Speeding up Apple computers

People occasionally me about their slow Apple computers (iMac, MacBook, etc), but to be honest I’ve never had much success in making any noticeable improvement. Certainly not in the “Wow that’s a lot better” way that I do with Windows computers.

For those of you willing to have a go yourself, I’ve listed the main things that can be tried, or at least those which I think are sensible. The tips I’ve listed were derived from various sources on the internet, I’ve just gathered them into one place, in an easy-to-read format.
I would advise they you have a backup of your data before trying anything here. The subject of taking backups is too large to cover here though, sorry. Perhaps I’ll get around to writing about it one day…

Start with the easy things…
1. Do a reboot (from the Apple menu in the top left hand corner)
2. Make sure all your software is updated. There’s an Update section in the Apple Play app, and system updates show in the System Preferences / Settings app
3. I have read (although I don’t know how much to believe it) that having LOTS of items on your desktop can slow things down. It’s worth a try of course, just move all of your desktop files into, say, the Documents folder, or wherever they “should” go (photos into the photos folder, documents into the documents folder, etc). You should close all running apps (see below!) before doing this, just in case any of the files are open. If you’re a bit paranoid like me then you might like to copy the files first (rather than moving them), and when you’re happy that they are all in the right place(s) you can go back to the desktop and delete everything. There’s nothing worse than trying to move a large amount of files and finding that the process fails half way through.

Closing apps completely
When you hit the red cross in the corner to close an app, your Mac doesn’t entirely close down the application, it just leaves it hanging around in the background, and while it’s doing this it’s using resources.
On the keyboard, press the CMD key and q together will completely quit an application (and it’s quicker than clicking the cross using the mouse!)

Look for apps which start by themselves
As an example, if say you have some SatNav software installed, there’s probably a part of that software which starts automatically when you log in, it’s job is to spring into life and launch the main part of the software when your satnav device gets plugged in. If you seldom do that, and are happy to ‘manually’ launch the software (yeah, by clicking on it!) when you need to, then the automatic startup item is merely slowing things down, and you can remove it.
Open “System Preferences”, then click Users & Groups.
Click on the Login Items tab to see which apps are started automatically when you first log on.
If you see something which you recognise, and you’re confident that you know what it does, you might want to stop it automatically starting itself when you log on.
Highlight an item in the list that you don’t want, and click on the Delete from Login Items button at the bottom of the list (it’s a minus (-) sign)

Disk check
Your mac will work better if it can access it’s own files easily, and if the ‘permissions’ of folders are set correctly. There’s a utility which will check all this for you, and it will correct any problems it finds.
Launch the Disk Utility app. Select the correct hard-drive on the left hand side of the window. Click the First Aid tab. Click on Verify Disk

Fit a solid-state disk drive (SSD)
This one is a bit challenging as it usually requires taking the machine to pieces, which itself can be a nightmare on some models (Some iMacs have expensive and delicate screens that have to be heated up and un-glued for example!)
Having said that, if your computer currently has a ‘mechanical’ hard-disk (one that whirrs and spins) then upgrading to a SSD is probably the best speed-up you can give your Mac (or indeed any computer).
Usually a job for a specialist like me, it involves opening up your mac, using disk-cloning software, and possibly a few other ‘gotchas’ such as installing fan-control software for those machines that ‘read’ their internal temperature from the hard disk, something which may not happen when using an SSD.