5 Great Ways to Speed Up Your Old Mac

Overhead view of MacBook and notebook on a desk

It will always be tempting to upgrade to a new Mac. They’re all around us, no matter where we go. When your Mac starts to slow down, it becomes even more difficult not to whip out your credit card and upgrade to a shiny new machine.

You don’t need to jump to this option so fast.

We’ll walk you through some easy steps to help you speed up your old Mac and fall in love with it all over again. Some of these are more labor-intensive than others, but all of them are simple ways to breathe new life into your older Mac.

Increase your RAM

When you originally purchased your Mac, you might have opted for a lower amount of RAM. While most models initially ship with plenty of RAM for everyday use, your apps start to guzzle more and more of it over time.

Before we go any further, let’s go over the difference between your hard drive and your RAM, two things many people commonly confuse. Imagine your hard drive as the library card that tells you how many books you can fit in your house. In the same breath, imagine your RAM as the indicator of how many books you can read at the same time.

RAM memory card

With that in mind, upgrading your RAM is typically a much easier process than installing a brand-new hard drive. Apple typically recommends a threshold for how much RAM each machine can handle. If you’re unsure, you can dig into the specs of your machine here.

Apple’s Genius Bar will also offer to install more RAM for you, but this can be an expensive option. If you’re up for doing the installation yourself, sites like Crucial and OWC offer high-quality RAM for much lower prices. In many cases, you can upgrade your RAM without investing in any special tools.

Load fewer apps when you turn on your Mac

You might have noticed that your beloved Mac opens some of your apps automatically upon booting up. While this might have appeared to be more of a nuisance than anything else, asking your Mac to launch too many apps at the same time could be affecting your computing experience.

Users & Groups window in OS X

To see which apps are launching automatically when you log in, open System Preferences, click on Users & Groups and then click the Login Items tab. If you find you’re opening too many for your Mac to handle, simply deselect the checkbox next to any apps you don’t want to open automatically.

Clean up your hard drive

You’d be surprised at how many files are on your Mac. In fact, for the screenshot below, we were shocked to find this laptop is currently home to nearly 730,000 files!

Fortunately, removing the files you’re not using anymore doesn’t have to be as tedious as it might sound, thanks to a built-in program on your Mac called Disk Utility.

Disk Utility window in OS X

If you’d like to clean up your hard drive, search in Spotlight for Disk Utility.

Open the program and select Macintosh HD. Select Repair Disk in the bottom right corner. If that button isn’t available, click Verify Disk. Once you select Repair Disk, Disk Utility will walk you through a complete scan of your hard drive and make repairs wherever necessary.

Beyond this, consider thumbing through your iTunes and iPhoto libraries on a regular basis. Both of these libraries could be taking up quite a bit of space on your hard drive. If this is the case for you, consider investing in an external hard drive and backing up your music and photos to it. Once you’ve done that, you’ll be able to free up that space on your Mac’s hard drive, which should ultimately improve its performance.

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Make spring cleaning on your hard drive a serious matter. If you have apps you don’t use anymore, get them off your hard drive ASAP and free up the space for something else!

Perform regular software updates

Apple doesn’t release software updates just for the sake of taking up more space on your hard drive. These updates are often born out of necessity and go a long way toward improving your experience on your Mac.

Closeup of available updates in App Store

Not only can ignoring these software updates for too long slow down your Mac, it can also put you behind the eight ball for even more updates. You won’t be able to jump to a current Mac update until all the previous updates have been installed. When your Mac prompts you to install updates, trust it! Go ahead and install the updates available to you, and you’ll be surprised by how much of a lift it gives your Mac.

Shut down apps you’re not using

Even when you’re not using an app, it still runs in the background if you haven’t taken the steps to quit it.

OS X Yosemite desktop screen

To completely close an app, don’t just close the window. If you’re using Google Chrome, for example, click Chrome > Quit Google Chrome. If you’re a fan of keyboard shortcuts, simply hit Command + Q. You can use this shortcut to quit any app you’re in.

Make sure you’re running only the apps you’re using, and you’ll see a huge difference in how fast your Mac runs – all without any fancy upgrades or repairs!

Fall in love with your Mac all over again

These upgrades and optimizations will help you keep loving a Mac that’s a bit longer in the tooth. You’ll be surprised by how small investments of time and money will breathe new life into an older machine.

Are there any other ways you’ve been able to speed up your old Mac? Let us know in the comments section below.

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