If you just upgraded to OS X El Capitan and are very disappointed with the performance, you may not need to worry so much. It is most probably quite easily fixable. Below are fixes that have a high probability of putting an end to your El Capitan running slow problems.
How to speed up El Capitan?
1. Free memory = Faster El Capitan!
Like its predecessor Yosemite, El Capitan is quite memory hungry. This is why it will only work on Macs that were mostly made after 2008, like mentioned earlier. If your Mac is compatible with El Capitan according to Apple but El Capitan is still running slow, the fix could be as simple as freeing up disk space on your OS X partition.
One of the simplest ways to do that would be to use a convenient and reputed software program like Clean My Mac 3. Clean My Mac 2 was very successful in helping thousands of Mac users speed up Yosemite problems and Clean My Mac 3 has been upgraded to fix performance issues with El Capitan. It only takes 10 minutes from the time of installation to fix El Capitan performance issues in most cases.
Clean My Mac 3 frees up loads of unnecessarily occupied disk space with just a couple of clicks, converting that used space to free memory that will then assist your Mac’s RAM, resulting in much faster performance from El Capitan.
2. Is your Mac compatible?
Not all Macs can run El Capitan, at least not very well. Here is what is compatible with El Capitan.
- iMac (Mid 2007 or more recent)
- MacBook Air (Late 2008 or more recent)
- MacBook Aluminum (Late 2008 or more recent)
- MacBook Non-Aluminum (Early 2009 or more recent)
- Mac Mini (Early 2009 or more recent)
- MacBook Pro (Mid/Late 2007 or more recent)
- Mac Pro (Early 2008 or more recent)
If your Mac isn’t compatible, you may need to rollback to Yosemite or whatever version of OS X you were using before. You could also possibly look at a hardware upgrade if you really want to only use El Capitan, despite having an older Mac, though we don’t really recommend it. If you still want to do it, the simplest way to upgrade your current Mac is to carry out a RAM upgrade.
Updated on 23rd October, 2015 – slow El Capitan problems even after update
Delete your Mac Mail logs
The El Capitan update was primarily rolled out to fix the Mac Mail bug. But, if you see in activity monitor that Mac Mail is still burdening your Mac, it is time to manually delete your Mac Mail log file. Save this first file first as a backup first. Go to the following path: ~/Library/Containers/com.apple.mail/Data/Library/Logs/Mail/ and then delete all log files. After you delete, restart your Mac and see if it all the performance woes.
Updated on 7th October, 2015 – New fixes for slow El Capitan problems
This is an update to our original post. Since the release of El Capitan, some readers and some of the techies in our social circle have shared their share of fixes for slow El Capitan problems. They are listed below.
Mac Mail could be the culprit!
Check the stats related to Mac Mail in your Activity Monitor (Applications > Utilities). Mac Mail is supposed to be a light program. If you see it consuming anything more than 5% of your CPU or memory resources, it is probably buggy and causing a widespread slowdown in your Mac.
The fix is to simply abandon Mac Mail for now and use a program like Outlook instead, at least until Apple rolls out a patched Mac Mail release.
Slow WiFi on El Capitan
If your Mac is generally fine but your WiFi is crawling after an upgrade to El Capitan, there are a few simple fixes to fix the slowness. For starters, try the good-old modem switch-off and restart. If that doesn’t work, switch off your Mac’s WiFi controller, wait a few minutes, and then turn it back again. If that doesn’t work either, you can try going into Network Preferences, finding your WiFi connection, deleting it, scanning WiFi connections again and then reconnect to your preferred WiFi again.
One of these solutions should fix your slow El Capitan WiFi problems.
It could just be that Spotlight is taking its own sweet time
El Capitan is designed to have a Spotlight that will find anything and everything on your Mac, when you search with a query in the Spotlight bar. However, to make your Mac searchable, Spotlight will have to carry out an indexing first. Some Mac owners have said that this indexing process is really slow and that it makes the Mac crawl until it is finished. If this is your problem, the only solution is time.
People have reported that this problem will go away on its own in about 24-48 hours, depending on how buggy Spotlight is.
3. Tone down the eye candy
Like Yosemite, El Capitan tries very hard to give you a fresh looking UI. While a new look is always exciting, some of the effects, like transparency for example, really take a toll on processor performance, especially when you have a lot of windows open and are juggling them around.
To turn off or minimize the “special effects” that El Capitan brings to your Mac, simply go to Apple Menu -> System Preferences -> Accessibility -> Display -> and then optimize settings there to allow your processor to pay as little attention as it can to give you a fresh, animated or clean look. Toggling off such settings will mean that your processor will be available to do more crucial work like helping you multi-task and improve your productivity, a trade-off that will leave you more than happy.
4. Desktop clean up
This is a rather easy one. It won’t significantly speed up El Capitan but will definitely offer you a small boost that will be well worth the effort and small sacrifice, one that will take you all of 2 minutes at the most.
To clean up your desktop, simply select all the icons present and put it all into a new folder that you will name as something like Desktop Folder. You can name it anything you want actually.
Since your Mac’s processor won’t have to constantly refresh the drawing of your many desktop icons, it will divert those resources to help speed up your multi-tasking instead. This will be particularly noticeable if toggling between windows was slow in the past, when you had many icons lying around on your Mac’s desktop.
