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Speed up Mac OS X Leopard

After a year and a half of running Mac OS X Leopard things have become extraordinarily slow on my MacBook Pro. After googling how to speed up Mac OS X Leopard I have decided to write my own brief tutorial on a handful of things you can do to effectively increase the performance of OS X. This is meant as a programmer’s quick reference guide so if you are not technically savvy you may want to google “performance tune mac os x” for more verbose explanations.

The 15 Best Mac Performance Tuning Applications and Tips

  1. Disable Dashboard Widgets. Each dashboard widget you enable consumes both processing power and valuable memory. To disable widgets and speed up your mac follow these steps:
    • Open up terminal.app located in Applications > Utilities > Terminal
    • Copy this, paste it in the terminal and hit enter: defaults write com.apple.dashboard mcx-disabled -boolean YES
    • Then enter this: killall Dock
    • That’s it! Dashboard widgets are now disabled
  2. Run the Mac OS X disk repair utility location in Applications > Utilities > Disk Utility and then run repair disk permissions.  See this article on the repair functions of the disk utility.
  3. Download and run Monolingual to remove all the additional languages that are built into OS X by default and you are likely to never use. I removed everything except English, Spanish, German and French since those are core languages on websites I sometimes frequent.
  4. Download and run XSlimmer to remove all unnecessary PPC (PowerPC) code from Universal Binaries. Only use this if you are using an Intel based Mac. Additionally it is worthwhile noting that I had problems with Photoshop after slimming the application, so perhaps avoid using XSlimmer on CS3 or CS4.
  5. Download and run OnyX. Run the daily, weekly and monthly scripts. Clear out all log files.
  6. Removing unnecessary login items by going to System Preferences > Accounts > Login Items. Note that in order to actually remove a login item you need to select the item and then hit the minus button at the bottom of the preferences screen.
  7. Even though Mac OS X has a journaled filesystem that should automatically handle defragmentation on the fly, it doesn’t do a great job of keeping the drive from becoming fragmented. iDefrag solves these problems and more, by defragmenting and optimizing your Mac’s filesystem at boot time. All you have to do is restart your computer, run the iDefrag boot DVD and it will defragment the entire hard-drive. I noticed a substantial performance boost (I would say up to around 20%) after using this.
  8. Minimize by using the scale effect by going to System Preferences > Dock and changing the default from the Genie effect to the Scale effect. Also you can uncheck “animate opening applications” to boost performance.
  9. Ensure you have a minimum of 10% disk space available so that OS X can run effectively. If you don’t have this much space free try using GrandPerspective to determine what is using space on your hard drive and what you might be able to delete.
  10. Remove fonts that you don’t use. You can do this by going to the finder and removing fonts from your home folder > library > fonts.
  11. Turn off Universal Access by navigating to System Preferences > Universal Access and turn off anything you’re not using.
  12. Turn off Bluetooth by navigating to to System Preferences > Bluetooth.
  13. Turn off Internet Sharing by navigating to to System Preferences > Sharing > Internet.
  14. Check the Activity Monitor located in Applications > Utilities > Activity Monitor to see if there is anything running that is consuming processing or memory resources. This should go without saying.
  15. On older computers you may notice massive performance issues particularly when Spotlight is running. To avoid these issues disable spotlight from indexing your entire hard-drive. You can do this by navigating to System Preferences > Spotlight and then unticking anything that you don’t want to see in search results. If you hit the Privacy tab you can also remove specific folders. I typically remove the Library folder, and also the System folder.

4 Command Line Performance Tuning Tips

  1. You can speed up TCP connections by opening the terminal.app and typing pico /etc/sysctl.conf and adding the following lines to the file:
    net.inet.tcp.mssdflt=1460
    net.inet.tcp.sendspace=262144
    net.inet.tcp.recvspace=262144
    net.inet.udp.recvspace=74848
    net.inet.udp.maxdgram=65535
  2. You can speed up SSH connections by opening the terminal.app and typing pico ~/.ssh_config and adding the following lines to the file:
    host *
    controlmaster auto
    controlpath /tmp/ssh-%r@%h:%p
    It should be noted here that this may cause some glitches as I have run into some odd controlmaster errors after implementing this command. You can always try it and remove the code if it gives you problems.
  3. Disable dashboard by opening up the terminal.app and running the command:
    defaults write com.apple.dashboard mcx-disabled -boolean YES
    and then run killall dock to restart the dock.
  4. To optimize firefox’s tab/bookmarks/cache databases on OSX, close firefox, open terminal.app and run #cd ~/Library/Caches/Firefox/Profiles; for i in */*.sqlite; do sqlite3 $i VACUUM;done; cd ~/Library/Application\ Support/Firefox/Profiles; for i in */*.sqlite; do sqlite3 $i VACUUM;done;

The Missing Manual on OS X

Buy the Missing Manual on Amazon

David Pogue’s missing manual on Mac OS X also covers maintenance related tasks, and is a great starter for those users who want to learn more on the intricacies of OS X. For those not familiar with using Terminal or the command line there is a really helpful chapter on this in specific.

