If you own and use your computer long enough, eventually you’re going to notice it running slowly. It will take longer to open programs, applications will be slower to respond, and you may struggle to get the performance you need to work or play.
Depending on how long you’ve owned the computer and how slow the slowdown has become, your first instinct may be to start shopping for a new computer. However, this is an expensive option and one that should be considered a last resort. Instead, see if another strategy can bring your computer speed back up to normal.
Why Computers Slow Down
Though fundamentally different in some ways, both Macs and PCs can suffer from slowdown. There are strategies that can exclusively help you speed up a Mac, but most strategies are interchangeable between these devices because they share the same root causes of slowdowns. Slowdowns tend to happen as computers age because they become cluttered with apps and files that hog their finite resources. Simultaneously, software becomes more resource-intensive to keep up with the latest hardware, so if you’re running an older model, you may not be able to keep up.
Slowdowns can also happen when something is wrong with your computer, like if it’s infected with malware, or if you’re simply doing too many things at the same time. Computers can only handle so many operations at once before they start to slow down in all of them.
Strategies to Try
These are some of the best strategies to use when improving your computer’s speed:
- Check for (and remove) viruses. Even though Macs are generally more resilient to malware, it’s still possible for them to be infected. If you’re noticing a significant slowdown in operations, the first thing you should do is check to see if your computer is infected—regardless of what type of device you have. Any antivirus software should be able to tell you what the problem is, and offer a solution. If your computer is clean, you’ll have to rely on a different strategy to resolve the slowdown.
- Declutter your files and apps. Next, take a moment to declutter your computer as much as possible. Start deleting old files that are only taking up space, and more importantly, uninstall any applications that you aren’t using on a regular basis. All these installations and files can bog down your resources, so it pays to keep your computer as clear as possible.
- Look for (and close) resource-intensive operations. While using your computer, use your Task Manager or your Activity Menu (within your Mac Settings) to see which of your applications are using the most memory. The more memory an application uses, the more resources it’s using at once. If you have too many resource-intensive operations open at once, everything will operate slower. Close any resource hogs that aren’t necessary.
- Clear your cache files. Using a third-party program, you can also clear your cache files. Almost everything on your computer relies on cache files for temporary storage, but unless you’re accessing those files regularly, they’ll merely be taking up space. Clearing your cache can keep your computer decluttered and operating efficiently.
- Shutdown and/or restart periodically. It’s tempting to leave your computer idling or hibernating most of the time, but this isn’t good for its operating efficiency. It’s important to completely shut down (or restart) your computer on a regular basis—at least once every few days, depending on how often you use it.
- Upgrade your RAM. Your RAM is responsible for temporarily storing data as you use applications on your computer. If your computer is running slowly, it may be because your RAM needs to be replaced or upgraded. Switching to a higher RAM doesn’t cost much money—at least, it’s much less expensive than replacing your entire computer—but it should lead to a measurable difference in performance.
- Simplify your operations. You can also improve how your computer performs by changing how you use it. Simplifying your operations, like using low-resolution or “simple” versions of your applications, is a good start. While you’re at it, try not to use more than one tab at a time while browsing the web, and avoid multitasking with multiple apps whenever possible.
If you try all these strategies and you still aren’t satisfied with your computer’s speed or performance, it may be time to consider getting a new computer. This is especially true if you rely on your computer for operations that demand a certain threshold of speed, like if you need to render video files for work, or if you play resource-intensive video games. Fortunately, most computer slowdown problems have much less expensive fixes, so it’s worth giving them a try first.