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The Background:

I am a web developer & graphic designer, both professionally and as a student. This means that in a typical day, I have at least 2 Adobe Creative Suite apps open (Illustrator and Photoshop, usually also with XD and/or InDesign), Brackets, Terminal with my SASS Compiler and LocalHost running, and Chrome in a couple windows, one window running whatever website I'm working on and the corresponding Stack Overflow questions, and one window with my school work (and more Stack Overflow). This is, undeniably, a heavy load.

I have a Late 2013 MacBook Pro. Here are my specs:

Macbook Specs

I also have CleanMyMac3, aka my Best Friend™️.

The Problem:

This thing is constantly freezing. I mean, it's bad. The other night, I was trying to clean/organize my files, and every. time. I'd try to change the Finder window to a new folder, I'd be waiting with the spinning circle of death for a minute or two. This particular time, I also wasn't on a heavy workload. I had Chrome, Brackets, and the usual Outlook and Messages open. Checked CleanMyMac: once it loaded (a few minutes later), I had a little under 300MB of RAM. Looked on Activity Monitor, my CPU was running at 90% capacity (idle between 10% and 15%). Remember, I had a moderate to light workload on it. To fix it, usually I can just restart. This has been happening for months now: randomly, my computer would freeze and go into this mega-slow state, but restarting and cleaning up my startup disk fixed it for a month or two. Within the past month, however, it's been getting so much worse: freezing more and more often, and living for shorter and shorter amounts of time after the restart and clean. Today, I've restarted twice because of it freezing. I'm ready to throw this laptop out of the window.

What I've tried so far:

I've looked everywhere, and here's what I've found:

  1. Restart the laptop: this fixes it for a little while, not permanent
  2. Clean the hard drive: also a temporary fix
  3. Check Activity Monitor: nothing threw a red flag at me -- Brackets Helper and Chrome were both up there on the list, but other than that Finder and Kernal were the only two others (and expected ones) -- I was only set off by the low amounts of CPU and RAM I have
  4. Reset NVRAM (command + option + p + r on boot): did nothing
  5. Reset SMC (command + option + shift on boot): did nothing
  6. Check hard drive with SMART Utility: passed, but everything was listed as either "old-age" or "pre-fail"

Please keep in mind that I have to put this heavy of a workload on my laptop. It's what I do. I cannot just stop running these "heavy applications" (as many other websites have suggested). I'm of course having some other troubles, that come with age (I bought this back in mid-2014): Bluetooth barely works (a problem many MacBook users have, as I've found), the hard drive is too small, it's running a little hot, there aren't any USB-C ports, and it's overall taken quite the beating and is falling behind. Is there anything I can do to try and save my poor MacBook, or is it time to retire and find something new? I'm looking to upgrade, anyways, as I know my workload is growing too much for my poor baby. I just want to try and milk this guy out as long as he'll last.

--UPDATE-- I've also downloaded some system monitoring software, and it's telling me that my CPU Proximity sensor is running around 140 degrees.

  • 1
    In terms of troubleshooting, it would be helpful if you added a screenshot of the RAM page in activity monitor. In terms of what you can try, if you want to invest in a new, larger internal SSD, it may be a good investment. However, if you're planning on upgrading soon anyway, it might bot be worth it (see following comment). – NoahL Mar 5 '17 at 0:15
  • If you're already looking to upgrade, think hard about upgrading. On one hand it's VERY expensive. On the other hand, it's not like you won't use the higher-end specs. It definitely looks like you could use more storage space (whether that's internal or external is a different debate). Depending on how banged up your computer is, it could still have a decent amount of resale value - try to find similar ones on eBay and see what they're listed as. – NoahL Mar 5 '17 at 0:15
  • First thing I would do is a Time Machine backup and a clean install. Personally, I wouldn't do Sierra, go with El Capitan. I would also install Disk Drill (Free) to monitor your drive health. – Allan Mar 5 '17 at 1:43
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That's definitely a big load but it doesn't sound seem like it's too much for those specs. It's tough to troubleshoot something like this with a single answer but my guess is that there's an issue with your SSD.

Here's my reasoning:

  1. Temporarily fixed up on Restart.
  2. Temporarily fixed when startup disk is cleaned.
  3. You're running with only 10.7% free space.

Possible solutions:

  1. Verify that TRIM is running for your SDD. It should be if it's a stock drive but if it was updated, it probably isn't running.

