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Brand new MBP slowing to a crawl
January 7, 2012 9:12 AM   Subscribe

My sister has used a brand new 13" MacBookPro (w/ Lion) for several weeks, replacing her 4-year-old 15" MBP (upgraded to Snow Leopard). She's finding that, over the course of a day, the machine seems to dramatically slow - to the point where it seems much slower than her old machine.

InDesign in particular takes a long time to open, mail.appl makes the new mail "ping" sound a full minute after email actually appears, image files take a long time to load, programs take a long time to close, etc. After a reboot, it's fine for a while, but then slows down again.

Typically, the applications she's using might be CS5.5, Firefox, iTunes, & Mail.app. All pretty standard. The laptop is plugged into AC, and sometimes is connected to an external monitor or Wacom Tablet.

Thoughts about possible causes / solutions? Might downgrading to Snow Leopard help?
posted by kickingtheground to Computers & Internet (16 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
Just dealt with a problem like this at work yesterday:

The only place where modern macbook pros vent heat is from the back of the hinge. Make sure it isn't obstructed by a case or sleeve or otherwise blocked. One of my users had a snap on case that covered that vent, and over the course of the day her machine would slow down as the system is designed to throttle back the CPU as the temperature increases.

PS, for the most part, you can't downgrade a mac to an OS that's earlier than the one it shipped with.
posted by Oktober at 9:27 AM on January 7, 2012


Also, you can run hardware diagnostics by holding down the D key at boot, that may give you some insight
posted by Oktober at 9:29 AM on January 7, 2012


Hmm. Downgrading to Snow Leopard won't be possible, since Macs will (almost) always only run the OS they shipped with. Normally I'd advise trying a reinstall as a matter of course, but if it's only a few weeks old that might be overkill. In any case, there don't seem to be a huge number of variables, so getting to the bottom of it shouldn't be too difficult.

As I'm sure you know, the thing to do here is to essentially figure out if you've got a software or hardware issue on your hands. Since a pretty sizeable number of people with MacBook Pros run some variant of CS5, I doubt it's that. My first thought would be a peripheral problem. Were the drivers for the Wacom tablet gotten directly from Wacom, or did she use the ones included on a CD? I'd check that, and for specific mentions of Lion compatibility. Uninstalling it and then using the machine normally for a day would of course be the easiest way to rule this out.

Unless there are any other peripherals or backgrounded software to account for, you're probably in the vicinity of a hardware issue. Is the RAM fitted the stuff that came with the machine, or did she or you upgrade it promptly upon purchase? There's a piece of software I use that likes to load large (5GB+ files) into RAM in order to manipulate them. Since I have 4GB, the swapping in and out that this entails makes my Mac work painfully slowly for the duration (including the sort of lagging you describe). Other than this, a faulty processor — or, on previewing and seeing Oktober's comment — something causing it to go faulty — can exhibit issues like this.

If Oktober's advice (or mine) doesn't help, then the next step is this: assuming she has a backup of some sort, wipe the internal hard drive down and run it for a day without installing any software or the like. If it slows down then, you know you've got a hardware issue. If this does turn out to be the case, don't forget that since it's such a new machine she can and should return it for a replacement rather than getting it repaired. Once a lemon, always a lemon, in my experience!
posted by jaffacakerhubarb at 9:35 AM on January 7, 2012


I would open Activity Monitor and check how the memory has been used, how much is free. You might want to upgrade the RAM. Also check how much free disk space you have. There is some discussion of how much RAM is needed on the Mac-oriented forums. The newest MBAir has a SSD so you would not notice the swapping as much.
posted by PickeringPete at 9:37 AM on January 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Can you have her run Activity Monitor throughout the day to see if there's anything that's eating up more memory than it should? On a brand new MacBook, she shouldn't be using the full 4 GB or whatever of memory with just those programs.

FWIW, I agree with Oktober that this might be a heating/cooling issue. I have an older Macbook that starts slowing down after it's been on too long and is heating up too much. Make sure nothing is blocking the back where the heat vents.

