After installing macOS Mojave, does your Mac feel a bit sluggish? Perhaps it’s taking longer to boot, taking longer to save or open files, and launching apps seems to take more time than it used to. Or perhaps your Mac is just experiencing an overall listlessness.
No matter what type of slowdown you’re experiencing, there’s a good chance one of these tips will help get your Mac back on its feet and running the way you remember.
Of course, your Mac may just be at its performance limit. Each new version of the macOS seems to need just a bit more processing, graphics, or disk performance than the last one. To cover that possibility, I’ll include a few upgrade tips that can help you get your Mac back into tip-top shape.
Before you start, make sure you have a recent backup. Some of these tips involve removing files or performing actions that can result in data being removed.
Startup Time Seems Slow
Have you noticed that after installing Mojave, the time it takes for your Mac to start up seems to have taken a nosedive? Surprisingly, this isn’t all that unusual and happens to a small percentage of users after a major macOS upgrade.
There are multiple possible causes, and we’ll look at how to fix them. The problems and fixes are in no particular order, and you don’t need to do every one, but it also won’t hurt to start with the first one and work your way through.
Login Items: Sometimes called the Startup List, this is a list of apps or services that will start up automatically when you log into your Mac. Apps can add items to the list when they’re installed, or you can manually add apps or services you use all the time to the list.
What can happen is the new OS no longer supports one or more items in the list. This results in a delay when you log in as each item tries to launch and then times out. Or the app could still work but takes a long time to launch. The fix is to clean out old unsupported apps and services from the Login Items list.
You can find instructions on removing items from the list in the Rocket Yard Guide:macOS 101: What Mojave Broke and How to Fix It.
Reset SMC, NVRAM: The SMC (System Management Controller) takes care of a number of basic functions, including controlling fan speed, power, and a good deal more. During startup, an SMC that is misbehaving or has corrupt information can delay the startup process.
Likewise, the NVRAM (non-volatile random-access memory), which stores configuration information, such as mouse or trackpad settings, keyboard settings, which disk is the startup disk, and a bit more, can slow down the startup process if the stored data is incorrect.
You can reset both the SMC and NVRAM using the Rocket Yard Guide: How to Reset NVRAM, PRAM, SMC on your Mac.
Safe Mode: Safe Mode is primarily a diagnostic startup mode that prevents most third-party items from loading. But it also verifies and repairs, if needed, any issues with the startup drive. In addition, Safe Mode will delete all font caches, kernel caches, and system caches, which are likely candidates for startup slowdowns.
Just starting up in Safe Mode can fix many common slowdown issues. To find out how to use Safe Mode, read: Safe Mode & Single-User Mode: What They Are, How to Use Them.
Cache Files and Temporary Files: The Mac uses a number of cache files and temporary files to help speed up operation of the system, apps, and user interaction. For the most part, the Mac is perfectly capable of managing the cache and temp file system on its own. But once in a while, especially when a large-scale update to the system is performed, such as installing a new OS, one or more cache files can become corrupt, or simply contain a lot of outdated information, so that using the data in the cache will slow things down.
There are a number of ways to check on and flush or clear the cache files. You can find instructions and tips for clearing out cache files in the guide: Tech 101: How to Clear Cache and Temp Files from Mac OS.
General Speed issues
The items in the general category usually affect multiple areas of your Mac’s performance. Because of this, don’t overlook them as fixes to try for other speed problems you may be encountering.
Drive Space: Often overlooked when trying to figure out what is causing a Mac to slow down, the lack of free space on a startup drive can greatly affect a Mac’s overall performance. It can slow down the startup process, make launching apps take a longer time than usual, and can slow down the process of writing and reading files stored on the drive.
How much free space do you need to have on the startup drive? That’s hard to say because it depends on how you use your Mac. But if I have to put a number on it, I’d say if 15% or less of the space on your drive is free, you’re likely to see performance issues. If you use your Mac primarily for working with large media files, or in disciplines that involve large data manipulation, you’ll more than likely need even more free space.
You can free up storage space using the guide: Tech 101: How to Quickly Free Up Mac Storage Space, as well as Running Low on Mac Storage? Here Are 5 Tips to Recover Some Space.
