Use this trick to speed up your old Mac and get it running like new

How to speed up the Apple Mac's disk drive - for old style mechanical disks

Operating system upgrades are interesting and macOS has some nice features, but there is a downside to them. You Mac runs slower and slower. However, you can use this trick to speed it up again.

I was having irritating problems with the speed of my Mac and everything took far too long. Watching the spinning beach ball mouse icon isn’t a lot of fun after the first few times you see it.

The problem with my Mac is that it has a mechanical disk drive. It is one of the last MacBook Pros to have an old style disk and they all come with solid state disks now.

macOS does not run at its best on a mechanical disk, especially when there is only 4GB of memory.

Of course, it is possible to upgrade the memory and add another 4GB, and also replace the old disk with a new SSD. However, there are a bunch of features in macOS that do not work on my MacBook, even though it is only 4 years old and Apple says they should be fine. See the article on Continuity features not working.

It isn’t worth the cost of upgrading, just to have a MacBook that still won’t run everything in macOS Sierra. A new MacBook might be a better option than an upgrade.

Speed up the disk

The disk drive is often the cause of the Mac running slowly and if the disk is a mechanical one with real spinning discs inside, there is a way to make it run faster. (This does not speed up an SSD, although it is useful for making a backup.)

  1. Get a copy of SuperDuper! and an external disk drive.
  2. Use SuperDuper! to clone the Mac’s internal disk to the external drive.
  3. Restart the Mac and hold down the Option key until the boot disks are displayed, then select the external (cloned) disk to boot from.
  4. Use SuperDuper! to clone the external disk back to the Mac’s internal one.

Use SuperDuper! to clone the Apple Mac disk drive
The destination disk only needs enough space for your files

Why does this speed up the Mac?

Not everything is copied during a clone and it is likely that the Trash and caches are ignored. They will be empty when you clone back to the Mac.

I don’t think this is the reason for the extra speed. I suspect it is because the disk is defragmented during the copying.

The Mac mostly looks after the disk contents quite well and file fragmentation isn’t a huge problem.

However, files definitely do become fragmented and defragmenting them boosts the speed. There is even a utility to do this - Drive Genius.

That app is nearly $100 though, and SuperDuper! is free.

Problems with Google Drive

I use the Google Drive app to sync a folder on the Mac’s disk with Google Drive online storage. After cloning to an external disk and cloning back again, Google Drive would not work and an error message was displayed.

Error syncing Google Drive on the Mac

It said the Google Drive folder was missing. However, Finder showed that it was still there.

Clicking the error message displayed this, and there is an option to locate the Google Drive folder.

Google Drive Error on the Apple Mac - can't find Google Drive folder

After selecting it and confirming it, the Google Drive app synced it.

Locate the Google Drive folder on the Mac disk drive

Google Drive is now back up and running. And the Mac is running just a little bit faster than it was. I have hardly seen the spinning beach ball since.

 

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