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Take Control of Speeding Up Your Mac
Sep 19, 2012

Take Control of Speeding Up Your Mac

Boost your Mac’s performance and eliminate speed bumps!

Has your Mac running 10.5 Leopard, 10.6 Snow Leopard, 10.7 Lion or 10.8 Mountain Lion lost its zip? Do you wish you could squeeze extra life out of an older but still functional Mac rather than investing in the latest model? Nearly every Mac’s speed can be boosted considerably and inexpensively if you know what you’re doing. In this practical, hands-on book, best-selling author Joe Kissell offers you the results of his extensive research and experimentation in the area of Macintosh performance.

This book shows you how to identify the exact causes of slowdowns and measure your Mac’s speed before and after making changes so you know exactly what their effect was. You’ll systematically root out the gremlins that chew up CPU cycles, RAM, and disk space; discover numerous tricks to improve responsiveness; and learn how to speed up your email, Web browser, network, peripherals, and more. You’ll also explore the benefits of hardware upgrades such as SSDs, faster hard drives, and extra RAM; discover techniques and utilities to boost your Mac’s speed; and get to the bottom of some of the most common and pervasive performance myths.

Is this book old? Yes. In tech years, this book is retired. That’s good news if your Mac is still running one of the operating systems listed in bold above — much of the content is going to be perfect for you (some of the Web links to external resources may have aged out, and discussions of third-party utilities may no longer be correct). If you’re running a newer version of the Mac’s operating system, check out Speeding Up Your Mac: A Joe On Tech Guide, a newer book that is effectively a new edition of this one.

More Info

Whether your Mac is running 10.5 Leopard, 10.6 Snow Leopard, 10.7 Lion, or 10.8 Mountain Lion, with this 204-page book, you can:

  • Save money: Extend your Mac’s useful life and postpone buying an expensive new computer.
  • Save time: Work more efficiently rather than constantly waiting for your Mac to catch up with you.
  • Eliminate irritations: Banish the spinning pizza of death. Reduce startup and application launch times.
  • Work smarter: Learn tricks for getting more done with less effort.

You’ll learn answers to questions like:

  • What are the eight quickest fixes for Mac performance problems?
  • Which common claims about Mac performance are myths?
  • How can I objectively measure my Mac’s performance?
  • Which popular Mac OS X features have hidden (and severe) speed penalties?
  • What are the best ways to find and eliminate CPU and RAM hogs?
  • Can I make my Mac faster by freeing up disk space?
  • Will defragmenting my disk, repairing permissions, or clearing caches speed up my Mac?
  • When is an SSD (solid-state drive) a smart upgrade choice?
  • Which hardware upgrades are worth the money, and which should I avoid?
  • If Web browsing is slow, how can I tell where the bottleneck is?
  • How can I make my Mac start up, go to sleep, or wake up faster?
  • How can I type faster?
  • How can I make my mouse pointer move faster or more fluidly?

Interestingly, only the day after I’d finished reading this book, someone on a mailing list I participate in was complaining about how their Mac had slowed down. Helpful people suggested many of the things that Kissell had shown in his book to be ineffective. I found I was recommending this book even before I’d written my review. —Miraz Jordan, Mac Tips book review

What's New

Version 1.2 is a minor update intended mainly to bring the book up to date with OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion and recent changes to Apple’s hardware. Apart from clarifying that what was true in Lion is largely true in Mountain Lion, the only noteworthy changes are:

  • Added details pertaining to the new MacBook Pro with Retina display in Add RAM, Upgrade Your Hard Drive, and Add a Second (or Larger) Display
  • Updated the information in Use a Faster Disk Interface and Optimize USB and FireWire Configurations to cover USB 3.0, which is now included on some new Macs

What Was New in Version 1.1

Version 1.1 contained numerous small changes throughout that brought this book up to date with information about Mac OS X 10.7 Lion, other recent software and hardware releases, and my two other Mac Fitness books. I also did the following:

  • Set the record straight on the performance effects of FileVault 2 in Avoiding FileVault 2
  • Added a sidebar covering Automatic Termination
  • Updated Benchmark Your Mac’s Performance to cover the use of Xbench with Lion, and the latest version of Geekbench
  • Updated Run Disk Utility to cover the use of Recovery Mode
  • Noted in Check for Damaged Preference Files that Preferential Treatment no longer works in Lion
  • Confirmed that Lion no longer supports Rosetta in Update Your Software
  • Corrected information about the maximum number and size of swap files in Determine How Much Free Space You Need
  • Added information about recent versions of Safari, particularly under Lion, in Quit and Reopen Your Browser
  • Removed obsolete information about MobileMe in Consolidate Your Accounts
  • Mentioned the effect of a system update on startup speed in Understand What Influences Startup Speed
  • Added tips about re-downloading iTunes content and using iTunes Match in Install an SSD
  • Included information about using Thunderbolt displays in Add a Second (or Larger) Display 

What versions of Mac OS X does this ebook cover?

Most of the advice in this ebook is geared toward users with Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard, 10.6 Snow Leopard, 10.7 Lion, and 10.8 Mountain Lion.

Update Plans

June 22, 2016 – This book has been updated in the form of a new edition, and that new edition is part of the Joe On Tech series. That series was created so that Joe could do more writing, but Tonya and Adam (Take Control co-publishers) could focus less on the details of Joe’s books and more on the details of running a small publishing company. To buy the new edition, see Speeding Up Your Mac: A Joe On Tech Guide.

Posted by Adam Engst

  1. Caution: Leave Spindump Alone

    On p. 83, in the sidebar “Should You Disable Spindump?”, I explain how to disable the spindump process, which has been implicated in slowdowns after a crash (as it collects data to send to Apple about the cause of the problem). I did this on my own Mac without any problems, but two readers have now reported to me that after trying this, their Macs froze and wouldn’t restart, requiring them to restore their disks from a backup. I can’t explain why that would happen, but to be on the safe side, I recommend just ignoring that sidebar and not disabling spindump. If you do feel the need to try it, be sure you have a recently updated bootable duplicate first—just in case!

    Posted by Adam Engst (Permalink)

  2. Joe Speaks Out about Speeding Up Your Mac

    On Chuck Joiner’s popular Mac-oriented podcast, MacVoices, Chuck interviewed Joe Kissell about his latest book, Take Control of Speeding Up Your Mac. The 41-minute interview is available, in both audio and video versions, on the MacVoices site.



    Posted by Adam Engst (Permalink)

The Author

Take Control publisher Joe Kissell has written more than 60 books about technology, including many popular Take Control ebooks. He also runs Joe On Tech and is a contributing editor of TidBITS and a senior contributor to Macworld.