Macworld Masterclass: Speed up your Mac

Macworld Masterclass: Speed up your Mac

You don't need a faster machine, just tweak the one you've got


  • 1. Faster startup 1
  • 2. Turn off animations 2
  • 3. Unnecessary networking 3
  • 4. Accessibility features 4
  • 5. Disable widgets 5
  • 6. Shut down programs 6
  • 7. Edit your preference panes 7
  • 8. Run Software Update 8
  • 9. Update your apps 9
  • 10. Clean your hard disk 10
  • 11. Empty your web cache 11
  • 12. Repair permissions 12
  • 13. Run maintenance scripts 13
  • 14. Reboot your machine 14
  • 15. Add more RAM 15
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Step 1 of 15: 1. Faster startup

Reduce startup time by cutting down the number of login items OS X loads. Go to System Preferences and choose Accounts. Hit the Login Items tab. A list of applications that load at startup now appears. Remove the applications that you don’t want by selecting each and clicking the minus button.

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Step 2 of 15: 2. Turn off animations

Your Mac has various fancy animation effects that add a few seconds to everyday operations. These can all stack up and slow down your machine. If you won’t notice the difference with them turned off, what’s the point in sucking up valuable processor resources by using them in the first place? If you’re confident using Terminal (in Applications/Utilities), you can switch off most animations with the following command: defaults write DisableAllAnimations -bool true

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Step 3 of 15: 3. Unnecessary networking

Make your Mac more secure by switching off network and connectivity features you don’t use. Find Bluetooth in System Preferences and open its preferences pane. Untick the On box. While in System Preferences, find the Sharing pane and make sure Internet Sharing is unticked too.

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Step 4 of 15: 4. Accessibility features

OS X has built-in accessibility features for the sight and hearing impaired. If you don’t use them, switching them off will claw back some valuable nanoseconds for other routines. Go to Universal Access in System Preferences and make sure that you turn off Enable access for assistive devices.

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Step 5 of 15: 5. Disable widgets

OS X Widgets run in the background even when you’re not using them and they can steal processing power without you realising it, so it makes perfect sense to delete the ones you don’t use. To do so, open the Dashboard and click the plus icon. Click on Manage Widgets and untick the ones you never use. To disable the Dashboard entirely, enter this command in Terminal: defaults write mcx-disabled -boolean YES

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Step 6 of 15: 6. Shut down programs

Too many programs running at once will slow down your Mac. You can identify and shut down the most resource-hungry culprits by launching Activity Monitor from Applications/Utilities. A budget program called App Tamer (around £9, helps you target and shut down CPU hogs.

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Step 7 of 15: 7. Edit your preference panes

Take a look at System Preferences and see if there are any preference panes listed in the Other section that you don’t need. These are often drivers or configuration tools for third-party hardware or programs. Control- click on an unwanted pane to be given the option to remove it.

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Step 8 of 15: 8. Run Software Update

Yes, your Mac is probably configured to automatically run Software Update and install new versions of Apple applications and OS X updates periodically. But if you’re the sort of person who habitually puts it off, run Software Update now as it often provides bug fixes that can speed up your system.

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Step 9 of 15: 9. Update your apps

Keep your third-party apps up to date for the same reason. AppFresh ( can do this automatically. It does the job of half-a-dozen software updaters, scanning your system for programs that need patching. If you use the Mac App Store to purchase programs, they’ll be periodically updated too.

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Step 10 of 15: 10. Clean your hard disk

Your Mac uses spare disk space as virtual memory when RAM is running low. If there’s no drive space for that, everything on your system slows down. Our advice would be to keep your hard disk about a third free. Remove files and programs you don’t need using CleanApp (

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Step 11 of 15: 11. Empty your web cache

Give your web browser a periodic clean out too. To do this in Safari, go to Safari > Empty Cache. Caching is supposed to be designed to speed up web browsing, but over time, temporary web files lapse out of date and cookies can become corrupted. It’s best to start again with a clean slate.

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Step 12 of 15: 12. Repair permissions

If you’ve followed all the tips we’ve given here, you’ll have done quite a bit of cleaning up. Inevitably, that can affect the performance of your hard disk so one of your last jobs in this speed-up tutorial will be to open Disk Utility in Applications/Utilities, verify the drive and repair permissions.

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Step 13 of 15: 13. Run maintenance scripts

OS X is a highly optimised operating system that runs its own cleanup routines on a scheduled basis. It does no harm to run these routines manually though. To do so, open Terminal (in Applications/Utilities) and type: sudo periodic daily weekly monthly. You’ll now be prompted to enter your password and all maintenance scripts will be run straight away. There’s also a Dashboard Widget that does the same job (above).

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Step 14 of 15: 14. Reboot your machine

After a comprehensive tweaking session, it makes sense to reboot your machine – but a periodic reboot will do you good in general. We know that many MacBook users rarely switch off their machines, simply shutting the lid and putting their computer to sleep instead. Rebooting kills all lingering processes that may be tying up valuable CPU cycles. If you aren’t going to use your computer for a while, always shut it down.

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Step 15 of 15: 15. Add more RAM

If all else fails, the easiest and cheapest upgrade you can frequently perform is a RAM upgrade. Adding more memory reduces your Mac’s reliance on virtual memory and enables you to run more programs simultaneously. Install the maximum amount your Mac’s specification will allow.

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