So you’ve had your Mac for a while, and things don’t feel as fresh and clean as they used to? Although Macs don’t require a lot of maintenance for cleaning, those temporary files, app leftovers, and system cache do accumulate. These files may slow down your machine and take up a lot of valuable space. In this article, we share quick and easy ways to clean up your MacBook. If you want to clean up your Mac manually, jump to the section linked below. Let’s get started!
How to clean your Mac automatically
Here’s a simple diagram to explain the most common types of computer junk, sorted by size. Some of these, like Trash bin files, are easily reachable, while others are stored away in hidden system folders. Sadly, there’s no easy way to clear them up without special skills.
The MacBook Air 2021 is a rumoured Apple laptop with an all-new design, while also packing an excellent Apple Silicon processor. When it comes to protecting your MacBook from malicious software, your best bet is to use the Apple App Store to obtain your software. A popular third-party app that can help with Safari malware related issues is MalwareBytes. Feel free to check them out. Stay away from messages about updating Flash!
If you don’t feel like spending the next several hours cleaning your Mac manually, you can use a powerful cleaning tool CleanMyMac X to find and remove all the clutter your Mac contains. It knows which files are useless, how to find and remove them completely. CleanMyMac X has everything to finish the 3-hour task of a Mac cleanup in under 5 minutes. It will even clean up the junk you didn’t know about and give your computer a speed boost.
How to clean up system storage on Mac with CleanMyMac X:
- Download CleanMyMac X for free here.
- Run the app and go to System Junk.
- Click Scan.
- Press Clean to get rid of all junk.
Done! Now your Mac looks much better!
How to Clean Mac Hard Drive Manually
If you never performed an automatic or manual system cleaning — it means that your Mac has been collecting unnecessary files and clutter for years. You can quickly clean up your Mac with these easy steps.
1. Clean up cache
You’ve probably heard “Remove your cache” as a web browser troubleshooting tip. In fact, your Mac stores a lot of information in files called caches, allowing fast access to that data and reducing the need to get it from the original source again. Unfortunately, those files take a lot of space on your Mac, and instead of speeding things up, they slow your computer down. Therefore, if you want to give your system a boost, clean your Mac from the cache files.
There are two ways to do that: you can delete them manually or use a MacBook cleaner like CleanMyMac X to do the job for you. Of course, the second way is an easy and fast one. However, if you decide to clean up the cache manually, check out a comprehensive guide on “How to Clear Cache on a Mac.”
2. Uninstall apps you don’t use
The applications you’ve installed on your Mac take up space, of course. And over time when your Mac becomes full of different apps, it may start running slowly. How to clean MacBook? In the first place, you need to remove the apps you no longer use or need. To do this, right-click on the app you want to remove and choose Move to Bin.
You may be surprised to find out that sending an app to the Trash will not uninstall it completely because the app leftovers still remain on your Mac taking up a lot of storage. So, if you want to be a responsible Mac user, you need to uninstall applications the right way. Here’s a step-by-step guide on “How to Uninstall Apps on a Mac.”
Extra step: Trim down your login items
Login items are applications that run automatically upon startup. Nowadays, every second app tries to become as prominent as possible and get into your Login Items. First of all, you may not even know what they are (not all of them appear in the Dock). Secondly, such apps consume memory. That's enough reason to get rid of extra login items you don't need.
- Open System Preferences.
- Go to Users & Groups.
- Choose your nickname on the left.
- Choose the Login Items tab.
- Check startup programs you want to remove.
- Press the “–” sign below.
3. Clean out useless duplicates
Identical photos, music tracks you’ve added one time too many, saved and re-saved PDF files… all of that sits on your Mac and gobbles up storage. The storage that could be used for better purposes.
So how do you quickly weed them out? The fastest way is to use Gemini 2: The Duplicate Cleaner.
- Download and launch the app
- Click “Scan for Duplicates”, and watch as it quickly fetches them from different corners of your Mac.
- Once the scan is done, hit Review Results and check which copies you want to remove.
- Click Smart Cleanup to delete everything you’ve selected.
That's it. Now your Mac should be completely duplicate-free.
