why is my mac running so slow?

UPDATE: Please also see How To Troubleshoot Your Mac with FT2.

There can be various reasons why your Mac starts running slowly. Some of these can be app-related – especially if you are making multiple changes in programs that have autosave enabled. Other problems could be due to running processor-heavy apps that need more RAM than you’ve presently got. Before you dash off to Crucial to check out your RAM upgrade options, here’s a few basics to run through:

1. Applications > Utilities > Disk Utility.app
How old is your HDD drive? Click on the top-most hard disk icon in the left column and check the S.M.A.R.T status at the bottom right of the window. Does it say ‘verified’? If it says anything else, back up all your important data and start thinking about buying a new hard disk. If the S.M.A.R.T status is verified, have a look at how much space you’ve got left. A nearly-full disk will slow you down. Generally, it is recommended that you have at least 10% free, but I’d work on getting that closer to 25% for optimum performance. If you have less than that, think about what can be archived onto a backup disk (or two..), such as photos, movies, and even your songs.

2. Applications > Utilities > Activity Monitor.app
What’s using all the CPU time? Is it something you need to be running? Select any obviously unnecessary resource hogs and hit ‘Quit Process’.

3.  > System Preferences > Users & Groups
How many apps are in your ‘Login Items’? Remove anything that is not absolutely necessary at start up time.

4. Have you downloaded MacKeeper or other Anti-virus software?
If so, remove it.

5. How recently did you upgrade to Lion and are you using Time Machine?
If you’ve only recently upgraded in the last day or so, or turned your Mac off not long after upgrading, perhaps Spotlight is still indexing (indicated by a dot in the middle of the ‘spyglass’, top right of your screen) or TM is still updating (indicated by the TM indicator spinning in the menubar). Either or these will eventually finish and return your system to (about) normal, but you should let your system run (leaving it in ‘Sleep’ mode will do the trick) for at least 24 hours if you’ve only just upgraded.

6. Did you repair system permissions after upgrading?
Even though the Lion installer should fix system permissions after an upgrade, if you then added any other 3-rd party apps or restore something from Time Machine, repairing permissions is always a good idea. Doing so is harmless, and rules out permissions as a possible factor of poor performance. Do Step 4 here. Unless any are indicted in red type, don’t panic about the permissions errors that come up in the ‘details’ window – many of these can be safely ignored.

7. Clear out your caches
Caches, in general, help to speed your computer up. However, if you’re a heavy internet browser and you’ve never cleared your caches or your history (I mean like in several months), then this is worth doing from time to time. You can clean out Internet caches in Safari or Firefox by choosing Safari > Empty Cache or Firefox > Tools > Clear Recent History > Everything. Your computer has other caches that can usefully be cleared out periodically, too: use OnyX to do so.

8. Is the system slow with just one particular program or while trying to open some particular window?
A couple of things could be going on here. If its your browser, try killing some of those extensions/add-ons – every one of them slows you down just that little bit, and many slow you down a lot. Another possibility is a corrupt ‘plist’ or preference file associated with a particular app. Curing this is a bit more tricky and requires knowing your way around the hidden Library folder. If you think this is your problem, leave a comment below to get further instructions.

featured picture Speedo ©2011 Phil Stokes

Related Posts:
why is my mac running so hot?
FastTasks – download the free OS X utility app from Applehelpwriter


About philastokes

Independent Software Developer, Technical Writer and Researcher at SentinelOne. Explaining the unexplainable with images, video and text. Scripting anything imaginable in AppleScript, Bash, Python and Swift.

Posted on December 5, 2011, in OS X Lion, Performance, Safari 5.1, Snow Leopard, Spotlight, Time Machine and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 74 Comments.

  1. jillian fetters

    Every time I try to even get to the utilities , the spinning wheel pops up and it takes like 5 min. For the log to pop up and then does the same thing again when I click the the activity log. And so on and so on. HeLP!!!!! Please

    • Start your mac in Safe Mode, log in to your normal account, go to :

      System Preferences > Users & Groups (or ‘Accounts’ if you’re on 10.6) > Login Items.

      Highlight everything in the Login Items list, and press the ‘-‘ button below it (do not choose the checkboxes or ‘Hide’).

      Shutdown the mac and restart normally.

  2. I have a 13″ Snow Leopard from either 2011 or 2010, I run Windows 7 Home Premium on a Bootcamp partition. Somehow, a malware program found it’s way into my Windows, and I promptly did a system restore to before that program was installed. Everything was fine. But then, a week or two later, my computer was starting to act strange. I couldn’t play videos I had on my hard drive. Everything else was alright, but no videos. I thought the videos might be broken, so I tried others. No luck. I downloaded a different media player, still didn’t work. I was mildly annoyed so I left it alone, figuring it will sort itself out.

