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How to eliminate slow Mac problems

Too often people upgrade only to find their problems begin, or persist.

If you need help with a slow Mac running a Mac operating system, please be prepared to answer these questions, or find out how to get the answer to these questions.


Etrecheck, a software written by one of our fellow contributors, is a software that has been useful in isolating many of the issues below:



Look at these troubleshooting steps.  Find


1. If MacKeeper was installed, and if it is, remove it with the instructions in this tip:


2. If any other system cache cleaner is installed.   If there is, contact the vendor on how to remove it.


3. If the possibility your hard drive is over 85% full exists.


4. If Spotlight hasn't finished indexing. (does not apply to 10.3.9 or earlier).  Clicking on the icon in the upper right that looks like:

(it may have a different color), will reveal if Spotlight is indexing, or is ready to search.    Going to Apple menu -> System Preferences -> Spotlight -> Privacy will show if a specific folder or drive is ignored by your last Spotlight index.


5. If you are attempting to multitask with a Time Machine backup going on.   (does not apply to 10.4.11 or earlier)


6. If permissions are damaged.   Often a problem when using pre-2006 Classic environment on PowerPC Macs.  See #10 how to identify Macs.



7. If third party software or drivers hasn't been tested with your installed operating system.


8. If  You migrated data from a different Mac CPU type.  I.e. from PowerPC to Intel, or Intel to PowerPC.  See 10 on how to identify Macs.


9. If energy saver isn't giving some peripheral problems, because the peripheral doesn't understand low power mode.


10. If the possibility exists that there is marginal hardware on


Intel Macs or PowerPC Macs


Use: to determine if you have PowerPC or Intel.


11.  If you have had 4 language screens forcing you to restart your Mac, that's significant, and indicates what is known as a kernel panic.

Usually an issue relating to the hardware, though sometimes a directory may be damaged, or sometimes a bad or incompatible driver is installed.

Running the hardware test for Intel Macs or PowerPC Macs

will indicate if some RAM is bad, but not all RAM.  Any errors found with it are significant.


12.  If you don't have a current system, find out if a website you are visiting needs a newer plugin for Java, Flash, etc...(10.7.2 or earlier do not run a current Java.  10.6.7 or earlier do not run a current Flash.  But updating to those is only necessary for a few websites.  Check before updating to ensure you don't make yourself incompatible in other ways).  Before updating to 10.7 or later, be sure to read this tip about compatibility first:


13. If your data is backed up from before or after the upgrade, and we can isolate other issues. Without a backup, we can't say if the solution might be worse than the problem.  - tells you how to backup a functional system. - tells you how to recover a system that is not functional or able to boot so at least other issues can be



14. Slowdown to internet applications may be due to third party router firmware not being up to date, too many machines using the router, an insecure router not using WPA2 connectivity (802.11b original Apple Airport can't use it, and it is better to get a WiFi ethernet bridge with at least 802.11g), proxy servers, and bad DNS issues which can resolve.  Additional WiFi related issues are documented on this tip:


15. A bad iTunes install, or one that isn't properly updated for the system may cause slow down.  If you are trying to isolate that as a possibility, note the path to the iTunes Helper which is loaded in your System Preferences -> Accounts (Users and Groups in some versions of Mac OS X), Login Items (startup items in other versions of Mac OS X) 




You can use the Finder's Go to Folder command in the Go menu to reload that program after removing it from your Login Items and troubleshooting the situation.


16. Peer2peer sharing software, torrent software, both make your machine into a software server.  This can slowdown your overall internet.  Do not get software from such sources, as most are illegal.     If you have trouble finding software for your operating system, visit if using Mac OS X 10.7 or later, or ask on this board where to find software that is legal that does what you need.


17. If your Mac is backed up, then's the time to see if a directory repair is necessary:


18.  Often times, you will see the system slowdown and get a spinning color circle indicating it is busy.   After a certain amount of time, if you can risk losing the data that has not been saved on the application, force quitting the application with command-option-escape key sequence is a possibility.

If command-option-escape does not work, it may indicate one of the aforementioned issues is happening.  Command and Option keys may look like some variation of:

Screen shot 2012-11-15 at 12.15.11 PM.jpg

On non-Apple keyboards the Windows key usually takes the place of the Command key, and the Alt key usually the Option key.  Though Microsoft has made a patch for its keyboards that forces the two keys to switch their assigned Apple keystroke, since they are in reverse orientation of the Apple keyboard.  The Escape key is typically just labelled ESC.


19. You may not experience any of the above issues with games or high end graphics applications.   The graphics processor unit  (GPU) recommended by the developer should be the one you have installed on your computer.  Any others, and speed may be an issue with those programs.   It is not to be confused with RAM or your CPU.


20. Migrating data from PowerPC Macs.  See first #10 to see if you had a PowerPC Mac you were migrating from.    If you did, you may have brought over some drivers the Intel Mac does not understand in the Migration or Setup Assistant.   If there is a chance this may have happened, you should see this tip on migration which avoids the issue:

21. Notifications can slow Mac OS X 10.9 down.  Go to Apple menu -> System Preferences -> Notifications to disable those notifications you don't need.

22. iCloud syncing (in 10.7.2 and later) can slow things down.   Manage iCloud through the System Preferences to ensure syncing only happens when you need it.  iSync in Mac OS X 10.6 and earlier can also slow things down when you don't need it.

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