs, Point and Click, Scroll and Zoom, and More Gestures. Select each one and clear the tick against any option you do not use.

Turn off dictation

If you do not use Dictation to turn speech into text, turn it off because it wastes processing power. Go to Preferences, Dictation and Speech and set Dictation to Off.

Turn off Bluetooth

Some people use Bluetooth accessories and therefore must have Bluetooth turned on, but if you don’t have any then turn it off. Not only is there less work for OS X, the battery will last longer in a MacBook too. Go to Preferences, Bluetooth and turn it off.

Delete unused fonts

Some applications add fonts to the system and over time the number of fonts grows. When there are a lot of them they can slow down the Mac and it is best to delete the ones you never use.

Run Font Book in the Applications folder and browse the fonts that are installed. If there are any obvious ones that you never use, right click it and select Remove from the menu.

Take care not to remove any that might be used by OS X or any app you have installed. If you are not sure about a font, leave it alone and do not delete it.

Remove fonts in OS X on the Mac

Do not use clean-up tools

There are tools that can free up extra space on the disk drive by clearing caches and similar items. Doing this will often slow down the Mac rather than speed it up. Caches are designed to improve performance and clearing them will reduce performance.

Only ever clear caches to solve a problem because they don't do anything for performance.

Do not use antivirus software

Antivirus software has a negative effect on the Mac’s performance. It is only small, but it is measurable and the Mac will run a tiny bit slower because of the processing power, memory and disk activity required.

If you only ever install software from the Mac App Store, you avoid the worst sites on the web, and you don’t open email attachments, you are very unlikely to ever encounter a virus. You can therefore dispense with the services of antivirus software.

This very much depends on the user and a novice who doesn’t know they shouldn’t open email attachments and enter their admin password when asked for it, someone who downloads cracked software from dodgy websites, and similar people definitely need antivirus software. Sensible, knowledgeable people don’t.

 

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