    Then, the next day, everything was slow. Starting up, opening apps, everything. I was very worried so I manually backed up everything I have from both the Mac and the Windows, as the external HD I have is Win/Mac and I can’t use Time Machine. I shut down the computer when the last file was copied and I let it alone for 24 hours. After starting up again, it seemed to be better. No videos still.

    Just a week ago, audio files stopped working too. No media player will play them without beach balling and freezing up the computer, not even pressing the play icon in the finder, forcing me to crash the computer. Just the past couple days, I haven’t been able to copy anything without the file being broken or the finder freezing up. Not from USB device to computer or vice versa, not from SD card to computer or vice versa. I don’t have firewire but I’m sure it would be the same.

    Apps are now slow to start up as well, and the long story short is that it’s extremely challenging to get my computer to read anything on the disk like media or apps, and slow just browsing through files and folders. Getting on the internet and doing anything online is as normal as ever. I can watch videos, listen to music, browse.

    My own guess is that the hard drive is failing, possibly from too many crashes? Reading data coming from an outside source, in this case the internet, works fine but reading data from the hard drive itself is a challenge for it. My question is, what can I do? Preferably without buying a new computer.

    (Sorry for the very long post but I haven’t found anything online that has helped, turns out googling anything with the words ‘slow computer’ isn’t very helpful.)

    • Assuming you’ve tried all the things in the post above, particularly regarding free space on your hard disk and available RAM, then try this, in the suggested order:

      IMPORTANT: you follow these instructions at your own risk. I can only give you general pointers and make no claim to the accuracy or safety of following these instructions. If you are in any doubt, take the machine to a qualified technician.

      1. Open Disk Utility, check what it says under ‘S.M.A.R.T’ status for that disk. If it reads ‘Verified’, go to Step 2. If it does not, go to Step 5.

      2. Go to System Preferences | Accounts and create a new Admin user. Reboot the mac and log in to the new Admin user. If the problem is resolved, go to Step 6. Otherwise, go to step 3.

      3. Shutdown the mac. When its fully shutdown, press the power on button once, then press and hold down the ‘Shift key’ until you hear the startup chime. This is called ‘Safe mode’ and it’ll take a long time to complete. When you can finally log in, test for the problems, then restart the mac and log in to you your normal account. If the problem was resolved in Safe Mode but not after you log back into your normal account, go to Step 6. If the problem is resolved in your normal account, there’s no need to do any further steps. Otherwise, go to step 4.

      4. Reinstall Mac OS X. Back up your files first if you haven’t already. You will need the original grey install disks that came with your computer. Insert the Install DVD and restart the mac with the ‘C’ key held down. Follow the on-screen instructions. But do NOT migrate your old data. If the problem is resolved, you can use Migration Assistant or copy over your data manually. I’d be inclined to do the latter, a bit at a time, as you may well just recreate the problem if you use MA. If the problem is not resolved after doing a clean install, go to step 5.

      5. Do a Hardware test. You can do that by booting of the grey DVD and holding down the ‘D’ key. Alternatively, use an app like Drive Genius or take the computer to an Apple store for diagnosis. If necessary, replace the internal hard drive. This is not difficult or expensive to do, but I can’t go through the steps here. Google and YouTube will give you lots of advice. You certainly shouldn’t need to replace the machine unless the logic board (aka ‘the motherboard’) or power supply is shot.

      6. (From step 2 or 3): The problem lies in some software in your normal user account or some system-wide setting that some software in your user account has changed. The first thing to do is clear all items out of your Login Items list, here “System Preferences | Accounts > Login Items. Select everything in the list, and hit the ‘-‘ minus button underneath (not the ‘hide’ button). Restart the mac and test. If the problem isn’t resolved go to step 7.

      7. If the problem was resolved after step 3 but not step 6, read my post here and check if any non-Apple (aka “3rd party”) apps were installed shortly before or after the problems began. If so, uninstall it/them according to the developers instructions (look on their website) and test. If the problem is not resolved, go to step 4.

      • Hey, thanks so much for your quick help. Everything’s running almost completely fine. Works great on the second admin account, managed to get rid of all the login items, all that.

        It’s still a little glitchy and freezes momentarily with the some videos, but not enough to warrant a clean install. Is there anything else I could do to get it to 100%?

        I mention the login items above because that’s what has fixed it. The only thing installed I could find from following step 7 was Adobe’s Flash plugin, anything else was from Apple Software updates until it gets back to much before the problem started. Could Flash be causing this?

        • Could be, could not be, and it could also be that your problems are not from just one cause, but from several. This happens on old machines. Ensure that you’ve run Software Update for the latest malware removal tools, one of which was being transmitted through Flash, IIRC.

          If I were you I’d also do a Safe boot after that (step 3 above). Just booting into Safe mode actually repairs some things, so it’s always good to do when the computer is acting funny. At the very least, be sure to repair System Permissions (see my post here: http://applehelpwriter.com/2011/11/29/how-to-fix-permissions-permissions-pt-2/ ). You might also consider repairing ACLs (see further down the same post).