    • In a terminal:

      system_profiler SPSerialATADataType | grep 'TRIM'
      
    • Looking for "TRIM Support: Yes" but if it's no, the free version of Trim Enabler can do this: https://cindori.org/trimenabler/

  2. Try running the built-in maintenance scripts. These should be running on a schedule already but you can manually run them in a terminal.

    sudo periodic daily weekly monthly
    
  3. You might consider upgrading the SSD before investing in a new system. macsales.com is great for matching up specific hardware id's to appropriate components. I'm not endorsing that site. It's just a starting point.

Hope that helps. Good luck.

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[This answer not final until this sentence removed]

As you have no doubt found, troubleshooting is often a process of elimination and requires patience.

My initial thoughts are that your issue involves the SSD (you don't have a lot of free space for starters). However, the other thing I noticed is what you haven't yet tried as part of your troubleshooting.

It would be good to start your MBP in Safe Mode to see if your Mac runs any better during Safe Mode or afterwards when booted normally.

To start in Safe Mode:

  1. Fully shut down your Mac
  2. Restart your Mac
  3. Immediately press the Shift key and keep it down
  4. Let go of the Shift key when you see the login window (NOTE: If you have FileVault enabled you may need to log in twice).
  5. Take a note of what happens (i.e. was the issue still there, did it work ok longer than usual, anything else different, etc)
  6. Exit Safe Mode by restarting your Mac as normal
  7. Take a note of whether it works any better now that you've booted normally

Once you've tried these steps let me know how you went and we'll go from there.

Reset SMC and NVRAM

It's not clear from your question exactly how you reset the SMC, so just to be thorough it'd be good for you to follow the steps below on how to reset it for your particular MBP.

Before doing this though I'd like you to reset your NVRAM again as follows:

  1. Shut down your machine. Yes, a full shut down, not just logging out.
  2. Press the power button and then press the commandoptionpr keys. You have to make sure you press these keys before the gray screen appears or it won’t work.
  3. Hold those keys down until your Mac reboots again and you here the startup chime.
  4. Let go of the keys and let your Mac reboot normally.

Note: When you log back in you may need to readjust some of your system preferences (e.g. speaker volume, screen resolution, startup disk selection, time zone information, etc).

After booting up, follow these steps to reset the SMC on your particular MBP:

  1. Shut down your MBP
  2. Keep the MagSafe adapter (power cable) plugged in.
  3. Press at the same time shiftoptioncontrol (on the left side of the keyboard) and the power button
  4. Let go
  5. Turn your computer back on with the power button.

Let me know what change in behaviour you notice (if any) upon rebooting.

  • I will try Safe Mode the next time it gets bogged down to see if that helps. – arsilhavy Mar 5 '17 at 18:58
  • I felt it getting slow so I decided to boot Safe Mode. Some problems (in order of occurrence): took forever to log in for the first time (I have FileVault), keyboard backlighting flickered, screen started flickering, got lots of lines through the screen, then, during the boot (after login), it was very slow: I couldn't open up Chrome because of speed, and because of the lag, I had this feeling of impending graphics card failure. My MacBook also got super hot -- too hot to hold. After rebooting, I don't see any major changes: still a little slow, but not as bad as during or before the boot. – arsilhavy Mar 5 '17 at 23:34
  • Another update: was going to cry tears of joy for Finder running quickly again, but then it suddenly force restart (without me doing anything). I'm convinced my laptop is haunted – arsilhavy Mar 5 '17 at 23:44
  • Sorry, should have mentioned that starting up in Safe Mode will take some time to do. I've updated my answer for the next steps (to reset the NVRAM and SMC). I know you have already done this, but want to be thorough and ensure you used the correct procedure for your particular MBP. Also, as an aside, do you have access to another Mac? If so, what? If not, what about an external bootable drive? And, if not, what about just an external drive? Finally, do you have a Time Machine backup and/or some other backup of your data? (Just thinking ahead re next steps) – Monomeeth Mar 6 '17 at 0:35
  • Are we worried about not being enough space on the SSD in case of high amounts of compressed RAM? I always have less than 20G free space, but don't have any problems with freezing and such. If I use too much RAM (I have 16G), it will compress a huge chunk of it and I get a warning saying there's no space left on the SSD. But that's about it. – sodiumnitrate Mar 6 '17 at 1:57
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Others have given good advise about diagnostics and maintenance but i will reiterate the important points -- You have a combination of to little free space left on your ssd and to little memory for the processes you are running.

Put the maximum amount of memory in your machine that it will hold and clear some space on you ssd or get bigger one.

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