Ask DN : what's the best way to speed up a (really) slow Mac

almost 7 years ago from , Voice of K-2SO

My own late 2012 iMac has become excruciatingly slow. And no amounts of cleaning up is helping it. My guess is that it's because of MacOS Sierra this old machine is running.

When I try to lookup on the internet, I only see "marketing" blog posts by the makers of cleanup softwares, which simply swerve around the real solution. I want to thus hear from the DN community.

Thanks in advance, have a fine day y'all. Bilal


  • Norm Sheeran, almost 7 years ago

    Charge the hard drive to an SSD, max out the ram.

    21 points
  • Jake MauerJake Mauer, almost 7 years ago

    I agree with the other suggestions here, adding more ram is easy but if you're already at 16 or sometimes even 8gb you won't notice much difference.

    The biggest improvement you can make is putting in a solid state drive (SSD). If your hard drive is currently an old-school spinning disk putting in an SSD will make it feel like a new computer. I would recommend the following:

    1. Familiarize yourself with the repair guides for your specific model at iFixIt.
    2. Buy the SSD itself; Either a Samsung Evo 850 or a Crucial MX300 if the Samsung is too expensive.
    3. Depending on your mac, you might need an internal mount for the SSD that takes up the same space as a traditional 3.5" drive. Like this Newertech AdaptaDrive
    4. Because iMac drives have internal temperature sensors, if you just plop a random drive in there it won't report temperature and the Mac will respond by turning up the fans to 100%. You can solve this with software like SSD fan control or my preference is to use a replacement cable that includes a sticky-able temp sensor. You can buy the cable itself or the cable and a handy installation kit that will make getting in to your mac easier.

    I'm happy to help with more details or assistance if you go down the path of an SSD upgrade. Good Luck!

    7 points
    • Bilal Mohammed, almost 7 years ago

      Hey Jake, thanks a million for a detailed reply. Reading up what you shared. And I'll revert with question/queries if any. Thanks again. I had no clue about external SSD :)

      0 points
  • Bole ★, almost 7 years ago

    Have you tried doing a clean install of OS?

    Can you post more details of your configuration?

    2 points
    • Bilal Mohammed, almost 7 years ago (edited almost 7 years ago )

      It's an old machine.. I'm wondering if I should upgrade?

      Config :

      iMac (21.5-inch, Late 2012)

      2.7 GHz Intel Core i5

      8 GB 1600 MHz DDR3

      NVIDIA GeForce GT 640M 512 MB

      0 points
  • Bernard Etheart, almost 7 years ago

    Slowdowns are almost always due to some malware or other misbehaving third party program. I doubt Sierra is the cause, as Apple is pretty good at supporting older hardware. Your best bet is to take your machine to the Apple store and ask the techs there to reinstall the Operating System (it's free). You are sure to see a big improvement in performance. However, you will have to reinstall all your apps. Make sure you backup your files before taking it there!

    1 point
    • Bilal Mohammed, almost 7 years ago

      Exactly this was on my mind. Thanks for the reply Bernard! All my stuff is on Dropbox & iCloud. So hopefully a clean reset will help a bit.

      0 points
    • Rafael CondeRafael Conde, almost 7 years ago

      There's definitely no need for you to go to an Apple Store to fresh install a copy of macOS.

      0 points
    • Evgeny BeckerEvgeny Becker, almost 7 years ago

      "Apple is pretty good at supporting older hardware"

      In my opinion this only applies to MacOS. Tried to use an iPhone 5 few weeks ago, it was not possible because of the lags. The same case was the iPad 2

      0 points
  • Brandon ZellBrandon Zell, almost 7 years ago (edited almost 7 years ago )

    Just to echo what some others have said:

    1. Switching to an SSD will make a HUGE difference
    2. Clean installing your OS will help a lot
    3. Maxing the ram will keep your system from getting bogged down.

