17 Ways to Speed up an Old Mac and Make It Feel New Again

How to Speed up an Old Mac Credit: hurricanehank / Shutterstock
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If you’re like me, you’re still rocking a computer that’s been around for a while. I currently use a mid-2012 MacBook Pro (13-inch). I purchased one of the top-end configurations, and it’s been an excellent computer, but computers get old fast. A couple of years ago, I decided to do some upgrades, and it really paid off. I’ve found that after making these changes, it’s able to handle most tasks as well as—and sometimes better than— a lot of newer machines.

In this article, I’ll demonstrate a few things you can do to speed up your old computer as well. Of course, there are a couple of things to keep in mind. First, my laptop wasn’t cheap when I purchased it, so depending on your specs, your mileage may vary.

Second, some computers don’t allow you to upgrade the internal components. I recommend checking out EveryMac to see what upgrades you apply to your computer. This is a great site for specs and information about all Apple products. It also offers current values, in case you decide to sell your computer.

Before proceeding, keep in mind that older devices are generally outside of warranty and some upgrades may make them ineligible for manufacturer repair. In other words, upgrade at your own risk and do your research beforehand.

Install a Solid State Drive (SSD)

Depending on your computer, you might be using a hard drive. My MacBook Pro’s hard drive was the 750 GB model. A few years back, I ordered a 512 GB Samsung SSD to replace it. The increase in speed was almost instant. Unlike a traditional hard disk drive (HDD), an SSD (solid-state drive) has no moving parts and can read and write data extremely fast. As such, load times are reduced and data can be accessed quicker, contributing to an overall more responsive experience.

Other benefits of not having a physical drive include less damage to a drive if it’s bumped or dropped, and they are generally less power-hungry. Before upgrading your storage drive, find out what kind of connector you have, and make sure the drive is supported. Remember, not all Macs can be upgraded. Additionally, you may want to invest in a dual-drive bay solution that will allow you to copy the data from your existing storage drive to the new SSD.

Upgrade Your RAM

Upgrading the RAM in your machine allows you to have more programs and processes running in the background. Additionally, more applications and data can be cached or suspended. This can lead to faster launch times and keep your computer from getting sluggish when you are running a lot of applications simultaneously.

Before upgrading RAM, make sure the RAM is upgradable in your device. Look up the maximum RAM limit and what RAM your computer supports. Keep in mind, some people have reported being able to upgrade to a higher amount of memory than what is officially reported by Apple.

Delete Unused Apps and Files

Having more free space on your storage drive can result in a quicker computer. Outdated software may be running in the background or making it harder for your computer to index and/or cache data.

If you don’t need a program or file, delete it. Applications like Daisy Disk can help you visualize the data on your storage disk and easily delete items you don’t need.

Update Your Firmware

This one is a bit of a double-edged sword. New operating systems are generally designed for newer devices and may take up more resources and really push the potential of your current hardware. That being said, new firmware may be required to use certain features and apps; and, it generally offers fixes for errors and security patches.

It is best practice to update to the latest firmware, just make sure it won’t affect any of your most commonly-used apps first.

Consider a Fresh Install of macOS

Formatting your computer and restoring it to factory defaults is a great way to remove old data or malware that could be slowing down your computer. But before wiping your computer, remember to backup your data using a cloud service or external storage disk.

Keep Your Apps Up-to-Date

In addition to keeping your operating system fresh and up-to-date, make sure your apps are also running the latest supported version. This can help patch bugs and security holes and keep your software running smoothly. Also, some apps may not run on your device without an update.

Uninstall Apps and Games Your Computer Isn’t Equipped to Handle

Always check the recommended and minimum requirements for a program. If your computer isn’t capable of running it or if it’s below the recommended technical specifications, maybe consider a different application. Using apps on a device that isn’t capable of running them will take resources away from your other apps and will result in a poor user experience.

Think Before You Click

This is a big one. Firewalls and security features won’t do anything if the user doesn’t use best security practices. Clicking on links and buttons generally means you (the user) decided it was safe. Therefore, you’re telling your computer that you trust what you clicked.

Many modern operating systems, including macOS, screen for common issues and will try to warn you if possible. Before clicking “Allow,” make sure you know what permissions you are giving to an app.

Find a Healthy Balance Between Convenience and Security

Security is a great thing in today’s digital and online world. But, some security measures may make certain apps unusable or even bog down your system. One example is Apple’s FileVault.

FileVault is a disk security feature built into macOS. It encrypts the storage drive when the computer is powered off. While this increases security, it can take a while to decrypt the storage drive. SDDs are much quicker than HDDs, so if you’re using an SSD you probably can leave this on.

Pay Attention to Apps that Utilize Large Amounts of Resources

Using the Activity Monitor app you can see which apps hog the most processing or battery power. Apps that are using a lot of power (especially when not in use) could indicate an issue, software that is overexerting your machine, or even malware.

Keep Your Device Clean (Inside and Out)

It’s a good idea to keep your computer free of dust. This will allow the internal fans to spin more freely and allow more airflow to cool the internals of your device. Processing will be slower as hardware begins to overheat.

It’s also a good idea to keep your apps and desktop organized. Free up space by deleting unwanted files or apps. This can help allow you to identify any apps or files that don’t belong.

Replace Old Batteries

Over time, batteries become old and lose charge. Old batteries can “out gas” and cause physical damage to your machine if they leak or expand. Consider having your battery replaced as your computer ages.

One thing to note: Apple can replace batteries on some older machines, but they will require you to ship the computer to them or leave it at an Apple Store. If you’re brave enough to try the replacement yourself, you can find information on the internet. Keep in mind, not all batteries are created equally.

Replace Old or Broken Parts

Check your computer for broken or missing parts, dented bodywork, or other issues and keep your computer in tip-top shape. Some parts are fairly cheap to replace. Keeping your computer looking like new can be just as important as keeping it running like new.

Give Your Computer a Break

Shut down your computer time-to-time and let it get some much-needed rest. If your computer’s fan is often running high—especially if it’s a laptop and the lid is closed—it may be a good idea to shut it down. On laptops, if the device lets off a lot of heat while closed, it can damage the display or other parts.

Reset PRAM and SMC

Sometimes your computer just needs a nudge in the right direction. Resetting the PRAM and/or SMC can be a good option. Visit Apple’s support page to learn more about resetting your PRAM, NVRAM, or SMC.

Uninstall Adobe Flash

Adobe Flash is on its deathbed. For many of us, it’s been dead for years. If you still need it, see if you can find an alternative or consider getting a new computer. Flash (and certain web extensions) slow your device down significantly. It hogs power and other resources, draining your battery quickly and providing a sloth-like experience.

Be Thoughtful of How You Treat It

When it comes down to it, just take care of your computer. Think about what you install and how you use your device. Taking care of a computer is a sure-fire way to get it to last longer.

There are a number of ways to increase your computer’s performance and get the most out of your Mac. Of course, sometimes, you hit the limit. You may find that you need a newer device for certain tasks, especially if you’re working in a professional field.

When your Mac starts to reach the point where it can no longer be upgraded, you can always find a way to repurpose it as a secondary device. When replacing your Mac, consider checking out Apple’s refurbished page. This is a great way to get a small discount on your next Mac or any other Apple device.

If you have suggestions for speeding up your old Mac, drop them in the comments or let us know on social media. Thanks for reading!

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