  3. my navigation indicator runing oposit side , how I can fix this problem plz help me

  4. Hi, my names Daniel. I just recently bought a Power Mac G5 second hand from eBay. I bought if mainly for music production program Logic 9. I am having issues running this program, the CPU and HD levels often peak whenever I’m working on Logic, it causes the program to crash. I have upgraded my RAM to 3GB and it didn’t make a difference. I also have 72GB free on my Harddisk. I really don’t know what the issue is, please help me. 😦

    • Hi Daniel, minimum system requirements for Logic Pro 9:

      2GB of RAM (4GB recommended).
      Display with 1280×768 resolution or higher.
      OS X v10.6.8 or later.
      Minimum 3.4GB of disk space. (19GB of optional content available via in-app download).

      Assuming you meet all those requirements, my guess is that you won’t get much joy out of Logic 9 if you have any other program running at all on the machine with less than 4GB of RAM.

      Also, note that you should upgrade memory chips in pairs (2, 4, 8, 16 etc). It’s likely that installing an odd number of DIMMS is causing your issue. Check also that you’ve used the right kind of memory chip. See this page for more information on both those issues:


      If you sort out the memory issues and still have problems, try creating a new user account, restarting the machine and seeing if the problem persists in the new account. If it does, your best bet is probably to reinstall the OS from the install disks that came with the computer.

  5. sniperslayer

    Ok, so I had my HDD changed to a new one. I put all of my backed stuff onto it and since then my computer has been laggy no matter what I do. I have even bought more RAM for it.
    Before I got the new HDD it was running perfect, now it has random lag spikes and takes a while to process a small word such as “story” it’ll take up to 10 seconds for the word to load completely on the screen. I have a late 2009 27″ IMac.

    • So how much free space is left on your startup disk?

    • I’ve got the same problem, installed a 1TB 7200rpm SATA drive to replace my standard 250Gb 5600rpm but on a late 09 macbook, also upgraded RAM to 4GB. What I’m finding is the lag is worst when I am running Photoshop as it pulls over 1GB of RAM on its own so I’m putting my problems down to this.

  6. Michele Warhurst

    I clicked on MacKeeper and it went do my downloads but I deleted from there without installing, then emptied my trash and cleared my cache and cookies… My computer is running awfully slow all of a sudden. Any suggestions?! When I open terminal to view everything installed it all means nothing to me.

  7. Hi Phil,
    I created a new user and when I logged in through that user, everything works super quick. However, the older user still has the beachball forever before it brings up the system tray and everything i try to launch from the dock or click is a drag! I’ve tried restore mountain lion, checked disks and fixed permissions, still same result for old user. New user is the only solution so far. I do recall trying mackeeper (never again!), no mackeeper files anywhere. The new user is an administrator as well. Don’t know if there are any command line checks for user profiles that can be run from my current new user to fix the older one? Any ideas are greatly appreciated. Great page BTW! Excellent work!

  8. I recently set up user accounts for each member of the family on my iMac. It has been functioning well for about two weeks. Today, when someone logs out of their account, the machine is very slow to return to the user accounts screen. . . it logs out, then a blue screen comes up for several minutes before the user accounts box reappears. Previously it appeared almost instantly on logout. This is happening with all user accounts. It is not isolated. My Mac is about 3 years old. Should we be concerned?

  9. Hey Phil, having a problem with my 2011 macbook pro, the CPU usage (kernel_task) is over 300 when my macbook isn’t plugged into charge, and it lags, can barely open pages, type, etc. As soon as I plug it back into power though, it miraculously drops to 1-2% again!? Any long term fixes to this? I need my macbook pro to be the “laptop” it is! Otherwise I would have purchased an iMac!!

  10. Hi Phil, I’m desperate for help.
    My late 2011 MacBook Pro is running extremely slow! Have deleted the useless apps, don’t have mackeeper, and tried repairing using disk utility thinking something might have been up with that, but I followed your recommendations to another using about checking out the CPU in activity monitor and while user is at 1-2%, idle is at around 24%, system is almost always above 80! My MacBook is going so slow and I need it for uni ASAP! Hope you can help me.


  11. I have an iMac from late 2011, so it’s obviously still pretty new. Anyhow, it has 1 TB of storage, 128 GB of which is currently allocated to windows running on parallels desktop. 4GB of RAM (1.5 allocated to windows), 1GB of video RAM, and two open slots for 2GB of DDR3 RAM (RAM is clocked at 1333 MHz). Also has a great quad-core CPU (two cores allocated to windows), and graphics card, but I can’t remember the exact details. So all in all, pretty good specs.

    And it still lags horribly when there’s absolutely nothing open.

    I’ve done virus checks, cleared off my desktop, and tried all of your suggestions (well, at least the ones that were applicable.) What on earth is going on? Is it something with parallels? Or is it some other issue of which I am, as of yet, unaware? Should I install the 2GB of extra ram? Please help. Thanks!

