Tips for Optimizing MacOS Performance

In this article, we’ll explore tips for improving MacOS performance and speed. A fast, responsive Mac is key for productivity and enjoyment. While Macs are known for being reliable machines, their performance can degrade over time. Fortunately, there are many ways to optimize your Mac OS to keep it running as smoothly and quickly as possible.

Update to the Latest macOS Version

Keeping your Mac’s operating system up-to-date is one of the easiest and most effective ways to maintain speed and performance. Apple continuously releases updates to macOS that include bug fixes, security patches, and performance improvements.

Major updates like macOS Ventura and macOS Monterey can significantly boost speed and efficiency. Updating provides under-the-hood enhancements to maximize CPU, memory, and storage usage. The latest macOS versions also optimize battery life on MacBooks.

It’s simple to update to the current macOS. Go to System Preferences > Software Update and click “Upgrade Now” if an update is available. Maintaining an up-to-date OS is key for experiencing the fastest speeds possible on a Mac.

Clear Out Clutter and Unneeded Files

One of the most common reasons for a slow Mac is a cluttered hard drive. As storage fills up, the system has a harder time accessing and reading files quickly.

Go through your files and remove anything you no longer need. Download and delete old applications, clear out downloads and caches, and empty the trash. You can utilize the built-in Storage Management tool to identify large files and folders that may be candidates for deletion.

Archiving older files you don’t regularly access but still want to keep can also help optimize disk space usage. Services like iCloud, Dropbox, and Google Drive allow you to move files to the cloud while still having access when needed.

A good goal is to maintain at least 20% free space on your Mac’s hard drive. Having breathing room allows the system to manage memory more efficiently and access data quicker.

Use Activity Monitor to Quit Resource-Intensive Apps

Applications running in the background, even when idle, consume system resources. This can slow down your Mac as it tries to juggle multiple processes.

Activity Monitor is a handy built-in utility for viewing what apps and processes are using up CPU, memory, and energy. Sort the Activity Monitor by CPU or Memory to identify problematic apps.

Quitting apps you aren’t currently using can help your Mac run faster. Also, consider disabling or removing any unnecessary startup items using the Users & Groups System Preferences. Reducing background processes gives your system more power for the tasks you are actively working on.

Check for Malware and Viruses

While less common on Macs compared to Windows PCs, malware and viruses can still find their way onto your system, often negatively impacting performance. Run antivirus software regularly to check for and remove any malicious software.

Many third party antivirus apps offer Mac protection including Bitdefender Virus Scanner and Malwarebytes. You can also use the native ClamXAV app or run the Malware Removal Tool from Malwarebytes. Scan your whole system to remove any lurking threats.

Beyond running antivirus scans, avoid downloading random programs from the internet, don’t open attachments from unknown senders, and exercise caution when visiting suspicious websites. Practicing good security hygiene is crucial for keeping your Mac malware-free.

Restart Your Mac

It may seem simple, but one of the best ways to quickly boost a sluggish Mac is to restart it. Doing this clears out system memory, ends unresponsive applications, and generally gives your Mac a fresh start. Make restarting a regular habit, like once per week, to clear any accumulated clutter bogging down performance.

Also consider fully powering down rather than just sleeping the Mac if it hasn’t been restarted in a while. Starting up after a powered down state does more complete memory clearing than waking from a sleep. Quickly power down by holding the power button, then power back on to get that speed lift.


Resetting the system management controller (SMC) and parameter RAM (PRAM) can help solve many performance issues. The SMC controls power and hardware functions like fans and temperature while PRAM stores certain settings in memory.

Resetting these systems clears any potential stuck processes causing problems. To reset on an Intel Mac, follow these steps:


  • Shut down Mac
  • Unplug power cable for 15 seconds
  • Plug cable back in and restart


  • Shut down Mac
  • Power on and immediately hold CMD+P+R
  • Listen for startup chime to sound a second time
  • Let go after second chime

For Apple silicon Macs, the process is:


  • Power on while holding power button
  • Continue holding for 10 seconds
  • Release button


  • Power on and immediately hold CMD + R + P
  • Keep holding through startup sound and Apple logo appearing/disappearing
  • Let go after second startup sound

After resetting NVRAM and SMC, your Mac should exhibit a nice speed boost.

