Apple Macs are built with high-end components that make them fast and powerful. But, everyday use can cause these premium devices to slow down over time. Here’s our seven best tips for making your MacBook, iMac, Mac Mini or Mac Pro ship-shape once more.

Method 1: Update macOS

The place to start is with the operating system, as it’s possible that a bug may have been introduced in the previous update. Downloading the newest version could immediately bring an end to the performance woes. To do this, open System Preferences then select Software Update and see if there are any new iterations of the OS available.

how to speed up Mac: Update macOS

If there is, click the Update Now button and your Mac will install the new version and reboot.

Method 2: Check you have enough free storage

A guaranteed way to cause performance issues is to fill up your internal storage. Macs, like all PCs, work best when there is at least 10GB of space free or ten percent of total storage if possible. To see how much free space there is on your device, click on the Apple symbol in the top left corner of the screen then select About This Mac option from the drop-down menu.

How to speed up Mac: About This Mac

In the window that appears, select the Storage tab and you’ll be presented with a breakdown of how much space is currently available on your Mac. Clicking the Manage Storage button gives you a few options for reducing the clutter, plus in the left-hand column you’ll see a list of the various types of files (applications, documents, etc) and how much space each is taking up.

How to speed up Mac: Manage Storage

Either select one of the optimisation methods offered in the main pane or click on the appropriate file type and see which particular apps or files are excessively large. Delete any that you no longer need. It’s best to run a complete backup before doing this, so read our Best Mac backup software 2020 roundup for an app that can help you with this task.

Method 3: Limit programs that launch at startup

When you first start your Mac, certain apps will automatically launch as well. This can be a drain on resources, especially if these are not programs you need running in the background. To thin these out, go to System Preferences > Users & Groups then select the Login Items tab that is positioned just above your Profile logo.

How to speed up Mac : Startup

Now you’ll see all the apps that automatically load at startup. If any are ones you don’t need or want, highlight it then click the minus symbol beneath the list. Now, restart your Mac and if all goes well you should see a performance increase.

Method 4: Close unused apps

One thing that could be adding a drag factor to your Mac is apps opened up in the background that you’re not using but have forgotten to close. A quick way to see what you have running at any given time is to bring up your Dock (the bar of icons located along the bottom of the display) then look for any that have a dot underneath them.

How to speed up Mac: Close Apps  

Those that have one present are using resources, so be sure to shut them down by either right-clicking or two-finger clicking them to open up the contextual menu then selecting the Quit option.

Method 5: Use Activity Monitor to find the worst culprits

If none of these solutions bestow the results you’d hoped for, macOS has a built-in tool that can show you which apps are taking up the most resources. It’s called Activity Monitor and can be found by clicking on Finder (the icon with a face on a split blue background) then navigating to Applications > Utilities and double-clicking Activity Monitor.    

How to speed up Mac : Activity Monitor  

There are a range of tabs along the top of the window, each of which shows you how the current running processes are affecting areas of the system, including CPU, Memory, Energy, Disk, and Network. All are useful, but we’d recommend checking the CPU section.

If an app is taking an inordinate amount of processing power, it’s probably best to shut it down by highlighting it and then clicking the icon resembling a circle with a cross inside that you’ll find in the top left corner.

You can always relaunch programs to see if it was just a glitch or if the app itself has a problem and needs updating.       

Method 6: Update Apps

To ensure that apps on your Mac aren’t suffering from bugs or known issues, it’s a good idea to keep them on the latest version. This is done by opening the App Store and selecting the Updates tabs from the left-hand column.

If you find any updates available be sure to install them. While not necessary, you can always reboot your Mac to be sure that the apps are running the updated version.

How to speed up Mac: Update Apps

Method 7: Use an optimisation app

To keep your Mac in tip-top shape, we recommend considering an optimisation program that can regularly do much of what’s listed above, as well as a few other things that make your computer as sprightly as possible. 

Our current favourite is CleanMyMac X (£29.95/$38 p/a) which not only shows you which items are causing issues on your system but can also delete duplicate files, remove junk, uninstall programs, and generally give your computer’s performance a bit of spit and polish.

You'll find more recommendations of Mac optimisation apps on our sister site. Macworld.

How to speed up Mac: CleanMyMac

If you’re also having issues with your mobile device, read How to speed up iPhone for ways to keep it in optimum shape.