    • A couple of simple things to do first:

      Remove (not ‘Hide’) everything from your login items list at

       > System Preferences…Users & Groups | Login Items

      then restart the mac. If the problem persists, open up Activity Monitor.app, choose ‘All processes’ from the drop-down menu on the right, and click on the %CPU column so that the little arrow is pointing downwards.

      When the machine lags, look at Activity Monitor. What process(es) are at the top using up all the %CPU?

  12. Stephen Fanning

    Hi Phil, my black macbook (late 2006 but running snow leopard) has gotten very slow recently. It is usually when im in a browser, firefox or chrome even switching tabs will make the spinning wheel pop up, actions i make are always delayed eg logging into facebook,gmail etc. Also when streaming video eg youtube etc the sound and visuals stagger and make clicking noises even when fully buffered and sometimes the machine even shuts down (the grey restart warning message comes up on screen) its so frustrating seen as it has been working perfectly up until recently. there no problem with my isp because no other laptop in the house has the same problem. Ive tried deleting memory, clearing caches, history, downloads everything but still have the same problem. Any advice would be greatly appreciated, Thank you , Stephen.

    • If this problem has arisen suddenly, think about what what apps you’ve added recently. Even little utilities can sometimes mess up your system. Avoid all those ‘Clean your mac’ utilities, they usually do more harm than good. Have a look in your Login Items (System Preferences > Accounts | Login items) and remove everything in the list. Then restart and test.

      If you’re 100% sure its not software related you might consider whether the hard disk is on its way out. If you’re still using the original disk that came with the mac, that’s a 7yr old platter, and you could be seeing early signs of failure. If you don’t have one already, I’d immediately buy an external USB harddrive, and clone your internal disk to it for safe backup (you can use Carbon Copy Cloner to do that, see my Free Downloads page). Once that’s done, boot the computer off the external disk and see if the problem persists. If the problem is solved, you know its time to replace the internal HD.

      • Hello Phil
        Thanks for your reply. The strange thing about my mac is that when someone else uses it, under their own login, they don’t have a problem with it running slow. It’s only when I login. I’m really interested in your comments about mackeeper. But worried that if I do uninstal it, what can I substitute it with? How would I then clear out caches, uninstal cleanly, run virus scans and checks etc? Thank you.

        • The slowdown in yours but not another account is not actually strange; it happens because there is something being run when you log into your account that is causing the slowdown. That app is not in the other user’s account, and that’s why they don’t get the problem.

          The easiest way to find out what that is, is to compare the list of apps in both accounts’ Login items (go to System Preferences > Users & Groups (or ‘Accounts’ if on 10.6 or earlier) and click the Login items tab. If MacKeeper is in yours, and not in the other users, there’s your answer. However, I don’t know if you’ve installed MK system wide (for all users). If so, it will show up in BOTH of your Login Items, and that won’t be the cause of the difference.

          As for your other question about what to use instead of MK, the short answer is ‘nothing’. Here’s the long answer:

          You do not want to be cleaning out caches at all; caches are designed to make your system run faster, not slower. At most, you might consider removing caches once a year, but it is not really necessary. You can use a free program called OnyX (there’s a link on my ‘Free Downloads’ page), but again it is not really necessary.

          You do not need to do any virus scans. There are no known viruses for the mac, so the scan is just a waste of time (ignore those false messages that virus scanners give you about having detected n- amount of threats; they’re all fakes aimed at getting you to buy their software). If and when a new virus does appear that affects macs, none of the virus software will be able to detect it until AFTER it’s already infected some machines. Apple normally issues software updates for such threats.

          The majority of apps will uninstall properly when thrown in the trash. They may leave a few BOM or cache files around. These can be safely ignored. A few programs (MacKeeper used to be one of them, Little Snitch is another, and so are most Anti-Virus scanners) do need to be uninstalled according to the specific instructions given by the developer. Adobe products are another in this category. Using an automated process like that available with MK or ‘CleanMyMac’ can be dangerous.

          • Thank you Phil. I do notice that I keep getting irritiating prompts to update some Adobe reader program. When I click on update it comes back and tells me I don’t even have that program installed. What gives with that?

  13. Hi, my mac get too slow suddenly. i install ML 10,8.2 and when i use mail or safari get slow after 5 minute of use. do you what is happening?
    i see in spotlight a signal ” Indexing juan computer..”


  14. Hi, thanks for your very helpful article. I noticed you recommend uninstalling MacKeeper and I was wondering why you did so. I thought running the periodic scans and clean ups using MacKeeper would actually help my computer stay in good shape. I have MacKeeper and I’ve been using it fairly regularly to do things like find duplicates and clear caches, uninstal applications, that sort of thing.

    • A lot of people suffer from problems when using MacKeeper, particularly slow-running. If you think your machine is running slow, backup your current configuration and uninstall MacKeeper. Test to see if there’s any improvement. You may be surprised. But if not, simply restore your system to the way it was from your backup.

  15. I am having the same problem as Kristina – Facebook is painfully slow – i can’t even use it! Other webpages are fine…. soo frustrationg! This started about the 14th, same day as Kristina posted… maybe a few days earlier… I have a brand new iMac….purchased 2 months ago.

  16. I am having problems with Facebook, up until about 3 days ago it was perfectly fine, now all of a sudden Facebook runs VERY slow and its hard to do anything on it. All other websites seem to be ok, and Facebook runs perfectly fine on out iPad, so its just the desktop. I emptied the Cache, deleted a lot of file folders that were saved on the computer. Ran a computer scan with Sophos, and closed out any applications that were running in the background. Any ideas?????

  17. Hello,

    I have a brand new MacBook Pro (13 inch). 2.5 GHz, 4GB, version 10.7.4, OS X. Everything seems normal until I try to copy and paste in excel, and that spinning beach ball pops up for several minutes.

  18. Should say kernel disk0s2 I/O error

    • Sounds like a possible failing disk drive. You might be able to solve this by repairing the disk, but you should consider that the HD will need replacing sooner rather than later. Here’s what I suggest based on what you’ve told me:

      First of all, backup up your data immediately if you have not done already.

      Secondly, insert the Snow Leopard Install DVD that came with your computer, go to

       > System Preferences > Startup Disk

      and choose the DVD. Confirm that you want to start from the DVD and choose ‘Restart’.

      When the computer restarts, go to Disk Utility and repair the internal drive.

      After the repair finishes, shutdown the computer and remove the DVD. Restart normally and boot into your normal account. Test to see if things have improved.

      If no, start shopping for a new HD. If yes, start shopping for a new HD… 😉

  19. HI Phil
    Am not massively techie but not one app really showing lots of % sometimes word, sometimes kernel?
    On console seem to get a repeat on disk0s2: I/O error?

  20. Hi Phil, I Have a white MacBook about 4 yrs old running snow leopard, starts up fine, and with one application open runs fine, open a second app and have more than one window open it starts to really slow down, with the spinning wheel almost popping up after every action, if I am typing in word, with the browser open for cut and paste etc. I am not able to type more than a few words before the spinning wheel and a massive lag….
    Have verified disc, got plenty of ram, any thoughts….

    • Hi Andy

      Does this always happen with the same programs (e.g., Word). What if you are using TextEdit, say, and Safari, or Word and Firefox? In other words, can you isolate to particular program or combinations?

      There’s a couple of other things you can do to try to narrow down the source of the problem. First, open Activity Monitor and recreate the problem. What process is using all the %CPU (make sure you have the %CPU column sorted with the arrow pointing downwards and choose ‘All Processes’ in the menu on the right).

      Secondly, open Console.app. Click ‘All Messages’ in the sidebar, then ‘Clear Display’ in the Task bar above. Recreate the problem and let me know what messages you see (particularly any repeated ones).

  21. Phil: I have a problem with Outlook (2011). It keeps hanging up for long periods of time, especially when I switch from email to calendar. I am using an exchange server (offsite). I do not have similar problems with my Mac Book Air. The problem is only with my Mac Mini. Both have the 2GB of RAM, so I figured it was not a RAM issue. I noticed the problem after downloading Lion to the Mac Mini, but I can’t remember how long after that I noticed the issue. Also, the issue is sporadic. Sometimes there is very little delay, and sometimes it takes ten minutes to send a simple email or to check a calendar entry. Any thoughts? Steve

  22. I tried it all and running it all my computer my just have had it but I love it I don’t know what is wrong and believe it to be hardware. I don’t know what is wrong though. No diagnosis software comes up with anything wrong everything comes up clean I don’t want to rip it apart without knowing what I’m looking for. Please help. Thank you for your time and help.

  23. Hi Phil,

    My 27” iMac with 10.7.4 is very slow when playing a video (youtube, VLC, etc.) the system gets really slow, and if using photoshop or illustrator, when playing video it’s a nightmare. If i’ll pause the video, it’s allright again.

    This didn’t used to happen. I don’t know what it caused. Perhaps it was the 10.7.4 update????

    I’ve cleaned the cache, did everything i could remember, but still keeps slow.

    Thanks a lot in advance.
    Rui Santos

    • Hi Rui

      Can you try a diagnostic test, please. Go to

       > System Preferences… Users & Groups

      and create a new user account (Standard or Admin, it doesn’t matter). Log out of your normal account and into the new user account. Test VLC and other video apps and see if you see the same slowdown issues occur.

      Post back here with the results.



      • Hi Phil,

        Thanks for quick reply!! 🙂

        I did what you asked and the problem still occur. the system goes laggy. When i play pause it’s great, then i turn the vlc or youtube video on play, and there he goes… slowing down…

        Best regards and thank you for all your help.

        • Hi Rui

          The purpose of trying it in another account was to see if it was a problem localized to your user account. Now we know it’s not and that helps us to narrow down the possible causes. To help me further, I need you to run another diagnostic test.

          This time I want you to start the mac up in Safe mode. You do so by restarting the mac and holding down the Shift key at the same time until you see the grey  logo and a progress bar underneath.

          When the progress bar completes you should see ‘Safe mode’ in red letters on the login screen. Login to your normal account and test the video while in Safe mode. Is it just as bad or not? Try to test it long enough to get a clear feel. Also please test only videos that are on your local drive, not streaming over the internet.

          Post back here with the results.

          • asteriscodesign

            Hi Phil,

            In safe mode the video doesn’t play. In VLC and you tube… Waht can i do?


          • Hi Rui

            I know you’re not getting any answers yet, but the information you’re providing is helping me to narrow down possible causes and solutions. I need just a little bit more info, please.

            Can you have a look in these three folders and post a list of the contents of each please. In all cases, you can leave out anything that begins with the name “com.apple….“. Everything else, please post.

            1. [Hard Disk] /Library / Caches

            2. [Hard Disk] / Library / LaunchAgents


            3. [Hard Disk] / Library/ LaunchDaemons

            If you don’t wish to post this here for any reason, you can email me the results of this test. Please use the Contact tab at the top of the page in that case.

          • asteriscodesign

            Hi Phil, i’m replying to this post because the button reply doesn’t appear on your last reply!

            First of all thanks for all your help and pacience.

            Here goes:

            1. [Hard Disk] /Library / Caches


            2. [Hard Disk] / Library / LaunchAgents


            3. [Hard Disk] / Library/ LaunchDaemons


          • There are a number of suspects in there, but rather than taking a shotgun approach lets deal with the dodgiest ones first!

            The first thing you need to do is get rid of that PACESupport.plist. However, you can’t just delete that file, you need to uninstall the kexts. To do so, click on the link at the end of this message. It is a direct download link to a small .dmg file from iLok.com (the Developers of PACE). Open the .dmg from your Downloads file and run the ‘uninstall_extensions.command’ file.

            If there are any problems running that, let me know (you will need to provide an administrator password, but otherwise, it should go OK). After its run, restart your mac, login to your normal account and see if there’s any change to the video problem.


          • asteriscodesign

            Hi Phil,

            The system still keeps slow when playing the video! 😦


          • OK, let’s try the fast way. On your Desktop, create two folders, one called ‘Temp_LaunchAgents’ and another called ‘Temp_LaunchDaemons’. Copy all the files you listed above into the respective Temp folder you just created. Don’t mix them up!

            Now delete the original LaunchDaemon and LaunchAgents files. Restart your computer and test. Note down exactly the error messages, if any, that pop up.

          • asteriscodesign

            Hi Paul,

            still’s laggy, but didn’t had any erros, only the tablet stopped working.


          • 1. Return the files you moved back to where they belong.

            2. Open Activity Monitor (Applications / Utilities / Activity Monitor.app)

            3. Choose ‘All Processes’ in the taskbar drop down menu

            4. Click on the %CPU tab in the window so that the arrow is pointing downwards.

            5. Play a video.

            6. With the video playing, take a screenshot of Activity Monitor.app by holding down these keys at the same time: shift-command-4. Let go of the keys, move the cursor over Activity Monitor window and hit the spacebar. The window should go yellow and the cursor change to a little camera icon. Click the trackpad or mouse.

            7. Stop the video playing.

            8. Next, open ‘Console.app (it’s in the same folder as Activity Monitor). Choose ‘All Messages’ in the side panel, then hit the ‘Clear Display’ icon in the taskbar.

            9. Start the video playing until its laggy. If its laggy straight away then just 5 or 10 seconds will be enough. Stop the video.

            10. Go back to console. Click once in the main window where all the messages are and hit ‘Command-A’ on the keyboard and then ‘Command-C’. Open TextEdit.app and press ‘Command-V’ to paste the messages into TextEdit. Save it to your desktop as ‘Console.txt’

            11. Go to your Desktop, and attach both the file called ‘Screen Shot……. .png’ and the Console.txt to an email and send to me. The address is in Contacts tab. Please don’t post those here in the comments.

      • asteriscodesign

        Phil, i’ve noticed that the problem is much worse with the browser running youtube or flash applications. With the vlc theres a bit of lag also, but much less…

    • Clearing the login items worked great! Thanks Phil. I had to do it 2 times; but now my iMac is running “clean as new” again. Thank you thank you thank you!

  24. Hi Phil,
    You are so generous to be helping us all with these useful tips thanks!
    My iMac 2.8GHz OS 10.6.7 with fully-stocked RAM is hanging up in Finder and Mail only. Though it has been crashing out of Final Cut Pro a little lately as well. I don’t have MacKeeper and cleared my Safari cache. It’s 1.5 years old. Never upgraded. What do you recommend?

    • Hi Leslie,

      the first thing I would do is clear everything out of your Login Items list.

      1.Go to

       > System Preferences > Accounts > Login Items

      and make a note of all the apps in the list for later reference.

      2. Select all the apps in the list and hit the minus ‘-‘ button at the bottom of the box. Check the list is now empty.

      3. Restart your computer and test for the problem.

      4. If that solves it, add one app at a time back into the list, restarting and testing for the problem after each one. Eventually, you’ll recreate the problem and figure out which app it is. When you do, obviously remove that app and stop using it.

  25. My Mac leopard is dreadfully slow in Loading photoshop cs3, not too bad on other programs. It used to be fast when new

  26. Hello, and bravo for the advice on removing Mackeeper. (Why isn’t this more widely known?) Alas, it did not solve my problem: When I turn on my iMac (3.06GHz, 4Gb, Lion7.4) it now takes a full seven minutes from the time I see my login name to the time the password field pops up. This happened out of the blue one day last week, and has continued with each startup. I have tried all the normal “slowness” remedies, including everything you have mentioned above. I have unplugged external drives, to no avail. Any further ideas would be much appreciated. Thank you. N. Stout

  27. My Imac has also been running extremely slowly, especially since I installed Snow Leopard, as a first step to get to Lion (which supposedly we need to access ICloud). I have a 300 GB hard drive with 46 GB free, 2.4 GHZ Intel Core processor, 1 GB RAM. I realize I probably need to move some photos and free up some space, but my main concern is previously reported issues when moving to Lion. I was told yesterday that my Office for Mac for 2008 will probably not work with Lion and I need to upgrade that to 2011 first. Do you know if that’s true? Everything I run takes forever to load, especially Entourage, and I feel like I am constantly staring at the color wheel. I’m tempted to just download Lion but am afraid it will make things even worse!! Also, could this all be possibly fixed by adding more memory? Thanks for your help…

    • Hi Nancy

      Generally, an upgrade won’t fix problems with your system. Quite the opposite unless its bug related, which this doesn’t appear to be (Snow Leopard is far less buggy than Lion). My advice is sort the problems out in Snow Leopard before upgrading to Lion.

      Office 2008 should run fine on Lion and Mountain Lion. I run it on both with no problems. Make sure you do all the Microsoft updates after upgrading the OS.

      You are right that you need to clear out some disk space – with only 46GB free on a 300GB disk, that’s going to cause you a bit of slowdown.

      On top of that, increasing your RAM is always going to speed things up, as it means the CPU doesn’t have to write to the disk as often. If your company is paying, by all means buy the memory from Apple :), but otherwise try Crucial or OWC for cheap but reliable upgrades (I have 8GB from Crucial which only cost $50 and works just fine!).

  28. Try a PRAM reset. See the procedure in the post here:


    If that doesn’t work, try starting up in ‘Safe Mode‘ (this will take a while), then restarting normally.

    If you’re still seeing the same problem on the normal restart, have a look in

     > System Preferences.. Accounts (or ‘Users & Groups’ for Lion) | Login Items.

    If there’s a lengthy list there, try taking out everything in the list (you have to use the minus button at the bottom) and restarting. If that solves it, then start adding things back in one at a time, but only the one’s you really need. Generally, it’s a good idea to keep the Login Items down to the bare minimum, both for faster boot up times and to reduce conflicts.

  29. Thanks for the tips on removing MacKeeper…a lengthy process but well worth it. Was wondering if you could help me with another task. My wife’s macbook seems to be running really slow these days. She is only using half of the 232GB memory space that she has. When you turn the computer on it takes forever for the desktop to load up and before it does, the computer stays on the blue screen for a long time. Any suggestions? thanks for your time

  30. I play a game and in the area where my charger plugs after close to 10 minutes it gets really hot and the game starts lagging and to the point that you simply cannot play anymore. Does anyone know what this might mean? My mac is 1 year old and I never had that problem before

  31. Have you tried starting up in Safe mode? This is a good way to test whether something that is running at login (could be a hidden or background process, rather than a hidden file) is slowing you down or whether you have a hardware issue or system level s/w issue. Safe mode will also do some basic repairs. So the order of play is:

    1. Reboot your mac in Safe mode
    It will be slower than usual to boot up, so don’t get impatient, as it will make some system checks and perform some repairs.

    2. Once you get in, play around with some apps and see if the beach-balling/slow performance remains.
    Note that in Safe Mode none of your start up apps will be running and some of your preferences will be set to default. Don’t worry about that, they will return when you do step three: –

    3. Restart and log in as your normal user.
    It’s possible – though unlikely – that your problem could have been fixed by the Safe start up, but don’t get your hopes up. The real point of doing the Safe mode is diagnostic, to see whether the problem is related to your start up sequence.

    Let me know how you get on.

