Horrible performance...

Discussion in 'iMac' started by Resoman, Mar 20, 2014.

  1. Resoman macrumors newbie

    Dec 3, 2012
    The performance of my iMac has deteriorated to the point where I dread using it, and I don't know why. It's probably five years old, and the processor is the 2.8GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, RAM is maxed out at 6GB, and the OS is 10.9.2.
    In the last year or two, I've come to expect that the spinning beachball will interrupt anything I attempt to do on this computer. The simplest functions, like opening a document, seem to overwhelm this computer, and I get long delays, usually accompanied by the beachball visual.
    I'm not a power user; I use Word, Excel, Adobe Lightroom, Chrome and that's about it. Right now it's exhibiting one of its problem behaviors: I enter text and nothing happens, then a burst of characters appear on the screen seconds later.
    I realize that the symptoms I describe are very general, but is there anything I can try that might help this computer regain its previous performance? I really don't want to spend $2K to replace this one because it's "tired".


  2. rkaufmann87 macrumors 68000


    Dec 17, 2009
    Folsom, CA
    What size HD do you have and how much space is left on it? Also are you sure the HD is in good shape, being 7 years old it's possible it is failing.
  3. jmiddel macrumors regular

    Mar 3, 2010
    Land of Enchantment
    First I'd back up to an external drive. Then I'd start up from the external, and using disk utility would wipe the internal, using the secure option of zeroing out the drive. Then reinstall Mavericks, using Migration Assistant to transfer the data and apps from the external. Try that and let us know what happens.

    Also installing an ssd would speed things up greatly.
  4. Resoman thread starter macrumors newbie

    Dec 3, 2012
    The internal HD is a 285 GB and it's almost full, with 7 GB available. I have three external WD My Book drives where I store photos, music, etc. One is 500 GB with 70 GB available, the other two are 2 TB drives with 1.3 TB available on either.
  5. Old Muley macrumors 6502a

    Old Muley

    Jan 6, 2009
    Titletown USA
    Your nearly-full hard drive might be the problem. I didn't see an spec for a 285GB internal drive, so I can't tell if its running at 5,400rpm or 7,200rpm. If you are brave enough, you might consider popping it open and replacing the internal with an SDD. That and a clean install of Mavericks might really make a difference.
  6. rkaufmann87 macrumors 68000


    Dec 17, 2009
    Folsom, CA
    That is most likely the problem, OS X needs 10-15% HD space available to work effectively. I would recommend moving large libraries such as your photo, music and movie libraries to an external HD. You can still easily access them with OS X so that should not be a consideration.
  7. thedeske macrumors 6502a

    Feb 17, 2013
    Agree - Suggestions on rebuilding the system are good as well. Other items that slow a Mac - Too many items on the desktop, too many items in the trash, never repairing permissions, etc etc,
    but the most obvious is a full drive. Get it down to 65-70% if possible.

    Good Luck
  8. PixelpusherBV macrumors member

    Dec 16, 2013
    Harwich, UK
    As the other guys have said, it's likely to be your hard drive. As food for thought, I'm running a 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo iMac with 4GB ram (mid 2007) on which I use Adobe CS6 & Aperture, among other software. I do experience some spinny ball, which is solely down to the ram, but for general use it runs very well, so I see no reason why your more powerful iMac shouldn't.
    I have about 100GB left on the 320GB internal.
    If you want to spend as little money as possible, I'd probably suggest you buy a large, external HDD, copy everything over to it & just leave the OS & system stuff on the internal. Then run Onyx to clean everything up.

    Hope this helps.
  9. PixelpusherBV macrumors member

    Dec 16, 2013
    Harwich, UK
    Sorry, didn't see that you already had externals. Try to copy out/ delete files from the internal to free up a reasonable amount of space & see how you fare.
    Also, repair your permissions using Disk Utility. This might report a potential fatal error with the drive itself.
  10. kathyricks macrumors 6502

    Nov 26, 2012
    My 2007 iMac running Snow Leopard slows down a lot too if the HD is more than 75-80% full. Also, if there are a bunch of icons on my desktop, the computer slows down.
  11. yjchua95 macrumors 604

    Apr 23, 2011
    GVA, KUL, MEL (current), ZQN
    How about reformatting the drive and put a fresh install of Mavericks on it?

