The more you use and store on a laptop the slower it becomes. That's just the way computers work (even Macs). So here are 5 handy tips of what you can do to refresh your MacBook and keep it running fast. See all Apple How-to articles.
1) RAM: Keep your MacBook Pro running fast
If you’ve not done it already, max out your MacBook with as much memory as your model will support. RAM is now cheap as chips and it’s a false economy not to load up with as much as your MacBook can support. See also How to make a Mac visible on a Windows network.
2) SSD: Keep your MacBook Pro running fast
Storage – if your MacBook doesn’t already have an SSD inside, do your best to find one. It’s not as cheap as adding more memory, for sure, but it’s the single biggest performance-enhancing upgrade you’ll find. Even an original MacBook from 2006 will perk up to 2013-like speeds in daily processes like launching apps and saving files. Visit Group test: what's the best laptop?
If budget doesn’t allow or you simply need more than 500GB of space, consider the Seagate Momentus XT notebook hard drive. This is a regular 2.5in SATA disk but with 8GB of SLC flash added and a clever controller to juggle the data. As with Apple’s newly launched Fusion Drive, it aims to keep frequently used files on the fast flash section, and bulkier files on the slower disk platters.
And if you must run with just a traditional hard disk, ensure it never gets more than 80% full for better performance. For example, a 200GB drive should have 40GB capacity available. Based on UNIX, disk fragmentation in OS X is not the usual problem that Windows users must endure. But as a hard disk becomes more full, the system will write files to the slowest parts of the disk – and a MacBook’s standard-issue 5400rpm disk is already the slowest part of the system.
3) Clean-up programs: Keep your MacBook Pro running fast
Some clean-up programs can help remove potential system blockages. Apps that offer to help do all this for you that we’ve tried include OnyX and Mountain Lion Cache Cleaner; the former is free, the latter is $9.99 shareware.
These programs will, among other things, run UNIX daily/weekly/monthly scripts for rotating your log files (which would run automatically by default in the wee hours if your MacBook isn’t sleeping).
Other tasks include the rebuilding of OS X’s Launch Services (which assigns which apps open which files by default), and the flushing of various caches – such as boot cache, kernel and extension caches. Flushing and rebuilding these caches rarely does any harm for a system freshen-up.
Another way to instigate some cache cleansing (and a useful troubleshooter if third-party kernel extensions are messing with your Mac) is to restart in Safe Boot mode just once; then reboot as normal.
To start a Mac in Safe Boot (also known as Safe Mode), hold down the Shift key while restarting the computer. As soon as you see a horizontal progress bar, you can let go.
Be warned there are some third-party commercial programs, notable MacKeeper, that promise to scan for issues and speed up your Mac and which have been reported to cause more issues than they solve.
Never install any software from a website advertisment that offers to scan your system and fix problems – this is a classic vector for installing Trojan malware on a PC. There’s a whole lot less scam software targeting OS X than the collosal tsunami breaking over Windows users’ heads. But nonetheless watch out for unscrupulous racketeers who promise quick speed-up fixes – once you’ve opened your wallet to find the issues the software has already ‘found’.
4) Shortcuts: Keep your MacBook Pro running fast
Learn more keyboard shortcuts. Some people already swear by them, but if you don’t use any shortcuts already, learn a few and you may find it an effective way to speed up your time on a MacBook. There are too many to list here but some useful starters include:
Put MacBook to sleep: Alt-Cmd-Esc
Show/hide Dock: Alt-Cmd-D
Quickly log out: Shift-Alt-Cmd-Tab
Switch between open apps: Cmd-Tab
Switch between different windows within one app: Cmd-`
5) Animations: Keep your MacBook Pro running fast
Certain tweaks will make your Mac feel faster, even if its raw processing speed is unchanged. You can speed up the appearance of open/save dialog boxes that appear from a window’s top, for example, by typing or pasting the following into a Terminal.app window and pressing Return:
defaults write NSGlobalDomain NSWindowResizeTime 0.001
This kind of adjustment is also available in OnyX, from Parameters/General.
Switch off or remove internet plug-ins to make web pages load faster. Use a browser extension such as ClickToFlash or ClickToPlugin in Safari to prevent bloated media from loading on every page. If you want to see the inline Flash video, or the ads that run all over the site, you can click on each one manally to load.
Meanwhile, switching off ‘Animate opening applications’ from System Preferences/Dock can actually make apps launch faster.