Yosemite + 2013 laptop = incredibly slow performance.
November 13, 2014 2:48 AM   Subscribe

Since upgrading to Yosemite, my laptop has been behaving very... poorly. Is there some way to speed it up, should I wait for some update to it, or should I try return to Mavericks?

My laptop is a 2013 MacBook Pro, 4 Gb RAM, 2.3 GHz Intel Core i7. Not the top-of-the-line laptop at the time, but still a new laptop that's only a little bit over a year old.

Unfortunately, for most that I do on it, it is often very slow at responding, particularly if Chrome is involved. Now, I know that there are Chrome/OS X issues, but this is pretty ridiculous. Many tasks take what seems to be at least twice as long as they used to, and as a whole using my laptop has become significantly more frustrating than it was prior to the upgrade.

So is there anything that I can do about this? I've disabled some of the suggested options in Yosemite that are supposed to be rather hog-ish, but that hasn't made much of a difference. Should I just suck it up, hope for an update, or should I try to downgrade?
posted by vernondalhart to Computers & Internet (27 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
How close is your startup disk to full?
posted by deezil at 3:36 AM on November 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

I can't speak as to what the specific problem might be, but I run Yosemite (and chrome) on my middle-of-the-line 2011 MacBook Air without issue.

In the past when I've experienced a significant performance whack post-upgrade, it's generally been due to the system choking on old prefs. Creating a new user account has generally proven a good test; if the new account works at full speed, then it's best to clean house or even reinstall and migrate piecemeal.
posted by not the fingers, not the fingers at 3:39 AM on November 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

+1 on the recommendation to create a new account. It's always my first step in troubleshooting a tricky problem.

Also, if it's only a 2013 laptop, then it's still under hardware warranty. Make a Time Machine backup, set up an appointment at the nearest Mac Store, and make it their problem. Don't try to troubleshoot for them -- just play dumb and tell them it's super slow now. Just be sure to get it done now. Mac Stores are always crazy busy, but in a few weeks, it's going to be insane, and it's going to stay that way until after Christmas.

Good Luck!
posted by joebakes at 4:39 AM on November 13, 2014

Response by poster: The startup disk has about 140GB free out of 500GB.

I could try set up a new account; that isn't something I'd thought of...
posted by vernondalhart at 4:39 AM on November 13, 2014

Here are some things you could try to fix the issue: here
posted by kinddieserzeit at 4:56 AM on November 13, 2014

If setting up a new account still doesn't work, you could try running Disk Utility / Check Disk. It will come up with a hundred minor errors, which is fine. If it shows any major or non-fixable errors, though, it's definitely a visit to the Mac store.

If the problem is only with Chrome, then delete the application and download the latest version. It probably won't do anything, but it's quick and easy, so you might as well.

There's a guide here if you want to spend more time trying to fix it yourself: http://support.apple.com/en-us/TS1388.

Let us know how it turns out!
posted by joebakes at 4:57 AM on November 13, 2014

Now, I know that there are Chrome/OS X issues

Ugh, OSX chrome is such a turd. i have a year older, but beefier machine. the 8gb ram 15in retina.

chrome runs like shit. safari runs great. chrome regularly kicks on the dedicated graphics or heats the machine up like an oven, and stutters horribly all the time. it's pathetic.

every other app pretty much runs perfectly. If it wasn't for repeated issues i'd had with safari i'd never use chrome. Whenever a friend/client/random person complains about chrome on a mac offline i tell them to just stop using it. It's like google hates OSX or something, i swear. And it didn't USED to suck before mavericks.

outside of that, i had very similar issues with mavericks on a 2009 macbook pro. when my current machine showed up, i wiped that one and did a clean install. it was freaking lightning fast. i had to manufacture specific situations where it would hit disk a lot or use lots of CPU to make it seem all that noticeably slower than the new machine. If i was having performance issues like this i'd just nuke and do a clean install. With time machine, it's infinitely less painful than it would be on windows. You basically just need to create an install USB drive, make a backup, and then just let it all run and restore.

I know the "clean install" thing sometimes seems like a lazy solution, but weird post-upgrade issues like this with OSX rarely seem to be solvable. I've spent hours dicking around for a hacky solution and it's usually just not worth it. As soon as i'm nuking preferences files and opening the terminal in reality it's probably a net decrease in time and ugh costs to just start over.

It's a lot like post upgrade issues on iOS, honestly, and just doing a restore.
posted by emptythought at 5:00 AM on November 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Before trying anything drastic, go into accessibility settings and turn on "reduce transparency".

