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Jesse, Mac Support Specialist
Category: Mac
Satisfied Customers: 2287
Experience:  Life-long Apple Geek & Power User, 10+Years Apple Experience
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I have a MacBook and its running more slowly than usual. The

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I have a MacBook and its running more slowly than usual. The spinning icon [pls wait cursor] goes on frequently, although it goes off after 10 seconds or so. Also programs stall for 5-10 sec at a time.

I ran the disk utility for 'permission repairs' and there were about 30 repairs. Then I ran 'verify disk' and it said that the HD appears ok. These helped somewhat but not completely. Have not tried disk utility from a start up disk.

Do you what the problem is and how to fix it? I will be going to sleep soon so will be able to check answers tomorrow am or in the next few minutes.
If the following suggestions work, please let me know and you can Accept the answer (and if possible, leave positive feedback). If not, please DO NOT Accept the answer yet. Instead, let me know and we'll try some more things or I can refer you to another Expert who may be able to help you further.

Because of the structure of Mac OS X, fragmentation is not an issue for Macs, but overfilled hard drives and a lack of scratch space can be. As well as uncleared system cache and too many open applications, especially applications using too much of the allotted memory on your mac.

First of all, I'd consider the following:
1) Is my hard drive large enough?
2) Do I have enough RAM for my productivity?
3) Can I delete old and unused files on my computer? Or at least archive them off to external drives and/or DVDs?
4) Is my mac able to handle the operations I am requesting from it?
5) Is my mac able to handle the Mac OS X I have loaded?
6) Is my Mac OS X up to date?

Freeing up space on the computer is an easy way to bump your productivity and speed as well as adding more Memory. Also, if your mac is an older mac, it's possible that the processing speed is too slow for the applications you are running (or the tasks they are performing). This you would have to decide based on the minimum requirements for your applications that you use most. Next, it's also possible that the Mac OS X that you are running has surpassed the abilities of your mac. If you are using an older G4, then Leopard may run much slower than Tiger would, even though Leopard says it is suited for the machine. This is something to consider.

Next, it's also a good idea to confirm that your programs and Mac OS X are up to date. BUT BEFORE WE DO THAT, I would suggest (not a requirement, but a strong suggestion) you use a program like Carbon Copy Cloner ( to create a restorable backup of your Hard Drive to an empty USB External Hard Drive. This free program will make a mirrored copy of your hard drive in it's current state that you can go back to if things go south after the following changes. I do this personally before I perform any kind of install, update or major change to my system. Again, you DO NOT have to do this, but if you have an empty external hard drive, then it is a good idea. Highly recommended, but not required. If you do decide to go this route, let me know and I'll walk you through the procedure before we proceed.

After you have a backup of your hard drive (if you decide to), the next step would be to run Software Update and confirm that your programs are running at the latest version possible. This can be found under the apple menu. Make sure you have a stable internet connection and a stable power source (don't attempt this while running on battery power on a laptop for example).

Next, I would suggest you run some general maintenance on the computer. It is an obvious square-one approach. This is going to be a long post so I suggest printing it out for your reference. Also, it will require a USB keyboard, not a wireless keyboard.

First let's reset the PRAM on the computer.
1) Shut down the computer.
2) While the computer is shut down, locate these keys: command (has an apple on it), option (sometimes called alt), P, and R.
3) Turn the computer on, then press and hold Command-Option-P-R before the gray screen appears.
4) Hold these keys down until you hear the startup sound a total of 3 times.
5) Release the keys.

Next, let's try a Safe Boot. This will perform several clean up procedures that may be affecting the machine's performance and startup.
1) Shut down your computer completely.
2) Start up the computer and immediately after the startup chime, press and hold the Shift key
3) Once the gray Apple and progress indicator appear, release the Shift key
4) Note: Startup will likely take substantially longer than normal (20 - 30 minutes is not unheard of)
5) In Mac OS 10.4 or later, you will have to login to your account, even if it normally does so automatically.
6) Shut down the computer.

Now let's check / repair the disk permissions. I know you have done this already, but after the safeboot and PRAM reset, I'd run it again now. Although this doesn't fix all problems it is a great way to start when working on a machine, besides it often cleans up any other smaller problems you may or may not be experiencing.
1) Restart the machine.
2) Before you have opened any programs, go to Applications / Utilities / Disk Utility.
3) Click the "First Aid" tab at the top and run the "Repair Permissions" after selecting your Hard Drive from the list on the left.
4) Restart the computer

Next step would be to run Disk Repair from the Mac OS X Install Disks. I believe you verified the Hard Drive, but not from the Install Disk as the startup. We'll go through it below.
1) Insert the Mac OS X install disk.
2) Shut down the computer.
3) Start the machine while holding the C key immediately after pressing the power button (Don't let go of the "C" until it starts from the disk or locks up). If you have to choose, select the Installation disk as the startup.
4) When it starts, a screen should appear asking you to "Choose your language."
NOTE: If you get the login screen instead of the "Choose your language" screen, then the mac DID NOT boot up off of the Install Disk. In this case, try shutting down the computer. Then restarting while holding down the "option" key until the Startup manager appears ( When it does, click on the Install Disk as the startup volume.
5) Select your language, then DO NOT continue the Installation process.
6) Just go to the Utility menu in the top menu bar. Choose the "Disk Utility" program.
7) Run Disk Utilities. Select your hard drive in the column on the left and "Verify" the Hard Drive.
8) Repair any errors that it may find by next choosing the "Repair" button.
9) When finished quit the program and restart the computer normally.

Next, let's confirm you are not running too many programs unnecessarily.
1) Go to System Preferences > Accounts > Login Items
2) Make sure you do not have a lot of unnecessary applications or plug ins automatically loading at startup.
3) Remove whatever is unnecessary. Remember, hiding them is not removing them.

After all of the above, restart and test the computer's performance. If you are still not happy, then there may be a conflict in your user account.
Create a temporary admin account to see if the speed issue is system wide or is user specific.
1) Go to System Preferences / Accounts
2) Create this temporary account by clicking on the + button. Make sure you make it an admin account.
3) You may have to click the "lock" in the bottom left corner first though.
4) Once you have this new account created, log in to it and test your performance.

If the performance is the same, then log back into your original admin and delete the temp account. If the performance was significantly better in the temp admin account, STOP HERE and let me know. We'll consider migrating you to a new admin account.

If I helped, please click ACCEPT. Otherwise I do not get paid. If you still need assistance or have further questions, I'll be glad to keep working until this issue is resolved.
FEEDBACK & Bonuses are always appreciated!
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Customer: replied 7 years ago.

This is really long and general. Can we get more specific?

I know it seems like a lot, but its really the best direction to take to clear up most any slow issues on a mac. Start at the beginning and work your way through. You can skip the backup if you already have one, or if you aren't that worried about it. I personally never go into anything without having a good backup. The PRAM reset and safeboot will help clear out the system cache and speed up startup and make some more room for working scratch space. The Disk Repair will clean up any small problems that the Mac OS X doesn't self defrag. After that, the mac should be up to par and ready for service. If you are still experiencing troubles, I'm suggesting you start by ruling out corrupted preferences in the user account. Hopefully you won't have to go that far.

Good Luck and let me know if you have any further questions.
Customer: replied 7 years ago.
Start up speed is not the problem. Its what happens afterwards.. I already did disk repair. With all due respect, the above info seems boilerplate. I am asking for advice customized to my specific situation as I described at first. Would you be able to do that or would it be better to try someone else there?
With all due respect, the answer I provided is, in my most humble opinion, the best possible solution for the problem as you originally presented. I'm sticking with this. The cleanup I suggested is he best place to start when tackling issues of frequent beach balls and slow reactions on the mac.

If this doesn't resolve it (after ruling out the user account as a source), then we can go the next route and "Archive and Install" the Mac OS X (as long as you have a good backup).

if that doesn't correct the issue and show considerable progress, then the issue would have to be with a running program or installed font. In this case, it's much harder to locate the culprit. But trying to pinpoint a specific cause of slow activity on the Mac during it's daily operation without first running through the above "boiler plate" maintenance is like trying to guess at which valve is sticking or where a seal is losing pressure on an engine, when a tune up is all that was needed.

If you still feel this isn't the best avenue to take (I'm still pushing for you to at least give it a try), then you can Opt me out on the question and open it up to other experts. I won't be in the least offended. I'm just hoping you are able to resolve this issue by the most effective means necessary.
Customer: replied 7 years ago.
Relist: Answer quality.
The answer was not specific enough to my situation. I would have appreciated more back and forth to tailor it.
Were you able to get this resolved?

I am just checking in on questions that are still open and wanted to make sure you were taken care of.
Customer: replied 7 years ago.
Thanks for checking back Travis. I tried the PRAM maneuver, safe reboot, then did system updates after that. Previously did system check from the HD. Same problem of slowness. My Skype calls get stalled out every two minutes. Any next insights?
Did you check the Disk Permissions through Disk Utility yet? That will likely clear up a lot.

Also, you're mentioning Skype now. Is this where most of the problems are coming from? The maintenance you have performed already (plus the Permissions repair) should be a good spirng cleaning of sorts that would speed the mac up (like an oil change). But if you are still expereincing problems with a specific program then the issue may be something else all together.

How much free hard drive space do you have?

How many programs automatically load up when you start up the mac?
Customer: replied 7 years ago.
I only use a handful of programs-MS Office incl Entourage, Firefox, Skype. They all seem to run with intermittent stalling with the beach ball. I ran the permissions repair. Have not done utility repair from start up disk though. 20 GB free hard drive space. 13 programs load on my dock at start up. Thanks. Robert
The hard drive space shouldn't be an issue.