4. Empty the Trash
Even though you’ve deleted the files, they reside in your Trash bin taking up a lot of storage on your Mac. They are just waiting to be removed completely. If you want your precious hard drive space back, you need to empty the Trash.
Here’s how to clean your MacBook from the trash:
- Click and hold on the Trash can icon in the Dock.
- Click Empty and then Empty Trash.
The process is quite simple, right? There is even a more effortless way to clear Trash. CleanMyMac X scans your Mac for junk and lets you remove all trashed files. To do that, launch CleanMyMac X and press Scan. When the scan is completed, click Review Details to see what exactly CleanMyMac X has found.
I’ve already cleaned Bin a couple of weeks before, but over some time, almost a gigabyte of trashed files has accumulated. Now, I can simply click Back to Summary and then Run to clean Trash and system junk.
5. Reduce clutter
Apple has already thought about the clutter that can be generated on the Macs and provided a possible solution. Here’s how to reduce clutter on your Mac:
- Go to the Apple menu.
- Choose About This Mac and then Storage. Here you can see how much free space is left on your computer.
- Then click Manage.
Here’re some recommendations for saving space on your Mac. You can choose Review Files to examine apps, documents, and other files that are stored on your Mac.
You can choose any file in every category (Applications, Bin, Documents, etc.) and click Delete to remove it and optimize space. Look through other recommendations and make the necessary changes to use your Mac’s space more efficiently.
6. Delete large and old files
It has always been a rule of thumb among computer geeks, that you should keep a minimum of 15-20% of free space on your main hard drive. This is just a rough estimation, but the more free space you have, the faster your Mac works. A computer magazine once performed a test on this, which concluded that the difference in speed can reach as much as 35%. If you work with heavy graphics or video rendering, even more free space is recommended.
How to have more free space? Delete large and old files.
The first way is totally manual and requires you to find them one by one, while for the second way, you just need to make two clicks and CleanMyMac X will do the job for you.
How to clean up Mac with CleanMyMac X:
- Download CleanMyMac X (a link to a free edition of the app)
- Launch the program.
- Go to the Large and Old Files section on the menu.
- Click Scan.
- Review the details, select what to clean, and then click Clean.
7. Remove old iOS backups
Having your files backed up is a wonderful thing. But over time your Mac becomes overloaded with old backups that take gigabytes of storage on your hard drive. That’s why you should consider removing the old iOS backups you no longer need.
Each backup remains stored on your computer and is accessible via iTunes. To delete the old backups, you need to do the following:
- Choose the Apple menu and then select About This Mac.
- Go to the Storage tab and click Manage.
- Here, choose iOS Files.
- Select the backup you want to remove and click Delete.
- Confirm and you’re done!
That’s it! The backup files are gone from your Mac forever.
8. Wipe out Language files
Unused language localizations take up about 1 GB of storage space. Mac applications come with language files for every language they support. It allows starting using the app in that language immediately. Cool, right? Not always. Just consider: when was the last time you used the app in Bengali or Korean? Since you don’t speak those languages, such files just waste space on your Mac. You need to remove the unnecessary language files and clean MacBook from that clutter.
How to delete the language files? Go to Finder > Applications, then right-click the app which language files you want to remove and choose Show Package Contents. Open the Resources folder and then find folders ending with “.lproj.” Every folder contains language files for one particular language. Note that for every app you should manually find and select the files to remove. But there is an automatic way to delete the language files that will save you tons of time — CleanMyMac X. Just download the application (for free) and it will do the job for you.
9. Delete old DMGs
Disk images (DMGs) often take up valuable space on your Mac. Here’s how to perform a Mac cleanup and get rid of those files:
- Open Finder and type “.dmg” in the search bar.
- Then delete all files that have .dmg extensions. Don’t forget to remove them from Trash as well.
Microsoft windows 10 x. CleanMyMac X allows you to locate and delete DMGs quicker. With its System Junk module you can remove unused disk image with a single click of a button:
Just press Clean and it’s done!
10. Sort your Downloads folder
Do you also download things and never get rid of them? Then, your Downloads folder probably needs a good old sort out. If you’re too scared to face that enormous pile of files, here’s a quick trick: sort all your downloaded items by date added. Then, scroll till the end of the folder, and you’ll see the dusty files that have been there for a while. Command-click to highlight multiple files and send them to the Trash.