    Then other maintenance stuff:

    1. Don't completely fill your hard drive
    2. Try to keep your desktop/downloads/trash empty or mostly empty
    3. Keep your startup items to a minimum
    1 point
  • Ian CarrIan Carr, almost 7 years ago (edited almost 7 years ago )

    I made my 2011 iMac feel like new by getting an external SSD thunderbolt drive and using that as my boot disk. Running applications and the OS off of it really sped everything up, and it worked so well that now with my new iMac I am still running things off of the same external drive. Whats great, you can still access all your files on the old internal drive and if you ever need to travel you can run your "iMac" on any thunderbolt-enabled mac.

    1 point
  • Ken Em, almost 7 years ago

    Adding RAM is the quickest and cheapest way to improve performance.

    1 point
  • Ramoz ram, over 6 years ago

    Clean up your Mac computer before it's too late...

    I don't need to tell you Mac computers are expensive, because we both know that!

    So I also don't need to tell you either that it's in your interest to keep your Mac computer tidy and clean. A trip to the Apple repair store can be costly and stressful. Believe me, I've been there.

    So what can you do?

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    Scanning over 30 advanced elements in your Mac, I can tell you now you won't find a more comprehensive and safer Mac cleaner out there.

    Priced at $37.95 - Personally I think that's a drop in the ocean compared to the extensive cost of a Mac repair or upgrade. What price would you put on your Mac's health and speed?

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    0 points
  • John PJohn P, almost 7 years ago

    Is it spinning disk? If so then upgrade it to an SSD. Fusion Drive is a hack, so well worth replacing to a full SSD if you can.

    Other than that you're likely out of luck other than downgrading to an older OS/apps.

    0 points
  • Oz ChenOz Chen, almost 7 years ago (edited almost 7 years ago )

    In addition to all the great advice here, I'd also recommend:

    Using software like CleanMyMac. Routinely finds a lot of crap that I can remove from my Mac, with noticeable performance improvements after each clean.

    If you've been using Sketch for a while, this post saved me 30+ gigs of harddrive space. It's not a problem with newer Sketch versions, but since I've had Sketch 2+ years ago, one of the old versions would keep these huge revision files stored in hidden folders. I couldn't believe how much space it took up.

    0 points
  • Andy BrownAndy Brown, almost 7 years ago

    I have a 2012 Mac Mini for work at home. And I work at the office on a top spec 27in iMac (I think 2014). When I started my new job with the brand new iMac I wiped the Mac Mini at the same time and installed an SSD (set up as a fusion drive).

    Both Macs have fusion drives and 16GB RAM. The iMac has a better graphics card and better processor. But my experience is that the Mac Mini feels much faster.

    Here's what I think the difference is...

    • The Mac Mini is still using Mac OS X 10.9.5 (Mavericks). The iMac is always updated to the most recent.
    • The Mac Mini uses Adobe CS6. The iMac uses Adobe CC.
    • I'm very careful not to install anything unnecessary on the Mac Mini.

    I'm so happy with my Mac Mini. It's lightning fast and just stays that way, even two years later. If it died I would buy another secondhand one and do the same again.

    In your situation I would do a fresh install of an older Mac OS X – something like Mavericks. Then just install the software you need and use. And if you can install an SSD then that makes a big difference as well.

    I hope that helps.

    0 points
  • Andy LeverenzAndy Leverenz, almost 7 years ago

    I agree an SSD and RAM make the most difference. You can also repair your disk permissions as well as use a clean up tool (these remove space but don't necessarily free up tons performance).

    Unfortunately, I believe Sierra is more optimized for more modern macs. Apple and pretty much any hardware manufacturer does this on purpose to get you to buy next gen stuff which is a bummer but the way of the world as new faster and more optimized hardware is produced.

    I have a first gen Mac Pro sitting in my closet simply because I can only upgrade as far as OSX Lion. sucks!

    0 points
  • Wassim BWassim B, almost 7 years ago

    Forget about software solutions. SSD + RAM will give you a lot more juice.

    0 points
  • Phil Smith, almost 7 years ago

    I haven’t tried it myself, but I’ve heard that resetting your OS to what it was when you bought it speeds things up. Some app’s most recent versions may not be compatible, though. :/

    0 points