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Why is my iMac so slow and how can I fix it?

Over the last couple of months we’ve had an increasing number of people contacting us asking why their iMac is so slow. This seems to be particularly common for people with a “slimline” iMac who have upgraded to OS X 10.14 or 10.15. My answer often takes people by surprise, as typically there’s an assumption that it indicates there’s something “wrong” with their iMac. So what’s my answer?

Your iMac will be painfully slow running a modern version of MacOS if it has a mechanical hard drive.

This is often true even for  those iMacs with a Fusion drive. Even if there’s nothing else wrong with it, such as a failing drive or malware infection, performance will be awful.

You can erase the hard drive, install a completely clean version of MacOS and it will still feel like wading through treacle when you’re opening or switching between apps. It will take anywhere from 1-5mins to startup depending on how many apps you have set to open automatically.

The 21.5″ iMacs generally tend to be the slowest Macs released in the last 8 years

The “slimline” 21.5″ iMacs that don’t have a DVD drive are particularly badly effected, because they have a 2.5″ mechanical hard drive which is even slower than the 3.5″ drive that’s fitted to the 27″ iMacs. The 27″ iMacs also tend to have a Fusion drive, so the small SSD can to some extent mask the terrible performance of the mechanical hard drive.

You can’t fix a slow iMac with software tweaks – it’s a hardware limitation you fix by upgrading the hardware.

Unlike Windows, Macs generally don’t ever benefit from OS reinstalls, “clean-up” or “optimization” utilities. It’s just a waste of time and effort. All you need to do is replace the hard drive with a suitably sized SSD. Once you’ve done that you might also want to consider putting more RAM in the computer, but by far and away the greatest gain is from replacing the frankly embarrassingly slow stock hard drive.

Are iMacs doomed to always be slow computers?

Nope. They should typically be faster than equivalently priced MacBooks, assuming that both machines have a SSD. They normally will have faster processors and video cards, plus they don’t thermally throttle as quickly as MacBooks, meaning they can work harder for longer.

The problem is that people who use desktop computers often use it as the “family” computer, tend to generate more data and hence Apple prioritised fitting a large hard drive over a fast hard drive. Because Apple significantly over-charge for their SSDs, many customers  looked at price difference, didn’t understand how badly it was going to affect the performance and their enjoyment of the computer, and crippled their lovely iMac at birth 🙁

iMac hard drive replacement service

So if your computer is so slow it’s driving you crazy, you have a simple choice. Buy a new Mac that has a SSD with sufficient capacity for your current and future needs, or upgrade your Mac with a suitably sized SSD. Over the years we’ve done literally hundreds of SSD replacements and in all that time we’ve never had anyone who’s not been shocked by how much faster their computer feels.

Typically you’ll be looking at a 10-15% of the cost of a new computer. Not cheap admittedly, but massively cheaper and I would argue more convenient than buying a new computer.

Sick of watching the “spinning beach-ball of death” every time you try to do something on your iMac? Don’t want to have to buy a new Mac? Live in Bath, Trowbridge, Melksham, Devizes, Frome, Westbury or the surrounding villages? Give us a call on 01380 830224 and we’ll give you a quote that will transform your slow iMac.

 

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MacBook Pro Retina battery replacement service

The first MacBook Pro Retina was released in late 2012 and there are now large numbers of them with failing or failed batteries that need replacing. However, unlike every previous Apple laptop, replacing the battery is not a trivial task as the battery is attached to the top case with very strong adhesive instead of screws. Rather than the quick 5 mins job on the prior MacBook Pros, it’s fun and games that involves prying tools, solvents and the removal of lot more internal components than you might imagine.

Apple do provide an out of warranty battery service for around £199 ( as of June 2020 ). They often replace the entire top case which includes the keyboard; so if you have a keyboard that’s got iffy keys, then this is probably the most sensible option for you. But if your keyboard is in good working condition, you can expect to pay significantly less from an independent Apple support provider ( such Sweet-Apple ).

If you’ve got time, patience and appropriate tools it’s also perfectly possible to do yourself. A quick Google will find you a multitude of instructional guides. Take a complete backup before starting work, be organised, methodical and do not use any metal tools anywhere near the battery. Lithium Ion batteries can be very dangerous if the battery cell is punctured.

If you’re in Bradford On Avon, Westbury, Melksham, Frome, Bath or the surrounding area, have a MacBook Pro Retina 13″ or 15″ with a battery is starting to give up, please give us a call on 01380 830224 and we can quote on a replacement. Turnaround is typically ~24hrs as there’s a lengthy calibration process needed once the new battery is in place.

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Minimising MYSQL disk usage

Database optimisation is hard. Whether it’s tweaking a query or digging into my.cnf to change some of the global MYSQL parameters, you can actually make matters worse without intending to. But one thing that is simple, easy and predictable is making the database smaller.

