How to optimise your mac

If you’re wondering why your Mac is running so slow, or you’re getting the ‘spinning beach ball of doom’ a little too often. Here are some ideas to make your Mac run faster and improve its performance.

Close any apps you’re not using

It may sound obvious but the best place to start is to close down any programs that are running unused in the background. A quick way to see which apps are running is to glance at the Dock at the bottom of the screen. Programs that are running will have a dot underneath them (if you can’t see this dot, open System Preferences and click Dock and ensure there is a tick next to ‘Show indicator lights for open applications’.)

If it’s all gone haywire & you’re looking at the spinning beach ball, you can use the Apple menu to shut down the unresponsive app. To do this, click on the Apple logo in the top left corner then select the Force Quit option. In here you’ll see a list of all open apps, simply highlight the one you think is playing up and click the Force Quite button.

Find any memory zapping apps.

If you want to see which apps are using up your system resources, open the Activity Monitor in the Utilities folder. (Or press Command-space bar and start to type ‘activity’ and press enter to open it from there). Activity Monitor shows all the processes on your Mac (some of which you can’t, or shouldn’t, close) so go to the menu bar at the top of the screen and click View > Windowed Processes before you do anything.

Now, back in Activity Monitor, click on the CPU button and the “%CPU” column to list all programs by the amount of CPU they are using. You can also use this to see what Memory, Disk and Network different processes are using.

If you see one app in particular is gobbling up a lot of processing power then you can close it from here by selecting the app with the mouse and clicking on the x in the menu bar at the top of the Activity Monitor.

Find out how much space is free on your Mac?

If you’ve been a PC user in the past you may well know about ‘defragging’ it regularly. Defragging a Mac however is unnecessary because the macOS has its own built-in safeguards that prevent files from becoming fragmented in the first place. Part of your Mac’s performance however depends on having a little empty drive space.

The Mac needs to be able to write and read its swap files and contiguous free space helps here. You’ll want at least ten percent of your disk drive empty! Replacing your hard disk with a larger capacity model is one answer here if you can, but it will still fill up eventually obviously.

If you don’t have at least ten percent memory free on your hard drive you are going to need to delete some files. Your hard drive hosts a number of big files and folders. These can include email files and backups, old versions of apps that you no longer need, and photos. If you frequently upload photos to your Mac and download music you may find that you quickly use up space.

To find out how much space you have available, open the Apple menu by clicking on the Apple logo in the top left of your screen and then click on About This Mac. Choose Storage from the tabs and it will calculate how much of your storage is being used, and also show you what is using it. In newer versions of macOS you can click on ‘Manage’ to get options for optimising your storage or storing photos and videos in iCloud rather than on your Mac.

 

Photos

If you enjoy taking snaps and videos on your iPhone you may be surprised by how much of your Mac’s storage is taken up by these files. Especially if shooting in the new Apple ProRAW format.

You may think paying for iCloud Photo storage would mean you could delete photos from your Mac and they would be stored in the cloud, but unfortunately that isn’t how iCloud Photos works. Delete the photos from your Mac on and you delete them from all your devices!

If you already have iCloud Photos this might mean that a lot of space is being taken up on your Mac by photos that are stored in iCloud. Photos taken on your iPhone for example, in which case you might be better off turning off iCloud Photos sync on your Mac.

You could use another service to back up your photos in the cloud like DropBox or Google Drive, or you may prefer not to use a cloud service at all. Another way would be to set up a separate storage device and move these photos & or videos currently stored on your Mac there.

Music

Another big folder could well be your Music library, especially if you have movies and TV shows as well as music. As with Photos, you could free up disk space by offloading your music files to an external drive. (Your music library will need to be relinked via the preferences/advanced tab however).

Alternatively, you could subscribe to iTunes Match for £21.99 a year. It moves all your music into the cloud so you can delete it from your Mac, and access it on any of your devices. There’s always music streaming services as well like Spotify where you don’t have to physically store any music at all and you can simply stream ‘The Best of Gregorian Chant Music’. Or, whatever else you ay like listening too, we assume everyone is listening to ‘The Best of Gregorian Chant Music’ however.

No? Ok, er anyway…

Put out the trash

Free up space on your Mac by simply emptying the Trash bin if this hasn’t been done in a long time. Simply right click the icon & hit ‘Empty bin’.

You should also delete any items you’re unlikely to need from the Downloads folder. To access this, press Command-space bar and type ‘downloads’. You can see just how many files add up here and you should delete anything you no longer need.

Make sure your software is up to date

You should regularly perform software updates for macOS and all the apps installed on your Mac. As far as the OS is concerned it will normally tell you with an alert that one is needed. If you’re running Mojave, Catalina or Big Sur for example click on Software Update and wait while your Mac checks for updates. If there is one to install, do so. If you are running an older version macOS, click on the Apple icon in the Menu bar and choose Software Update.

To check if your apps need updating however, you have to go the App Store and click on Updates.

Check for Malware

There was a time when viruses were a thing that only really affected PC’s.

There was a time when most of us had never heard of a virus called Covid-19 (daydreams out of the window longingly).

Mac malware has risen steadily in the last few years, and today’s Macs are also plagued by adware, scareware and other potentially unwanted programs. Hence, it’s a good idea to check your Mac for any malware, adware, spyware, and other threats before they can infect your machine and ruin your day as well.

There’s a multitude of different companies offering software that will be more than capable for most peoples needs & maybe we should do a blog piece at a later date on the pros and cons of these. For now though we’ve used this and found it performs pretty well for most peoples needs.

Install more RAM

First up, we’re not talking about a male sheep here!

RAM = Random Access Memory (Not the album by French musical pop combo, Daft Punk).

Before you go ahead and spend money on extra RAM however, it’s worth trying to figure out how much of a difference it will really make.

A way to do this is to fire up Activity Monitor (it’s in Applications / Utilities), click on the Memory tab and keep an eye on the memory pressure gauge at the bottom of the window. If it’s green for the most part you’re probably not going to see a huge difference by upgrading. If it turns red regularly, it’s a good idea to get some more RAM. We stock plenty of options here if you feel you need some more and our customer services team can help with your individual needs.

The biggest hurdle will be whether it is possible to upgrade the RAM in your Mac, it’s easy to add more RAM to an iMac, but many modern Macs cannot be user upgraded at all.

Restart your Mac

There used to be an argument for leaving a computer on as much as possible to ease the wear and tear of restarting the hard drive, but the restart argument rests on more than just this.

The main advantage of sleeping your Mac is to be able to continue where you left off quickly. Back in the days of slow hard drives starting up your Mac again might have been something you did while making a cup of tea or taking a shower even, but modern Macs are much faster to start up.

If you always leave your Mac running at night that means caches don’t get flushed and applications that hog RAM don’t let it go however. Restarting your Mac clears the caches and shuts down applications. The result is a Mac that’s refreshed and should perform better so it’s probably a good idea to do a full restart at least once a week.

If all else fails….

You can reinstall MacOS.

Although it’s not a job to be undertaken lightly, if you’ve bought your Mac from us, our customer services team are happy to talk you through the process

Be warned, you’ll need to delete your entire boot drive. But it will clear all the files that have collected in the system Library and the user Libraries over time and may be causing the Mac to run slowly.

Make a complete back up of your hard drive before you start so you can copy documents, images, music and anything else you need back once you’ve installed the new OS.