5. Turn off Window minimization effects
If you hadn’t noticed, your Mac does what is called a toilet flush effect when you minimize your Windows, sort of making your window looked like it is being flushed down into the dock bar. While this may be a quirk that you liked, it is probably not helping with your El Capitan speeds.
To change this to a boring but performance efficient “scale” effect, simply go to Apple Menu -> System Preferences -> Dock -> Minimize Window Using -> Scale Effect
6. Check for performance hampering culprit apps
It could be that El Capitan is working just fine and that it is actually an app that is making things difficult for you. Sometimes, an app that you might have used for several years without a glitch might have developed some corrupted files that will eventually really hang your Mac.
It could just be coincidence that this problem might have started after you installed El Capitan, leading you to believe that El Capitan is flawed instead.
To check for apps that could be performance culprits, go to Activity Monitor through Spotlight and then click on the CPU and memory tabs to see if any app is using up an unusually large percentage of CPU or memory resource. Any app listed with over a 40% usage statistic is probably not working properly.
Try closing that app and restarting it. If El Capitan is still slow, try reinstalling that app or using a substitute for that app. You might also want to consider removing that app from your startup list if it is one of those apps that loads up as your Mac boots up every time.
On a side note, you may sometimes see something called an mdworker in the list of apps that are using up a lot of CPU and memory. Leave just this app alone as it is a vital and necessary system process that happens only once in a while.
7. Disable FileVault
FileVault is a feature that is by default enabled in El Capitan. While it offers you the luxury of encrypting your hard disk for higher security, it could also be one of the reasons for El Capitan to run slow.
To disable FileVault to see if it will fix your problem, go to Apple Menu -> System Preferences -> Security and Privacy -> Turn Off File Vault -> Turn off Encryption.
Once this is done, restart your Mac for settings to take effect. If you still don’t notice an improvement in El Capitan’s speed, you should probably turn FileVault back on as you want it on if you had a choice.
8. Go easy on widgets and extensions in notification center
This is a tip that will specifically help if you have an old mac that just barely meets the minimum requirements of El Capitan, like say an early 2009 MacBook.
If you have a lot of widgets and extensions active, your boot up or restart time is going to be quite affected, as all data has to be updated in real time as your Mac boots up.
Since you can easily check things like weather, stocks or your social activity on an as-needed basis, with just a click or two, disabling them will help you get your Mac working quicker after a restart.
To disable unnecessary widgets and extensions, go to Apple Menu -> System Preferences -> Extensions -> Today -> Un-Check all unnecessary items and save.
Besides a faster boot up time, this optimization will also allow you to view your notifications quicker as well.
9. The Disk Permissions repair fix
This isn’t exactly a El Capitan slow specific performance fix but it is good to run anyways, as this remedy can profoundly increase your Mac’s performance or just do nothing. Since it doesn’t do any harm, it doesn’t hurt to try.
To perform disk permissions repair, Restart your Mac -> Press the Option key as you restart -> Select Disc Utility -> Select OS X partition (or partition where you installed El Capitan) -> Choose fix disc permissions -> Restart your Mac.
If you do see a performance boost, it will be quite significant after a disk permissions repair run.
You can alternately run repair disk permissions without restarting your Mac as well. To do that, Press Command + Space-> Spotlight will open up -> Type Disk Utility -> Select OS X Partition -> Verify Disk Permissions -> Repair Disk Permissions
On a side note, your Mac would have automatically run disk permissions when you installed El Capitan, as Macs are programmed to run disk permissions repair every time OS X is updated. But again, running disk permissions repair at any given time doesn’t hurt and can only help.
10. Run SMC and PRAM resets
This is another fix that isn’t specifically a El Capitan slow problem fix but a more general one that you may have luck with anyways. Resetting these system controllers will not delete any of your user data, they just reset some minor system controllers that might have been corrupted, thereby leading to slow or sometimes very sluggish performance.
To reset SMC on an iMac, Mac Pro, Mac Mini or Xserve
Turn off your Mac -> Unplug the power cable -> Wait at least 15 seconds -> Reconnect the power cable -> Wait at least 5 seconds -> Power on like normal
To reset SMC on a MacBook, MacBook Pro or MacBook Air
Turn off your MacBook -> Plug in the power cable to a wall outlet -> Press and hold Left Shift + Option + Control + Power Button for at least 10 seconds ->Release all keys after 10 seconds -> Power on your MacBook like normal
To reset PRAM on your Mac
Shut down your Mac -> Power on your Mac and press the following 4 keys together, as soon as you power it on -> Option + Command (⌘) + P + R (Must press this combination before the gray boot up screen shows up)-> Hold down the keys until your Mac restarts -> Release all keys when you hear the beep restart sound
Please note that resetting PRAM will sometimes require you to re-calibrate your display resolution, startup disk choices and also your speaker volume, although your user data will remain unaffected.
Hopefully by now, some of these fixes would have put an end to your El Capitan slow performance problems. While some of these fixes require you to scale back on some of the most exciting features that El Capitan brings, please understand that we suggested it anyways as it will allow you to get work done. After all, if you had a choice to have a completely unresponsive Mac or a boring Mac that allows you to get work done, you will probably choose the latter option.
Since El Capitan is so new, there will be fixes or updates rolled out by Apple that will fix common performance issues. Until then, we hope this guide really helps.