iMac performance issues

Discussion in 'Mac Basics and Help' started by fullbloodlion, Apr 9, 2018.

  1. fullbloodlion macrumors newbie

    Apr 9, 2018
    Let me preface this by saying that I have gone through countless forums, articles, guides, etc. in an attempt to fix my problems. So far, nothing has worked, and I am kind of at the end of my rope. So I am asking for some personal help. Oh god, please help.

    For about a year now, my iMac has been running slow. By running slow, I mean at times it can get unusable. Apps and programs take ages to load (as in I can sometimes go make lunch, come back, and it still isn't done), restarting my computer is about a 30-45 minute long ordeal, Time Machine gets stuck on backups constantly, System Preferences will sometimes just... not load a pane (saying that it is unavailable or something), finder takes ages to populate folder contents (it will just show a blank finder window, and I have to wait to get contents. God help me if there are thumbnails that have to load, though), and overall the whole machine is just a mess.

    To try to fix these issues, I have tried:
    -Checking hard drive health and repairing any issues (it always says the HD has no problems)
    -Emptying out my desktop and keeping it empty at all times
    -Getting rid of any and all startup programs
    -Going into terminal to try to fix individual problems (which will sometimes fix them for a moment, but then they go right back to how they were)
    -Updating to the most current software
    -Countless other suggestions I have found online to try to fix everything that I can't currently recall

    The last time I tried to update to the most current OS (which was Sierra at the time), it was a nightmare, and I thought the computer was not going to start back up. It kept getting stuck on the install, and when I finally did manage to get it to work, all I got was a black screen with a cursor. So I have to go figure out how to sort that out. At this point, I am afraid to update to High Sierra, because I feel like that is going to be just as difficult.

    As of now, I haven't tried to reinstall the OS, because I am crazy worried that whatever is causing my computer to teeter right on the edge of my patience might cause Time Machine to not restore my data properly, or at all.

    So... help. Please? Pretty please?

    System specs, for those that want them:
    Late 2012
    3.4 GHz i7
    8GB DDR3
    1TB HDD
  2. BrianBaughn macrumors 603


    Feb 13, 2011
    Baltimore, Maryland
  3. kschendel macrumors 65816

    Dec 9, 2014
    I'd get a brand new usb outboard disk drive (relatively inexpensive), large enough to hold everything you have on the computer. Use carbon copy cleaner or superduper to duplicate your hard disk to the new outboard drive. Restart holding down option and boot from the outboard disk, making sure everything important is OK / works. Once you've verified that the copy is OK, clean install and restore from your duplicate.

    It really sounds to me like your hard disk is on its last legs, or you've picked up some sort of malware. The clean install should help if it's the latter. (Try running EtreCheck and/or Malwarebytes before making the duplicate, if you can, if not then after reinstalling.) If it's your hard disk on the edge, a replacement is the only cure, and you might as well install an SSD.

    One other thing: try running Activity Monitor when the machine is slow but you aren't doing anything yourself, and see if you can pick up on any programs generating a lot of CPU or disk activity. Without knowing what's normal for your machine, it can be a bit of a treasure hunt, but you might find something that way.
  4. DeltaMac macrumors G3


    Jul 30, 2003
    How full is your hard drive? (How much space is available/free?)
  5. Fishrrman macrumors P6


    Feb 20, 2009
    You wrote a long first post, but I didn't have to read it all to give you "the simple answer" as to why your iMac is running slow.

    It's the platter-based hard drive inside.
    Platter-based hard drives are TOO SLOW and aren't up to handling the demands of the modern Mac OS releases.


    Something like this:
    (the 250gb drive is really "all you need", or get the 500gb drive if you feel like spending a little more. The 1tb drive is "throwing your money away")

    Plug it in, and get a copy of the OS onto it.
    Put your applications and account(s) onto it.
    BUT -- keep the "large libraries" of pictures, movies and music on the internal HDD (they don't "need speed").

    Set it up this way, and you will see an immediate speed boost that will AMAZE you.

    It's easy to do.
    It's not much more than "child's play" to do this on the Mac.

    Take my advice, do the above, and you'll be back here saying "I can't believe the difference this made"...

    You WILL NOT solve your problems any other way.
    Knock yourself out trying.
  6. fullbloodlion thread starter macrumors newbie

    Apr 9, 2018
    I'm pretty sure the hard drive situation is what it is. I have Activity Monitor open most times, and apart from Firefox being... well, Firefox, nothing is out of the ordinary.

    I've got 243GB left out of 1TB

    Okay, so this seems like a very viable solution, but I have a couple of questions:

    -Is there any way to bypass the computer's HDD directly? As in, can I set this thing up on life support with an external SSD and HDD for when the installed HDD kicks the bucket?

    -If I can manage the above-stated life support situation, how would I go about setting up Time Machine?

    -Also, if I do the above setup, is there any way at all to get more USB ports available. This sounds like a dumb question, but I have tried every type of powered and unpowered USB hub I can find, and every single one of them only ever work with one or two things. So far I have never managed to get an external hard drive to work on any of them.
  7. kschendel macrumors 65816

    Dec 9, 2014
    Yes, you can avoid mounting the internal HDD; you need an entry in a file called /etc/fstab, google will turn up the details. It might suffice, and be simpler, to erase the internal HDD once you are happy with an external setup. As long as the drive is accessible at all, it will mount, but not bother anything. If the drive fails in such a way as to cause drive commands to time out, though, you'll probably have to pull it no matter what. (edited to add: the OS is going to try to "sense" the internal drive no matter what, and read its partition table. It has to do this to decide whether there is a readable partition on the drive, and if so, whether to mount it. If the drive stops answering commands or can't read the partition table, it will screw things up, perhaps to the point of freezing the boot process entirely, and at that point you need to physically disconnect it.)

