Do Macs get slower as you fill the Hard Drive like PCs?

Discussion in 'macOS' started by fstigre, Sep 1, 2009.

  1. fstigre macrumors regular


    Aug 12, 2008

    Do Macs get slower as you fill the Hard Drive like PCs?

    The reason I’m asking this question is because I just transferred 40gb of files from my external hard drive (to use this HD with time machine) to my computer so I ended up with 80gb in my MacBook and I’m afraid that this will affect the performance since the HD is only 160gb. This usually happens with PCs.

  2. Hellhammer Moderator


    Staff Member

    Dec 10, 2008
    It shouldn't unless you have like less than 5GB left.
  3. farmermac macrumors 6502a

    Jul 23, 2009

    No, it wont happen. PCs get slower not with the amount of data you transfer to them, but with the amount of programs that you install in Windows. The more inexperienced the computer user, generally the slower the PC will be. If you let a bunch of programs load with windows at bootups this is what will really slow you down (updaters, assistants, antivirus programs, etc). But if you just transfer and store files, it wont slow down, just like on a mac.

    The difference is a mac treats apps like PCs treat normal files. A mac doesn load a bunch of crap into a central registry when you install an app. There is no spreading DLL files all over the hard drive for applications you install. Everything stays neatly in its container and gets launched when you call for it. I wouldn't worry about slow downs!

    Im a recent convert (~1 month now) and cant believe I didnt switch earlier. The more I read up and use Mac OS the more I realize how good it is.
  4. stainlessliquid macrumors 68000

    Sep 22, 2006
    PC's dont get slower as you fill up the HDD, they get slower as you install more and more programs that have background processes and try to run in the taskbar. The same can happen with Macs but its a lot harder to do since there arent that many apps that want to be startup items and run in the background (but they do exist and they do slow down your machine).

    A long time ago when people didnt have much ram Macs had a MAJOR problem with disk space because they had such a horrible virtual memory system, apps would simply not be able to open because you didnt have enough free space on your HDD. If you didnt have enough space on your HDD you would pretty much break your computer until you deleted things. That hasnt been a problem for years though.
  5. jamin100 macrumors 6502

    Sep 22, 2008
    saying that though i still like to re-format my macbook every 12 months ish just so that I can clear out all the junk and old programs that i no longer use.
  6. calderone macrumors 68040


    Aug 28, 2009
    It is well documented that drives do indeed slow down when they are filled. This can and will happen, the real question is whether you will notice it and chances are you will not. There is article at anand or tom's I will have to find it...

    There is so much FUD in this thread and only 4 posts so far. I will let others point of the fallacies here.
  7. jamin100 macrumors 6502

    Sep 22, 2008
  8. womble2k2 macrumors regular

    Apr 1, 2009
    First of all, my experiences of OS X are;
    1. OS X 10.4.x - installed on my iBook G4 which was purchased April 2005. I installed many applications, including trying a lot of shareware from downloads as I was a new Mac user. I also ported a large amount of my music and photo collections across. As time progressed, I eventually only had 3 gigs of disk space free. My system was still as quick as the first day I booted it.

    2. OS X 10.5.x - installed on my Macbook Pro, purchased mid-June 2009. I ininitally powered up and played with the system before porting across all of the applications and data I had on 10.4.x. Now, if filling up the disk or installing applications were to slow down the system, I would have noticed it. But the system is still super quick (and hopefully quicker again once my Snow Leopard disk arrives).

    Secondly, the reason for slow down on PC's is due to a range of issues;
    1. The registry: By far the weakest park of Windows, but not something MS can easily remove as it is the long established mechanism for maintaining applications and services. When programs are removed, especially if not done via the correct process, will leave a load of junk in here. Parsing the registery tree takes longer and longer, and as more processes are run (often in the background during startup), the more often parsing is required.

    2. Virus / Malware protection. Due to the higher number of threats for a windows system, any protection needs to be more detailed and thorough. This means more active processes, more CPU cycles and memory used to run virus / malware protection, etc, etc.

    3. Fragmentation: Windows systems seem to slow down significantly if the drive becomes fragmented. Not something I've noticed (or worry about) on OS X.

    4. Page files: The way windows implements memory page files is a lot less intelligent than OS X and many other systems. I'm not sure if this has been addressed in Windows 7, but the key weakness is that key parameters of how the pagefile works is set upon initial installation and not re-optimised when the system has had many more applications installed.

    5. Poor application management: A lot of applications will install self-loading applets that load in system tray (or in the background), generally to make running their applications quicker or to detect events that their applications need to know (such as connection of a device). It is not uncommon for these to remain, even after the application has been un-installed. The more of these background processes that load, the slower the system becomes.

    6. DLL Madness. There is a mix of control mechanisms over the installation and management of DLLs, which can mean that one application will override the DLLs of another. This can slow applications calling these libraries. Again, DLLs are a legacy of previous windows versions and it will be difficult for MS to resolve this.

    Well, these are my opinions gained from many years of using both systems. The only version of Windows I actually thought was good, was the original version of NT. This was true 'New Technology' as badged by MS, but it was clear by later versions that MS was on the path to merge it's consumer OS with the Business orientated NT, and started to introduce traditional windows mechanisms which made NT less attractive.

  9. nikhsub1 macrumors 68020


    Jun 19, 2007
    mmmm... jessica.'s beer...
    Agreed, wow. Everyone is giving examples of why and how windows can slow down, but the OP's question has NOTHING TO DO WITH THAT. You guys sound like a bunch of old ladies going off on tangents. Anyway, yes, any system can slow down when the hard drive is full... there is no room for the system to move files around and optimize. The general rule of thumb is to leave about 10% of the drive empty for headroom, optimization and the like.
  10. fstigre thread starter macrumors regular


    Aug 12, 2008
    So, it looks like it can slow down but may be not as bad as windows.

    1- Now, what do you guys do when the hard drive has less than 10% of free space? Add an external HD would be the solution but since I’m backing up with time machine I don’t know if this would be an option.

    2- Buy a new internal HD?

    3- Can Time Machine Backup the local HD and an external HD?


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