The 12 Best Ways to Speed Up a MacBook Pro

Troubleshooting a slow MacBook has never been easier

When a MacBook Pro starts to slow down, it can be tough to pin down the cause, and you may find it tempting to just drop your Mac off at the local Genius Bar for potentially costly repairs. Before you do that, here are some tips to help speed up your MacBook Pro at home with no special tools or experience.

A woman tries to speed up her MacBook Pro.
 agrobacter / iStock / Getty

What Causes a MacBook Pro to Slow Down?

As a MacBook Pro ages, a lot of things can cause it to slow down. Basic wear and tear can take a real toll over time, and there's not much you can do about that. Most issues that cause a Macbook Pro, or any MacBook, to slow down can be dealt with at home though.

Here are some of the most common things that cause a MacBook Pro to slow down:

  • Memory issues: Leaving too many apps open can cause your Mac to rely on its storage system more to maintain active apps and data. Because your storage system is slower than RAM, you might notice some slowness.
  • Lack of storage: Your MacBook requires a certain amount of free disk space to operate properly. If your storage system is close to full, the system may end up feeling sluggish.
  • Permissions problems: When the permissions to access files, folders, and apps are damaged or set incorrectly, it can lead to a whole host of problems like general system slowdown.
  • Combination problems: Over time, numerous small problems can have a snowball effect that causes your MacBook to run poorly. You may be able to fix the individual problems, but a fresh installation of macOS is sometimes just what the doctor ordered.
  • Hardware failure: This is the problem you don't want to have. Your hardware may be too old to perform well with modern apps and the latest version of macOS, or it may be damaged or worn out.

How to Fix a Slow MacBook Pro and Speed it Up

To speed up your MacBook Pro, follow these steps in order:

  1. Restart your MacBook Pro. Has it been a while since you shut down your MacBook? If you're like most users, you probably just let it go to sleep when you aren't using it.

    That's fine for the short term, but little things can pile up over the long term, and leaving your MacBook on for extended periods of time can actually cause it to slow down. When that happens, simply restarting it will get things back on track.

    A screenshot of the restart option in macOS.
  2. Close apps you aren't using. It's easy to use an app, switch to your next task, and just leave the first app open. Repeat that enough times, and the resources required by each app will eventually put a strain on your system.

    To fix this problem, simply check out your dock and look for apps that have dots under them. Right click on each app you aren't using, and select Quit. This will free up system resources for other things.

    A screenshot of closing an app on a Mac.
  3. Use Activity Monitor to identify resource hungry apps. Open the Activity Monitor app and look for apps that are using an excessive amount of system resources. If you aren't currently using any of those apps, close them. If you are, then consider looking for alternatives that use fewer resources.

    For example, you might consider switching from the memory-hungry Chrome browser to Chromium-based Edge, which has been shown to use significantly less RAM in testing.

    A screenshot of Activity Monitor.
  4. Free up storage space. If your storage drive is getting full, clearing out files you no longer need can help speed things up. You don't need to worry about defragmenting, because macOS is designed to take care of that automatically. Focus instead on shifting files to iCloud, emptying your trash, optimizing storage, and removing files and apps you no longer need.

    A screenshot of macOS disk management.
  5. Repair disk permissions. Every time you install an app on your MacBook, it comes along with a set of permissions that determines which users are allowed to access and alter specific folders and files. When these permissions become damaged over time, it can play havoc with the overall performance of your Mac.

    To fix this problem, you can use the built-in macOS Disk Utility tool to run First Aid. If there are any permissions issues, problems with your storage drive, or start up processes, First Aid will take care of them.

    A screenshot showing First Aid on macOS.
  6. Cut down on apps that launch automatically. When you start up your MacBook Pro and log in, a number of apps will typically launch automatically. If a bunch of apps you don't need all launch at this time, it will slow your system down.

    To fix this problem, all you have to do is check out your login items and remove any apps that you don't usually need right after logging in.

    A screenshot of login items on a Mac.
  7. Make sure macOS is up to date. Operating system updates typically come with performance tweaks that help your MacBook run more efficiently, so hanging on to an old version or skipping updates can lead to slowdown. To rectify this, simply perform a manual update check or set your system to check automatically.

    A screenshot of the software update check on macOS.
  8. Downgrade your macOS. On the opposite side of the coin, there are cases when a brand new version of macOS will launch with issues that cause it to perform poorly on older hardware or a specific subset of systems. When this happens, you may want to revert your update to an older version of macOS until Apple provides a fix.

    A screenshot of downgrading macOS.
  9. Prune your preference pane. When you add new apps, the developer has the option to include a preference pane for that app in your system preferences. Accumulate enough of these that you don't ever use, and your system performance may take a hit. Try removing the ones you don't use, and you may see an improvement.

    A screenshot of preference panes on macOS.
  10. Disable visual effects. The dock is a useful feature that makes it easy to navigate between different apps and check previews, but certain visual effects can cause slowdown on some older hardware.

    Try disabling magnification, animation when opening applications, and the automatically hide and show the dock features. Also set the minimize windows setting to scale effect.

    If that helps, you can try turning some of these features back on, like the option that automatically hides the dock, if they are important to you. Depending on your system, you may be able to use some and not others.

    A screenshot of Dock visual effect settings in macOS.
  11. Upgrade your MacBook Pro RAM. This is a drastic measure, but it can have a massive effect on your overall system performance. If you do any tasks like image or video editing that require a lot of memory, you will see significant improvements if you upgrade your RAM. Other users will also see improvements to speed and overall performance.

    Other Macs can also benefit from RAM upgrades, but some models don't have that option.

  12. Perform a clean install of macOS. This is your option of last resort, as it is time consuming and completely deletes everything from your boot drive. That means you have to back up all of your data first, as you'll lose anything that's still on the drive when you perform the clean installation.

    If your slowdown issue is due to software, then performing a clean installation of the operating system will fix it. If it's due to hardware, either a malfunctioning component or hardware that's simply too old for modern applications, then you may need to consider upgrading your MacBook Pro.