I have a new 2019 iMac with 8Gb of memory and a HDD (not an SSD). Yes it's the lowest-end 8Gb iMac from last year.

With no apps running, nothing in the apps to start on login, with a new virgin account created yesterday, with the latest MacOS installed, opening system preferences - just opening it - can take over 30 seconds. Every time. With a beachball wait cursor.

This is not just a little slow. This is unbelievably slow. This is slower than my 10 year old MacBook Pro.

I've run every test on it that I can think of. Checked for processes that are using CPU. Checked for free memory.

Does anyone have a clue?

Could it be misconfigured somehow that makes it truly unusable?


If this performance is because of the hard disk then you are saying that Apple is selling a configuration of iMac (in early 2020) that is hopelessly misconfigured. It's as if they were selling a computer with a 128Meg disk or with 1Gig of memory. Can that actually be?

  • HD, bad move, sorry. I didn't think they made them with HDs any more. I thought I'd got one of the last ones for my folks a few years ago - feels like 5 minutes to boot up, crawls along like there's something wrong with it. There isn't, it's just got an HD, not even a Fusion :\ (I can repro the effect by booting my Mac Pro from an HD instead of its regular SSD)
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Sep 30, 2020 at 15:41
  • If it's macOS Catalina 10.15.7, see apple.stackexchange.com/questions/182059/…
    – lhf
    Commented Sep 30, 2020 at 16:31
  • Note that you can confirm this. Plug a USB-C/Thunderbolt SSD into the iMac, install the OS on it and boot from that (or image it from the HD to the SSD). Depending on the interface in the drive container and the SSD itself it should be anywhere from "cool, it's faster!" to "OMG it's like warp Speed!" Commented Sep 30, 2020 at 16:42
  • "No apps running" is not exactly accurate. Did you install any 3rd party apps or drivers? The software may be loading background processes that's consuming resources. However, you will also want to check your drive for errors. A faulty or failing drive can cause symptoms such as this. Take a look at DiskDrill The diagnostic tools are free to use.
    – Allan
    Commented Oct 7, 2020 at 18:47
  • The computer has nothing extra attached to it. Also I was on the phone with Apple and they had me run various diagnostics.
    – pitosalas
    Commented Oct 7, 2020 at 22:17

2 Answers 2


You are on the correct track to make specific benchmarks and time them.

So if you have “open system preferences” you can repeat it. If it takes 30 seconds to open 5 times in a row, you could run some tests to see if it’s network or disk or CPU that’s constraining it.

If it speeds up the second and third times, then it’s a different issue.

Can you reproduce this in a new user account on the Mac with no startup items?

Either way, using the first two Activity Monitor functions to end high CPU use processes and see overall energy use should out any apps causing a slowdown. Also, do you need more ram?

  • Thanks. I already did create a brand new login account with nothing else and it has that 30 seconds to open. The machine has 8Gig and shows plenty of free space.
    – pitosalas
    Commented Oct 7, 2020 at 18:31
  • This answer. I know you said it has 8GB of RAM, but the question is how much of it is available? What does Activity Monitor say?
    – Allan
    Commented Oct 7, 2020 at 18:44

It is slow because you are using an HDD. It is probably still running the initial spotlight index job as well, delaying everything more.

  • Mine is iMac 2013 (late) 27” with 32GB RAM and 1TB HDD. I can relate that performance is worse in Catalina that Sierra, i was told to upgrade storage to SSD to increase performance. Maybe your machine is struggling because of storage.
    – elulcao
    Commented Oct 1, 2020 at 3:26
  • Sorry @John Keates that's too easy. A brand new (less than 6 month old) computer from Apple should not take 30 seconds for an elementary operation. Spotlight has finished long ago as I've had this machine for ... 3-6 months. So either Apple is knowingly selling a configuration which is fatally flawed or there is a hardware problem.
    – pitosalas
    Commented Oct 7, 2020 at 18:34
  • @pitosalas there is no such thing as 'too easy', a hard drive is slow and has always been slow and will always be slow. Even if you buy a new one right now. Your perception might be that the age of a system, the brand name or the price tag should influence that, but it doesn't. Hard drives are slow, period. Spotlight indexing wouldn't help a lot either, but even without that, it will be slow. Think 30 seconds start times for a browser, and multi-minute boot times. Commented Oct 7, 2020 at 18:36

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