If you find your trusty Mac computer has begun to slow down with age, there's a lot you can do to get it back in shape. Fortunately, most of these things don't require much time or any expense. Clearing the hard drive is perhaps one of the most overlooked maintenance habits. Unlike PCs, Apple computers need at least 10GB of space to keep the virtual memory running efficiently. If you have the budget, more memory and a solid state hard drive will certainly get your Mac moving quickly again.
De-Cluttering the Hard Drive
Open a new Finder window and select your hard drive's entry at the top of the left menu or under the Devices heading. Press "Command" and "I" simultaneously to open its Info window. This tells you how much space you have on the hard drive. If you have less than 10GB left, the Mac's virtual memory may be slowing you down.
Browse through your folders in the Finder and delete any applications you're certain you won't be using again. Most applications can simply be deleted. Some include an uninstall utility in the application folder.
Delete any files you don't need. Move any files you want to keep but don't need on your hard drive to an external storage disk, CD, DVDs or a USB flash drive.
Empty the trash. Deleted files aren't deleted from the hard drive until the trash is empty.
Resolving a Sudden Slowdown
Launch Activity Monitor if you notice your Mac is suddenly running slower than normal. This useful program, located in the Utilities folder, shows you all the programs and processes currently running along with how much memory and processing power they are using.
Save any work in an application that is slowing down your Mac and then close it. If the application won't close, stop it by highlighting it in the Activity Monitor and then clicking the "Stop Process" button.
Look for any updates on the developers' website for applications that begin hogging system resources. A common cause of problems in Web browsers, for example, is plugins or add-ons such as Flash that have become out of date.
Make a note of applications that do not work well together. For example, you may find that having Microsoft Word open at the same time as Firefox makes them both run slowly -- something that is easily resolved by closing one or the other or using a different browser.
Some General Housekeeping
Remove any dashboard widgets you have installed that you don't need. Each of these takes up memory, whether you use them or not. To remove these, open the Dashboard and select "Manage Widgets" and then click the "X" in the corner.
Open "Accounts" in the System Preferences window and select "Login Items." This gives you a list of all the applications that launch when you turn on your computer. Remove any that you don't need to make your Mac start a little faster each morning.
Turn off your Mac or restart it every couple of days if you're not in the habit of turning it off each night. Shutting down and starting the computer give its software a chance to perform maintenance, much of it designed to keep it running smoothly and quickly.
Launch the Disk Utility every few months and click the "Repair Disk Permissions." Occasionally, software you install may overwrite the original settings, which can sometimes slow down the computer.
Investments to Speed Up Your Mac
Find out how much memory you currently have installed on your Mac. You can do this quickly by clicking the "Apple" menu and selecting "About This Mac." The amount of memory you have is displayed.
Compare the amount of memory you have to the Apple Memory guide online to see if you can increase your memory. In almost all cases, more memory means faster performance on an older computer.
Replace your old hard drive with a solid state drive. This can be an expensive undertaking, and you may need to take it to a technician to have it done, but this can also greatly improve a Mac's performance. Unlike conventional hard drives, SSDs have no moving parts, which translates to much faster access to your data.
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