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Make my mac a speed demon!
February 26, 2009 7:47 PM   Subscribe

Performance tuning OS X, how/where to start?

I just picked up an Macbook Air and have read a lot of stories about beach balling, and poor performance in general. I did get the faster CPU and SSD model but I'd like to squeeze as much as I can out of it.

Are there any guides to help tweak OS X for maximum performance? Such as anything like Service Control manager for Windows, and the associated guides (ie. Black Viper's).

I've done a lot of tweaking on the windows side and wouldn't mind killing non essential stuff like printing, bonjour, ipod , etc..

Is this the command to list running services (i found this for 10.3)...?

"/sbin/service --list",
posted by wongcorgi to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
FWIW, I've played with the GUI tools like Cocktail and Onyx anything in prefpanes (like turned off all sharing)
posted by wongcorgi at 7:55 PM on February 26, 2009


You could always use top to see what services are running. That's a pretty standard linux command.
posted by gchucky at 8:13 PM on February 26, 2009


I don't know about the current MBA's but the first generation couldn't actually maintain their rated speed due to CPU overheating so they would either throttle back or the OS would give it idle instructions to cool down. I don't know if that's still the case but if so you can use CoolBook, which allows you to lower the CPU voltage. Lower voltage means lower heat, so long as the system is stable.

Completely disabling Dashboard may slightly improve performance, too. I have it disabled on my machine.
posted by 6550 at 8:54 PM on February 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


"(i found this for 10.3)"

10.3 predates modern launchd by years. You want launchctl -l

But honestly, I think you're doing yourself a huge disservice poking around at "killing nonessential stuff." Darwin is pretty good about not paging in unused stuff -- you're not really taking a substantial performance hit by leaving unused things unused.

" anything like Service Control manager for Windows, and the associated guides...I've done a lot of tweaking on the windows side..."

Don't try to administer an OSX system like it's made out of Windows. The entire Windows approach to administration and tuning is, to put it bluntly, the exception and not the rule. There are tunable parameters (sysctl in particular) that you can use to adjust the system, but without a relatively in-depth understanding of how UNIX works architecturally you're not going to make much progress.

Simply put, unlike the Windows case OSX doesn't really need any tuning out of the box to provide acceptable performance. Also unlike Windows, there is very little additional performance to be gained by playing the "tweaking" game. Not that it isn't fun to do so, but it simply won't give you the result you're accustomed to as someone who is used to having to fuck around with Windows just to get it to not suck.
posted by majick at 9:03 PM on February 26, 2009 [4 favorites]


I don't want to start a Windows vs OS X war, but Windows doesn't need tuning out of the box to provide acceptable performance. I just like that extra oomph. Same case here with my MBA.

I guess in this case OS X is built to not be fiddled around with (ie tweaking won't do much) and Windows is more modular in that you can control pretty much everything by turning on and off services.
posted by wongcorgi at 11:57 PM on February 26, 2009


You can do the same under OS X (e.g., spotlight indexing), but the question is, do you really want to turn them off?
posted by Brian Puccio at 4:15 AM on February 27, 2009


You will spend more time just reading the answers to this post than you will ever save by tweaking OS X.
posted by dmd at 5:08 AM on February 27, 2009


It's possible that the MacBook Air beachballing stories you're reading are because the people writing them and complaining cheaped out on the RAM purchase. Seriously, having enough RAM is the single most important thing you can do for your Mac OS X system, on any Mac. Period. End of story.

Long story made short: Max out the RAM in your system.

Only use Onyx and the like if you're actually experiencing problems, and then really only to clear out cache files so they can be rebuilt by the system. If you're still not happy with performance, only then consider disabling Spotlight and Dashboard, etc. Consider setting screen resolution to "thousands" of colors instead of "millions". In most cases you won't be able to tell the difference and you'll get better performance out of system/video card.
posted by mrbarrett.com at 7:01 AM on February 27, 2009


I don't want to start a Windows vs OS X war, but Windows doesn't need tuning out of
the box to provide acceptable performance.


Right-click My Computer, go to Properties. Click Advanced, then Settings under the Performance area. Change from "Let Windows choose what's best for my computer" to "Adjust for best performance"

Notice the much better performance of the system all around.
posted by odinsdream at 8:31 AM on February 27, 2009


It's possible that the MacBook Air beachballing stories you're reading are because the people writing them and complaining cheaped out on the RAM purchase. Seriously, having enough RAM is the single most important thing you can do for your Mac OS X system, on any Mac. Period. End of story.

The MBA has 2GB RAM soldered to the logic board; there is no way to upgrade RAM. I'm a little surprised that 4GB isn't even an (expensive) build-to-order option but it isn't.
posted by 6550 at 8:43 AM on February 27, 2009


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