Upgrade RAM

Insufficient RAM (memory) is a common source of laggy performance. Upgrading your Mac’s memory is one of the most impactful hardware improvements you can make, especially if you multitask and use memory-intensive programs.

On older Macs, you can replace the RAM modules yourself for a DIY upgrade. Newer models have memory integrated into the system boards, requiring a professional installation.

Check how much RAM your system currently has in the Apple menu > About This Mac. Comparing that to your Mac model’s max supported RAM will tell you if an upgrade is warranted. More RAM allows your system to access data faster since it doesn’t have to swap to slower disk-based virtual memory.

Solid State Drives Are Game Changers

Replacing a traditional hard disk drive (HDD) with a solid state drive (SSD) can dramatically speed up a Mac’s performance. SSDs have no moving parts, allowing data to be accessed instantly. They can run 3-4 times faster than the best HDDs.

First, use Disk Utility or a third party app to clone your existing drive onto an external hard drive. Then physically install a new SSD in your Mac. Recent Macs come with SSDs preinstalled but you can replace an older rotating drive. Finally, clone your files from the external drive backup onto the new SSD.

Besides faster read/write times, SSDs use less energy and generate less heat. The impact on real-world speed improvements is massive. Boot times, app launches, file transfers – everything becomes more responsive.

Clean Up and Consolidate Your Desktop

A cluttered desktop covered in numerous files and folders can bog down your Mac’s performance, especially when trying to quickly save or access files. Make sure to regularly organize your desktop by:

  • Removing unused files and folders
  • Creating folders to consolidate similar items
  • Using Stacks to neatly group folders and files
  • Keeping just your most important current project files on the desktop
  • Moving lesser used items to your Documents folder or external storage

Try to resist the tendency to leave downloaded items and other files piled on the desktop. Keep it clean to maximize efficiency when working with your most essential tasks and projects. A tidy desktop is a key component for optimizing Mac speed.

Stop Animations and Visual Effects

Enabling reduces animations and visual effects provides a way to improve performance by freeing up system resources being used for those graphical flourishes.

Go to System Preferences > Accessibility > Display. Here you can check “Reduce motion” to minimize UI animations. Disable transparency effects and dark mode for further optimizations.

Toning down these visuals eliminates some of the drain on your CPU and GPU for smoother computing. If you want to keep some animations, try selectively disabling the most intensive ones only. The performance boost might be small, but worth it for older Macs.

Use Activity Monitor to Identify Resource Hogs

Activity Monitor is an invaluable built-in tool for monitoring system processes and pinpointing which apps and services are using up your Mac’s resources. Sort by CPU, Memory, or Energy to see processes ranked by usage.

Focus on the top apps and look for any outliers using an inordinate amount of resources. They may be stuck, glitched out, or just overly bloated. Quit and disable unnecessary services to maximize efficiency.

Activity Monitor also provides metrics on total memory usage, disk activity, network transfers, CPU load, and more. Use these stats to analyze areas of your system being taxed and target upgrades or process culls accordingly.

Stop Unneeded Startup Programs

Apps and services configured to launch when your Mac starts up can get out of control, weighing down system performance. Use the Users & Groups System Preferences to disable unnecessary startup programs.

Click the Login Items tab and remove any apps you don’t need running in the background all the time. This limits the load on your Mac from having to initialize and run these resource-hogging processes every time you boot it up.

target=”_blank”>CleanMyMac X</a> to scan and disable unneeded login items and scheduled tasks. Prune these performance drains to start with a cleaner slate each time you power on your Mac.

Optimize Energy Saving Settings

Balancing performance vs battery life is a key aspect of optimizing a MacBook’s efficiency. Focus on speed when plugged into power and energy saving when on battery.

In System Preferences > Battery, toggle “Low power mode” on to limit background activity and visual effects when unplugged. Disable it when plugged in to unlock full performance.

You can create custom battery profiles for different levels of energy usage depending on your needs. A balanced profile saves power while still providing good speed for everyday tasks. But maximum performance is ideal when powered and doing demanding work.

Use Energy Saver settings to optimize sleep schedules and screen brightness as well. Take time to tailor power options for your usage patterns and workflow for the best experience.

Maximize Disk Space Usage

Maintaining plenty of free disk space allows your Mac to manage memory more efficiently, leading to faster performance. Use the Disk Utility “Recommendations” section for optimization tips.

