Mac running slow? A beginner’s guide to cleaning your machine

Help your machine maintain a high level of performance for longer by taking care of these background tasks.

There was a time when fully paid members of the Apple fan club would try and convince you that Macs never slow down or crash and that they were immune from any kind of hacking. Thankfully those wild claims aren’t thrown around as much anymore, and people are paying more attention to maintaining their Macs properly.

Just like any other high-end piece of tech, a Mac needs to be looked after to continue working at its optimum level. There are many reasons why your machine could be slowing down, from out of date applications to having too many unnecessary files cluttering it up.

The good news is that you don’t need to be a technology expert to get your MacBook, iMac or Mac Pro back up to speed. Follow this simple guide to breathe new life into your machine.

Common reasons for slow macs
Macs and PCs are often viewed as being very distinct kinds of devices, but they work in similar ways. If you fill up too much of your disk space, your machine will begin to creak and groan, resulting in noticeable slowdowns until it eventually freezes.

If every move of the mouse and click is followed by a delay, it could be that your machine no longer has enough disk space or temporary caches for your applications. There could be a number of factors contributing to a slow machine, so let’s take a look at the most common causes and how to address them.

Are you up-to-date?
First things first, you need to make sure that you are running the most up-to-date version of the Mac operating system. Each new version usually contains a range of features designed to improve the performance of your device. Using newer applications on an older version of MacOS may be causing your machine to struggle.

You can check for updates by going to the Mac App Store and clicking on the updates category. Update everything that is listed there (the updating process will automatically delete the older versions so don’t worry about disk space).

Spring cleaning your apps
You may have got a bit trigger happy with the number of apps you’ve installed. The more programmes you have on your machine, the more processing power and memory are used up in the background. Having a look at your applications list and removing any that you don’t need or use anymore can have a dramatic effect on your Mac’s performance.

Go to the desktop menu bar, click on ‘Go’ and then select ‘Applications’. If you find an app you want to get rid of, you can either drag it into the recycle bin or right click and select ‘Move to trash’. You will probably still need to delete some cache files that the app leaves behind in its wake, but we’ll get to that below.

Disk maintenance
There are certain basic maintenance functions that you should perform regularly in order to keep your disk healthy. Think of them as a health check-up that prevents system errors and memory issues. They can also be good indicators of what the cause of your performance issues might be.

You can find these functions in ‘Utilities’ after clicking ‘Go’. From here, you can select ‘Desk Utility’ and click on ‘First Aid’. This will highlight any issues and give you the option to repair them.

If you can’t perform this basic maintenance, it is a pretty good indicator that your hard drive could be about to break down. Make sure you have copies of everything you need.
Resetting SMC and PRAM
If you don’t know what SMC or PRAM stand for, don’t worry. The System Management Controller (SMC) is a chip that controls many of the physical parts of your machine, such as ports, fans and Wi-Fi. The Parameter Random Access Memory (PRAM), on the other hand, contains basic system settings such as date and time and volume.

Over time these two chips can pick up bugs that lead to a host of usability problems like ports suddenly not working or random shutdowns.

To reset your PRAM, shutdown your Mac, press the power button and hit the command, option, P and R keys at the same time and hold them until the device reboots.

To reset your SMC, the process depends on what kind of Mac you have.

If you have a MacBook with a non-removable battery, you need to follow these steps: shutdown your machine, hold down shift, control and option and press the power button.

Release the keys after 10 seconds and turn your machine back on.

If you have a MacBook with a removable battery, all you need to do is turn your machine off, remove the battery and power cord before holding the power button for five seconds. Now plug everything in and turn your machine on.

Take a look at your storage
If you want to see exactly what is taking up space on your Mac’s disk, you can check by clicking on the mac icon in the top left corner and selecting ‘Storage’.

If you click on the ‘Manage’ button, you can see some recommendations for ways to free up some more space. You can also see which apps are using the most storage by going to the ‘Applications’ section. You can also see how much space your documents, phone backups and other programmes are taking up.

Clearing caches
As we mentioned earlier, even removing apps can leave behind a few files called caches. There is no need to keep these files on your machine if you are no longer going to be using the app, and deleting them can help speed things up.

You can do this by opening up the ‘Finder’, clicking on the ‘Go To Folder’ and then entering ‘~/Library/Caches’.

Next, you’ll need to open every individual folder and empty the contents. Make sure you don’t delete the folders themselves or else you’ll cause yourself a whole host of performance issues.

All of these actions taken together should give your machine a noticeable spring in its step. But, if you don’t feel like going through this whole process again, we can provide some assistance. Our Optimisation can help your machine maintain a high level of performance for longer by taking care of these background tasks for you. From automatically tidying your cache files and freeing up disk space to increasing your battery life, we can help you keep your Mac at its full potential.

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