If all else fails, if she got it a few weeks ago, it should still be in the 90-day period when she can get free telephone support, and she still has the limited warranty. If she takes it into the Genius Bar and there's something wrong with the hardware, they'll probably fix or replace it without any fuss.
posted by yasaman at 9:39 AM on January 7, 2012


I would also guess that it's probably RAM usage.

She doesn't use safari, but with Lion I can easily have more than 4gb of RAM consumed with just a few tabs open.
posted by The Lamplighter at 9:45 AM on January 7, 2012


How much RAM does the computer come with? That computer can hold 8 gigabyte of RAM. I suggest maxing it out. There are pretty straightforward instructions about how to do this on Apple's web site, however, the Apple Store's Genius Bars can also do this if you or your sister are not comfortable with opening up your computer.

Also, make sure that the vent for the fan (in the back of the computer, at its base) is free of any obstructions. If the internals get too hot the computer will slow down in order that it does not overheat and fry itself.
posted by dfriedman at 10:04 AM on January 7, 2012


I would also open up activity monitor when the machine become slow and sort by CPU and then by RAM and see if any program is using a bunch of either. Then you can google "firefox slowly eats up all of my RAM" and figure out why.

Some examples:

1) Some Firefox extensions or a broken Firefox profile could cause this.

2) I've had issues with the "Dock" process in the latest version of Lion. Multiple programs - like VMWare Fusion for one - can cause it to slowly eat up all of my memory. I think it's an Apple bug but there's ways around it depending on which program is causing it (in my case, tweaking a Fusion setting).

I'm surprised people above are saying you can't downgrade to Snow Leopard. Is this true? I'd love a citation if anyone has one.

Oh, also, upgrading my RAM made a huuuuuge difference for me. But then again I run VMWare Fusion and use 50+ tabs in Firefox, so I do easily eat up the 4GB of RAM the machine came with. Once you run out of RAM and the system needs to swap to disk, the system crawls...
posted by User7 at 10:25 AM on January 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Since a couple people have mentioned upgrading RAM: the machine has the stock 4GB, and we're deifnitely aware that she can upgrade that eventually. However, I feel it shouldn't be this slow with 4GB - the old machine had that much and handily managed under the same workflow.
I'm surprised people above are saying you can't downgrade to Snow Leopard. Is this true? I'd love a citation if anyone has one.
I find this surprising too - this model is very nearly identical to ones made before Lion even came out. So presumably 10.6 had all the necessary drivers &etc.
posted by kickingtheground at 10:30 AM on January 7, 2012


I googled a bit. It seems to be mostly true. Your specific macbook pro might be able to do it, but you may need a newer version of snow leopard install disc (>10.6.6). I didn't look into it too much.

You really shouldn't need to go down that path though. Check out activity monitor. I bet it's an issue with a specific program that you can fix once you identify the program.
posted by User7 at 10:44 AM on January 7, 2012


FYI, if it's a heat issue, you may see absurdly high system (red) usage when you view all processes: kernel task will be using 80-90% at all times
posted by Oktober at 11:38 AM on January 7, 2012


Firefox is the prime suspect. It's got horrible memory leaks. Try quitting that and see if it doesn't help things.
posted by bink at 12:31 PM on January 7, 2012


If all other advice fails, schedule an appointment with an apple Genius. Get it into the "slow" state and let them tell you what's going on.
posted by Mad_Carew at 3:06 PM on January 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have trouble with both Firefox and Chrome on my Macbook Pro in terms of memory leaks. If I don't shut them down at least once every 24 hours, the machine gets cripplingly slow. Right now I'm getting towards 12 hours with Firefox open, and I have 832 MB of free memory, with 3264 used. 690 MB of this is being used by Firefox. It increased by 20 MB just in the time it took me to type this.
posted by lollusc at 6:20 PM on January 7, 2012


Oh, and I don't mean 12 hours of USE. It was hibernated for most of that time. Hibernation doesn't affect the memory leaks. You have to actually quit the program, or restart the computer.
posted by lollusc at 6:21 PM on January 7, 2012


Lion sucks balls (they broke rosetta! people wrote software which will NEVER be updated from rosetta essential material, and apple just gave me the finger....). I worked hard at downgrading my OS on my new computer to 10.6: everything I do now will insist on keeping it in 10.6
posted by lalochezia at 9:23 PM on January 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


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