Every computer begins to show its age over time. You know the signs of an out-of-date Mac: you can make a sandwich in the time it takes to boot your machine, you can’t install the newest version of macOS and enjoy all its features, and forget trying to run modern resource-intensive software.
But it might not be time to get a new computer just yet. Macs hold their value for a reason, and there are steps you can take (both free and paid) to get some more life out of it.
If you feel like you need to give your Mac a second wind, here are some great ways to freshen it up.
Upgrade to an SSD
Far and away the best upgrade you can possibly make on your Mac is to replace its old mechanical hard drive with a solid-state drive (SSD). Unlike older hard drives, SSDs have no internal moving parts and their speed improvements boost performance across the board. Whether you’re booting your Mac, opening applications, or moving files, you’ll feel the benefits of an SSD.
No matter which model of Mac you have, be sure to check out website like Crucial’s Mac SSD compatibility page or a retailer like MacSales to make sure you order a compatible drive and that the process isn’t too difficult to perform. Most MacBooks only require removing a few screws to make the swap, but older iMacs don’t have the hard drive in such an accessible spot.
Fortunately, SSDs have had a huge drop in price recently, so you can get a high-end Samsung 850 (500 GB) drive for about $160, or a more modest Samsung 750 (250 GB) drive for about $70. Remember there are a few key factors to consider when buying your SSD, and bigger is always better when it comes to storage capacity.
Increase Your RAM
Second to an SSD is adding more RAM to your machine. While an SSD improves performance in every aspect, more RAM means that you can run more things at once without feeling the drag. If you like to stream Spotify while you have 23 Chrome tabs open as you follow a crazy tutorial for Photoshop, you probably need more RAM.
Again, you’ll need to check out specifics for your Mac here. You can go to Apple > About this Mac to view how much RAM you currently have in your system, then visit EveryMac’s RAM compatibility page to see how much RAM you can put in your system. In some cases, Apple has specified a minimum which is completely safe to exceed.
Once you’ve determined how much RAM you can expand to, it’s a good idea to visit Crucial’s Mac RAM finder to see which sticks of RAM are compatible with your device. You may be able to find RAM for cheaper on Amazon, though it’s a bit of a gamble as everything from Crucial is guaranteed to work. If you decide to buy on Amazon, verify that the supplier has stated the RAM will work with your exact model.
Uninstall Old Applications
If you have an older Mac you’ve probably got some applications sitting around that you never use. In your quest to freshen your Mac’s pace a bit, it’s a good idea to identify these apps and get rid of them. Find a tool you tried and disliked but never removed? Sitting on some outdated software that’s still taking up a lot of space? Let’s get rid of it.
Thankfully, it’s possible to uninstall just about anything on your Mac. The best way to quickly uninstall multiple apps, including removing the extra files that the built-in method of deletion might miss, is to use AppCleaner. This utility simply has you drag and drop an app’s icon to its window to remove all of its associated files.
Don’t feel like you need to uninstall every application you have, but the ones you haven’t used in years should probably be chucked.
Use Lighter Applications
Once you’ve eliminated the software you no longer use, it’s smart to look at the software you do use. While there are plenty of apps that we love on Mac, there are also some to avoid, which goes double if you’re using an older system.
For instance, you should think twice about using Chrome on Mac due to heavy battery drain, slower system performance, and poor integration with the rest of the OS. For a speedier experience that’s more power and resource efficient, you should stick with Safari. After all, it does contain a ton of cool features and is way better than it used to be.
You can probably identify similar applications on your system that you could replace with a lighter alternative. Could you get by with a Photoshop alternative until you’re able to upgrade your system? To identify more apps that are using a lot of power, utilize the Activity Monitor to see which are using the CPU heavily, sucking up your RAM, or draining your battery in the Energy tab.
Reinstall the OS
For Windows users, reinstalling the OS every once in a while to fix problems and clean up cruft is an oft-quoted, if not really necessary, step. We’ve discussed the reasons you might want to reinstall the OS on your Mac, and concluded that one good reason is to speed things up if everything is slow.
If you’re looking for a fresh start on your machine, upgrading the hardware per above combined with a fresh install of macOS is a great option. However, with years of files on your system, this might not be practical. In that case, your best bet is to clean old junk off the system, back it up with Time Machine, and reinstall. We’ve written a complete guide on the reinstall process for more info.
Give It a Fresh Coat of Paint
The above steps are the important parts of making your Mac feel like new, but there are a few optional parts of the process, too. If you’re sick of staring at the same old desktop all the time, change it up! There are tons of ways to personalize your Mac desktop, and you can tweak Safari to make it perform exactly as you want.
Unfortunately, El Capitan lost a lot of the customization options possible in earlier versions. If you’re still running an older version of OS X this won’t affect you, but it’s a good point to note should you be up to date. It won’t affect you from customizing your dock or arranging your menu bar, though, so don’t despair.
Don’t Forget Physical Cleaning
Once you’ve done all this, take a quick look at the physical state of your Mac. Is there any residue from spills on the system, dust on your keyboard, or other unsightly aspects? If so, take a few minutes to follow our MacBook and iMac cleaning guide to get your keyboard, mouse, and screens spiffy and clean. You can also take a look at our general PC cleaning guide for more ideas.
As Good as New
With a few upgrades and a little maintenance, your Mac might just feel like a new machine. Following all these steps means you have a blazing new SSD, plenty of RAM for keeping applications open, more optimized apps for better performance, less clutter, and possibly a quieter machine to boot.
This might help you get another few years out of your older Mac. It’s a lot cheaper to spend $100 on new components and take the time to perform some upgrades than it is to buy a new computer.
Looking for an even speeder computer? Check out our hidden tricks for making any Mac a bit faster.
What other steps would you take to make an older Mac feel like new? Let’s talk about how we could add to this list in the comments.