How to Optimize your MacBook Pro

6 min read

As of 2021, a new Mac costs around $1000. But you don’t have to fork out that sum just yet. Even a 2012 MacBook can be optimized to perform at least without lags. Knowing how to keep your Mac optimized is essential for any Mac owner because who doesn't want to get the absolute best out of their machine? 

Here are a few areas on any Mac that can be optimized:

  • List of apps

  • Storage and folder structure

  • Startup apps

  • Graphics and display settings

  • System junk (the most important part)

  • Privacy and permissions

No one wants a sluggish, slow, unreliable, or problematic Mac, and sadly over time, if we neglect to take care of the essentials, we can run into issues like these. Knowing how to keep your Mac optimized will save you so much time and possibly even money, further down the road. 

How to Optimize your MacBook Pro

To give your Mac a few performance points, you'll need to start with finding its weak spots. Most often, it’s storage and abundance of rarely used and problematic apps. So let’s start with software as our first idea to optimize your Mac. 

Keep your software updated

Although obvious, this has to take first place on the list. Keeping your Mac software up-to-date means, you'll benefit from bug fixes, performance improvements, new features, and security enhancements. 

Here's how to check if you need a software update:

How to check for macOS updates

  1. Select the Apple menu, top left.

  2. System Preferences > Software update.

  3. Follow the instructions to install an update if you need one. 

If you don't, keep on reading. 

Use Apple's built-in optimization tool

Apple's built-in optimization tool will provide you with some basic recommendations to optimize your storage for increased Mac performance.

How to use Apple's built-in optimization tools

Here's how to access Apple's optimization feature:

  1. Open the Apple Menu >About This Mac.

  2. Select the Storage tab > Manage.

  3. Select Recommendations in the sidebar.

The Recommendations section gives you 4 options to help you manage disk space. These are 4 relatively self-explanatory and straightforward recommendations. They won't be the complete answer to a smooth Mac. Still, I always think every little helps when it comes to optimization.

Check your Downloads folder

When it comes to Mac Optimization, clearing up your clutter is a must. Why not check your Downloads folder? This is a place where large and forgotten files like to hang out and take up precious space. 

The first time I cleared out my Downloads folder, I was genuinely amazed at what junk I'd collected over the years.

Here's how to check your Downloads folder:

  1. Launch a new Finder window and select Downloads in the sidebar.

  2. Scroll through your list and remove what you no longer need.

Don't forget to empty your Trash bin afterward. Speaking of Trash, on to the next tip.

Clear up System Junk

Keeping your Mac clean and tidy is a sure way to keep your Mac optimized at all times. Regular maintenance is essential, and it goes a long way when it comes to increasing your MacBook's performance. 

You can spend hours, sometimes days scouring your Mac for old, broken, and temporary files, old apps, forgotten folders, cache, system logs, and all the other stuff we collect, or you could use a dedicated and specialized tool like CleanMyMac X to do the hard work for you. 

I was utterly shocked by just how much System Junk it found the first time I used it. Like seriously, I had no idea how much junk I was hoarding.

Now I like to run the System Junk module regularly to keep my Mac running smoothly. Extra plus points for the app being notarized by Apple.

How to clear your System Junk with CleanMyMac X:
How to clean system junk on Mac

  1. Launch the app — Download the free version here.

  2. Select System Junk from the left sidebar.

  3. Press Scan then finally Clean.

Sit back, relax and effortlessly optimize your Mac. 

Close resource-heavy apps

Another way how to optimize your MacBook Pro is to close resource-hungry apps. Some apps use considerable processor resources, which can drain your Mac's Performance.

Curious to see which applications and processes are dragging your Mac down? Here's how you can check:

Activity monitor on Mac

  1. Open a Finder > Applications > Utlilies> Activity Monitor.

  2. Open the CPU tab and sort by %CPU.

  3. Resource-hungry apps will be listed at the top of the list; select an item and press the "X" to terminate it. 

Closing down an app from the list will immediately give your Mac some extra breathing space, but If you discover an app that you no longer need is taking up valuable CPU, it's worth deleting it.

Another way to check heavy memory consumers

Another way to manage resource-hungry apps is with the tool I mentioned previously. The CleanMyMac X app has a smart feature to spot apps that are overloading your CPU. Here's how to use the Heavy Consumers tool:

  1. Launch CleanMyMac X and select Optimization.

  2. Press View All Items.

  3. Select Heavy Consumers. 

If you have any applications that are sucking away your CPU, you'll find them here. You can either decide to exit them or distribute your Mac's capabilities more effectively. 

CleanMyMac - heavy consumers

I was surprised to find the Zoom app among my resource-heavy apps🤔.
Download this really helpful Mac app here.

Manage login items and launch agents

Another great way to optimize your Mac is to reduce its workload on startup. There's really no need to have loads of applications automatically loading up when you start your Mac; it just causes your Mac to slow down.

Here's how to manage your startup items:

How to manage startup items

  1. Select Apple Menu > System Preferences > Users & Accounts.

  2. Then, select the Login tab, choose your account and press the lock icon at the bottom to make changes. 

  3. Search through the programs in the list and remove any applications by pressing "-".

Again, you can also use CleanMyMac X's Optimization module again to manage both login and launch items. 

You can see why it's my preferred tool; everything is together in 1 place. So here's how to manage your login and launch agents:

CleanMyMac X - Optimization module

  1. Launch the app and press Optimization from the sidebar.

  2. Press the View All Items Button.

  3. Search through Login Items and Launch Agents

  4. Select items you want to remove and press Remove.

Reduce your desktop clutter

How's your desktop looking? Mine is very tidy because I'm using stacks. This feature first appeared on macOS Mojave (if you run an older macOS, sorry). It keeps files cleverly organized in groups, helping you reduce clutter and keep your Mac in shape.

How to use desktop stacks

Once activated, whenever you save a new file to your desktop, it will automatically be added to the appropriate stack. To start using Stacks, click anywhere on your Desktop > Use Stacks. Super simple.

Ultimate list of tips for Mac optimization

  • Delete apps you haven’t used for the last 3 months.

  • Move large media files to an external drive.

  • Disable hardware acceleration in Chrome settings.

  • Make a brand new user on your Mac.

  • Switch to a less demanding browser (like Brave browser).

Well, there you have it, all the best tricks for optimizing your Mac. Enjoy working through these tips and keeping your Mac in tip-top shape. 

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