Does clearing the desktop make a Mac faster?

sultanoflondon

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Dec 3, 2013
326
15
Hi all,

On macOS High Sierra, is it true that putting all your files in the Documents folder and accessing them from there makes the Mac run faster? Or is it okay to have a cluttered desktop?

I know that this isn't a conventional method of making a Mac faster and that there are other ways of improving speed, but I was wondering whether this may make a marginal difference?

Thank you!
 

DeltaMac

macrumors G4
Jul 30, 2003
10,287
2,704
Delaware
Years ago (maybe around OS X 10.2 or 10.3), you needed to watch out for performance hits if you had dozens of files on the desktop, but some update to the Finder (10.4 ?) pretty much eliminated objects on the desktop as a culprit for that.

A little less clutter can make you feel better --- but doesn't really affect your workflow (or the computer)
 

chevelleguy3

macrumors regular
Apr 24, 2013
181
43
Mckinney, TX
A cluttered desktop isn't going to slow down the computer. It will still operate normal. However a cluttered desktop could slow down your workflow if you aren't organized. If you are having to spend time trying to find something due to the clutter and unorganized files it may seem slower. I've seen people's desktops with thousands of files scattered on the desktop overlapping each other and they spent a ton of time trying to find what they were looking for.
 

Ritsuka

macrumors 65816
Sep 3, 2006
1,082
553
Less files on Desktop means less RAM used to display icons. So it would help a bit. How much? I have no idea.
 

redheeler

macrumors 604
Oct 17, 2014
7,659
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If your Mac has a slower mechanical drive, and depending how many image/video files you have on the desktop, it may take slightly longer to complete a login as the Finder works immediately to load previews for all those files. On an SSD, the difference would be imperceptible.

I keep my desktop clean because I prefer to have the clutter elsewhere and dedicate the desktop to showing the wallpaper and attached drives, but not because of speed.
 
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Crisis

macrumors member
Jul 19, 2012
48
41
Technically yes. More things on the desktop are gonna take up disk time to load and cpu/gpu time to render. Practically, no perceivable difference these days. There might be a difference if your computer is from last decade.
 
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mmomega

macrumors 68040
Dec 30, 2009
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It is a simple enough task to do and then see if it actually changes anything on your particular system.
 

LarryJoe33

macrumors 68000
Jul 17, 2017
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Oh yes, it's a feature of High Sierra - clean desktop performance logic!

Seriously, NO.

I don't put anything on my desktop though. More so because there is no easy way to "show desktop" on a Mac like windows. You pretty much have to go to Finder/desktop which is the same as a folder. And yes, I know three finger thumb spread gesture and shift F11. A shortcut on the dock would be better.
 
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Jul 4, 2015
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Less files on Desktop means less RAM used to display icons. So it would help a bit. How much? I have no idea.
Extremely little. To put it in context, back in the early 90s when we only has a 1-2 MBs of memory and almost no VRAM we knew that background wallpaper would consume half our system memory and slow our computers down. But by the time computers with 8-16MB of memory were common it was no longer a problem. Today we have 1000X more system memory and lots of VRAM to back it up. Even if you had loads of TIFFS on the desktop with large thumbnails there won't be a noticeable slow down.
 

dogslobber

macrumors 68040
Oct 19, 2014
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A cluttered desktop isn't going to slow down the computer. It will still operate normal. However a cluttered desktop could slow down your workflow if you aren't organized. If you are having to spend time trying to find something due to the clutter and unorganized files it may seem slower. I've seen people's desktops with thousands of files scattered on the desktop overlapping each other and they spent a ton of time trying to find what they were looking for.
This is a misnomer. You should never be looking in the filesystem for things as you should be using Spotlight to search. So keeping all files on your desktop is no difference than being a neat freak.
 
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chevelleguy3

macrumors regular
Apr 24, 2013
181
43
Mckinney, TX
This is a misnomer. You should never be looking in the filesystem for things as you should be using Spotlight to search. So keeping all files on your desktop is no difference than being a neat freak.
You'd be surprised how many people who call themselves professionals who still browse through the file system to find their files. I see this every day with the users that I support.
 

scgf

macrumors regular
Aug 12, 2003
178
80
Market Harborough, UK
The problem with using Spotlight to open files and applications is that you have to remember what they are called. For some reason I keep forgetting Activity Monitor so am forever going to the utilities folder to launch it. There are other apps like that. Same with the browser - my bookmarks are meticulously organised into hierarchical folders - I'd never remember what's what if I didn't do that!
 

Fishrrman

macrumors Core
Feb 20, 2009
19,455
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"You'd be surprised how many people who call themselves professionals who still browse through the file system to find their files. I see this every day with the users that I support."

Ummmmm.....
What's wrong with "browsing through the file system" to find files, if you know where they are?

What difference could it possibly make?

One of the first things I do with ALL my Macs is to TURN OFF Spotlight. I don't want it mucking around in the background indexing, particularly when I boot up and am trying to get to the finder.

