'Why is my Mac so slow?': 6 ways to speed up your Mac computer when its performance is lagging

Hollis Johnson/Business InsiderIf your Mac computer is slowing to a crawl, there are several ways you could try to bring it up to speed again.

It comes on slowly, reducing page load times and overall responsiveness over weeks or even months, until, eventually, you notice it: Your Mac isn’t running as fast as it used to, and now it’s enough of a problem that it’s time to fix it.

But how can you do that?

We’ve put together six potential reasons why your Mac is running slowly, and troubleshooting tips to help speed it back up.

Assuming your issue isn’t a poor Wi-Fi connection, another network issue, or a serious problem with your computer, here are a few common reasons your Mac might be experiencing slowed performance:

1. You put off updates for too long

Devon Delfino/Business InsiderWhen your Mac asks you to update, you should make the time to do it.

We all do it – the option to update appears, and we put it off. Unfortunately, doing so for a long period of time means your computer may become slower. And even if it feels like it’s never a convenient time to stop what you’re doing and update, it’s necessary.

Solution: Go to your App Store to check for updates on your Mac and approve those (or if you’re not in a huge rush, be sure to install the update the next time your computer alerts you.) You can also check for system updates by going to the Apple icon in the top left corner and select “About this Mac” and then clicking “Check for updates.”

2. The hard-drive is almost full

Devon Delfino/Business InsiderA full hard drive on your Mac can cause a cascade of problems.

Do you have a ton of files, like documents or photos, saved directly to your hard drive? Slow performance may mean you’re about to reach the storage limit on your Mac.

Solution: Check your hard drive space by clicking the the Apple icon in the top-left corner and then selecting “About this Mac.” Next, toggle over to the “Storage” section and wait for it to calculate how much space you’re using. If it’s almost full, click the “Manage” button in the top-right corner.

This will open a new window with many tools for clearing out space on your hard drive, as well as readings on how much space every application, document, and more is taking up.

You should also consider using an external hard drive to clear out some space. Plus, it ensures that your stuff is protected even if your computer glitches or dies.

3. You haven’t restarted your Mac in a long time (and when you do, you have a bunch of tabs open)

Devon Delfino/Business InsiderYou should restart your computer occasionally to allow the OS to refresh.

Your Mac isn’t meant to operate all day everyday without breaks. When’s the last time you restarted it? If it’s been more than a few weeks, it may be time.

Solution: Restart your computer. To do so, click the Apple icon in the top-left corner of the screen and hit “Restart” – it’s also a good idea to untick the box that gives you the option to open your current open apps and browser tabs for a quicker restart, provided you have everything saved.

4. There are too many apps running at once

Devon Delfino/Business InsiderTry to quit out of programs you’re not using.

In a perfect world, we’d browse the internet while listening to Spotify and working on documents and scanning for viruses and video conferencing with friends. In reality, however, that much activity may be the reason your computer isn’t as quick as it used to be.

Solutions: Close apps and tabs that you aren’t using. Open apps appear in the bottom toolbar of your screen with a small dot just below the app’s icon. To close those out, simply right-click the app and then select “Quit.”

Alternatively, if you want to use a triage approach, your Mac’s Activity Monitor (which you can find via the Finder) is a good way to figure out what’s using the most memory or CPU. But keep in mind that some of the things there should be left alone, so if you aren’t sure what it is, it’s probably best to keep it open.

5. You restarted your Mac with a ton of apps open

Devon Delfino/Business InsiderYou can pick and choose which programs will start automatically when you turn on your Mac — fewer is better.

Again, too many apps running at once can slow you down, and if your computer is set up to auto-launch a bunch of apps, restarting isn’t going to help you.

Solution: Set your Mac up to restart with fewer apps. Go to the Apple icon in the upper left corner of your screen and select “System Preferences,” then choose “Users and Groups.” Next, toggle over to “Login Items” and check the “hide” box next to the apps you don’t want to launch each time you turn on your Mac or restart. You may have to go into the settings of individual apps and disable the auto-launch with restart function.

6. The cache is overloaded

Devon Delfino/Business InsiderClearing your cache will log you out of some sites, but can speed up your computer in a pinch.

Your cache consists of temporary files gathered from the sites you visit. It lets you browse the internet faster, but those files can pile up and slow down your Mac as a whole.

Solution: Clear out your cache. Don’t worry if you’ve never done this before: It can be quickly and easily accomplished when you know where to go. For info on how to do it, check out our article, “How to clear the cache on your Mac computer to make it run more efficiently.”

There are a ton of reasons your Mac might slow down. And whether you believe in planned obsolescence or not, the fact is that computers don’t last forever. Eventually you will have to replace parts on your old Mac, and even the computer itself.

If the above options don’t work for you, it’s a good idea to get a professional to look it over (especially if your Mac is still within the AppleCare warranty), and it may even be time to consider buying a new computer. Either way, backing up your Mac is a good place to start.

Related coverage from How To Do Everything: Tech:

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.