11. Tidy up your desktop
Many people use Desktop as their primary destination for files. But this could be tricky because your OS treats every file on a desktop as an active window. When items on your desktop are too many, Finder gets substantially slower. This leads us to the most compelling advice in this article — cleaning up desktop does miracles!
Rather than just leaving every file on your desktop, organize them into folders. The latest macOS does that automatically thanks to the Stacks feature: right-click your Desktop and choose Use Stacks. Now all your files are grouped and you can delete them with a click. You can also use Google Drive, Dropbox, or any external storage device to save your files and keep your desktop tidy.
12. Clean your Mac’s keyboard
Our last but not least advice is to wipe your Mac’s keyboard. As you use your keyboard daily, it quickly gets dirty. Moreover, all those crumbs may live under the keys forever!
If you were wondering how to clean Mac’s keyboard, there are no special rules here. You can try blowing the dust and other particles out of your keyboard once in a while. Disinfecting wipes and alcohol-based sprays may also prove useful. Just choose the piece of fabric and wipe the keys gently to make them clean and shiny!
All in all, be careful with your system files. Don’t delete things you’re not sure about. If you are not completely confident that you can manage the task by yourself, better use a dedicated utility like CleanMyMac X to get a fresh and clean Mac in just two clicks. Here's the video describing quick tips to clean up your Mac:
Does this sound familiar to you? You were sitting in front of your Macbook Pro surfing the Internet or working on a project. All of a sudden, you saw the spinning beach ball.
One second, two seconds…finally you started to cry out: “Why is my Mac laptop so slow?”
Though Mac machines are generally considered to be faster than Windows PCs, it’s not uncommon for a Mac to start acting up with symptoms like taking forever to boot, freezing while opening an app, or mouse cursor becoming unresponsive, etc.
You are not alone!
As Apple advocates for more than a decade, we’ve probably encountered more performance issues than you. Fortunately, we were able to fix most of them, and today we still use our old MacBooks from time to time.
Here we are going to share the fixes we’ve discovered along the way, and you are going to learn:
- The four main reasons why a Mac can run slow.
- Solutions to fix your slow Macbook and make it fast again.
- Bonus tips to mitigate the risk of future slow-downs.
The tips below should also apply to other types of Macs such as iMac, MacBook Air, Mac Pro/Mini, etc. Use the Table of Contents below for better navigation.
- Why is My Macbook Pro so Slow?
- How to Fix a Slow Macbook Pro: The Manual Methods (4-6 hours)
- How to Fix a Slow Macbook Pro: The Quick Technique (5-10 minutes)
Why is My Macbook Pro so Slow?
Whether you own an old 2012 MacBook Pro, or a shiny new 16-inch 2020 Touch Bar MacBook Pro with Apple M1 Chip, over time it can run slowly. There could be so many causes, but in general, they all fall into the following four categories.
1. Personal Habits. If you keep your Mac running all the time, let too many apps join the fun on startup, or multitask with loads of heavy applications open — more often than not, your Mac will hang.
2. macOS System. A newer macOS usually performs better than an old one, but no system is perfect. You may experience firmware or permission issues that impede performance as well.
3. Software Issues. Apps, whether pre-installed or third-party ones downloaded elsewhere, can consume lots of system resources when used improperly, which eventually will slow down a Mac.
4. Outdated Hardware. Every piece of hardware has a lifespan; your Macbook is no exception. An outdated hard drive or lack of RAM can be the bottleneck of your machine.
These are just the high-level reasons. Check out this infographic that outlines 26 specific reasons why a Mac might run slowly. You may find what’s hanging up your machine.
Note: If your MacBook Pro is slow only after updating to the latest macOS version (i.e. macOS 11.0 Big Sur), the best fix would be restarting your machine several times since the new macOS needs time to re-index or update data saved in the disk drive. For example, Photos can take a while to update the entire picture library; Spotlight re-indexing tends to be time-consuming as well. Learn more from this post: Quick Fixes for a Slow Mac after macOS Big Sur Update
Moving on… The Solutions!
Now that you’ve learned the reasons behind a slow mac, what should you do to fix it? We break down the solutions into two categories:
- The Manual Methods: best for those who are tech-savvy and don’t mind taking the time to do so. We list a number of things you can do manually to fix your slow Mac.
