How to Maximize macOS Gaming Performance: Tips and Tricks
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Picture a fluid, non-stressful, and relaxing gaming session. Then the perfect dream-like experience hits a snag. Your computer suddenly can’t handle everything on the screen, and the game becomes unplayable.

It can happen much too often—you buy a game and your specs just don’t match up with the exact requirements. It doesn’t seem fair to have to suffer freezing, FPS drops, or performance dips. Why not fix this situation with some stress-relieving optimization?

If you want to play games on a macOS device without frustration, it just takes a little time and knowledge. Here are some tips and tricks to speed up macOS performance when gaming.

1. Learn to Use macOS Activity Monitor

When first learning to manage your system for gaming, it comes down to knowing your system. Gaming tends to be more CPU-bound nowadays, and it can be useful to keep track of it up close and take control. As a result, macOS’s Activity Monitor works out as an extremely useful addition.

Activity Monitor provides you with access to your CPU, memory, energy, disk, and network usage. For gaming, CPU and memory usage serve as the most fundamentally important categories. The other categories provide additional information, but we won’t be discussing them here as they aren’t crucial. With this note in mind, let’s talk about what you really need to know.

Opening Activity Monitor

To access Activity Monitor, we’ll discuss two different approaches. You can open the program by navigating to the Go menu in the Finder and selecting Utilities. You can also open Utilities via the shortcut combination of Command, Shift, and U. Once the list of utility programs appear, click Activity Monitor.

Spotlight also opens Activity Monitor. Click the magnifying glass in the upper right-hand corner of the Finder to bring up the Spotlight search. Type in Activity Monitor to bring the program up as a result and then open it.

Once the software launches by either approach, you’re able to see the current state of your live computer.

Examining CPU Usage

When looking at the usage of your CPU, Activity Monitor breaks it down by percentage. When seeking to improve your computer’s speed, you’ll want to close the biggest resource hogs. If you see any unneeded processes, close them. Simply highlight the process and click the small x in the upper-left corner of Activity Monitor.

If you’re nervous about closing from the lost list of active items, note the user on the far right of the processes list. If the user of the process shares your username then it’s safe to close. By following this rule of thumb, you can close any programs eating too much CPU without concern about your system destabilizing or logging you out.

For quick reference, the bottom of the CPU tab breaks down the entire CPU load. If there isn’t any idle percentage, and the user percentage looks high then consider closing some items out.

If you want to continually monitor your CPU usage from the dock, you can right-click Activity Monitor and select to show CPU usage via either option.

Examining Memory Usage

After looking at the CPU, the memory tab comes next. It looks nearly identical to the CPU tab and functions similarly. Instead of a percentage amount, memory uses megabytes. Once you identify any large memory drainers, close the process via the same x button in the upper lefthand corner.

For the more visual individual, memory also utilizes color coding to showcase the health of its current state. If you’re in the green or yellow range then your computer doesn’t need any additional memory. For anyone with a red result, close some applications or consider installing some more RAM on your device.

Keeping Activity Monitor in your dock allows for easy access to these values. Once you have a solid grasp of these, optimization can continue with further tweaks.

2. Free Up More Hard Drive Space

A less remembered issue boils down to hard drive space. The image of a full hard drive typically conjures images of older devices that have spent a lifetime accumulating data. However, with increasing game data requirements and file sizes, space issues can happen much sooner.

When a hard drive gets too full, the extra stress and lack of space to write on can create slowdown. To make your computer’s life easier, always set aside some extra space. The amount needed changes based on different requirements, but it’s a good rule of thumb to keep it as free as possible.

If you run into any extra slowdown, try removing junk data and unneeded programs from your computer. You can use a third-party program like CCleaner to analyze and detect all the junk data from your applications, browsers, and system files before removing them. Additionally, uninstall applications with CCleaner to hasten your cleaning.

Learn more in our article on speeding up macOS Catalina performance 3 Ways to Speed Up macOS Catalina and Improve Performance 3 Ways to Speed Up macOS Catalina and Improve Performance If you updated to macOS Catalina and find that your system is slow, here are some simple fixes to help restore performance. Read More .

3. Disable Startup Apps

If you’ve ever tried to immediately jump into a game after startup, it can easily go awry. An unready system consists of multiple applications vying for resources. Disabling some of these start-up programs with CCleaner can ease your burden.

Simply navigate to the Tools portion of the application and select startup. You can then delete or delay any number of programs and background utilities. If you prefer to delete programs without an app, you can also disable or delete the non-hidden varieties via System Preferences. How to Add, Remove, Delay Startup Items on Your Mac How to Add, Remove, Delay Startup Items on Your Mac Having a lot of login items can increase your Mac's bootup time and decrease its performance. Take charge of your startup for a faster Mac! Read More

4. Disable macOS Notification Center

As a last resort, disabling notifications can give a small boost. To disable notification center for the day, follow these steps:

  1. While holding down your Option key, click the icon at the far top right (It looks like a bulleted list icon).
  2. The icon should now gray out.
  3. Click the icon to open the notification center.
  4. Turn on Do Not Disturb if it isn’t already.
  5. You can now click off the notification center.

Enjoying Your Optimized macOS Machine

By monitoring the background parts of your Mac, you can stop any problems in advance and transition into problem-free gaming. For anyone looking to improve their gaming experience once the operating system tweaks are out of the way, consider these tips to improve your Mac gaming experience 6 Tips to Improve Your Mac Gaming Experience 6 Tips to Improve Your Mac Gaming Experience If you play games on a Mac, you should know these vital tips for a better experience. Read More .

Explore more about: Gaming Tips, Mac Tips, Performance Tweaks, Troubleshooting.

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  1. Led
    October 17, 2019 at 2:19 pm

    Sorry, but not a single one of these things has anything to do with "improving game performance". Whose idea was this?

    • James Hirtz
      October 17, 2019 at 3:33 pm

      I'm really sorry you didn't enjoy the article nor find it useful.

      My personal goal was to discuss ways to indirectly boost your gaming performance by tweaking system performance. As macOS doesn't typically get associated with gaming (nor have the typical advantages such as game booster associated software), I had hoped to keep it broad and focused on getting to intimately know your system set-up.

      Depending on the person and their system, I can see where this knowledge can be very hit-or-miss, however.

      An argument can also be made for discussing in-game settings (but that can be nuanced), utilizing external hardware, or running a Windows emulation but that felt too sharp a departure when I was considering the article. I'm sorry if you were looking for more on that kind of topic.

      Still, I'm always happy to hear feedback and know what you would have liked to see. I appreciate you taking the time to comment!