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Diagnosing a slow running Mac – Part 4: Applications

This short series will discuss some of the common problems that can slow your Mac down dramatically. In this installment we’ll look at individual applications.

If you’ve eliminated RAM, processor and hard drive performance, then the only remaining thing to look at is individual applications. In fact it’s probably the first thing you should investigate…

If you see the “spinning beach ball of death” frequently on your Mac, or it just feels very “draggy” you should leave the Activity Monitor open. When the slowdown occurs, look in the %CPU column and note down which application has the largest number. Typically you’ll see that it will be your web browser. This is normally caused by Flash, or poorly programmed JavaScript, and there ain’t much you can do about it but avoid those sites which make the browser work hard. If it’s another program you should make sure you have the latest updates for it.

Also take a look at the amount of Real Memory they are consuming. I’ve noticed that Safari, Photoshop and  Netbeans, programs I have open almost constantly, keep grabbing more and more real memory. Even when you close all open windows they don’t release and reduce their memory footprint. So closing and reopening an app every now and then may free up some critical memory.

Another place to look is in the log files. Open and look in the “All Messages” log file. Note down any applications that are constantly creating log file entries. You may find that they are not compatible fully with your version of OS X. In crude terms, the fewer log entries you have, the better.

In the last part of this series we’ll look at how to choose which MacBook, iMac or Mac Pro will actually give you a noticeable speed boost over your old Mac…

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