It was the fall of my freshman year of high school when my aunt bought me my first laptop. A brand new MacBook Pro and I couldn’t believe it. Apparently, this same computer is still running almost 10 years later; but does it work just as efficiently? With a little tenderness, love and care the answer turned out to be YES.

Updating an older MacBook Pro may seem like a monumental task, but it can be broken down into two categories: software optimizations and hardware upgrades. This article will focus on software optimizations and we will cover hardware upgrades in another article.

Open laptop MacBook

It is important to note that if you have an older MacBook you should NOT upgrade OS to Mojave, there are many programs encountering compatibility and indexing issues. In most cases, you won’t even be allowed.

These 7 simple tasks will greatly improve the speed and storage space on your MacBook Pro. Let’s get into it.

6. Restrict startup programs

Often, the most common reason an older MacBook may take longer to boot is that there are too many startup programs running in the background when the machine is first turned on. This is a simple solution and all you need to do is this:

  • Make your way to System Preferences
  • Click on Users and groups
  • Click on Login elements form
Login items in User and Group Settings

If you see anything in the Login elements tab that you didn’t launch on startup, just click on that item and click minus sign (-) bottom right below where it says To hide an application when you log in, select the checkbox in the Hide column next to the application. Disabling apps from startup to startup has speeded up my startup time considerably and will do it for you too.

5. Clear your desktop

A simple solution that you might not think about right away is to clear all items taking up desktop space. If there are too many items and folders, it might be worth consolidating all those folders and files into one folder that you can point somewhere besides your desktop.

I had files scattered all over my desktop and consolidating them into 7 folders also greatly improves my startup and runtime speed.

A clean Mac desktop screen

4. Deleting large files

Another huge problem that is known to curse the older MacBook is pretty obvious: Large junk files significantly slow down the performance of an older machine.

Usually, to make sure that the annoying “beach ball of death” stays in its computer cage, you’ll want to make sure that at least 20% of your hard drive is free. To free up space, simply:

  • Click on Apple logo at the top left of the screen
  • To select About this Mac
  • Navigate to Warehousing (the third tab) and click Manage
  • From here you should see the larger files and delete them accordingly.
Storage menu in About This Mac

If you are using OS X 10.11 (El Capitan) or earlier, you will not have the Manage button, unfortunately. In this case, open Finder, click All My Files in the left sidebar, and then sort by the Size column.

All my files sorted by size

One important thing to note, IOS files on the left were created before iCloud worked as it does now. It’s an exact copy of an old phone or iOS device, which you should delete if you have iCloud enabled because iCloud now does everything remotely.

It is also important to mention iTunes because old movies or podcasts will take up a significant amount of space, so if you’ve seen these movies before you might want to consider deleting them later. After doing that, I freed about 30GB from my hard drive. The ‘beach ball of death is gone.

3. Empty the cache

Clearing the system cache is something I haven’t done in a while and has helped speed things up. To clear the system cache, you simply need to:

  • Navigate to seeker
  • From the to go tab at the top left of the screen select Go to the folder at the bottom of the drop-down menu
  • To access the cache directory, type exactly “~ / Library / Caches” (without quotes)
  • Delete everything inside the Cache
    folder. Any files your computer needs will automatically download again, so you don’t have to worry about deleting anything important.
Cache directory with Move to Trash selected

After doing this, you should restart your computer and you will notice a dramatic change if you haven’t cleared the cache before.

2. Disable FileVault

Of all the tips I’ve seen for speeding up an older MacBook Pro, this one made the most significant change for me. FileVault is OSX’s built-in encryption feature that encrypts all your files and data on your computer.

If you’re not a high-profile individual who needs a lot of security (like me), you won’t need to have FileVault enabled. To disable this feature, you will need to:

  • Navigate to System Preferences
  • To select Security and privacy
  • Choose the tab FileVault
  • Click on Door lock image in the lower left of the window to allow changes to be made to this setting and type the administrator password to confirm.
  • To select Disable FileVault …
FileVault in Security and Privacy Settings

An important note for this process:

Decrypting your information will take a LONG time, so it’s important to do this when you won’t need your laptop for a significant period of time. I would recommend doing this before bed as it is known to take 4 to 12 hours.

This tip made the most significant change for me because the decrypted data takes much less time to load. Disabling this also managed to free up 90.2 gigabytes of space for me, so I fully recommend it.

1. Reset SMC and NVRAM

Another high-impact method to improve and upgrade MacBook performance is resetting SMC and NVRAM. SMC or System Management Controller is responsible for battery management, thermal management, and many other hardware management services.

Resetting could help resolve any overheating or battery issues you may be experiencing. According to Apple support, NVRAM or non-volatile random access memory is “the small amount of memory your Mac uses to store certain settings and access them quickly”. Resetting this was incredibly valuable to me because my hard drive is partitioned and the NVRAM manipulates the boot disk settings.

Your MacBook configuration will likely be different from mine, as will your recovery options.

To reset SMC you simply have to:

  • Go to this link and find the recovery options for your specific machine

To reset the NVRAM you will simply:

  • Go to this link and find the recovery options for your specific machine

These are the optimizations you can do within the OS X user interface. I hope this helps you extend the life of your beloved MacBook! For hardware upgrades, be sure to check out my next article, we’ll be replacing the internal components of the machine to speed it up. If you have any questions, feel free to send me a message and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible!

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