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I have a 2012 Macbook Pro and although it seems to be working fine, over time it has seemed to become more sluggish and less snappy / responsive. So is there any good ways ways that I can 'speed up' my Mac? - this includes stuff like: maximising youtube videos 'lag', the RAM being used up very quickly, Photoshop operations taking a long time to load and Preview struggling to open very large (10000s x 10000s px in size) photos.

My Specs - Macbook Pro 13" (Retina, Late 2012):

  • CPU: 2.5 GHz Intel Core i5
  • RAM: 8 GB 1600 MHz DDR3
  • Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 4000 1024 MB
  • OS: OS X Yosemite 10.10.4
  • SSD HD: 245/249.77 GB Used
  • Typical RAM Available with Safari + Chrome Open (with lots of tabs): 2.5 GB
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    I'll leave this open for now, but the process is very simple and the same since 2001. Measure what you wish to improve. Reboot and repeat the measurements, then figure out if you have CPU / disk / memory as the constraint for the things you want to speed up and adjust accordingly. I'll see if we have a good answer on how that works and link to it. Without more details, this likely will get closed as a duplicate. If that happens, you can always edit it to put in enough details to get a new answer if warranted. – bmike Aug 14 '15 at 23:29
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    Could you edit your question to include the current specs of your MacBook Pro? E.g. Amount of RAM, CPU, hard drive capacity and usage, are you using the VMware drive that came with the Mac or an SSD? Also worth noting that using lots of RAM is a good use of resources and seen to be a Good Thing™. – forquare Aug 14 '15 at 23:37
  • I'd usually recommend upgrading a Mac with an SSD and more RAM, but it looks like you have both of the those. – RedEagle2000 Aug 15 '15 at 5:18
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Looking at your data - your storage has to be performing horribly.

  • SSD HD: 245/249.77 GB Used

To fix this:

  1. Make a bootable backup and test it (or make sure your Time Machine or off-site backup is solid and you know how to restore / how long that will take)
  2. Make a new user account
  3. Delete your main user account and let the Users & Groups preference pane delete all your user files.
  4. Boot the mac into recovery and run disk utility to check the directory structure and most importantly - allow the unused blocks to be trimmed. (alternatively you could boot into single user mode and run fsck on the unmounted volume. That trims unused blocks equally well)

Once that is done, start up the Mac and log in to your new test account.

Collect timing statistics on what you wish to benchmark. Make sure you have repeatable numbers (maybe run 5 tests - see if you have to discard high/low values - if so, better to make 10 measurements).

Now that you have a solid benchmark of how the software performs with enough space on the drive to arrange the storage efficiently and for rapid read/write performance, you can contemplate moving back some or all of your user files from your backup.

I like to keep 50 GB or 10% of free space on my SSD - whichever is the larger amount for maximum performance. Any less than 6 GB free + size of RAM is a danger zone and means I am sacrificing serious speed to have the drive that full. Get a 64 GB RAID USB flash drive for $20, or USB SSD or spinning HDD to hold your large files and you will probably have to do nothing else to speed up your Mac.

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The only thing I can see which might help is freeing some space on your hard drive.

With the lack of free space OS X won’t be able to make use of Virtual Memory as efficiently as it should, or possibly at all. I’m not 100% sure about Yosemite, but I’ve experienced a big performance hit on previous OS X releases when the OS can’t allocate as much RAM as it wants to.

With tools like Photoshop, are you using a separate scratch disk? If not then you’ll be relying on the little internal storage available which will result in OS X having to free up RAM (rather than swapping it) to apply effects/filters/etc.

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These are the steps I would generally recommend:

  1. Backup
  2. Run Disk Utility from the Recovery Partition (press cmd+R at startup)
  3. Run Onyx
  4. Reinstall OS X (e.g. from recovery partition)
  5. Clean reinstall OS X (i.e. wipe partition, install OS X, restore backup)

After each step, see if you get better results.

In your case I think you have a very decent machine and it shouldn't really be much slower than current MacBooks, especially since you already have a SSD.

However, your SSD is too full. A SSD needs ideally about 1/4 of empty space to maintain performance. Also OSX is known to slow down on full disks. In your case step 5 may be necessary, because maybe the SSD couldn't effectively do garbage collection or TRIM. By overwriting the disk empty blocks get reinitialised. You can try activating TRIM in the future (if using a non-Apple SSD).

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I am quickly summarizing up the best way to speed up a slow mac performance:-

  1. Find resource hungry processes

  2. Close applications

  3. Prune all the startup programs

  4. Reduce transparency and animations

  5. Use a light web-browser like Google Chrome

  6. Disable FileVault disk encryption

  7. Speedup the finder

  8. Free up some extra drive space using software like Stellar Speedup Mac

  9. Reset your SMC to fix all type of errors

  10. Uninstall Unused Fonts

    Finally, reinstall Mac OS X if it is still slow.

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Your setup looks quite reasonable so there's nothing hardware to update.

You should definitely launch Onyx and do all the cleaning + do every checkbox proposed in automation.

In addition, I would install Magican, remove any redondant files and uninstall unused software.

At last, Yosemite transparency effect eats up a lot of memory and power. You can disable it in system preference > accessibility.

  • No, no, no, no - blindly telling Onyx to do everything slows down a mac and can cause worse issues. In the right hands, once you know how to measure system performance and you know your software isn't behaving properly - only then would you use a tool like magic / onyx to automate selective things. This is bad advice for new people and more like snake oil IMO. Worse, you suggest this when the OP storage is full. This will harm that system - there is no room to install anything and deleting cache files via ONYX will slow it down incredibly. – bmike Aug 15 '15 at 14:32
  • Slow down temporarily till, for instance Spotlight cache is reconstructed. Do you have an exemple of a setting that could harm the Mac? I've been doing this some time to time with a 2009 Macbook pro and it still runs like a charm with Yosemite… – Buzut Aug 15 '15 at 15:04
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    Yes - if you delete caches, the system will regenerate them. Now that the system is running low on space, it can't allocate enough free blocks and the caches are now horribly stored. SSD write amplification is well documented. If any temporary file exceeds the space that's free now the OP has two problems. I worked in Macintosh support for years and users with Onyx drove their Macs into horrible, horrible problems. As a class, they had big issues that needed deep changes to fix since they were used to catch-all solutions and sweeping problems under the rug. – bmike Aug 15 '15 at 15:11
  • Users that tended to use onyx to do one or two things usually got themselves into less trouble or no trouble at all. I'm glad it works for you, but there were classes of people that ran to "repair permissions" / "run onyx" and they weren't typically aware of what or why they did things and often wasted time or made things worse. – bmike Aug 15 '15 at 15:21
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    Thanks for the clarification. Then, Onyx isn't advised if the machine is low on disk and the user doesn't know what he's doing – Buzut Aug 15 '15 at 16:13

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