    Better still, invest in a small SSD and your iMac will feel like new again.
  12. Dirtyharry50, Mar 21, 2014
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2014

    Dirtyharry50 macrumors 68000


    May 17, 2012
    I don't know where you get the 10 to 15 percent figure. Do you have some credible source for that? I have seen other people toss around various figures with vague reasons as to why lately when I wondered myself how much free space I should maintain.

    So I called Apple Support yesterday as fate would have it. Of course, first tier support didn't really know the answer so I asked them to escalate the call to second tier where I did get an informed answer which was:

    In general, 10 Gigabytes should be kept free at all times. Anything less than this can (not always) lead to erratic system behavior, errors and poor performance. I specifically asked if any particular percent was recommended as a rule and they told me no, as long as you maintain 10 gigs or so you should not have problems with your Mac.

    However, they also noted that in their training they were taught that with any spinning drive as you exceed 50% and beyond performance is gradually decreased as seek times to files across the disk surface are increased at times. This makes sense but the impact should typically be minimal and I doubt it would be consistently detectable in blind user testing. I know my own iMac currently has a 900 gig startup partition (100 gigs I gave to bootcamp/Win7) and of that space only 28 gigs is free. I have zero problems and performance overall seems fine. I do not have issues with beach balls, etc.

    On a partition as small as the OP describes, getting near to full should not noticeably degrade performance so long as they retain at least 10 gigs free and this number is variable depending on apps used. Some apps will of course create more and larger files on the fly while running than others and in the case of multiple apps running concurrently the problem is naturally going to be compounded.

    I'd recommend the OP do a clean install of Mavericks and keep 20 gigs free at all times just to be safe and see how performance is then. I expect it would improve significantly.

    By the way, if one was to apply the 10 to 15 percent rule to a 1 TB drive that would mean OS X requires 100 to 150 gigabytes free at all times. I do not believe this. Furthermore, if we extend this to the new 3 TB drives you are looking at 300 gigabytes to 450 gigabytes required to be kept free at all times which simply is not correct.
  13. Fishrrman macrumors Pentium


    Feb 20, 2009
    The OP wrote:
    [[ I realize that the symptoms I describe are very general, but is there anything I can try that might help this computer regain its previous performance? I really don't want to spend $2K to replace this one because it's "tired". ]]

    Some things you might try:

    A. DISABLE "compressed memory".

    Open Terminal and enter the following:
    sudo nvram boot-args="vm_compressor=1"
    (INCLUDE the quote marks at the end. Enter your administrative password when required)



    B. Speed up slow "open and save" dialogs by doing this:

    1. Find the file 'auto_master' in /etc (use Finder Go==>Go to Folder...)
    2. Make a backup somewhere (maybe Finder copy to desktop)
    3. Use TextWrangler (or pico, vi, etc.) to open the file
    4. Insert a '#' to comment out the /net line.

    original line:
    /net -hosts -nobrowse,hidefromfinder,nosuid
    changed line:
    #/net -hosts -nobrowse,hidefromfinder,nosuid

    5. Save the file and exit the editor.
    6. In Terminal.app type
    sudo automount -vc

    (credit to whoever came up with the above solution, I didn't write it, just copying from my own archives)


    C. Disable AppNap

    Launch Terminal and enter the following:
    defaults write -g NSAppSleepDisabled -bool true



    My suggestion is to DOWNGRADE THE OS and go back to Mountain Lion.
    It will be some work, no way around that.
    But it might produce the results you want...
  14. toddzrx macrumors 6502a


    Nov 20, 2012
    FWIW, a few years ago I was contemplating replacing my 2006 MBP because it was getting slow. A friend suggested replacing the HD with either a hybrid drive or SSD. I was able to get a good deal on a 120GB SSD (late 2010) and went ahead and installed it. The improvement in speed was so great that I forgot about buying new. I used that machine for another 2 years, and then transferred it to the iMac I use now. Works like a charm, and I will not use an HD for my main drive again.
  15. sjinsjca macrumors 68020


    Oct 30, 2008
    Hard disk issue. Get a new, bigger one. Problem solved.
  16. Resoman thread starter macrumors newbie

    Dec 3, 2012

    Thanks to all who have offered suggestions!
    I emptied my trash and was surprised to see that I now have 32GB free. After a restart, things seem to be a lot better; time will tell.

    Anyway, thanks again!

  17. Dirtyharry50 macrumors 68000


    May 17, 2012
    That's awesome! :D

    Glad to hear all is well again.

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