It made a huge, huge difference on my 2012 MBP.
posted by Oktober at 5:21 AM on November 13, 2014

Between what I do for work and what I do personally, I use all three major OSes: Linux, OSX, and Windows.

Other than upgrading a fresh, out of the box, only been powered on for 5-10 minutes Macbook Pro from Lion to Mountain Lion, I've never seen a version-level upgrade work as expected on any of them.

Clean install is always the way to go.
posted by Gev at 5:21 AM on November 13, 2014

To second Oktober: "reduce transparency" is your friend. I have it running quite well on a mid-2008 MacBook.
posted by scruss at 5:27 AM on November 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I've already done the easy suggestions (such as reduce transparency), so I probably should go with a new account or a clean install...

Ugh, it's been a while since I've done anything like that. Well, I don't know if I have any other plans this weekend...
posted by vernondalhart at 5:36 AM on November 13, 2014

Open up the Console application (found in the Utilities folder inside the Application folder). You may see repeated messages from one particular piece of software.

I've seen issues with Google Chrome Helper and VMWare Startup Menu. Killing those helped a lot.

Open the Activity Monitor application (also found in the Utilities folder inside the Application folder) and choose "All Processes" under the View menu. Click on the %CPU title to see which programs are using the most CPU time. You can click on any program and then click on the far left button to kill that program.
posted by blob at 5:38 AM on November 13, 2014

Best answer: It won't cure all your ills (probably) but one of the reasons OS X Chrome sucks so much is it's so memory-hoggy - and you only have 4GB. Going up to 8 would probably boost things a fair bit; certainly my own 2011 MBP is running Yostemite fine, but I upgraded to 8GB a while ago too.
posted by Tomorrowful at 6:19 AM on November 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

You don't have enough ram and it sounds like you don't have an SSD hard disk those are both huge performance bottlenecks. Upgrading those if possible will make a massive difference
posted by Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory at 7:02 AM on November 13, 2014

Just to clarify - testing with a new account is generally just that - testing. Leave your old one in place (log out rather than account switch, for memory reasons) and fire up chrome in the as-new secondary.

If everything works fine in the new account, I'll generally just log back into my main account and make a backup of /Users/username/Library/Preferences/ to somewhere handy before nuking the contents. Sure, you can pick through by hand, but all considered I reckon it's easier to set prefs from scratch than spend hours poring through a long, crufty list. Reboot to show humility before the ancient, jealous gods of System Error who claw at the walls of their protected memory prison, waiting for the days of heap corruption and unimplemented traps to come again.

With any luck, when you log back in, you'll be facing nothing significantly worse than a default wallpaper and remembering why chrome pissed you off even before you started fighting.

Oh, and - on the off-chance you somehow missed this very simple (possible) fix - switch off any extensions you've got running in chrome. I had a couple choke early on, and they weirdly seemed to work fine after a deactivation/reactivation cycle.
posted by not the fingers, not the fingers at 7:21 AM on November 13, 2014

Response by poster: It's worth noting that I'm not sure if it's just chrome---one of the unusual symptoms that has arisen since the upgrade is when I change volume, it takes a couple of second before the semi-transparent volume display actually shows up, independent of what is open. It does change the volume immediately, though.

Switching to an SSD sounds like it would boost performance a lot, but that seems a little harder to do on a laptop. I should check that out, I guess...
posted by vernondalhart at 7:30 AM on November 13, 2014

Best answer: Clean install is always the way to go.

If this works better for you, fine, but I haven't done a clean install since I started using OS X in 2002. Obviously I end up with a new OS when I get a new machine (but I use Migration Assistant to move all the data), but other than that, it's a continuous string of OS updates with no major issues. The vast majority of Mac users do updates in place without problems.

To the OP, I think that only having 4GB of RAM is hurting you. IMHO 8GB is the bare minimum for a current OS X machine. I don't have a ton of stuff running right now, and my system is using 7.5GB of RAM. 2GB of that is file cache, but that's still over 4GB used on other stuff. If you're not on an SSD, and you are hitting swap (which is what happens when you use more memory than you have in physical RAM), it's going to get painful very quickly.
posted by primethyme at 7:37 AM on November 13, 2014 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I'll chime in and say I think it's the 4 GB of RAM that's the issue. I'm running Yosemite on an older Macbook than yours and have had no problems, but I've got 8 GB of RAM. If a clean install or new user account doesn't help, I'd go with upgrading to 8 GB of RAM.
posted by yasaman at 7:41 AM on November 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Anecdotal evidence: I use a 2011 MBA with a built-in SSD, and an external USB old school spinning hard drive. Sometimes I boot from the external drive, and since I upgraded to Yosemite the external drive is MUCH slower than the SSD. It was a bit slower on Mavericks, and I know it always will be, but the difference is absolutely noticeable.
posted by hijinx at 7:57 AM on November 13, 2014

There is almost definitely something running in the background that you aren't aware of. Just yesterday I helped someone find that Dropbox was using 97% of one processor (on a dual-proc machine) because they had just been sent 3GB of files.

