My computer is pretty snappy, and the UI is typically silky-smooth. However, for some reason, on virtually every Mac OS X computer I've used, opening the Applications folder takes an inordinate (>5 s) amount of time before any icons are shown in the window. Does anyone here know:

  1. What the heck is the computer doing?
  2. How to speed this up?
  • 1
    Great question. Two datapoints that may or may not be of interest: 1) PathFinder always seems snappy (but because OS X won't let you really replace Finder, I always find the experience of trying to switch to PathFinder frustrating); 2) that slowdown went away when I moved to an SSD. #2 leads me to believe Finder is doing some sort of heavy-duty "read" when opening /Applications/. – TJ Luoma Sep 28 '11 at 4:50

OS X applications are actually special folders which contain numerous smaller files, resources, binaries, localization settings, etc. When the Finder opens a folder with a lot of apps, it needs to do a lot more than it would to open a folder with the same number of ordinary documents.

At the very least, the Finder needs to check for the localized name of each app and load each app's icon. It will also need to check whether it can launch the app, checking if it's Intel, PPC, Universal, or Classic, possibly checking if it's 64-bit or 32-bit, too.

It's possible the Finder is gathering other info as well, possibly checking the folder structure of each app to verify it's actually an app, or checking its info.plist for file type associations, etc. Lion may also verify that each app is listed in Launchpad.

Of course, the more apps you have, the longer this process will take. I would guess that, unless your Macs are starved for RAM, the only way to make this process faster is to startup from an SSD instead of a conventional HD. Or perhaps delete all unneeded apps (that were not installed by OS X).

Also, the first time after each login, the Applications and Utilities folders may be slightly less responsive initially, even after the apps have shown up, because the Finder also needs to examine each app to calculate its total file size.


Your experiencing a slow down both by limited ram (as icons are being saved to ram, space must first be cleared out from the inactive memory) and a slow (relatively speaking) hard drive read speed. The easiest fix would be a simple RAM upgrade in the case of constantly having 100% memory usage.

  • I'm running a 16 core machine with 8 GB RAM, running no other significant processes. Activity Monitor shows multiple GB available and no cores fully engaged before the folder is opened. I can't imagine this is the issue. – eykanal Sep 27 '11 at 13:31
  • O :/ try deleting the .DS_Store cache in that directory – Alexander - Reinstate Monica Sep 27 '11 at 17:14

When you open the Applications folder OS X "calculates" the sizes of each application by default. If you have a bunch of apps then the time it takes to do this process is longer; you will also notice it when scrolling through your applications initially upon a reboot/login.

How to speed it up? You can try:

  1. Finder > View Options > Calculate All Sizes [un-check]
  2. Switching to View as List instead of Icons can help also.
  • :) I already have both of those options set. – eykanal Sep 27 '11 at 17:25
  • Open [Terminal] ➞ [cd /applications] ➞ [ls] how long does that take? – l'L'l Sep 27 '11 at 18:51
  • Good comment, it seems to take a "normal" amount of time, i.e. as would be expected from a folder with that many items. Doing ls /Applications or ls /Library are both similar in timing. The delay is almost certainly a Finder issue. – eykanal Sep 27 '11 at 19:30
  • I would think so as well; and you say this happens on other machines also? A few other things you could try is rebuilding launch services, spotlight index, clearing users/system caches, and updating the locate database. If that doesn't help any, the only other thing I could recommend is checking your console to see if anything is causing issues. – l'L'l Sep 27 '11 at 22:50

I have only a few applications that I use regularly, so I put all the others in a sub-folder called "Rarely used apps". When I open the Applications folder, Finder doesn't have to slog through the contents of the sub-folder.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .