52 Ways to Speed Up OS X

By Pete | @kingpetey | 13 May 2007

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After Apple recently announced a delay to OS X 10.5 Leopard I had to delay my iMac upgrade until the Autumn. This led me to thinking about how to speed up Tiger to get the most out of my ageing G5. This is what I came up with:

General System

1. Repair Disk Permissions Navigate to Applications > Utilities > Disk Utility. Select your Macintosh HD and select Verify Disk Permissions. If needed you can then Repair Disk Permissions.

2. Clear out login items Its good to check that unwanted programs are not starting up when you login to your Mac. This can be done from System Preferences > Accounts > Login Items.

3. Clear out unwanted applications Go through your applications folder and see if you can save yourself some disk space by removing any applications you no longer use.

4. Clear out unused system preferences Check in your system preferences if there are any unused system preferences tabs that can be removed. If you do find something you don't use you can either disable it within its menu or remove it from '~/Library/PreferencePanes'. You may have to reboot or do a force empty trash (see #38).

5. Clear Desktop Its been reported numerous times that having a clear desktop can increase the speed of your Mac. So either put your junk in folders or delete it!

6. Empty Trash (if it wont empty see #38) I'm always amazed when I'm looking on someone's Mac and they haven't ever emptied the trash! Check what's in there then save yourself some space and empty it.

7. Turn off Universal Access (if not used) Navigate to System Preferences > Universal Access and turn off anything you're not using.

8. Turn off Bluetooth (if not used) Navigate to System Preferences > Bluetooth.

9. Turn off speech recognition (if not used) Navigate to System Preferences > Speech Recognition.

10. Turn off internet sharing (if not used) Navigate to System Preferences > Sharing > Internet

11. Check there is plenty of disk space on the boot drive. Your Mac uses some of your hard drive space as virtual memory when there is not enough actual memory available. Its good to always keep 10% of your hard drive free for such activity.

12. Remove Unwanted Language Packs OS X contains hundreds of languages that you most likely wont use. Monolingual is a free program that can root out these languages and remove them saving you some extra disk space.

*Edit: Warning people have experienced problems with Monolingual so becareful what you remove. Only a reinstall will put the languages back so decide weather you really need the extra space by removing them.

13. Remove any desktop changing programs Until recently I had a nice program that would put a different babe on my desktop each month. It looked great but once I started looking in activity monitor it was taking up lots of memory and processor time.

14. Check dock for unwanted apps. Your dock should only contain your most used applications so take a look through to see if there is anything you can remove or uninstall.

15. Choose suitable applications for files Be sensible when choosing what applications open by default - think do you really need Photoshop to open just to view an image when preview will work fine? Right click on a file then select Get Info.

16. Check Software Build If you have an Intel Mac then check the build of the software is universal - it might be that the application is still running through Rosetta and that a universal update is available.

Eye Candy

17. Remove dock animation Navigate to System Preferences > Dock then un-tick Animate Opening Applications.

18. Avoid animated desktops Navigate to System Preferences > Desktop & Screen Saver then un-tick Change picture.

Dashboard

19. Remove unused widgets. Each widget takes some memory and processor power even when you're not using the dashboard so only enable the ones you use. Alternatively you can disable the dashboard - see #23.

20. Check to see how much processing power and memory each widget uses. Some widgets are more intensive than others, if there is one that is particularly demanding see if there is one with similar functionality on the Apple website. To do this run Activity Monitor - Applications > Utilities > Activity Monitor.

As you can see the widgets I have running are all using an acceptable amount of Real Memory.

Tinkertool Tinkertool is a utility that gives you access to additional settings within OS X.

21. Remove animation effects. The animation effects are the eye candy that make OS X look nice but they are not really needed, you can turn them off from the Finder pane within Tinkertool.

Tinker Tool Finder

22. Disable Dock shadow. From the Dock pane un-tick Enable Dock shadow.

23. Disable Dashboard. If you don't use the Dashboard you can deactivate it from the General pane.

24. Skip checksum verifications when opening DMG files. This will speed up the loading of disk images when opening. This can be found in the Applications pane.

Tinker Tool Applications

25. Remove or deactivate unwanted login items from the Login Items pane. You might already have done this in #2.

26. Reduce delay time for display of loading pages in Safari. This should speed up your web browsing experience, found within the Safari Pane.

OnyX OynX is similar to Tinkertool however has many more options and preferences.You may have already done some of these in previous tips. Parameters

Onyx

27. Un-tick Graphic Effects (Finder tab). You may already have done this with Tinkertool #21.

28. Un-tick Animate 'Opening applications' and 'When alert in background' (Dock tab).

29. Disable Dashboard (Dashboard and Expose tab). You may already have done this with Tinkertool #23.

30. Set Safari speed of web page display to fast (Safari Tab). You may already have done this in #26. Maintenance

31. Repair Disk Permissions. You may already have done this in #1.

32. Run Maintenance Scripts.

33. Reset Spotlight Index (it may take over a day to rebuild the index afterwards).

34. Run complete system optimization. Cleaning

Oynx

35. Clear Internet Settings.

36. Clear User and Font Caches.

37. Clear unused logs.

38. Force Empty Trash Automation

39. Check settings - The default settings should be fine here. Click Execute.

Safari

You can do some of the following by resetting Safari - click Safari > Reset Safari. *Edit: Resetting Safari does not clear Favicons.

40. Clear Cache. To speed up page loading Safari saves a copy of every page in its cache however if the cache gets too large it can actually slow down page loading so its best to empty it occasionally. To do so click Safari > Empty Cache.

41. Clear History. Safari can remember every single site you have visited which can have a negative effect on its performance. You can empty it be selecting History > Clear History.

42. Clear AutoFill. AutoFill is the data is saved in forms such as your username and password on websites. As with the cache and history the AutoFill can mount up over time. To empty select Safari > Preferences then select the AutoFill tab. From here you can go through the three AutoFill sections and clear out data that you no longer want stored.

AutoFill in Safari

43. Clear Favicons. Favicons are the little icons you see to the left of the URL in the address bar. These can be cleared by emptying user folder/Library/Safari/Icons.

Firefox

44. If you use Firefox then you can get specially optimized versions of the browser based on your processor architecture - either G4, G5 or intel.

45. Extensions Firefox has some great extensions but they can slow down the browser so take a serious look to see weather you really need that extra toolbar!

iTunes

46. Smart Playlists These can slow down the operation of iTunes as they reload the contents of the list every time the program loads. If you have a a smart play list that does not change very often then you can either deactivate live updating (by clicking file > edit smart play list) or copy of the contents of the smart play list in to a regular play list.

Other

47. HP Printer drivers can often cause problems and use a lot of processor power so check in the activity monitor for HP Communicator, if it seems to be constantly running at 80% - 100% then try uninstalling it. I had problems on my Mac Mini for my HP PSC 1110 all in one with the HP software on OS X 10.3 maxing out the CPU after printing. I had to remove the software and just use the basic drivers rather than the full suite.

48. Check Classic is not running if not being used. Classic can be disabled from within System Preference. Classic

49. Run Software Update. The latest updates sometimes provide speed increases as well as fix bugs and vulnerabilities.

50. Update other applications. It's always best to run the latest versions of your programs. Websites such as Mac Update and Version Tracker are good places to keep your applications up to date.

51. Add More RAM. There is only so much you can do with software, the cheapest way to give you're Mac a speed boost is to upgrade the memory.

52. Reboot your Mac. After doing all this optimization it might be an idea to reboot your Mac. If your like me and use sleep mode for the majority of the time then a reboot once in a while often helps too!

Update: Interested in seeing how many hits this article has got and how to do it for your blog then read here?

Comments

I think this is another of those incorrectly titled lists, instead of 'increase speed' perhaps 'optimization' would have been a better word to use, as that includes saving disk space (as removing unused language files certainly will), GUI clutter, and RAM / CPU usage.

I tried most of these on my G4 eMac and none of them made a jot of difference, I had been having slow-down problems after installing numerous funky programs (which was down to me experimenting with what I found on versiontracker etc).

In my experience the best way to optimize your system is to back up your data and do a clean install, wipe the hard drive clean of all your clutter and crap, then only put back on what you need - and at the same time check the install options to cleanly not install unwanted language files, printer drivers (surprised you didn't mention those), demo software (Keynote, Microsoft Office, depending on which version of OS X it is), etc. All of that nonsense with Tinkertool and OnyX just isn't necessary for this purpose.

For the average user this will be fairly quick and painless exercise - what would it be.. a few documents, some photos (which probably need organising and backing up anyway), music, video? All of these things should be backed up anyway. A clean install of OS X takes a fraction of the time Windows does, and it's mostly automatic all the way through.

Hey, thanks for the tips! My old PowerMac G4 (AGP 500mhz) running 10.4 was pretty sluggish at times, but turning off most of the eyecandy and turning off some other things like you said really helped!
Thanks!

Hi - But if you're going to recommend Monolingual can you please put the note to check languages or a link to reviews regarding monolingual up in the text of the article? I didn't see the warnings in the comments section about default removal of US English until after I'd already removed it. A more specific warning would help.

Actually drive

hm.... I

Thanks so much for the great tips. I'm always looking for ways to speed up my mac machine.

Well here are yet more tweaks for those still interested... Do these at your own risk OK!!! Although I have no problems with them - I usually test them first on a spare (Laptop) Mac first to check before using it on my main Mac.

a. Install APPLEJACK for your Mac os. Type in 'Applejack' in Google to get you started. Do a full clean up routine in command line mode.
b. Use Apple DISK UTILITY once a month. (it's in your Utilities folder). And fix any Permission or disk errors.
c. Install DIABOLOTIN to remove unused System start ups you don't need. If you do you can always turn them on again. Type in 'DIABOLOTIN' in Google to get you started.
d. Install ONYX for your os as prescribed by others on this site. Type in 'ONYX' in Google to get you started.
e. Install MAC JANITOR to easily clean up your system and browse cache files once a month. Type in 'MAC JANITOR' in Google to get you started.
f. Install PREFS EDIT to check for any corrupt PREF files which can cause problems.
g. Use Apple FONTBOOK (Applications folder) to turn off every Font you'll never use. If you do you can always turn them on again.
h. Install SERVICES SCRUBBER and disable more hidden start ups that you may not realise you had. If you do you can always turn them on again. Type in 'SERVICES SCRUBBER' in Google.
i. Consider disabling SPOTLIGHT. You could try SPOTLESS which disables SPOTLIGHT from forever 'indexing'. Replace it with EASY FINDER.
k. Consider purchasing a full defrag and application optimisation using iDEFRAG. Despite what Apple say, it really does work.
l. Finally optimise the Finder directory using DISK WARRIOR which is good overall speed increase. If you don't have this you could probably have TECH TOOL PRO which has itself pretty good optimisation and fixes common problems.

Don't forget many of these Mac utilities are Shareware so if you think they are good, (or even essential) do make a donation towards developers so they know we appreciate their efforts. I certainly do, and you

NOTE TO ALL:

Mr. Nej,

  I have been building. fixing and programming both Macs and PCs since 1989. Macs ONLY "defrag" files 20 MB and under. Unix is a great underpinning to the mcputer, I like Macs, been teaching Final Cut, Premiere, and HTML on them for 6 years. BUT - if one is working with video, graphics and music, then: never put those media files on you Mac HD and DO defrag the Mac HD never the media drive.  My knowledge on this is empirically attained, not read on a forum - Apple's or anyone else's.

Learn to think and learn for yourself.

Good Luck and May God Bless -

B.S. 

Although I here many say that OS X doesn't need defragmented I've found that defragmenting helps to optimize and speed up OS X.

Hi

Thanks for the above 52 - as a technophobe I found them very approachable and appreciated the idiot-friendly instructions. Many beyond my daring but I have explored hitherto undreamt of depths of my g4. In doing so I came across a HUGE folder in my 'homebase' called 'previous systems' - what is this? do I need it? I seem to remember having an apple-man looking at my comp a couple of years ago and rearranging everything in order to fix a problem, and I wonder if this was part of the rearrangement?

This may be an unanswerable question without being able to see the little machine I know.

Thanks anyway

Suki

 

You're right, the Previous Systems folder was made after someone reinstalled your system. it contains - you guessed it - your previous system files. If you have the feeling everything works fine since the last installation, and you're not missing files since then, it can be deleted.