  32. Hi Phil, can we talk hidden files? I’ve had a persistent problem with my iMAC Intel mid-2007 for a year now. Last year about this time, I upgraded my operating system and Microsoft for MAC 2011. That’s when the trouble started. Outlook has never performed smoothly, but the real problem began with slow response times and hanging beach balls — all programs, apps, etc…. By the end of the summer 2011, I took my MAC in to Apple retail for a clean sweep and reinstall. Nothing. A week ago I upgraded my RAM to 6GB and installed Lion. More of the same. Started a second ‘user account’. No difference there. My hard drive is barely half full. I am not on a corporate network, it’s just me and my MAC. I don’t even bother to sync to my phone any longer, it’s too slow. I called Apple support. They couldn’t really help me beyond what you have outlined above, and frankly, I know how to go through those diagnostics. Another user on an Apple forum talked about hidden files. Is this wishful thinking or something I should pursue? Many thanks,

  33. BTW, OmniDiskSweeper is a great little free utility that can help you find and free up useless stuff on your hard disks. Be sure to back up first though, in case you make any mistakes! You can find OmniDiskSweeper on my free downloads page. 🙂

    • I started to experience slow downs and spinning beach balls myself, suddenly after installing a similar maleware antivirus program.
      I got the sw uninstalled but my Mac still seemed slow. So I looked into and installed a solid state drive. This was like buying a new computer! My Mac now FLIES! No more waiting on anything…Photoshop/Illustrator/InDesign now open in seconds! Restarts/startups are literally seconds!
      It was a bit traumatic to see my new mini in pieces in order to get the second drive installed (yes, with a $30 ribbon cable you can instal a second drive in the new minis!), but it was worth every expletive I uttered after I rebooted.

      Its got to be at least 3-4x faster.

      I got the drive for less than $100 at Wally World online. You can also upgrade the new mini to 16gb RAM! Thats my next move.

  34. Hi Chris

    What’s the total size of your HD? If its 250GB, then 25GB is not a lot — just 10%. Generally, you should be looking at keeping something like at least 30% of your disk free (personally, I try to keep that closer to 40%) for maximum performance, especially when you’re dealing with lots of graphic and image files.

    I think what I’d do here if I were you is first try to free up more space (try to get close as you can to that 30% mark) and see if that makes a difference.

    Depending on what model mac you’re using, you can upgrade your RAM to 8GB starting from as little as $50 if you buy from Crucial or OWC. This will mean the CPU doesn’t have to read and write from the disk as often and should cure a lot of those beach-balling problems.

  35. iPhoto seems to be running slow for me…to open it up takes a solid 30-60s with the pinwheel spinning. even once it’s open, it takes forever to switch between photos, albums and events.
    my HD was approaching full, so i archived lots of stuff and now have 25GB of free space on the HD. i have 4GB of RAM and things had been running smoothly just a few months ago.

    iTunes, Logic Express and iMovie are also slow upon opening. Safari and Firefox seem to open relatively quickly as does Mail.

    any thoughts?

  36. Did this problem only start when you upgraded to Lion? If so, try reinstalling it by restarting your computer while holding down ‘command-r’. From the menu pane that eventually appears, choose ‘reinstall’. It should keep everything in your User folders in tact, but DO BACKUP YOUR SYSTEM first to be on the safe side.

    Other possibilities are imminent hardware failure (the HD disk is on its way out; check the SMART status in Disk Utility) or some third-party app (nine times out of ten, the problem is 3rd-party s/w actually!).

    If you’ve already done the SMART test, start your system up in SAFE mode and see if the problem persists.

    Make a note of whether the problem was resolved in Safe Mode or not, then restart in normal mode. Sometimes this will cure the problem (safe mode does some repairs), but more often than not it tells you that the problem pertains to something in your login items, or some program you always have running when the problem occurs.

    Another possibility concerns using fast user switching. If you’ve got more than one user logged in, trying logging out one of them and seeing if that solves the spinning beach ball.

  37. Hi Phil

    I followed all your 8 steps above and my iMac (24in) is still running slow.

    24-inch, Early 2009

    Processor 3.06 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo

    Memory 8 GB 1067 MHz DDR3

    Graphics NVIDIA GeForce GT 130 512 MB

    Software Mac OS X Lion 10.7.2 (11C74)

    It is slow with everything on all actions and just grinds away seemingly slower each month.

    Any more suggestions, please?



    NB. plenty of HDD space and slow now with no applications open. Just slow all the time – kind of pages and I get the whirly colored wheel all the time.

  38. Phil, I was reading your “Why is my Mac running so slow.” I have a question about “Login items.” I have 6 items in my “login items,” but only one is checked. Is it ok to have several items in your “login” items if they’re not checked off? I’m running Snow Leopard. Thanks.

    • Hi Lyndon

      The check box is just to hide the program from being seen as running, not to stop it running on boot up.

      If you don’t want some of those programs to open at boot up you’ll need to highlight each that you don’t want in the ‘login items’ window, then click the minus button at the bottom of the list to remove it.

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