How to Speed up Your Mac
I’m hoping that this guide on how to speed up your Mac will be useful for photographers here in 2021.
It’s a sad truth that most photographers spend the majority of their time behind a computer screen rather than behind a camera.
Whether you’re using your Mac to edit your photos, make backups to external drives, research the latest techniques, post pictures to social media, or simply to email clients, you’ll always want to speed up your experience.
Essential app for photographers to revitalize their computers for optimal performance.
“Why is my Mac so slow?” is one of the most common questions I see in photography forums with Mac users.
(The next is ‘how to speed up a WordPress photography site‘, which we talk about elsewhere!)
With thousands of large images on the typical photographer’s hard drive and a lack of disk space or RAM, there’s no wonder.
In this guide, I hope to save you some money from buying the latest Mac. I’d much rather you learn to speed up an old Mac than purchase a new one!
11 Tips to Speed up Your Mac
1. Find the Power-Greedy Apps and Processes
So what’s bogging down your Mac and making it run so slowly? Chances are it’s a power-sucking app or two that’s responsible for at least some of the lack of performance.
If you’re always at the app store downloading the latest helpful app, then you’ll probably find it easy to pinpoint which apps are draining your Mac!
You can find out which processes and apps are causing your Mac to lose speed by using the Activity Monitor to let you know what’s going on. Activity Monitor can be opened from the Utilities folder or the Applications folder. You can also find it using Spotlight.
The Activity Monitor gives you information about five different areas of system usage: CPU, Memory, Energy, Disk, and Network.
The CPU section should be the first place you look to see why your Mac is running at a snail’s pace, as it tells you what is affecting your processor (CPU) and reducing speed.
Click on the Process Name column along the menu bar in the monitor to list the programs according to the percentage of the CPU they are using.
If you find that a certain app is a real memory hog, you can close it from the Activity Monitor by highlighting it and clicking X in the monitor.
2. Boost Speed by Turning Off Visual Effects
Your Mac’s visual effects may look good, but they could be causing a drop in your system resources.
You can avoid the whirling beach ball of doom by turning off some of the visual effects features – it’s surprising just how much you can speed up Mac hard drives by doing this.
Click System Preferences, then Dock. Untick these options: Animate opening applications, and Automatically hide and show the Dock.
Next, click on Minimize windows using and change Genie effect to Scale effect. That’s it – you’re done!
3. Streamline Your Startup
One of the best ways to make sure your Mac hard drive runs faster is to manage your startup items. A faster launch means you can get started on what you want quicker.
Once you’ve given your Mac a performance boost, your web browsers will open up much quicker, and you won’t be waiting forever before you can open up your files or browse the app store.
To clean up your startup programs, go to System Preferences, then Users & Groups.
Click on your username, then on Login Items and choose a program you don’t need as soon as your Mac boots up. Click the “-“ button below the window to remove it.
As you can see in the screenshot below, I don’t have any apps that open on startup to slow me down!
To keep your startup running super-fast all the time, you can use CleanMyMac X to perform regular maintenance on your Mac without you having to do anything yourself.
Check out our Clean My Mac X review for more info on this useful piece of software.
4. Get Rid of Web Browser Add-Ons and Extensions
Where would we be without our web browsers?! The problem is that the add-ons and browser extensions can seriously slow down our browser speed. Just like the app store, there are always add-ons we like the look of, but don’t actually need!
While some of the extra tools do a great job, there are some things you just don’t use or need. You can tackle the problem by removing unwanted browser extensions yourself.
To remove browser extensions in Safari: go to the main menu and click on Safari Extensions. To do it in Chrome, go to Menu, click Settings, then click the Extensions tab. If you use Firefox, click on Tools, then choose Add-ons.
5. Clean up the Caches
Cache files are temporary files used by your Mac to speed up processes. Speeding things up is good, right? Well, over time the cache files start to clutter up your Mac storage and slow everything down.
You can manually clean up the caches, but it takes a bit of time. When you use CleanMyMac X to clear the cache it will automatically find any system junk, then scan and clean your cache. Simple!
If you want to clean up yourself, then there are three main cache types you can clean:
- System Cache
- User Cache
- Browser Cache
You will have to follow the steps to remove the cache junk from each type.
To clean the User Cache:
- Open Finder window, select Go to Folder in the Go menu
- Type in ~/Library/Caches and press Enter
- Go into the folders and remove everything. It’s better to remove the folder contents than delete the folders themselves
Once you’ve finished removing unwanted files, don’t forget to empty the Trash bin! Restart your Mac afterwards so it can create new cache files.