- The Quick Technique: best for beginners or those of you who don’t have time to implement manual fixes. We recommend using CleanMyMac X to scan your Mac and fix all issues the app finds.
Note though, the solutions we suggest below only work when your Mac can boot up normally. If it cannot, or you hear strange sounds coming from the machine (particularly from the internal Mac hard drive), contact Apple support or schedule an appointment with a Genius Bar in your area.
How to Fix a Slow Macbook Pro: The Manual Methods (4-6 hours)
The methods introduced below are the best manual fixes we have explored. The order is based on a combination of estimated time required and expected effectiveness after implementation. They are, however, by no means the only solutions, and you don’t have to complete all the methods as it’s very unlikely you’ll be able to. Meanwhile, read this checklist on how to speed up Macbook Pro.
Method 1: Manage login items to tune startup times
- Time: 5-10 minutes
- Effectiveness: Low-Moderate
When to use: your MacBook Pro runs extremely slow on startup.
Why it helps: disabling login items (auto-run applications or services) you rarely use helps your Mac better allocate system resources to load the processes you do use, you’ll reach the login or desktop screen more quickly.
How to do: follow the steps in this YouTube video.
Method 2: Clear off cluttered Desktop items & Dashboard widgets
- Time: 20-30 minutes
- Effectiveness: Moderate
When to use: your Macbook Pro takes a bit longer to load the first screen after startup.
Why it helps: because macOS treats each desktop item (be it a file, a Dock application, or a Dashboard widget) as a small task, it uses resources to load it when starting up. Reducing the number of such items can make the first screen show up quicker.
How to do:
- Keep fewer files on Mac desktop. Try to group those files you saved directly on desktop, put them into few folders, and if possible move them folders like Documents or Pictures.
- Remove unnecessary apps from the Dock. Move your mouse cursor to an app, right-click, select Options and click Remove from Dock.
- Clear unused Dashboard widgets. Go to Dashboard, press option button and move your cursor the widget you don’t want to show, click “x” on the upper left corner.
Method 3: Clean up hard drive to free up more disk space
- Time: 1-2 hours
- Effectiveness: High
When to use: your Macbook Pro is running out of space, and it slows down or freezes more frequently.
Why it helps: macOS utilizes free hard disk space as “virtual memory” in addition to RAM (Random Access Memory). If your MacBook Pro is running out of storage, that means little virtual memory can be used by the system if needed. This may cause your Mac to freeze more frequently — even when you just launch a few apps. In general, having at least 10% of free disk space can often prevent the problem from happening.
How to do: try the tricks below.
Note: if you want to save time, CleanMyMac is a nice tool for this purpose. It automatically detects and cleans extra junks that can take up gigabytes of disk space.
- Empty Mac Trash bin.
- Clear web browser (Safari, Chrome, Firefox, etc.) files such as caches, history, plugins, etc.
- Uninstall unused applications.
- Remove unused language packs on your Mac.
- Go to the “Movies” and “Pictures” folders, delete large or duplicate items you’ve already backed up. You can use Gemini 2 to find them more quickly.
- Go to the “Download” folder and get rid of items you don’t need.
- Transfer big files or folders to your external hard drive or another computer.
- And other ways you can think of to lighten your Mac hard drive. Lastly, never underestimated the probability of a large unknown file, for once I had accidentally recorded 8 hours of screencasting video. I didn’t know it until I ran Space Lens from CleanMyMac where I got to zoom in folders after folders to detect the large files.
Method 4: Verify and repair disk permissions with Disk Utility
- Time: 15 minutes
- Effectiveness: Moderate
Update: beginning with OS X El Capitan (including macOS Sierra), it’s no longer necessary to verify or repair permissions as Apple has made system file permissions to be automatically protected.
When to use: your Macbook has issues launching some applications, and doing so slows down your Mac.
Why it helps: corrupted or damaged file permissions can cause certain applications to run abnormally or unable to run at all, thus affecting the overall Mac performance. Matt from CNET brought his sluggish Mac back to health using this method. Note: it’s harmless to repair file permissions.
How to do: check out this YouTube video for a step by step guide.