26 Responses to “Speed up Mac OS X Leopard”

  1. Ant says:

    You’ve been using Snow Leopard for 18 months? You’re the only person in the world who has.

  2. Thanks for pointing that out I must have been dreaming it was Snow Leopard while I was writing it. Heh.

  3. Pete says:

    Great guide, however I have one issue.

    In your command line tips, the file “/etc/sysctl.conf” does not exist on my system.

  4. scott says:

    he said OS X leopard not snow leopard… thanks helped alot

  5. James Davidson says:

    Everything I have read to date indicates that it is not necessary to defrag a macintosh drive.

  6. Rafer says:

    Apple Insists u dont have to defrag. But in fact u do. after years as a osx user I had to take out all my files, erase them and put them back in now and then. this idefrag app saved me a lot of time and boredom. Thanks!!!!!!!

  7. Wha? Rafer says:

    “Apple Insists u dont have to defrag. But in fact u do. after years as a osx user I had to take out all my files, erase them and put them back in now and then. this idefrag app saved me a lot of time and boredom. Thanks!!!!!!!”

    OMFG. And you wonder why Mac users are made fun of….

  8. Bawkboomcow says:

    Hey, so I disabled the dashboard using the command and now I want to enable it again. Could someone post a way to do this? Thanks.

  9. Enabling Dashboard- type or paste the following exactly into the Terminal window:
    defaults write com.apple.dashboard mcx-disabled -boolean NO

    Again, kill the Dock, which will reload the now activated Dashboard:
    killall Dock

  10. The most useful way to speed up mac is to upgrade it! all these steps will hardly help..

  11. Thanks, this is great.

    I just got a big performance boost by using CleanMyMac. It’s a paid program.

    Helpful to hear about the de-fragging.

    Not sure why mister superior there wanted to make fun of that other dude. Oh well, kids.

  12. “Everything I have read to date indicates that it is not necessary to defrag a macintosh drive.”

    Love it.

    Thank you Stuart, for not just going on what you’d read to date! I bought iDefrag, ran it last night, and shall I say, my life is much better for it! Hallelujah! I was getting SOOO frustrated, and it feels like my computer life is back again! HUGE difference!

    C

  13. jeru says:

    how about deleting all the extra Printer Info Folders?

  14. jjkc_9000 says:

    Many thanks, very helpful.

  15. Adam West says:

    Thank you very much. Your advice has helped tremendously.
    -AW

  16. Clean up mac says:

    I think Disable Dashboard Widgets is not permanent solution to improve the performance of Mac System we need something that remove all Widgets and unwanted documents which are not used by us.
    http://hubpages.com/hub/speed-up-mac-by-cleanup-mac-disk

  17. If one is going to repair permissions in Disk Utility, one should do it in, “Safe Boot”, especially after installation of any Adobe software.
    Safe Boot = starting your Mac with the SHIFT key held down, the Login window will have the words Safe Boot in red letters. Then reboot after repairing perrmissions.

    Or just get AppleJack which can be run from Single User Mode, it is donationware/freeware.

  18. Raxonon says:

    I have used the Stellar speed Up Mac for my Mac OSX. It cleared all the language files , cache, dumped large files, binary files of my applications and removed all my useless mac applications.
    Now I have my Mac renewed and running like a new one.

  19. Raxonon says:

    One important tool is missing from this list.
    The Stellar speed up Mac is one of the most easy to use tool I have ever used on my Mac. It simply removes all my unused data and unnecessary applications.

  20. Jorseff says:

    Thanks a lot for this, a really great tutorial. By far the biggest improvement came from the iDefrag.

    I was under the impression (like most) that HFS+ magically didn’t need defragmenting. Ran the full defrag though and I’m really glad I did! Boot up time as halved and applications now open near instantaneously. Seems to have made my three year old Macbook like new again.

    Cheers!

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  3. ... here’s a great link that I found recently when my Macbook Pro started running a little sluggishly.  I followed most of ...

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  5. ... Speed up Mac OS X Leopard Locomotion. These tips will work for Snow Leopard as well. I have another list of 50 speed tips for Mac in another post if you search this website. This is a shorter and faster way but if this doesn’t help enough, you might benefit from using those other suggestions as well. ...