Do this periodically to keep your web browser and hard drive running smoothly.
If you’re not sure what files to delete or aren’t comfortable doing it yourself, then it’s best to use a specialist app like CleanMyMac X to safely remove the files you don’t need.
To clean the System and App Cache:
- Delete the app cache the same way you did for the User Cache ~/Library/Caches. Remove the contents of the app folders but leave the folders themselves.
A word of warning here! Not all app caches can be removed safely. Back up a folder before deleting the contents if you are unsure.
To clean browser caches:
- Click the 3 dots in the top right corner of your Google Chrome browser
- Click Settings and choose Advanced from the bottom of the menu
- Click Clear Browsing Data
- Deselect all options except Cached Images and Files
- For the timeframe, choose All Time
- Click Clear Data button
- Click on the Hamburger icon in the top right corner
- Choose Privacy & Security on the left sidebar
- Scroll to Cached Web Content menu item
- Click Clear Now to delete
- Close browser windows and relaunch the browser
You can clear the caches with website history by using the History/Clear History option in the menu bar, but if you want to fine-tune the removal you can empty the cache manually.
- In the top menu, click Safari
- Choose Preferences
- Choose the Advanced tab
- Enable Show Develop Menu in the Menu Bar
- Go to Develop in the Menu Bar
- Click Empty Caches
- Quit the browser and restart. Be aware that all your auto login items will also be cleared!
Want to save some time?
You can speedily solve some of these issues without any advanced knowledge of the Mac operating system.
Less time messing around with computer maintenance means more time to work on your photos.
7. Give Your Hard Drive a Spring Clean
One of the ways to free up the biggest amount of space and get your machine running at top speed again is to clear out your hard drive.
You’re looking for anything that will slow your Mac down and take up a lot of space, such as large files, hidden trash, logs, apps, widgets, and caches.
Yes, you can do this manually, but it will take up a lot of time – and you have to know exactly what you’re doing! If you’re not sure what you are removing, you could make an expensive mistake.
Again, it’s simpler to use a specialist app to clean your Mac without risking the loss of essential data or your precious photographs!
8. Update Your Mac OS Regularly
Making sure you have the latest software update from Apple will help keep your Mac running fast and smoothly.
Check you have the latest version of the operating system by clicking the Apple icon in the top left corner of the screen, then click About This Mac.
Make sure that you have the latest version of macOS or OS X installed for your Mac – not all will upgrade to macOS Catalina.
9. Declutter Your Desktop
Are you guilty of dumping things on the desktop just to save time? (Puts hand up guiltily!)
Every desktop icon takes up RAM space, so the fewer desktop icons you have, the faster your Mac will become. Once you’ve cleaned your desktop, restart your computer and make use of the Desktop Stacks feature to put your icons in order.
If you’re running Apple macOS High Sierra or an older macOS version, simply deleting desktop items should make your Mac run faster.
10. Reindex Spotlight
If you updated your Apple OS recently, you may well be aware of how slow your Mac runs while Spotlight is indexing. Sometimes the indexing becomes stuck, and it can cause issues with your Mac.
You can reindex Spotlight by going to System Preferences/Spotlight, and clicking on the Privacy tab.
Drag your hard drive from Finder into the Privacy List.
Once you have added it, remove it by clicking “-“. Now the indexing will start again (and your Mac will run slowly while it’s indexing), and after a few hours, it will finish correctly and get your Mac working faster again.
11. Create a New User Profile
You can go further than simply updating your Apple macOS to help free up space. You can create a new user profile on your Mac.
Why? Well, some settings in your original user profile could have been cluttered up with outdated system logs, or it simply could have been compromised.
To create a fresh user profile:
- Click the Apple icon and go to System Preferences
- Click on Users & Groups
- Press to Unlock changes
- Add a new user by clicking “+”
There you have it! 11 ways you can solve the issue of slow-running Macs and free up more space for your photos and image editing software.
If you don’t fancy messing with the system preferences or caches yourself (or just don’t want to spend time doing it), then CleanMyMac X will do the heavy lifting.
Using this popular software will give your Mac a deep clean (including finding and removing large files, junk files, and hidden files), and provide a performance boost without you having to do anything other than clicking a few buttons.
Then you can get back to concentrating on your photography editing!
Disclaimer: All recommendations are impartial and based on user experience, with no bias to the products or the brand. The products in this post may contain affiliate links.
Dawn Gilfillan is a photographer and writer from Durham in North East England.