How to Speed Up Your Mac – The Ultimate Manual


My name is Sam and I have an old mac. It’s MacBook Air (11-inch, Late 2010), which I bought in 2011. Since that time, I changed SEVEN versions of Mac OS X – 10.6 Snow Leopard, 10.7 Lion, 10.8 Mountain Lion, 10.9 Mavericks, 10.10 Yosemite, 10.11 El Capitan and now I have macOS Sierra. With each new OS version release, I thought “why is my computer so slow?”

Since buying a new MacBook is not an option for me, I decided to research for the tips and tricks on how to speed up my old computer. I spent a lot of time on this, but the result was worth it – I was able to clean my mac, it works really fast (almost like new) and I don’t need to change it.

Below you can see the comprehensive list of tips. I used personally most of them to speed up my own mac. No bullshit, just plain facts. Period.

If you think I’ve missed something – drop me a line. Let’s make it better together.

OK, let’s start.

How To Turn Off Visual Effects on Mac

Mac OS X uses a lot of eye-candy visual effects (transparency, animations etc.) These effects degrade a performance of your computer, so you may want to disable them.

How To Reduce Transparency

Speed up your mac - Reduce TransparencyOpen System Preferences > Accessibility > Display and check the Reduce Transparency box.

How To Edit Dock PreferencesScreen Shot 2016-03-20 at 3.57.22 PM

  • Uncheck Magnification checkbox to disable magnification of app icons when you hover on them
  • Select Scale effect under ‘Minimize windows using’ setting instead of Genie effect
  • Uncheck ‘Animate opening applications’ checkbox

Also, you may want to keep the Dock hidden – because it eats up your system resources when displayed on the screen. Press CMD+OPT+D to hide the dock and then press it again when you want it back.

How to Reduce Display Resolution in macOS Sierra

Do you know that reducing display resolution may significantly increase the performance of your Mac? This is true even for macbooks. Open System Preferences > Displays, find Resolution and choose Scaled option. Then select the resolution which is lower but still suitable for your needs.

Terminal Commands to Speed Up Other Visual Effects

Open the terminal app from Applications > Utilities menu. Then type the commands below and hit Enter after each command. After you apply these commands, close the Terminal app, log off, and then log back in.

  • Disable opening and closing window animations.
    defaults write NSGlobalDomain NSAutomaticWindowAnimationsEnabled -bool false
  • Disable the animations for opening Quick Look windows.
    defaults write -g QLPanelAnimationDuration -float 0
  • Increase window resize speed for Cocoa applications.
    defaults write NSGlobalDomain NSWindowResizeTime -float 0.001
  • Disable window animations and Get Info animations in the Finder.
    defaults write DisableAllAnimations -bool true
  • Don’t animate opening applications from the Dock.
    defaults write launchanim -bool false
  • Speed up Mission Control animations.
    defaults write expose-animation-duration -float 0.1
  • Remove the Dock auto-hide delay.
    defaults write autohide-delay -float 0

How To Disable Sound Effects

Screen Shot 2016-03-20 at 4.13.50 PMWhen a computer plays sounds, it also takes up some resources, so you may want to disable this. Open System Preferences > Sound and uncheck the ‘Play user interface sound effects box.’

How To Free Up System Memory

How To Close Unused Apps

Sure, it sounds obvious, but still you have to check if there are too many apps running at the same time. You can do it either by right-clicking on programs in the Dock and choose Quit, or bring up the App Switcher with CMD+Tab and press CMD+Q to close the unwanted app.

To make sure you can see which apps are running, open System Preferences and click Dock. Ensure there is a tick next to ‘Show indicator lights for open applications’.

How To Disable Unwanted Login Items And Services

Go to System Preferences > Users & Groups and choose Login items tab. Now you can choose which programs and services you want to disable. Highlight the unwanted ones and click on the (-) button at the bottom of the list to delete. Make sure you click on the lock icon in the lower-left corner of the window to be able to make changes.

How To Use Activity Monitor

Open Activity Monitor app from Applications > Utilities and identify apps which consume a lot of memory or CPU resources. Then consider using less heavy alternatives, having less apps opened at the same time, or uninstalling unnecessary apps at all.

