How to Speed up a Sluggish MacBook Pro

By David Weedmark

If your MacBook Pro isn't zipping through the day quite as fast as it used to, you can do something about it. Take a good look at the apps and processes that are slowing it down. OS X has tools you can use to identify resource-intensive apps. Upgrading the memory is a big help too. If you have an older model, upgrading your hard drive and your operating system can boost your MacBook Pro's performance.

Speed Up Start Times

Look at the apps and utilities that start as login items when you turn on your MacBook Pro. Find the list by clicking "Users & Groups" in System Preferences and clicking "Login Items." Each app takes up memory and processing resources, so remove any item that you don't use every day. Right-click any icons in your desktop Dock that you don't use frequently and remove them too. While you're at it, clean up your desktop. You'll be surprised at how much faster OS X becomes when you move several dozen icons from the desktop into a folder.

Eliminate Resource Hogs

When you find your MacBook Pro is starting to slow down, open the Activity Monitor, located in the Utilities folder under Applications. Use the Activity Monitor to determine whether an app is worth keeping around. Click both the "CPU" and "Memory" buttons and look at the apps and processes. Click the "%CPU" or "Memory" column headers to display the biggest resource hogs at the top. A graph at the bottom shows you what's being used in real time, so if you see a sudden spike, look at the app that jumped to the top of the list.

Upgrade Your System

Upgrading OS X is a good way to speed up a flagging Mac. OS X Mavericks has a Compressed Memory feature that reduces the amount of memory used in inactive apps to make more RAM available for the apps you are using. Of course, adding more memory is an option if you haven't already done so. The MacBook Pro doesn't usually ship with its maximum RAM unless you pay extra for the upgrade. At the time of publication, the MacBook Pro usually ships with 4GB but can be upgraded to 8GB.

Hard Drives and Performance

Unless your MacBook Pro has a solid state drive, empty the trash regularly and offload the files you don't use often to an external drive. The more space its internal drive has, the faster a Mac performs. With SSDs, which are now standard on MacBook Pros, this isn't as big a problem. According to tests done by Macworld, speed shouldn't be an issue until an SSD on a MacBook Pro approaches 97 percent capacity. SDDs also read and write data faster than traditional hard drives, so this might be another upgrade to consider for your MacBook Pro.