Besides deleting unused apps and files as covered earlier, Disk Utility can identify dependencies like iOS files and Xcode assets to remove. You can also store seldom used files on external hard drives or cloud services to free up internal drive space.

Large video and photo files tend to hog storage. Consider uploading these assets to cloud platforms while keeping smaller working versions locally. Neatly organizing your files keeps your Mac’s disk working at optimal efficiency for the best performance.

Update and Optimize All Your Apps

Just like updating macOS itself, keeping all your apps fully updated is key for speed and efficiency. App developers continuously release patches to fix bugs and improve performance and stability in the background.

Check for app updates manually or enable automatic checks in System Preferences. Also uninstall old legacy apps you no longer need. An optimized app portfolio eliminates unnecessary drain.

Look for leaner app alternatives if certain software is using excessive resources. For example, Microsoft Office hogs storage – consider Apple’s free iWork suite instead. Avoid shady apps and stick to vetted software from reliable developers to protect your Mac’s security and performance.

Upgrade Your Hardware

While some optimizations like cleaning up files and disabling visual effects can provide a quick speed boost, upgrading hardware is the best long term solution if your Mac is more than a few years old.

As mentioned, switching to an SSD from a traditional hard drive offers one of the biggest speed gains. Additionally, upgrading RAM allows your system to access data faster and improves multitasking efficiency.

Consider maxing out the RAM capacity if you run intensive creative or development apps. If your CPU, GPU, or Wi-Fi/Bluetooth chips are outdated, replacing those components can also help, though may require professional installation.

Research upgrade options for your specific Mac model and invest in the hardware bumps that will benefit your workflow. This future proofs your machine to stay fast for years to come.

Reset Your Mac to Factory Settings

If your Mac is exhibiting system-wide lag despite trying the usual tips, a more aggressive option is fully resetting it to factory default settings. This wipes your Mac clean, removing any accumulated clutter bogging down performance.

IMPORTANT: Fully back up your Mac before resetting – all data will be erased!

On Intel Macs, restart into Recovery Mode by holding CMD+R during boot. For M1 Macs hold the power button during startup until Recovery options appear. From there choose “Erase All Content and Settings” to do a factory reset.

Once your Mac reinstalls a clean macOS, migrate your files back from your backup. With the reset slate, the system is primed for optimal speed going forward. Only use this nuclear option if you’ve exhausted all other performance fixes.

Monitor Activity with Third Party Utilities

Utilities like CleanMyMac X provide additional insights and tools for fine tuning your Mac’s performance beyond what Activity Monitor offers. CleanMyMac’s dashboard highlights CPU, RAM, and storage usage stats.

You can scan for large hidden junk files or unnecessary app data to clean. Automatic monitoring alerts you to problems like high CPU usage or storage space running low proactively. Advanced users can tweak settings for maximum control.

Third party utilities fill in blindspots that Apple’s built-in tools lack. Their diagnostics allow you to pinpoint performance bottlenecks and fix them for a faster, more optimized MacOS experience.

Upgrade to Newer Mac Hardware

If your current Mac is getting relatively old, upgrading to a completely new machine can provide the biggest speed and performance gain. Each new generation of Macs brings faster processors, better efficiency, and more modern hardware.

Review Apple’s current Mac lineup to find the right replacement for your needs and budget. Highlights include:

  • MacBook Air – Thin, light, portable
  • 13″ MacBook Pro – Powerful, good balance of performance in a compact size
  • 16″ MacBook Pro – Top-end specs, perfect for demanding creative work
  • Mac mini – Affordable desktop
  • 27″ iMac – Gorgeous 5K Retina display
  • Mac Studio – Most powerful Mac ever!

Sell or trade in your old Mac to offset the cost of a new model. While not cheap, upgrading to the latest hardware gives you the best foundation for blazing fast performance for years before slowdowns start to creep in.


Keeping your Mac running at peak efficiency takes some work, but thanks to the tips outlined in this article, the process is very manageable. Stay on top of macOS updates, organize your files, quit inactive apps, and invest in strategic hardware upgrades.

Monitor performance metrics with Activity Monitor and Clean My Mac X to catch any emerging problems early. With proper care and maintenance, your Mac will deliver speedy and responsive performance for many years of productive computing.

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