Macbook Pro 2009 with 500 GB HDD and 4G RAM running Yosemite. Been slow last couple of years or so. Got 30 GB left out of 500 GB hard drive. Opening an app can take minutes and dozens of icon bounces. I shutdown and restart quite often, and run CleanMyMac once a month or so. Those actions only temporarily help before the beachball comes back again. Would replacing my HDD with a new one speed laptop up like new? I though of replacing with SSD but ilthose are still quite expensive. Thank you


Apps I run almost everyday: Safari Word Excel Mail Transmission

Apps I sometimes run (maybe once a month or less): Photoshop Lightroom

Screenshot of current Activity Monitor. Took a dozen or so seconds just to wake up from sleep. Sometimes even takes half a minute to a minute. Just now Safari took 50 bounces to open. enter image description here

CPU tab WHILE Safari is bouncing

enter image description here

CPU tab AFTER Safari opens

enter image description here

  • 1
    What makes you thing your performance lags are HDD-related?
    – nohillside
    Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 15:17
  • Took it to a specialized (unathorized) Apple repair shop that suggested so. He cleaned the insides of laptop, which was extremely dirty. Since then it has been slightly better but not much. I dont run heavy apps. I only run Safari, MS office, Mail app. That's about it. Looking at that I don't think it's processor or RAM. Any other ideas besides HDD?
    – rabbid
    Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 15:22
  • Some screenshots from Activity Monitor would be helpful. Also how much RAM does your MBP have?
    – nohillside
    Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 15:28
  • I have 4 GB @patrix. Added screenshot. Thank you
    – rabbid
    Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 15:40
  • I've added two more screenshots @patrix. Although I can't say the screenshot WHILE Safari is bouncing is accurate because the activity changes by the second.
    – rabbid
    Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 16:10

3 Answers 3


Your key problem isn't the performance of your disk. Your key problem is the available space on your internal disk.

30 GB out 500 GB isn't enough for your kernel to breath. This is 6% of available free space. Everytime your kernel is pageing out a page of main memory, it will waste too much time to find tiny available holes within this 30 GB.

Here is my advice:

  1. "don't buy anything": this was a lie, please forgive me :). If you don't have a free disk available of at least 500 GB, buy one
  2. Clean all your cache files.
  3. Make archives of your old files (put them on a verified external disk) stay on step 3 until you have at least 20% free space available (the limit to never reach on a disk is 10% free, at this limit you will feel any search to find a free block)

    If you don't have a free disk available to manage your archives, buy one (anyway you clearly need one).

    if (step 3 = OK) then

    1. Make a full backup of your internal disk on a 500 GB external disk (Carbon Copy Cloner is the easiest way to make it a full bootable image format).
    2. Boot your Mac from this external disk. Verify everything is running correctly.
    3. Fire Disk Utility and format completly your internal disk. If this step fail, goto FAIL:.
    4. Make the reverse operation of step 4.: bring back all your data from your external disk to your internal one
    5. boot your Mac from this clean internal disk
    6. fire all your applications together, and confirm everything is working fine



    1. If it is impossible to reach this 20% of free space, only then decide to either double your internal disk capacity or buy you a new Mac. Considering the age of your Mac, I'd recommand this last option.


To be honest, this will cost you a good day of work.

  • Good advice. I would add "or get an external drive and move not-so-often-used data to it. Don't forget to extend your backup strategy accordingly" to step 4.
    – nohillside
    Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 17:56
  • Thanks for the answer, and I like the structure you use to present it :) yikes 20% huh... That pretty much means I've lost 100GB of my space.. Ok I will try cleaning up and see if that helps. Thansk a lot
    – rabbid
    Commented Feb 24, 2015 at 0:33
  • Question: what good does cloning, formatting, and re-importing the clone does? Wouldn't that re-import all the "junk" back as well? Based on another answer and comment below this is what is going to happen
    – rabbid
    Commented Feb 24, 2015 at 0:35
  • I don't see any proof that you have "junk" on your Mac. Cloning will permit you to start on a freshly formatted disk you are sure of. Personnally, when I do this sort of cleaning, I choose one pass to zero within Disk Utility to really write something on my disk and take advantage of this cleaning to detect hidden bad blocks. This will 2 added hours :(.
    – dan
    Commented Feb 24, 2015 at 9:53
  • Thanks @danielAzuelos. I have my machine "Cloned" on Time Machine, and I think I can make a separate boot disk on a USB. So far I have deleted about 50GB of files and currently have 91 GB left. I believe I am seeing some improvements, especially during Wake Up from Sleep. Still not entirely snappy, but I'll take all I can get. Thanks a lot!
    – rabbid
    Commented Feb 27, 2015 at 1:30

I would recommend backing up all of your data to an external hard drive or online and reinstalling OS X from scratch before buying an entirely new hard drive. You're doing a good job on routine maintenance, but after a certain point those only become stop-gap measures for an operating system that has only been upgraded on top of other upgrades (and so on), assuming you have not reinstalled OS X before.

If you're dead-set on buying a new hard drive, I highly recommend investing in an SSD like this. If money is an issue, then I would recommend upgrading to a faster standard hard drive (7,200 RPM) like this.

I hope this helps!

  • Thanks for the quick reply. I do use Time Machine regularly. What would reinstalling OSX do exactly?
    – rabbid
    Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 15:25
  • Reinstalling OS X is the faster way of fixing the myriad small problems that accumulate over the life of an operating system rather than attempting to troubleshoot and single out each error that slows down your machine, especially the ones that occur from upgrading operating systems. Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 15:30
  • If I do that and re-import my data from Time Machine, would the errors that previously accumulated be re-imported as well?
    – rabbid
    Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 15:33
  • I'm unfortunately not as familiar with TimeMachine, but as long as you're only importing documents, videos, music, apps, etc. (as opposed to the entire OS), you should be okay! Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 15:34
  • 3
    With the exception of the default excludes and any manually set, Time Machine backs up the entire Macintosh HD. So initially you should only restore items like documents, photos, music, etc. In other words do not do a full restore using Time Machine as you'd likely be in the same situation you are now. Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 15:51

I did the following for my Powerbook13" : Full RAM, 256GB SSD, step back to 10.8 if still possible.

I did it for my MacMini core2 duo as well (quite tricky to change the HDD).

It has been a rebirth for both...

  • I would advise against installing an older OS, of possible. If your hadware can support it, run the latest OS to ensure you're supported with software updates as long as possible. Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 21:25
  • Mac OS X 10.10 crached my iMac (not to mention the graphic outlook is ugly) and is much more cpu and ram intensive. I would NOT recommend it for mac with "old" CPU
    – Francois
    Commented Feb 24, 2015 at 18:17
  • Just because you had issues doesn't mean it wouldn't work fine for OP's needs. Commented Feb 25, 2015 at 16:33

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