Method 5: Lighten web browsers to improve Internet surfing
- Time: 20 minutes
- Effectiveness: Low-Moderate
When to use: your web browser (Safari, Chrome, or Firefox, etc.) just seems stubborn to load pages or becomes unresponsive.
Why it helps: web browsers are notorious for dragging down computer performance after extended use. By implementing the things below, you can expect a much smoother net surfing experience.
How to do:
- Have fewer tabs open at once, especially when you read online magazine sites which tend to have heavy pages (ads, flash queries, etc.)
- Remove those browser extensions you rarely use — (Safari here, Chrome here, Firefox here).
- Clear browser cache, cookies, plug-ins, and history. This can also free up much hard disk space. See this guide for how.
- Get rid of Adware (flash ads), this article from the Boyce Blog is worth a glance.
- Safari tends to eat up more RAM as time goes by, but a simple quit and restart will help it get back to “normal.”
- Reinstall your web browser if necessary.
Method 6: Identify and knock out heavy apps/processes with Activity Monitor
- Time: 15 minutes
- Effectiveness: Moderate
When to use: your Macbook starts to run slower after opening several applications, but you have no idea which application is the culprit.
Why it helps: Activity Monitor is a task manager on Mac that shows you both running applications and inactive processes. The list allows you to have a clear understanding of which one is devouring too many system resources (CPU, memory, disk, network, etc). Once you find the culprit, you can also use Activity Monitor to quit or force quit the app/process easily.
How to do: see this video from MacWorld.
Method 7: Reset SMC and NVRAM to fix odd hardware errors
- Time: 30 minutes
- Effectiveness: Moderate-High
When to use: your Macbook Pro acts oddly (it takes forever to figure out which disk to boot from, it’s slow to shut down, the fan is running non-stop, screenshots are not adjusting correctly, battery indicator lights are behaving incorrectly, etc.), and overall your Mac performs poorly.
Why it helps: NVRAM (or PRAM in older Macs) stores certain settings in a location that macOS can access quickly. SMC has roles in controlling thermal and power management on Mac. Resetting NVRAM and SMC helps resolve the issues mentioned above, and it’s a safe thing to do.
How to do: check out this video for how to properly reset NVRAM and this video for SMC.
Method 8: Update your Macbook Pro to latest macOS version
- Time: 1-2 hours
- Effectiveness: Moderate
When to use: your Mac is still running an older macOS version (e.g. High Sierra or Mojave), and you meet the basic requirements of the new upgrade — latest macOS 11.0 Big Sur, you need at least 2 GB of RAM and 15 GB of free space on the drive.
Why it helps: a newer macOS version typically runs faster than an older one, though it depends on the model of your Mac machine.
How to do: there are a few things you need to check before getting ready to update your MacBook to macOS Big Sur. For example, check whether your model is compatible, whether you have enough storage space, and most importantly backup your data, etc.
Method 9: Disable fancy features in exchange for performance
- Time: 15 minutes
- Effectiveness: Low-Moderate
When to use: best for those who are using an older Mac with limited hardware configuration, and don’t particularly favor fancy interfaces and visual effects.
Why it helps: by disabling or turning off features like Notifications, Transparency, and Animations, Magnification, File Vault, etc., you can boost Mac performance since fewer system resources will be used.
How to do:
- Reduce Transparency and Animations.
- Minimize windows using and change the Genie Effect to Scale Effect.
- Optimize Notification center and turn off real-time notifications you don’t need.
- Disable Launchpad effects.
- Get rid of preference panes. Go to System Preferences, locate a pane you want to remove, right-click (or Control-click), then remove it from the pop-up menu. It may ask you to type the admin password.
- Disable FileVault Disk Encryption option.
Method 10: Upgrade hardware (RAM, SSD) to have a real boost
- Time: it depends (at least 2 hours)
- Effectiveness: High
When to use: you are using an old Macbook Pro, and you’ve tried every method you can to fix your slow Mac but it’s still slow.
Why it helps: adding more memory (RAM) or replacing your HDD (hard disk drive) with a new SSD (solid-state drive) will give your Mac a real boost in performance. The only con is the upgrades can be pricey.
