Accelerate your Mac!

Take Control of
Speeding Up Your Mac

Second Edition
Joe Kissell

Don’t settle for a sluggish Mac! If it seems your Mac has become slower and less responsive over time, it’s not your imagination—but it’s also a problem you can solve without buying a new computer. This comprehensive book teaches you how to find the exact causes of slow performance and take steps to make your Mac zippy again.

All Take Control books are delivered in three ebook formats—PDF, EPUB, and Mobipocket (Kindle)—and can be read on nearly any device.


Note: This book is currently out of date for users of macOS 10.15 Catalina or later. We plan to release a new book in the second half of 2022 to provide up-to-date instructions on this topic.

If your Mac seems a lot slower now than when you first bought it, it’s not your imagination. Over time, your Mac can become bogged down with extra background tasks, run out of free RAM and disk space, and encounter a wide variety of other issues that lead to slow performance. With expert advice and a little detective work, you can find and fix these problems—returning your Mac to its original, peppy self.

Don’t depend on random tips that may or may not help. In this book you’ll learn how to find and address the exact causes of slow behavior, with before-and-after tests to confirm your results. You’ll discover how to optimize CPU and RAM usage, eliminate disk bottlenecks, improve network performance (including web browsing and email), speed up peripherals, perform strategic software and hardware upgrades, and much more.

This book covers 10.9 Mavericks through 10.14 Mojave. It does not cover 10.15 Catalina or later.

In this practical, hands-on book, Joe Kissell shares the results of his extensive research:

  • Learn the Basics: Separate fact from fiction when it comes to commonly recommended performance tips.
  • Diagnose Speed Issues: Use benchmarking and other diagnostic tools to pinpoint speed problems and test your fixes.
  • Try Quick Fixes: Discover the most effective techniques for overcoming random, temporary speed problems.
  • Lighten Your CPU’s Load: Track down apps that are bogging down your processor and teach them to behave.
  • Increase Available RAM: Turn off or manage processes that are using too much memory so there’s more to work with.
  • Improve Disk Performance: Fix disk errors, avoid running out of space, and eliminate inefficient disk access.
  • Boost Network Speeds: Speed up Wi-Fi and Ethernet network access, DNS lookups, web browsing, and email.
  • Monitor System Resources: Use Activity Monitor and other tools to keep tabs on your Mac’s CPU, RAM, disk, and network usage.
  • Upgrade Your Hardware: Learn when and how to install additional RAM, a new hard drive, an SSD, or other hardware upgrades.

What happened to Speeding Up Your Mac: A Joe On Tech Guide?
Long story short, this is an updated version of the same book, with a different title. The Joe On Tech book started out as Take Control of Speeding Up Your Mac, and now it’s back home in the Take Control catalog.

Joe Kissell

About Joe Kissell

Take Control publisher Joe Kissell has written more than 60 books about technology, including many popular Take Control books. He formerly wrote for publications such as Macworld, Wirecutter, and TidBITS. He lives in Saskatoon with his wife, his two children, and his cat.

What’s New in Version 2.1

Version 2.1 is a minor revision that brings this book up to date with macOS 10.14 Mojave and various changes in third-party hardware and software. Nearly all the changes in this version were quite small, but some of the noteworthy items I addressed were:

  • Removed outdated information about obsolete hardware and discontinued software
  • Added a sidebar about the perils of APFS with mechanical hard drives; see Hard Disks and Macs Running Mojave
  • Noted current limitations in APFS support in Use a Third-Party Disk Repair Tool and Use a Defragmenting Utility
  • Added links to ad-blocking extensions suitable for Safari 12 in Block Ads and Trackers
  • Added a note about new Wi-Fi naming conventions in 802.11 Flavors
  • Updated my recommendations for fast DNS service in Use a Faster DNS Provider
  • Included information about the RAM and storage upgradability of newer Mac models in Upgrade Your Hardware

The second edition (version 2.0) of this book contained a large number of minor changes, but only the following major changes since Speeding Up Your Mac: A Joe On Tech Guide, version 1.1:

  • Updated the book for compatibility with macOS 10.13 High Sierra and the latest Mac models available as of December 2017
  • Added iStat Menus to the list of utilities in Use Live Monitoring Tools
  • Mentioned a way to speed up Time Machine in Adjust Backup Software Settings
  • Clarified details about how much space you should leave available on your disk in Determine How Much Space You Need
  • Revised Use Optimized Storage in Sierra or Later with better details and new advice
  • Updated various topics in Speed Up Your Browser to cover the latest browser versions
  • Revised Monitor Network Activity to use Little Snitch, rather than the now-discontinued Private Eye, as an example
  • Added a mention of mesh/hub-and-spoke Wi-Fi routers in Signal Strength
  • Explained the importance of using the right kind of Ethernet cable in Check Your Wired Ethernet Connection
  • Revised Use a Faster DNS Provider to reflect the fact that namebench is no longer being developed (and has problems under High Sierra)
  • Added CursorSense to the utilities covered in Adjust Acceleration
  • Updated the sidebar Is My Storage Upgradable? and the topic Add a Second (or Larger) Display to cover recent Mac models
  • Rewrote most of the chapter Speed Up Your Peripherals, which now contains complete information about USB 3.1 and Thunderbolt 3
  • Read Me First
  • Introduction
  • Speeding Up Your Mac Quick Start
  • Learn What Makes a Mac Fast (or Slow)
  • Try a Few Quick Fixes
  • Diagnose Common Speed Problems
  • Fix File and Directory Problems
  • Lighten Your CPU Load
  • Increase Your Free RAM
  • Improve Your Disk Performance
  • Speed Up Your Browser
  • Speed Up Your Email
  • Speed Up Your Network
  • Speed Up Booting, Sleeping, and Waking
  • Speed Up Mouse and Keyboard Input
  • Upgrade Your Hardware
  • Speed Up Your Peripherals
  • About This Book
  • April 30, 2022—The current version of this book covers Mojave and Catalina. A planned update will cover changes in macOS 11 Big Sur and macOS 12 Monterey, including a new chapter about Shortcuts for macOS. We expect the new version to be ready in the second quarter of 2022, and it will be a free update for anyone who purchases the book between now and then.


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