If I need to actually -search for- a file, I use EasyFind, or Find Any File.

But generally, if I put a file somewhere, I know where it is...
 
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chevelleguy3

macrumors regular
Apr 24, 2013
181
43
Mckinney, TX
"You'd be surprised how many people who call themselves professionals who still browse through the file system to find their files. I see this every day with the users that I support."

Ummmmm.....
What's wrong with "browsing through the file system" to find files, if you know where they are?

What difference could it possibly make?

One of the first things I do with ALL my Macs is to TURN OFF Spotlight. I don't want it mucking around in the background indexing, particularly when I boot up and am trying to get to the finder.

If I need to actually -search for- a file, I use EasyFind, or Find Any File.

But generally, if I put a file somewhere, I know where it is...
I didn't say anything was wrong with it. I personally use both ways, but my files are organized. This was in reference to the unorganized desktops with thousands of files cluttering up the desktop.
 
Jul 4, 2015
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You'd be surprised how many people who call themselves professionals who still browse through the file system to find their files. I see this every day with the users that I support.
Very often you have to maintain the integrity and consistency of folder structures, especially in a shared networked environment. By navigating the file system you're able to double check everything is in the right place and no mess accumulates. Spotlight has its uses but let's not make extreme statements.
 

dogslobber

macrumors 68040
Oct 19, 2014
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You'd be surprised how many people who call themselves professionals who still browse through the file system to find their files. I see this every day with the users that I support.
My dog is a professional too! The point is that any cycles you apply to sorting or filesystem navigation is cycles you are losing for doing real work. I always evaluate people based on their workflow habits as it's a good gauge of their productivity. This is why Google won the portal wars and Yahoo! didn't.
 

charlituna

macrumors G3
Jun 11, 2008
9,631
815
Los Angeles, CA
No. Your desktop is just a folder/directory.
that's might not be totally true. the icons etc may have to be loaded into RAM at start up so that they are visible, and using up ram might slow down the system. if you have a **** ton of files all over your desktop they would add up. so why not move them and see what happens. I mean what's the harm
 

Zenithal

macrumors G3
Sep 10, 2009
9,632
10,762
Extremely little. To put it in context, back in the early 90s when we only has a 1-2 MBs of memory and almost no VRAM we knew that background wallpaper would consume half our system memory and slow our computers down. But by the time computers with 8-16MB of memory were common it was no longer a problem. Today we have 1000X more system memory and lots of VRAM to back it up. Even if you had loads of TIFFS on the desktop with large thumbnails there won't be a noticeable slow down.
You reminded me of the horror I faced in a pre-highspeed internet day when I set up a large BMP as a background on a Windows PC I had at the time.
 
Jul 4, 2015
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that's might not be totally true. the icons etc may have to be loaded into RAM at start up so that they are visible, and using up ram might slow down the system. if you have a **** ton of files all over your desktop they would add up. so why not move them and see what happens. I mean what's the harm
I have pointed out that the memory footprint of those icons are about as big as a text document. Check Activity Monitor with and without the files in the desktop.
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You reminded me of the horror I faced in a pre-highspeed internet day when I set up a large BMP as a background on a Windows PC I had at the time.
BMP was a problem and the only format that could be used. As a desktop wallpaper an image could consume 1MB of RAM when systems had 2-4MB total.
 
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ZapNZs

macrumors 68020
Jan 23, 2017
2,310
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In my experience, having tons of things just cluttered on the desktop can dramatically slow workflow on the human side, making the computer seem slower - but, just having tons of things in the Documents folder often has the same effect. When using Stacks or Spotlight as the regular means of accessing User files, to me it 'feels' like the computer is much faster (even though the reason it is faster is because I can find what I am looking for easier.)
 

Marshall73

macrumors 68000
Apr 20, 2015
1,666
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Shouldn’t be any performance hit on a modern Mac, but I will hit you if I see a cluttered desktop :p
 

Morpheo

macrumors 65816
Feb 26, 2014
1,273
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Paris/Montreal
This is a misnomer. You should never be looking in the filesystem for things as you should be using Spotlight to search.
Says who?

There are 3 ways to look for things: navigating the filesystem, spotlight, and cmd-f. I use all 3 and spotlight is often not the best solution. After 20 years using Macs and various flavors of Unix I kinda know my way through the filesystem. I'm a little confused why you're suggesting that we *should* use Spotlight and *never* be looking in the filesystem. Depending on what you're looking for, spotlight will give you thousands of results and that's pretty annoying.
 

Morpheo

macrumors 65816
Feb 26, 2014
1,273
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Paris/Montreal
Why do you think Google won and Yahoo! didn’t? Humans recall by association so it’s all psychology. Pretty simple.
Yeah yeah... What good is spotlight when you look for "cello3_02.L.wav" and you have hundreds of them in multiple projects? If I know where to look I won't be using spotlight. And I couldn't care less how many of my emails contain "cello". My mac is not Google. Spotlight can be very helpful, but not for everything.
 
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