As mentioned above, open Activity Monitor, make sure you are viewing All Processes and on the CPU tab, sort by usage. You'll probably immediately see the culprit.

The other possibility is that with 4GB of RAM you are swapping. You can see this on the Memory tab of Activity monitor, sorting by Memory, and also looking at the Swap Used field at the bottom, and the Memory Pressure graph. Swapping to a spinning disk is... painful.
posted by tomierna at 8:16 AM on November 13, 2014

I agree with what everyone said above about RAM and SSD. Both will make huge performance improvements. In terms of cleaning up system resources and whatnot, I've been using Onyx for several years now, running it once a month or so. It seems to help keep my mid-2011 MPB running pretty good.
posted by slogger at 8:53 AM on November 13, 2014

I suggested a few things in a previous discussion. The one I would recommend most for you, because of your lower-than-ideal RAM, is to make Flash "click to play."
posted by Mo Nickels at 9:10 AM on November 13, 2014

Response by poster: I've looked in Activity monitor before to check out what might be using CPU time, but I admit that I'd never looked at its memory tab. Currently, memory used is 3.96GB out of 4GB. Virtual Memory is 5.87 GB, and swap used is 112.5 MB.

So the swap isn't large, at least. But it looks like I'm sitting at my limit of RAM already, so I probably should upgrade that. This also seems like the cheapest option too (SSD 480GB hard drive is more expensive than 8 GB RAM, as near as I can tell).
posted by vernondalhart at 9:25 AM on November 13, 2014

Oof. 3.96 out of 4 GB of RAM will make your computer super boggy, no questions.

I was coming in to say that Chrome made my computer *freak out* after I upgraded to Yosemite---like the menu-bars not showing up freak-out. I uninstalled Chrome, rebooted, and reinstalled, and things have been fine. (But I've got 8 GB RAM.)
posted by leahwrenn at 12:03 PM on November 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Ugh, yea, there's your problem i guess.

The thing is, 4gb of ram isn't some bullshit puny amount. They still sell brand new machines with that much, and they don't run awfully out of the box or anything. Upgrade if you can(your post doesn't clarify whether it's the soldered-in-place retina model or the "classic" style one, but those ended in 2012 so uhh...), but i really think trying a clean install and not chrome(like safari, firefox, anything) would be an interesting test still before you actually spend money on this problem.

I had a 4gb of ram macbook pro all the way up to mavericks, and i still have a 4gb-equipped imac. Neither of them was like dragging butt or constantly laggy... unless chrome got involved.

Also nthing what leahwrenn says about chrome sometimes just ruining itself and needing to be totally nuked and reinstalled, i've encountered that on windows 7 and osx 10.8/9/10. Sometimes it gets almost memory leak weird and sucks up all the ram like that over and over or starts crashing tabs constantly or something.

It always bugs me in threads about mac issues when people go "oh, you have less than 8gb of ram? there's your problem" or "8gb is like the bare minimum". No, browsing the damn web shouldn't use that much. If it's all getting sucked up something is working like crap. Since mavericks OSX has used very efficient memory compression and really doesn't ask for much anymore. If it's all getting sucked up, it's some stupid apps fault and you should troubleshoot that or stop using that junky app.
posted by emptythought at 6:36 PM on November 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I totally agree that 4GB should be more than enough, but in practice it just isn't. I haven't had that little since 2008, and it's not just because I like spending money for no reason. Mavericks did make it better, but it still doesn't fit in 4GB for me, and I don't do anything crazy (well, sometimes I do, but even when I'm not it uses more than 4GB and sometimes I hit swap even with 8GB). I can either spend hours troubleshooting apps, fix it for a while, and end up in the same place again 3 months down the road, or I can spend a little bit on some more RAM and get on with my life.
posted by primethyme at 10:09 PM on November 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: So I finally went and picked up more RAM; this seems to have improved things drastically. It's only been a few hours, I admit, but I'm already a lot happier. Thanks everyone!
posted by vernondalhart at 2:17 PM on January 5, 2015

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