6 Easy Tips to Speed Up OS X Yosemite on Your Mac
OS X Yosemite runs great on most new Macs, but some older models may experience some sluggishness or stuttering from time to time. The reason for that feeling of reduced performance can be due to a variety of issues, and most of them are really easy to resolve with surprisingly little effort.
If you feel like OS X and your Mac is running slower since updating to Yosemite, follow these instructions to toggle a few settings to disable some of the possible causes of slowdowns, do a quick check on processor activity, and you should get things right up to speed again.
1: Disable The Eye Candy Transparent Windows & Effects
Eye candy like transparent menus, windows, and titlebars requires processor power and memory to render. For beefy Macs and the newest models, there is more than enough power onboard to handle the eye candy effects of Yosemite, but for older Macs, those effects can give the appearance of a slower computer (at least when a window is being drawn or moved around).
- Head to the Apple menu and in System Preferences go to “Accessibility”
- Choose ‘Display’ (it’s usually the default panel to open) and check the box for “Reduce Transparency”
This single settings change made a considerable difference in the responsiveness and speed of opening folders and windows in OS X Yosemite on an older MacBook Air (you can actually see the difference by watching SystemUIServer and Finder in Activity Monitor while opening and dragging around a transparent window, before and after the setting has been changed). Presumably the newest Macs won’t notice this however, but if you don’t like transparency you can always turn it off anyway.
It’s hard to overemphasize this one; if you’re only going to make a single adjustment to Yosemite to boost performance on an older Mac, this should be it. Ditch the eye candy, it offers a significant speed difference on some machines.
Oh, and while it’s unrelated to system performance, overall usability and your personal performance in OS X Yosemite may be improved by enabling the Increase Contrast option while in that same Accessibility panel. That setting makes interface elements more obvious than the default appearance by darkening text and drawing borders around some of the buttons.
2: Disable Unnecessary Widgets & Extensions in Notifications Center
Widgets in Notification Center can be fancy but if you watch the login and reboot processes, you’ll find they spend a few moments updating upon reboot. For faster Macs, no sweat, but older Macs can definitely feel like the reboot and login process takes longer as a result. The easy solution is to disable the widgets and extensions that you don’t need:
- Head to the Apple menu and in System Preferences go to “Extensions”
- Click on “Today” from the left side menu and uncheck all options you don’t need or care about – Weather, Stocks, Social, Reminders, etc
Again, this is particularly relevant to speeding up general log in and reboot, and also when opening the Notifications panel, since the data doesn’t have to be refreshed.
3: Clear Off a Cluttered Desktop
Every icon on your desktop requires memory to store and redraw when windows and apps move around or close. Accordingly, keeping a relatively clear desktop helps to keep performance where it should be. This is a really easy one too, just take everything that’s laying around on your Mac desktop and throw it into a folder – yes, that folder can even be on the desktop. Call it “Cleanup” or “Desktop Stuff”, whatever you want, just be sure that you move everything off the desktop to experience the speed boost.
This is an older trick for boosting performance of all Macs and it’s still very relevant to OS X Yosemite. And yes, you can always continue you use the defaults command to hide all desktop icons from the Mac, but that’s a bit more advanced since it relies on the terminal. Just throwing everything into a folder is usually sufficient.
4: Change the Minimize Window Effect to Scale
Yet another oldie but goodie, changing the Minimize function to Scale Effect rather than Toilet Flush or whatever the default is called makes a small impact on performance, at least when minimizing windows. If you’ve noticed that simple behavior is a bit slower than it used to be, this is an easy solution:
- Go to the Apple menu and then System Preferences
- Choose the “Dock” panel and next to ‘Minimize windows using” choose the “Scale Effect”
This is just one of those things that makes OS X feel a bit faster if a Mac feels slow, it’s not going to be some whopper speed improvement systemwide or for other actions beyond minimizing.
5: Check Out Activity Monitor for Obvious Culprits
Activity Monitor will let you know if there is an app hogging CPU, memory, or disk I/O, and ffor tracking down something that’s slowing down your Mac, CPU is a great place to start.
- Hit Command+Spacebar to bring up Spotlight, type “Activity Monitor” and hit Return key
- Click the CPU tab to sort by processor usage
If you see something like a Safari website URL that has been sitting in the background eating up 95% of CPU, that’s your problem, so you’d just need to head to Safari and close out of that window or tab.
On the other hand, you may find some processes that are heavy on CPU but that are normal, things like mds and mdsworker will run as they index hard drives. This is particularly true if you’ve just updated to Yosemite, or just connected an external volume to the Mac for the first time in a while, since Spotlight will index the contents of the volume. With things like mdworker, just let it run and complete – do not try to intervene.
By the way, you can change the update interval for more expedient information regarding CPU usage.
6: Speed Up New Finder Window Generation by Changing All My Files
All My Files is a smart folder that uses Spotlight to access any and all files owned by the current user. This can be great, but it can also slow down the generation of a new Finder window on some Macs. Changing the new Finder window to a static folder can help that speed:
- Pull down the Finder menu and choose “Preferences”
- Set the “New finder windows show” to “Desktop” or “Documents” or your user home folder
- Close Finder preferences as usual
Slow Boot & Slow Login? Using FileVault?
If you’re experiencing abnormally slow boot and login times in OS X Yosemite, and you are using FileVault, simply disabling FileVault may resolve those speed issues and speed up the Mac again. Multiple users have reported what appears to be a bug in Yosemite and FileVault which can lead to system slowdowns, noting that turning off the FileVault encryption feature will speed things up.
What Next? If All Else Fails, Start Fresh
This should get you up and running at full speed as before, but if you continue to have issues you can follow a detailed guide on why Macs can run slow and what to do about it, all of what’s mentioned there still applies to Yosemite. Additionally, some Mac users have experienced wi-fi troubles that may be perceived as a slower computer, when in reality it’s a problem with their wi-fi connection that can be resolved separately (for example, a slow DNS lookup may make your internet service feel extremely slow).
If all else fails and you know your Mac should not be performing as poorly as it is with Yosemite, you could consider backing up the Mac with Time Machine, doing a clean install of OS X Yosemite, and then restoring your stuff from a backup. That’s a very time consuming process though, and it’s not recommended unless you’ve exhausted all other options.
Finally, if you find the Mac performance to be unusually slow regardless of what tweaks, fresh installs, and other changes you have made, there’s always the option to downgrade Yosemite back to OS X Mavericks, though you must have a recent Mavericks Time Machine backup to do so. Downgrading is not necessarily recommended either, but it could be an option of last resort for some users.
What has your experience been with performance with OS X Yosemite on your Mac? Has it been fast? Slow? The same as Mavericks? Did you find a solution to speed up Yosemite? Let us know in the comments!