Macbook Cleaner App Free
How to do:
Note: whether you choose to upgrade RAM or SSD, you’ll need to open the bottom case of your MacBook, a screwdriver may worth adding to your shopping cart as it will help you remove the screws much faster.
Add extra RAM: depending on your MacBook model, the RAM that best fits may be different. Learn more from our review here. It’s best to also check out this page to see memory specifications for your Macbook Pro model. It comes with an illustrated guide on how to replace the memory. This video from is also worth checking out.
Upgrade to an SSD: If you still want to use your old MacBook Pro for professional work (video/graphic editing, 3D modeling, etc.), the best option is to replace the hard drive with a speedy SSD, see our picks here. Once you purchase your desired SSD, watch this video for how to install it step by step.
How to Fix a Slow Macbook Pro: The Quick Technique (5-10 minutes)
The manual methods can be quite time-consuming to implement and may require you to have a certain level of technical skills. Fortunately, we’ve got two awesome Mac optimization apps that can save you time fixing your slow Mac.
Option 1: Using CleanMyMac X to scan & clean up your MacBook Pro
CleanMyMac X – an app developed by MacPaw and rated as the winner in this Mac cleaner software review. As its name indicates, this app aims to help you clean your Mac and free up more storage space. It does this by locating junk and unnecessary files via analyzing your macOS system: Photos, Mail attachments, large and old files, etc. In addition, you can use the app to batch uninstall unwanted programs, and permanently erase files that are private to you. CleanMyMac is super sleek and intuitive, just hit Scan to get started and then Clean to fix issues.
Option 2: Using MacBooster to improve your Mac’s overall performance
MacBooster – an app developed by the IObit team. This app stands out for its all-in-one concept. It includes a handful of useful utilities that can monitor the overall status of your Mac system. The Virus & Malware Scan module, for example, helps identify possible security threats and removes malware. To get started, simply run a quick System Status scan and it will find and suggest fixes. You can also move on to the Tools sections for further optimization.
Tips to Avoid Mac Running Slow
Apple Macbook Pro Cleaner
- Shut down your Mac when you are away. Restart regularly.
- Do not save everything to the desktop or the main drive (where your system files are stored). A full boot volume can lead to a slow startup and other performance issues.
- Try not to install third-party apps that you don’t need. They can take a lot of precious disk space as well as system resources while running. Also, outdated apps can have problems running due to macOS incompatibility. Learn how to uninstall Mac apps the right way.
- Use a lightweight browser like Safari or Chrome, Firefox tends to slow down over time (Safari or Chrome acts up too, sometimes). Avoid opening too many tabs at once while you are browsing the web, try not to install too many extensions/plugins.
- Clean up the hard drive (especially when the startup disk is almost full) on a regular basis, e.g. once a month. You can do this manually, or use a tool (like the ones we recommend above).
- Always keep your software up-to-date if possible, ideally, you should always install apps from App Store or the software provider’s official website, instead of third-party download sites which may bundle Adware or malware.
- If you regularly use your MacBook Pro for work at an office, consider elevating it with a laptop stand or a cooling pad as this helps avoid overheating issues.
- Don’t immediately update your Mac to the latest macOS version (to date, it is macOS 11.0 Big Sur). Let the early birds test out first, then choose to update when you feel it’s the right time.
- Don’t blame your Mac when it’s slow. Figure out the reason first and fix it right away. You never know when a small issue can evolve into a serious one.
Do you find the information and techniques we’ve shared above helpful? Did you manage to tune up your MacBook even a little bit? We’d like to hear from you, contact us and let us know.
Fair disclosure: we are just normal loyal Mac fans like you. We don’t claim ourselves to be Mac experts, nor have we ever worked for Apple. All the information shared here is merely a walk-through of the knowledge and experience we’ve used to resolve our own Macbook Pro performance issues. Due to the complexities of the subject matter, your results may vary. Also, some of the recommendations contain third-party affiliate links. If you decide to purchase one of them, we will receive a commission for the sale, part (if not all) of the earnings will be used to maintain this site, for example, paying for the domain and hosting services. Nonetheless, we recommend them because we use the tools with our Mac machines and find them truly great. Make sure you only use what works for your issue, and don’t over-spend on things you don’t need.
This page was last updated on Mar. 24, 2021.