My iMac has slowed waaaaaay down to the point where even just running a browser feels like running a marathon or locks up my machine completely.

I'd like to do a fresh install of OSX, but I've lost track of about 90% of my software keys for things like Office, the Creative Suite etc...

Is it possible to do a fresh install of OSX Mav without losing my Applications?


  • You should find the cause of the slowness, as recommended by Rilakkuma. Another excellent trick is to see if the slowness persists in a fresh user. Create a new user account in System Prefs, log out of your account, and into the new account, see if the problem is just as bad. If not, the issue is somewhere in your home folder.
    – Fyrefly
    Jul 17, 2014 at 19:40

2 Answers 2


First of all, the direct answer - yes, you can wipe data without loosing your apps. This will not give significant if any at all improvement in mac's performance, though.

To do it, just clean your home folder, but be careful not to remove the following folders:

~/Applications ~/Desktop ~/Documents ~/Downloads ~/Movies ~/Music ~/Pictures ~/Public

Also, you can remove all contents of all folders except ~/Applications to keep applications intact.

Now let's move to actions which will actually help to improve the performance. Macs get slow for a reason. What's good about OS X is that you can always see this reason.

Open ActivityMonitor application which is within Utilities folder and sort the list by "% cpu" in descending order (two clicks onto column header). Now you see which applications consume most of CPU power. Probably the violator will be there. It is up to you whether to uninstall these apps or to keep them.

Next, open Console, which is still within Utilities and look in All Logs section. If you see some king of logs dropping constantly with high speed that's another possible violator.

Next, open Disk Utility and perform Check Disk and Check/Repair permissions. Sometimes helps.

  • Photoshop seems to be a memory hog, but it's only eating up 1GB of my RAM and a chunk of my CPU. The other 3GB are also consumed by a variety of other tasks I don't recognize. This has always been a pretty snappy machine until recently, even with photoshop running. Now Chrome is also another monster. Opening it will lock up my machine for about 10 min if I have nothing else open. Jul 17, 2014 at 15:22
  • Don't worry about memory - memory should not stay empty, taking as much as possible memory to cache data is Mac OS X way, so this is perfectly fine.By the way, I've got a Mac with very similar problems recently. Problems were fixed by the following steps: 1. Removing "memory cleaner" app. 2. Repairing disk permissions.
    – Rilakkuma
    Jul 26, 2014 at 5:51

Mavericks creates a separate recovery partition on computers that can be accessed by holding Command+R while rebooting. Here's a webpage about that. If there isn't a recovery partition because you installed it this or that way, you can create one using Apple's Recovery Disk Assistant or this other method I found through Google. This partition can also be created on an external USB drive or a DVD, I think.

As for your apps, make a Time Machine backup and restore the ones you want individually. Most apps allow you to see your license key if you open the application and go under, for example Word > About Word on the menu bar (I know this worked for me with MS Word). If this doesn't work, just search for help on how to recover the license key. Any apps you installed from the app store can be downloaded again with your AppleID. Some apps will simply work if you just restore their application package and perhaps their library folders from the Time Machine backup.

I did this with a 2008 MBP running Mountain Lion that I was about to give to a friend. I was able to restore all of the apps that I wanted to restore and the computer was pretty responsive (I'm not sure if it's necessarily much more so than before; it was a while ago).

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