Knowing which tables are taking up loads of space can be done crudely just by looking at each table to find those with lots of rows, but a when you’ve got a behemoth like Magento, or even a WordPress install with plugin powered table bloat, it’s slow and boring looking at each table. A query is much easier…

SET @database_name = "whatever_your_database_is_called";
SELECT TABLE_NAME AS "Table", round(((data_length + index_length) / 1024 / 1024), 2) AS size
FROM information_schema.TABLES
WHERE table_schema = @database_name
ORDER BY size DESC;

Then it’s just a matter of running some table maintenance to shrink things a bit…

Posted in MYSQL, Performance, Web Development | Comments Off on Minimising MYSQL disk usage

Which Apple products are worth buying in 2019?

I was speaking to a customer in Bradford-on -Avon today about replacement options for their venerable MacBook Pro 15″ 2011, which has once again succumbed to a failing GPU. The discussion came round to what they should replace it with, which got me pondering… What Apple products that still have current support for the latests OS, would I spend my own money on?

Of late that’s become a much more difficult question for me to answer, due to the large number of documented hardware issues with Apple products of late and the steep inflation in prices over the last few years. Plus I’m stingy and want good value for my hard-earned money. It’s a short list when you consider I’m looking at any Apple product sold since 2011…

What’s worth considering?

  • Magic Mouse 1 – Love them, and unlike the V2 uses replaceable AA batteries.
  • iPhone 5 SE – They’re dirt cheap, still supported with iOS 13, very reliable and have Touch ID. I fail to see the “killer feature” more recent phones have. Bigger screens? Buy an iPad and both together are still cheaper than a iPhone 8 or later.
  • iPad 2018 – Under £300, supports the Apple pencil and plenty quick enough. Unless you’re a digital artist the iPad Pro is just a much overpriced version of the same thing.
  • MacBook Pro 13″ Mid 2012 – They’re a bit chunky, but with easily and cheaply upgraded battery, RAM and hard drives, plus bombproof build quality they make excellent workhorses. Hard drive cables can fail, but cheap to replace.
  • MacBook Air 11″ 2014 to 2017 – Decent keyboard, easily replaceable battery and hard drive, stupidly portable and very reliable.
  • MacBook Pro Retina 13″ or 15″ 2014-5 – Fewer of the reliability issues that affected the 2012-2014 models,  just as quick as the 2016-2018 models, but with none of the terrible keyboard and display issues. Bonus points for cheaply upgradable hard drives, SD card reader and normal USB ports.
  • iMac 27″ Retina 2015 onwards – The reason I would consider this is the stunning screen. Everything else is “meh” to fine, but the screen makes up for a lot of my indifference. Earlier models can suffer from GPU failures and should be viewed with some suspicion.
  • Mac mini 2018 – A brilliant little machine, only let down by the soldered on hard drive.
  • MacBook Pro 2019 16″ – Only time will tell if they end up being reliable, but at least they’ve returned to using a sensible keyboard and have better cooling. The lack of upgradable or replaceable anything quickly pushes prices to ridiculous levels once you add in a little bit of future proofing, but it does a least offer something significantly “better” than the 2015 models, albeit at a silly cost.

What should you avoid like the plague?

So what devices would I explicitly avoid? Any iPhone 6. Anything with a “Butterfly” keyboard. Any MacBook Pro 15″ apart from the 2014-5 and 2019 models. Any 2013-2014 iMac with Retina display. Any iMac Pro*. Any Mac Pro**. Any Magic Mouse or keyboard with a built in battery or AirPods***.

Closing thoughts…

If you’ve got money pouring out of your pockets then frankly buy what you fancy and ignore Mr Scrooge over here. If your computer earns you so much money that it will pay for itself in short order, or your employer has money to burn, get the fastest thing you can justify. But for everyone else who doesn’t have unlimited funds, wants an Apple device that should last for a good time all whilst at a reasonable cost, I believe my list represents the “best of class” devices that Apple have sold in the last 8 years…

* I bet they will start to suffer GPU failures in the coming months/years. AMD Vega video cards run notoriously hot and Apple devices never have generous cooling. Plus the cost is nuts. A 9900K Hackintosh with similar specs will cost a fraction of the price.

** The “Cheesegrater” Mac Pros are no longer supported and the “Trash Can” Mac Pros are underpowered and plagued with GPU failures. The fabled 2019 Mac Pro is going to cost silly money for anything significantly faster than a well put together quality Hackintosh or compared to a comparably powerful Windows workstation.

*** Any expensive device that includes a non-replaceable battery and hence will be landfill in a few years time needs to burn in hell. Keyboards, mice and headphones can and should last for a decade.

Posted in Apple, Apple hardware repairs, Bargains | Comments Off on Which Apple products are worth buying in 2019?

Fixing errors uploading SVG WordPress

If you’re uploading .svg files to the WordPress Media Library, you might have been unable to, seeing the error “Sorry, this file type is not permitted for security reasons.”

Open your .svg up with a text editor and check that the first line shows as

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>

If it doesn’t, whack that in, save the document and try again. Adobe software often omits the xml declaration if you optimise the svg output. Pop it back in, problem solved.

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