Screen Shot 2016-03-22 at 10.15.22 PM

Install More RAM

If your Mac model has the appropriate option, you may want to install more RAM. Unfortunately, Macbook Air doesn’t have this option (RAM is soldered on motherboard), so I was unable to add more memory. But if you have Macbook Pro running slow, iMac or Mac Mini – just do it.

Disable Unnecessary System Services in El Capitan

How To Disable FileVault

FileVault encrypts the disk of your Mac to prevent access to data for unauthorized users. And it consumes system resources and your mac is running slow. If you don’t need it (and most of regular users don’t need it) – turn it off. Go to System Preferences > Security & Privacy > FileVault tab, click the lock icon to make changes, and then click “Turn off FileVault” button. So in the end the tab will look like this:

Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 8.31.35 AM

How To Remove Preference Panes from System Preferences

You can remove unnecessary extensions (preference panes) from the System Preferences. To do this, just right click on the extensions you want to remove, and then select the option to remove this item from the menu.

Screen Shot 2016-03-25 at 9.55.01 PM

How To Disable Spotlight

Spotlight indexing uses a lot of system resources, so you can turn it off for some areas on your mac, or disable the Spotlight at all.

To change Spotlight settings, go to System Preferences > Spotlight and uncheck “Allow Spotlight Suggestions in Spotlight and Look up” at the bottom of the window. Also uncheck all categories you don’t want to be indexed (the more categories you choose, the better) like SpreadSheets, Mail & Messages etc. If you want to exclude the specific folders from search, you can make it in Privacy tab.

Screen Shot 2016-03-24 at 7.56.44 PM

To disable Spotlight completely (best option), open Terminal app and type:

sudo launchctl unload -w /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/

How To Disable Dashboard

To disable Dashboard, Go to System Preferences > Mission Control preferences, and look for the Dashboard drop-down list. Click it, and change the setting to “Off.”

How To Disable Notification Center

Notification center can be useful for some people, but I rarely use it and it also slows down the computer, especially if there are too many widgets enabled.

To disable only certain widgets, go to System Preferences > Extensions, choose Today (left column) and then uncheck those you don’t like (right column).

The best option is to disable the notification center at all – in this case you won’t receive these pesky unwanted alerts. Open the Terminal app and type:

launchctl unload -w /System/Library/LaunchAgents/

killall NotificationCenter

How To Disable Fast User Switching

Fast user switching allows multiple users to stay logged in at the same time. Obviously, this consumes a lot of computer resources. To disable this feature, go to System Preferences > Users & Groups, click the lock in the lower-left corner to make changes, then click “Login Options” and uncheck the option “Show fast user switching menu as”.

You can also do it via Terminal app by typing:

defaults write /Library/Preferences/.GlobalPreferences MultipleSessionEnabled -bool ‘NO’

How To Speed Up Safari Browser (including Mac OS Sierra)

How To Empty Safari Cache

Having a large cache may actually slow down Safari. First, make sure you have the Develop menu enabled. Go to SafariPreferences > Advanced > “Show Develop menu in menu bar”, then close out of Preferences. From the Develop menu choose Empty Caches or just press CMD+OPT+E.

Screen Shot 2016-03-22 at 10.19.55 PM

How To Delete The Safari Preferences File

In rare cases, it may be corrupted and thus, it can slow down your browser. Open Finder and navigate to the folder ~/ Library / Preferences. Use CMD+SHIFT+G and copy the folder’s path into the drop-down box then hit Go. Delete the file

How To Check and Update or Disable Extensions

Some extensions may consume too much resources (memory or CPU), so you may want to update or disable them. Usually it’s Flash which slows down the browser. Use the Activity Monitor app from Utilities to check which extension may cause problems. Open Safari > Preferences, then go to Extensions tab and disable or update whichever ones you need. You can also check “Automatically update extensions from the Safari Extensions Gallery” to avoid manual updates in the future.

Also, you may install ClickToPlugin and ClickToFlash plugins, which allow you to run certain resource-consuming extensions only when they are needed (I personally use ClickToFlash).

