Seven Terminal Tricks to Speed Up Your Mac

Increase performance by eliminating eye candy

Man using Mactop

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Many Mac users want more speed out of their Macs and there are many ways to go about increasing the performance of your Mac, including:

Not all of these options are applicable for every Mac model, but even if you can’t upgrade your Mac's RAM, and upgrading your internal storage requires surgery to gain access, there are still steps you can take to improve overall performance without having to spend money on updates.

Of all the items included in the list above, the first thing you should do is to 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 some space.

Terminal Tricks to Enhance Performance

One of the ways to gain a bit of performance out of your Mac is to reduce the amount of superficial eye candy the Mac OS includes. 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. Nevertheless, 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.

My point is that while taken individually, these Terminal tricks may not have your Mac burning rubber, in combination, they can keep your Mac from skidding to a halt under heavy workloads. 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.

  1. Launch Terminal, located at /Applications/Utilities.

Disable Window Animations

As we mentioned above, window animations require a certain amount of graphics and processing prowess to perform their tasks, which delivers no real benefit other than to provide a bit of eye candy.

  1. To turn the window opening animations off, enter the following at the Terminal prompt: defaults write NSGlobalDomain

  2. NSAutomaticWindowAnimationsEnabled -bool false

  3. Press enter or return.

  4. To restore the animations, enter:

    defaults write NSGlobalDomain NSAutomaticWindowAnimationsEnabled -bool true

  5. Press enter or return.

Another form of window animation you can disable occurs when you resize a window or select open or save a file within an app.

  1. The smooth detail of the window resizing is impressive, but it can be sped up with the following command:

    defaults write NSGlobalDomain NSWindowResizeTime -float 0.001

  2. Press enter or return.

  3. To restore the animation, enter:

    defaults write NSGlobalDomain NSWindowResizeTime -float 0.2

  4. Press enter or return.

  5. Quick Look window animation can be suppressed with this command:

    defaults write -g QLPanelAnimationDuration -float 0

  6. Press enter or return.

  7. To restore Quick Look window animation, enter:

    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.

  1. You can change that delay so the Dock appears right away:

    defaults write autohide-time-modifier -float 0

  2. Press enter or return.

  3. Enter Killall Dock at the Terminal prompt.

  4. Press enter or return.

  5. To restore the delay, enter:

    defaults delete autohide-time-modifier

  6. Press enter or return.

  7. Enter Killall Dock at the Terminal prompt.

  8. Press enter or return.

  9. Launching an app from the Dock includes a bit of animation that can be suppressed:

    defaults write launchanim -bool false

  10. Press enter or return.

  11. To restore the animation, enter:

    defaults write launchanim -bool true

  12. Press enter or return.

Time Machine

This tip is a one-time tweak to speed up the initial Time Machine backup. The 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.