So you’re running your life on a four or five… maybe six-year-old MacBook. You restart it regularly at this point and force-quit applications almost daily to get it to run the apps you need. You’re scared the spinning-beach-ball-of-death is going to leave a ghostly screen burn-in on your display. You Googled. You found an article.
Ideally, your computer shouldn’t freeze any more than once, MAYBE twice a week. Any more than that and you either need to make some configurations, or it’s time to get a new computer. For pro-users who do a lot of high-power work on their computers— such as photo, audio, and video editing— you should get a new computer every few years. For the rest of us who basically use our Mac for storing photos, scrolling Twitter, and keeping up with the Westworld on HBO, a six-year-old computer— if properly configured— should still be a good computer.
In a friendly and fairly non-comprehensive way, I’m going to break up your computer’s slowness into two categories: Hardware and Software.
Hardware: 4 years or more— probably your problem.
When solving a computer’s drag, the first thing to look at is its hardware makeup. Basically, the actual computer parts. For starters, this will be your Memory, Storage Drive, and Processor. Since upgrading your processor is not an option, we’ll look at the first two.
Memory: The reason Chrome and Skype freeze your computer every time…
Go to the Apple Icon on the top left of your screen, and then select About This Mac. Under Overview you should see the Memory. Anything under 8GB is a must-upgrade, and for most people, I’d recommend putting down an extra few bucks and purchase 16GB of RAM to upgrade the memory. To do that, simply copy the specs of the RAM (e.g. 1600 MHz DDR3) and throw that on eBay. 16gb (2 8GB slots) will run you for about $50 and will be well worth the upgrade if you are under 8GB. If you already have 8GB, upgrading may or may not be worth it, depending on how many applications, tabs, and multitasking you do. Before doing anything, though, I, of course, recommend grabbing the model and year of your computer from the same screen you have open and searching iFixit.com to make sure you have the simple tools and knowledge of what you’re doing.
Storage Drive (AKA Hard-drive): Speed up your computer up to 10x with Flash Storage:
That’s right, you can speed your computer up by 10x by simply switching from a normal, boring Disk Drive to the newer Flash Storage Drives. They look the same on the outside, but they will make any computer fast. If you do nothing else, do this. First, verify you don’t already have one. If you do, you can go the Storage tab on About This Mac window and it’ll say that you have a Flash Storage Drive. If it doesn’t, then it’s time for an upgrade! Look at how much storage you are using now, and round up to the nearest 120GB, 240GB, 480GB, or 960GB. This can cost you around $40-$250. Go to Amazon and search for an SSD with that amount of storage. I recommend Kingston or Samsung. While on Amazon, you’ll also need to grab a $10 external Hard-Drive case for your old 2.5” SATA drive.
Once you get your new drive, you’ll want to do one of two things: Clone or Copy.
Clone: This is the process of cloning your exact old hard-drive onto the new one. All your settings and files will look the same on your computer afterward and you won’t be able to tell that anything changed other than that you may miss the old SBBOD. To do this, download Carbon Copy Cloner on your computer and, using the free trial, make a carbon clone of your current drive, onto the new SSD drive. Once complete, you’ll open up your computer and swap the two drives out. It sounds difficult, but it’s seriously not. Once again, search on iFixit for your specific computer before doing this, and DEFINITELY read the Carbon Copy Cloner How-To Guide before running the software. Some people mistakenly erase their old drive instead of copying it.
Copy: This is the method I recommend. What you’ll do here is instead of copying over your old computer line-by-line, which could bring over corrupted software or settings, you’ll install a fresh copy of the latest available operating system using a 4GB flash drive and a free software called DiskmakerX. From there you’ll only copy over the files from the old drive that you need and in terms of the software side, your Mac will be like new. On the hardware-side… well, your Mac will have a 10x faster hard-drive so that’ll be great too!
If your hard-drive is full, your computer will be slow. If you have a million applications or tabs open, your computer will be slow. If your desktop is loaded with trash… delete some stuff. If you are running free anti-virus or computer-cleaning software such as Clean My Mac or MacCleaner… you ironically only made things worse. Use AppCleaner to delete it. If you have multiple users logged in at once, your computer may also drag.
TL;DR There are many many factors that could play into Software making your computer slow. As a rule of thumb, keep your files clean and research software— especially free software— before downloading it.
There are plenty of other things you could do to make your computer faster, and maybe you just need to get a new computer; however, if your computer is salvageable, a fresh install of your latest operating system on a new SSD hard-drive topped with 16GB of RAM should make most computers go a few years more than they would otherwise!