What version of Mac OS X do you have? This info can be found under the apple menu > about this mac (forgive me if you've given this info before, but I couldn't find it above).

The number of programs autoloading at the startup is definitely causing some issues here. I understand that this may not have always been an issue. Software or System updates may have changed a few of these programs running habits, especially when they load at sync, competing for system memory.

I would suggest going in and deactivating all of these auto loading programs at startup. Boot the Mac up and start all of the programs you require (just what you require), one at a time. Then test the mac this way. If you are still experiencing issues, try running just one program at a time for a few days. See if you can notice any particular program causing the system to Stahl.

The problem here is with so many programs running, it's going to be difficult to narrow it down to which one may be causing the problems.
Customer: replied 7 years ago.

Do I need to run disk utility from the start up disk?

How does one deactivate start up programs? Most of these came pre-installed as MacBook software.
In order to repair the Hard Dirve, you can not be using the hard drive as the startup disk. You will have to startup off of the Install Disk to repair the hard drive.

In order to deactivate programs at startup, go to the apple menu > System Preferences > Accounts

Highlight your account in the left column, then click the tab on the right for "Login Items"

Highlight any programs that you do not need to run automatically and then click the "-" button below them. Only remove programs not required at startup such as Skype and Entourage. Leave any plugins that may be listed for now (such as iTunesHelper or print preview). If in doubt what it is, leave it in there. Delete any program you can startup on your own by clicking it in the dock or double clicking it in the Applications folder.
Customer: replied 7 years ago.
I managed to run the repair disk program from the start up disk. No problems. When I ran verify disk from the HD, it also said no problems. Everytime I run repair permissions it comes up with new items. Is this normal?

Next I will try deactivate programs. But as I reconsider it, there are no programs that start at start up. I have to open them from the dock one by one. Does this affect the plan?
Hello, and welcome to!

My name is XXXXX XXXXX I'm here to help.

Based on what you've done already, and the description of the issue, it might be something more severe, like a bad memory (RAM) chip.

I would recommend first performing an Archive and Install from the gray restore discs (or Mac OS Install disc if you upgraded). To do so, simply restart from the disc (like you did when you ran the Repair Disk option), and go through the installation process. This won't erase your data, simply reinstall system files, and might resolve the problem.

If that doesn't help, you'll want to run a test of the RAM, by inserting the gray restore disc that came with your computer, and restarting while holding the D key. This should take you to the Hardware Test. Make sure to check the Extended test, and run it.

If it comes up with any errors, let me know what they say.
Customer: replied 7 years ago.
Jesse, the hardware test did not show any problems. Then I tried archive and install as you suggested. However, this got stuck. First there was a message, ' The installer could not install some files in "/". Contact the software manufacturer. Then I tried to restart and continue but I can't get out of the frozen mode of installing. This is much worse than before. At least it ran then, albeit with slow gaps. What to do now?
Sounds like you may have a failing arm on your hard drive. My advice would be to get your information backed up (if it isn't already) and replace the drive. What you're describing is classic slow drive failure.

At some point soon, it probably won't boot up at all.
Customer: replied 7 years ago.
OK. How do I get out of the current repeating loop? It won't shut down. Just keeps asking to continue the installation process.

Also, why was the hardware test fine?
The hardware test (as well as the Disk check) can't test the arm, only the disk itself. You'll have to force shut down the computer with the power button.
Customer: replied 7 years ago.
OK. When I force shut down with the power button and then restart, the installing screen comes back on and asks to insert install disc 2 to continue installation.
And when you do that, it just restarts again?
Customer: replied 7 years ago.
Every time I power off and restart, the same screen above comes on.
Customer: replied 7 years ago.
Then when I insert the requested intallation disk 2, it says that install failed. Cannot get back to the desktop.
Restart the computer while holding the option key, then try selecting your hard drive from the list of options that appears.
Customer: replied 7 years ago.
I tried it and clicked on the HD icon. Sorry to say that it still goes back to the installing screen.
Customer: replied 7 years ago.
Everytime I try to restart it goes into installing mode. Then installation invariably fails. It says to contact manufacturer. Your next thoughts?
Try restarting while holding the X key.
Customer: replied 7 years ago.
No effect of the x key.
Try restarting while holding the mouse button (or trackpad button) to force eject the disc. Then see if you can boot to your hard drive using the various methods we've tried so far.
Customer: replied 7 years ago.
The disc has been ejected already. All the recent activity is without disc.
Will it let you startup from the disc to begin the reinstallation again? I don't want you to do that, but if you can, you can reach the Tools->Disk Utility menu, and erase the disk to start fresh.
Customer: replied 7 years ago.
I had to call in an expert to reinstall the whole disk, including OS.
Customer: replied 7 years ago.
I had to call in an expert to reinstall the whole disk, including OS.

Okay, glad you got is sorted.
Jesse, Mac Support Specialist
Category: Mac
Satisfied Customers: 2287
Experience: Life-long Apple Geek & Power User, 10+Years Apple Experience
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