Use Terminal to Speed up Your Mac

Increase performance by eliminating eye candy

Man using Mactop

 boyarkinamarina / iStock

Who wouldn't want to get as much speed and performance out of their computer as possible? Mac users can optimize their devices in a number of ways, including:

Not all of these options are applicable to every Mac, but even if you cannot upgrade your Mac's RAM, there are steps you can take to improve overall performance without having to spend money on updates.

Of all the items listed above, the first thing you should do is ensure that you have an excess of free space on your Mac's startup drive. If you can't achieve a reasonable amount of free space by removing unneeded or unwanted apps, documents, and data, then you may want to consider moving your user folder to an external drive to free up space.

Terminal Tricks to Enhance Performance

One common way to improve performance is to reduce the amount of superficial eye candy included with macOS. One example is the use of animation to shrink an open window down to fit in the Dock. This type of animation doesn’t take a great deal of processing power when compared to, for example, applying a complex filter in Photoshop. But if your Mac is busy trying to render new images in your favorite image editing app while you're working in your favorite database app, then adding the resources needed to animate a window could be enough to slow your Mac down to a crawl.

While taken individually, these Terminal tricks may not show drastic improvement in speed and performance, but in combination they do a great deal. The end effect is that your Mac will be able to complete tasks faster, with less load on the processor cores.

We'll be using Terminal for all of these tricks, and while none of the commands on their own should cause any problems, it's always wise to make sure you have a current backup before proceeding. If you're ready, let's get started.

The Terminal app can be found in /Applications/Utilities/.

Disable Window Animations

As mentioned, window animations require a certain amount of graphics and processing power, which delivers no real benefit other than a bit of eye candy. Here's how to turn window opening animations off:

Any of these Terminal commands can be manually typed into the app or copied and pasted from this page.

  1. Enter the following command in the Terminal prompt:

    defaults write NSGlobalDomain NSAutomaticWindowAnimationsEnabled -bool false
  2. Press enter or return on your keyboard.

  3. To restore the animations, enter the following command:

    defaults write NSGlobalDomain NSAutomaticWindowAnimationsEnabled -bool true
  4. Press enter or return on your keyboard.

Another window animation occurs when you resize a window and when you select to Open or Save a file within an app. Here's how to disable them:

  1. Enter the following command in Terminal:

    defaults write NSGlobalDomain NSWindowResizeTime -float 0.001
  2. Press enter or return on your keyboard.

  3. To restore the animation, enter the following:

    defaults write NSGlobalDomain NSWindowResizeTime -float 0.2
  4. Press enter or return on your keyboard.

  5. You can turn off the Quick Look window animation with this command:

    defaults write -g QLPanelAnimationDuration -float 0
  6. Press enter or return.

  7. Restore the Quick Look window animation by entering the following:

    defaults delete -g QLPanelAnimationDuration
  8. Press enter or return, and then restart your Mac.

Dock Improvements

If you like to hide your Dock, you've probably noticed that there's a delay between when you move your cursor to the Dock area and when the Dock appears. You can change that delay so that the Dock appears right away:

  1. Enter the following command in Terminal:

    defaults write com.apple.dock autohide-time-modifier -float 0
  2. Press enter or return.

  3. Enter the following Terminal prompt:

    Killall Dock
  4. Press enter or return.

  5. To restore the delay, enter:

    defaults delete com.apple.dock autohide-time-modifier
  6. Press enter or return.

  7. Launching an app from the Dock presents an animation that can be turned off with the following command:

    defaults write com.apple.dock launchanim -bool false
  8. Press enter or return.

  9. To restore the animation, enter:

    defaults write com.apple.dock launchanim -bool true
  10. Press enter or return.

Time Machine

This tip is a one-time tweak to speed up the initial Time Machine backup. MacOS throttles Time Machine by assigning it a low CPU priority. This is actually pretty helpful since it prevents Time Machine from grabbing CPU resources and slowing down your Mac's overall performance.

There's one exception, though. When you perform an initial Time Machine backup, the backup size can be so large that it will take a long time to complete, since its CPU priority is throttled.

  1. If you would like to get the initial Time Machine backup completed in a timelier manner, you can change the throttle setting by entering the following sysctl command in Terminal:

    sudo sysctl debug.lowpri_throttle_enabled=0
  2. Enter your administrator password.

  3. Start your Time Machine backup.

  4. You can revert to the default throttled setting by either restarting your Mac or entering the following at the Terminal prompt:

    sudo sysctl debug.lowpri_throttle_enabled=1
  5. Enter your administrator password.