Apps Performing Poorly: A leading reason for poor app performance is out-of-date apps that need to be updated to run smoothly with macOS Mojave. Assuming an update for Mojave is available for the app, upgrading an app is an easy task.
If you acquired the app from the Mac App Store, follow these steps to perform an update:
- Launch the Mac App Store.
- In the App Store window, select Updates from the sidebar.
- The Mac App Store will list all updates available for the apps you acquired from the store.
- You can select the Update button on individual apps in the list, or select the Update All button to queue up all of the updates to download and install one after the other.
If an app that’s performing poorly wasn’t purchased from the Mac App Store, you should check with the developer for an available update.
Graphics Performing Poorly: macOS Mojave’s user interface is chock-full of special effects to make using the Mac more interesting and fun. But if your Mac is a bit on the creaky side of old, all those effects can tax the graphics and slow down your Mac. Even those of you with newer Macs may want to dial back on effects, to ensure you have the horsepower for workloads you may be undertaking.
You can tone down the effects with these instructions:
- Launch System Preferences, and select the Accessibility preference pane.
- In the Accessibility preference pane’s sidebar, select the Display item.
- Place checkmarks in the items labeled Reduce motion, and Reduce transparency.
- Close the Accessibility preference pane.
- Select the Desktop & Screensaver preference pane.
- Select the Desktop button.
If you’re using a Dynamic Desktop, one that changes depending on the time of day, either select a different non-dynamic desktop image or use the drop-down menu and change Dynamic to either Light (Still) or Dark (Still).
Upgrade Your Mac
If you’ve tried the various tips for putting a little life back into your Mac and you still feel your Mac is running a bit slow, it may be time to consider an upgrade. You could pick out a Mac to replace an older model and gain a bit of performance in the process. Or, you could update your current Mac with one or more upgrades that can speed up performance, increase storage space, and provide better graphics performance.
Upgrade to SSD: By far one of the most effective upgrades to perform is to move your system from an older spinning hard drive to an SSD. An SSD will allow your Mac to read and write data faster than most spinning disk storage systems, resulting in faster boot times, faster shutdown speeds, faster app launches, and depending on the app, smoother app performance.
There are a number of ways to upgrade to an SSD, including removing an internal hard drive and replacing it with a new SSD. This can work for most Mac systems, including those using Fusion drives, which make use of a large hard drive as part of the Fusion storage system.
You can find details on how to find and perform an SSD upgrade for your specific Mac model in OWC’s Solid State Drive guide.
An alternate method of upgrading to an SSD is to use an external storage system connected to your Mac, which you use to boot from. If you go this route, you’ll want to consider an external drive that can connect to your Mac using either Thunderbolt or USB 3.1 Gen 2. Products like the OWC ThunderBlade, or the OWC Envoy Pro EX, are great choices for those who want a fast and reliable external SSD drive they can boot from.
Upgrade RAM: If your Mac supports upgrading RAM, you can increase the amount of memory your Mac can use, resulting in better performance when using memory-intensive apps, or if you like to have multiple apps open working away for you.
Upgrade Graphics: Most Mac models make use of graphics hardware that is built-in or hard to replace, the exception being the 2012 and earlier Mac Pro models, which use the PCIe bus to connect the graphics system to the Mac. OWC offers Radeon RX 580 graphics cards for the Mac Pro, which will not only help ensure Mac Pro compatibility with Mojave but likely offer better graphics performance than what your current graphics card can supply.
If you have a Mac that is equipped with Thunderbolt 3, you have another option for upping your graphics or computational performance: an eGPU (external GPU). The Helios FX is an external eGPU chassis that accepts full height, full length, and double width GPU cards.
The eGPU chassis can breathe new life into your professional workflow, as well as up your gaming performance.
Mojave Performance Wrap Up
Most users that installed macOS Mojave haven’t experienced any really noticeable performance issues, but for those of you who have, this guide should get your Mac back in the shape it was before you updated.
If you had a performance problem with Mojave, let us know about it in the comments section below. And if you were able to correct the issue, please share that information as well.