7 Ways to Speed Up Your Mac Experience

By Bob LeVitus

At some time in their Mac lives, most users have wished that their machines would work faster — even if their Macs have multiple cores or processors. You can’t make your processors any faster, but here’s where you find out some ways to make your Mac at least seem faster. Better still, at least some of these tips won’t cost you one red cent.

Use those keyboard shortcuts

Keyboard shortcuts can make navigating your Mac a much faster experience compared with constantly using the mouse, offering these benefits:

  • If you use keyboard shortcuts, your hands stay focused on the keyboard, reducing the amount of time that you remove your hand from the keyboard to fiddle with the mouse or trackpad.

  • If you memorize keyboard shortcuts with your head, your fingers will memorize them, too.

  • The more keyboard shortcuts you use, the faster you can do what you’re doing.

Using the keyboard shortcuts for commands you use often can save you a ton of effort and hours upon hours of time.

Make a list of keyboard shortcuts you want to memorize, and tape it to your monitor or where you’ll see it all the time when using your Mac.

Improve your typing skills

One way to make your Mac seem faster is to make your fingers move faster. The quicker you finish a task, the quicker you’re on to something else. Keyboard shortcuts are nifty tools, and improving your typing speed and accuracy will save you time, plus you’ll get stuff done faster if you’re not always looking down at the keys when you type.

As your typing skills improve, you also spend less time correcting errors or editing your work.

Get a new, faster model

Apple keeps putting out faster and faster Macs at lower and lower prices, and all Macs now ship with at least 4GB of RAM. And even though 4GB is officially “enough RAM” to run Yosemite, if you like to keep a few apps running all the time, it’s not enough to run it at its best.

Check out the latest iMacs and Mac minis — they’re excellent values. Or if you crave portability, MacBook Air and MacBook Pro models are rocking good computers and have never been less expensive. You might even consider a used Mac that’s faster than yours.

You can frequently save hundreds of dollars by purchasing a slightly used Mac that has been refurbished to factory specifications by Apple. Another advantage to Apple refurbs is that they come with an Apple warranty. If you’re on a tight budget, definitely check it out.

You can never have too much RAM!

You get a lot of bang for your buck when you upgrade your Mac’s RAM. Get an additional 2GB or 4GB; you can never have too much. Your Mac will run better with at least 8GB of RAM, which will cost you less than $100 in most cases and can be installed by anyone. Yes, anyone — the instructions are right there in your User Guide booklet.

Unless, that is, you own a MacBook Air or certain late-model iMacs. These models are exceedingly difficult to open, and Apple frowns upon users opening the MacBook Air. You might want to opt for the services of an authorized, certified Mac cracker-opener to perform your MacBook Air or iMac RAM upgrade. Or just order your Mac with enough RAM in the first place.

Get an accelerated graphics card

An accelerated graphics card is designed to speed up one thing: the screen-update rate. They’re extremely popular with graphic arts professionals and with gamers. Accelerated graphics cards blast pixels onto your screen at amazing speeds.

And because the OS X Quartz Extreme imaging architecture hands off part of its load to the processor on an accelerated graphics card, it might even make your Mac’s other tasks faster because it does some of the work that your Mac’s main processor (CPU) used to do. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that you can use a graphics accelerator only if your Mac has an accelerated PCI slot or Thunderbolt connection for it, which is where you install these suckers. Only the previous generation Mac Pro models are equipped with accelerated PCI slots.

And although the current Mac Pro includes a pair of powerful GPUs (graphics processing units), they aren’t upgradable. There are no Macs in production as of this writing with internal PCI slots, but you’ll still be able to add an accelerated graphics or other PCI cards to most Mac models using external devices connected via Thunderbolt.

Get a new hard drive

Depending on how old your Mac is, a faster hard drive could provide a substantial speedup. If you have a Mac with an Intel processor (Macs with older PowerPC processors can’t run Yosemite), the internal hard drive that came with your Mac is probably pretty fast already. Unless you also need more storage space, a new hard drive is probably not the best way to spend your bucks.

Get a solid-state drive (SSD)

The latest and greatest storage device is a solid-state drive (SSD). It uses flash memory in place of a mechanical hard drive’s spinning platters, which means, among other things, that there are no moving parts.

Another benefit is that they perform most operations at up to twice the speed of mechanical drives.

The bad news is that they’re expensive — three or more times the price of a mechanical hard drive with the same capacity. That said, many users report that it’s the best money they ever spent on an upgrade.