A few weeks ago Eric from Durham, NC noted that we hadn’t had any Dumb Questions in a long time so he sent me in an assortment and told me I could use any of them I wanted. I thought this was a delightful idea, so of course I procrastinated on answering him for a few weeks.
Let’s start with his first question:
I have a 2010 Mac Book Pro with a 2.4 GHz Core 2 Duo and 4GB of RAM running Yosemite. With the exception of buying an SSD which I cannot afford right now, is there any other way to speed it up?
Great question. SSDs are dropping in price but they’re still expensive and might not be the best immediate investment for you right now. When you open an application on your Mac, it puts the application and the data into RAM. RAM is very fast and is essential to giving you a speedy experience. However, when you run out of RAM, say by opening 2 or 3 applications or more at the same time, you will run out of RAM. Rather than just saying, “nope, sorry Eric, I can’t do that” your Mac will use your hard drive instead of RAM. So instead of using the snappy solid state RAM, it’s accessing a physical, spinning disk to access this data, and immediately things will slooooowwwww down.
The solution and it’s relatively inexpensive, is to upgrade your RAM to 8GB. You can do that from Other World Computing for a grand total of $91US. The upgrade is so easy on these machine because it was before Apple started going crazy making them thinner and thinner so you can still get in there with a few screws and upgrade the RAM. OWC does install videos that walk you through step by step how to do it. It’s actually really fun too.
If you want to spend no money at all though, I have another idea. If you’e a geek, and let’s face it, if you’re writing to me you’ve probably got it bad, in the last 4 years you’ve loaded a lot of stuff on this very capable machine. I find that doing a nuke and pave can bring even bigger speed improvements than a RAM upgrade. By nuke and pave I mean this:
- Make a bootable clone of your hard drive using Carbon Copy Cloner or SuperDuper!
- If you have another spare disk around, make a backup of your data. One backup isn’t a backup, right?
- Make SURE you’ve got a backup of the elusive User/Library/Application Support folder, you’ll be amazed what gets stored in there when you’re not watching.
- The 2010 MacBook Pros have a recovery partition which you can access by booting up holding down Command-R. In here you can go into Disk Utility and erase the drive. I know, it’s scary but trust me, it’s awesome. Resist the temptation to just reinstall the OS. If you do that, Apple will courteously keep all of the cruft you’ve been shoving into the back corners for you, which is exactly what we DON’T want.
- From within this recovery partition you can install a brand clean version of the OS
- Once you boot to the new clean install, you can run Migration Assistant to bring your data back. I recommend NOT bringing back settings, JUST bring back your data from your backup drive
- Here’s the hard part – don’t bring back Applications either. My recommendation is to wait until you NEED an application to install it. Install it from scratch from a fresh download from the Internet too, so you know you have the newest and coolest version.
This is a long process but it’s kind of fun to figure out what you really need. I’ve tried to do this by deleting applications I don’t need but I only get rid of a half dozen, but if I put back what I do use, I end up cutting the number in half!
I haven’t given you every single step here; I’m assuming you know enough to fill in the blanks, but I hope this outline helps you to understand the basic steps of doing a nuke and pave. Every time I’ve done this my Mac is sooooo much faster, even one that’s only a year or two old will benefit dramatically from a nuke and pave.
I hope this helps you speed up your Mac, Eric, it’s a great machine and well worth the effort to shine her up a bit to make you happy!