Screen Shot 2016-03-22 at 10.20.54 PM

Use Apps Instead of Web Services

Do you know that if you run Twitter in browser, it takes up to 200Mb of RAM for this tab? And standalone Twitter app takes only 80Mb. So you may consider switching to desktop apps for the services you use on daily basis (Gmail, Twitter, etc.). Use the Activity Monitor app to compare standalone apps with browser tabs.

How To Disable Smart Search

Go to Preferences > Search and disable all checkboxes below the Smart Search Field. You can also disable “Include search engine suggestions” to avoid delays when browser tries to retrieve and display these suggestions.

Screen Shot 2016-03-22 at 10.22.54 PM

How To Reset Safari

This option is not available in current browser version. Instead, you may empty caches and clear history.

Terminal commands to speed up the Safari

Open the terminal app from Applications > Utilities menu. Then type the commands below and hit Enter after each command. After you apply these commands, close the Terminal app, log off, and then log back in.

  • Reduce the render delay inside the Safari browser.
    defaults write WebKitInitialTimedLayoutDelay 0.25

How To Speed Up Finder

How To Disable start from “All my files” folder in Finder

By default, your Finder has a setting to start from “All my files” folder. This may cause a delay if you have a lot of files in this folder. To avoid this delay, open Finder and go to Finder > Preferences > General > New Finder windows show and set it to your home folder instead (or choose Other… and set a different directory.

How To Remove Icons from Desktop

Having too much icons on desktop slows down the computer. To remove them, go to Finder > Preferences, and on General tab just uncheck all boxes under “Show these items on desktop”:

Screen Shot 2016-03-25 at 10.02.28 PM

Other icons can just be placed to Trash.

Alternatively, you can hide all desktop icons by opening Terminal and typing:

defaults write “ CreateDesktop -bool fals”
killall Finder

How To Disable Preview in Finder

It’s cool to have playable videos and image previews in your Finder, but it makes your old Mac really sluggish. To disable this feature, open Finder (other than “All My Files” window) and click View > View Options. Then uncheck “Show icon preview” and “Show preview column” checkboxes. You’re done.

Screen Shot 2016-03-20 at 8.27.45 PM

How To Speed Up Mail

Terminal Commands to Speed Up Mail

  • Disable send and reply animations in
    defaults write DisableReplyAnimations -bool true
    defaults write DisableSendAnimations -bool true
  • Turn off image previews
    defaults write DisableInlineAttachmentViewing -bool true
  • Clean up email database to make it faster
    sqlite3 ~/Library/Mail/V2/MailData/Envelope\ Index vacuum;

CleanMyMac 2

How To Speed Up Your HDD

How To Repair HDD Permissions

In previous versions of OS X, this could be done via Disk Utility. In OS X El Capitan this ability has been removed, leaving you with the command line option only. Open the Terminal app. To verify the permissions, type:

sudo /usr/libexec/repair_packages –verify –standard-pkgs /

To repair the permissions, type:

sudo /usr/libexec/repair_packages –repair –standard-pkgs –volume /

If you have more than one HDD, just specify it instead of the last “/”.

How To Clean Up Your Mac (Hard Disk Drive)

OS X contains a lot of unused files which you can safely delete – language packs, caches, leftovers after uninstalled apps, etc. Also you may want to find and delete duplicate files and other junk. The more free space you have on your disk – the faster it works.

There is a lot of third-party “mac cleaner” software to help you clean up your disk. I personally use CleanMyMac.

How To Uninstall Unwanted Programs

To uninstall the unwanted apps, just open the Applications folder and drag-n-drop the programs into the Trash. Also, you can use the CleanMyMac to uninstall the software in more proper way, without the unnecessary leftovers.

Fusion Drive

SSD drives work fast, but their capacity is relatively small. So Apple came up with the solution named Fusion Drive – SSD plus regular hard drive which are seen by the system as one volume. System and apps are on fast SSD, while documents, videos, music and other miscellaneous files are on regular HDD. Here is the detailed instruction on how to set up Fusion Drive.


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