I have "Mini Mac" and 2GB RAM memory makes it fast ! I can work with photoshop, skype, firefox and it's still fast !

Excellent article, however, you should remove Mongoloid from your inclusion, this article, your computer and keep it well away from your OS. It's quite possibly the most destructive obnoxious piece of crap software I've ever had the misfortune to come across. It deleted ALL your languages, regardless of what boxes you check. Here I am, fresh after an archive and install making good on my vow to return to this page and trash talk this app to where it belongs. Do no use Monolingual! Save yourselves heartache + 1 to 2 days productivity. Thanks for all your other stuff though. Great article.

12. like it give me 2.somthing GB free space more to use lol

#12 worked fine for me. do a full backup before using just in case.  

 its better...thanks

it's pretty crazy that people have been using and commenting on the same series of tips for +2 years

i didn't find any of this much help. when my computer becomes slow after a few years i backup and reinstall the operating system. works like a charm.

besides that, keeping your software up-to-date and keeping your applications folder down to its minimum is a good idea. extra RAM doesn't hurt either.

maybe it's time a new list came out highlighting only the important things. removing smart playlists? come on!

I have used Onyx for many years - back 2 operating systems.  I have NEVER had a problem with it and it has always kept my system tweaked.  If your computer is messed up to begin with, it will cause problems.  Statements like, " Don't use OnyX, it will f... everything up. This sucks."  is irresponsible and are not appropriate.  Maintain your system, at least periodically.  No maintenance program is a cure-all for problems beyond general tweaking (such as corrupt hardrive, preferences, old-mismatched drivers, missing OS element).  

Thanks for all the performance tips!

 Thanks for this article.  I switched to Mac 3 years because I got tired of the constant maintenance and security issues with PC's so a little tweaking once in a while on the Mac is not a problem.

I have found, however, that the biggest culprit for speed is incompatibility between programs.  For example, I couldn't use Safari with Tiger.  The whole computer ran too slow (even when I wasn't using Safari) until I switched to Firefox.  Now that I have Snow Leopard I've had to dump Firefox but Opera runs like a charm and I really like some of it's features.

The point is, when your Mac isn't as speedy as you like, see what's running in the background.  Change when necessary.

thanks for sharing
i aslo use dsl speed which is an online tool which helps to optimize ur pc performance

f you wanna optimize your internet performance, i suggest downloading dsl speed, it can boosts internet connection, thereby speeding up your computer

I can recommend not to Upgrade.
Upgrading Mac OS X tends to install massive newer iPod or "Apple toys" Drivers ("Plug & Play" is not magic).
I have a really fast PowerBook G4 (faster than a new Intel Mac Mini running Snow Leopard), because of not upgrading. I wanted to buy a new Apple mouse but it forces me to upgrade and slower my mac so I will avoid both,
Of course, Apple always suggest to upgrade because they want to sell.
I still have iTunes 1 (from an old Mac OS X Install Disc thanks to Pacifist) and Software update asked me to update to iTunes 9 ! ! ! ! ! !

Dumb.

the only thing that worked for me is the repair disk permissions, it took so much time because i had over 1000 things that needed to be corrected!  :-)

Actually, when it comes to Safari-caused slowdowns, disabling AutoFill makes a huge difference! That alone causes most Safari-related crashes and slowdowns.

I see Bryan's point - on a well maintained, new machine these won't make that much of a difference. However, on an older machine that's been upgraded, these ideas may make the difference between actually USING your software and getting that spinning wheel while it fails to load.

These comments (and some others like them) WERE very helpful to me back when I had crammed OSX 10.3 into my tiny 8GB / 350MHz iMac (and were even more helpful when I got an external HD)--I'd ended up with only 100MB left on my HD after installation & was DESPERATE for more HD space & better speed ('cause OSX was SO much better!).  So, in that case, the comments were awesome (and the 200MB that Monolingual saved me was essential)!  Now, with a newer, faster Mac, I find the comments less applicable overall for speed, though some are just good practices.  I do find it good to OCCASIONALLY repair permissions, clear caches (I use CacheX), and run tasks (MacJanitor); I've noticed less likelihood of random weird things happening when I do that.  K