    Time machine just needs a volume available, so assuming that you can find enough USB connectivity (or spend $$$ on a thunderbolt enclosure), just point time machine at the volume you want for backup and off it goes.

    As for USB hubs, I would think that one of the powered Anker hubs would work, although I admit I've never tried running outboard spinners or SSD's on one, just small flash drives. You do have 4 USB ports on the iMac, right? so you could run 3 drives directly and anything else (keyboard etc) through a hub, if you are having trouble getting an external drive to run through a hub.

    I agree that using a smaller SSD and add-on external HDD is probably the cheapest way to go, but 1 Tb SATA SSD's are under $200 now, and you might find the convenience worth the extra cost -- plus, if you decide to (or have to) open up the computer, that 1 Tb SSD will drop right in with no additional fiddling.
  8. Fishrrman macrumors P6


    Feb 20, 2009
    OP wrote:
    "-Is there any way to bypass the computer's HDD directly? As in, can I set this thing up on life support with an external SSD and HDD for when the installed HDD kicks the bucket?"

    Once you have an external SSD booter set up and running, you WON'T NEED TO "bypass" the internal hard drive.
    Yes, it's still "slow".
    But it will work fine for things like movies, music and pictures.
    These items are "just stored" most of the time. When you do access them, you don't need speed. They will load and run just fine from the internal drive.
    You WANT to use the internal HDD for such things. This keeps the SSD "lean and clean" so it will always run at its best.
    The internal drive still works -- use it and be happy.

    "-If I can manage the above-stated life support situation, how would I go about setting up Time Machine?"

    What follows is my opinion only, and others are going to disagree.
    Instead, use either CarbonCopyCloner or SuperDuper to create a BOOTABLE cloned backup of your boot drive. Either will serve you far better in that "moment of extreme need" than will a TM backup.
    Both are free to download and try for 30 days.
    If you don't care for them, just erase the backup and start over.

    "-Also, if I do the above setup, is there any way at all to get more USB ports available."

    You are going to "use up" ONE USB3 port for the external boot drive.
    This is "the way it has to be".
    I've been booting and running my Mac Mini for going on SIX YEARS now this way.
    I don't "miss" that USB3 port at all.
  9. fullbloodlion thread starter macrumors newbie

    Apr 9, 2018
    Alright, so I have my SSD, and I am attempting to format it, buuuuuut it isn't showing up in Disk Utility (or anywhere, for that matter). I saw a lot of people online suggesting changing Disk Utility to "Show All Devices" in the View menu, but... I don't have a View menu. All I have is File, Edit, Images, Window, and Help. Any ideas?
  10. Fishrrman macrumors P6


    Feb 20, 2009
    How is the SSD connected?
    Take a screenshot of Disk Utility and post it here for all to see.
  11. DeltaMac macrumors G3


    Jul 30, 2003
    I agree - how is the SSD connected?
    If the SSD is NOT visible in Disk Utility, then it is either a bad connection, or the SSD is faulty.

    The View menu was not added to Disk Utility until High Sierra, so you are booted to an older system.

    If you have the SSD installed internally in your 2012, and it is not visible now in your system, you need to open your iMac up again, and check the SATA cable connection (on both the drive AND the logic board)
    If you are using the SSD from an external enclosure, try a different USB cable, or the enclosure could be faulty...
  12. fullbloodlion thread starter macrumors newbie

    Apr 9, 2018
    Alright, after spending almost an entire day trying to get my machine updated to High Sierra, it finally recognizes the external SSD. But now we have a new problem. I downloaded High Sierra, selected the external SSD to load it onto (and the SSD has been formatted correctly, as far as I know. I went through all of the steps of erasing and formatting to OSX Extended (journaled)), went through all of the steps to install it, and got a message saying:

    "MacOS could not be installed on your computer. An error occurred while updating firmware. Quit the installer to restart your computer and try again."

    So I restarted, tried it again, this time I got the same message, but it didn't say anything about firmware, just that it couldn't be installed. Then I restarted again, and this time it got stuck on the gray install screen. The bar didn't budge at all, so at that point I gave up. Any ideas on this one?
  13. DeltaMac macrumors G3


    Jul 30, 2003
    Best bet would be to use the downloaded High Sierra installer to create an external bootable installer. A 16GB USB flash drive is a good choice for that. You can use your terminal for that - or if you are not comfortable with terminal commands (not everyone likes that choice!), you can use one of the apps that specialize in making a bootable drive from your installer app - such as Diskmaker X, or Install Disk Creator.
  14. Gravydog316, Apr 27, 2018
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2018
  15. kschendel macrumors 65816

    Dec 9, 2014
    You still have your original OS bootable on the internal drive, yes? or no? I'd be tempted to go back to square 1 and try to duplicate the internal drive to the external with CCC or SuperDuper. It's formatted now, right? which I gather was the original problem with the external?
  16. hobowankenobi macrumors 6502a

    Aug 27, 2015
    on the land line mr. smith.

    I tend to agree. Clone the existing OS, and barring any errors...boot from the external.

    Keep in mind that if the internal HD is slow (I agree it is the most likely culprit), then cloning can take a long time. As long as it completes with no errors, an easy test to boot to it and see how it behaves.

    No need to introduce another variable ( a new OS) while troubleshooting.

    FYI: An iMac at work (about a 2015 model) was the same....nearly unusable and slow. Never any errors on the HD with Disk Utility or Disk Warrior. Finally, after about half a year of slowness, Disk Warrior was showing me that all the extra blocks had been used up, which means there HAD been issues and failures. A new Samsung SSD install to replace the OEM Toshiba HD, and now it is wicked fast.

    Point is, even without errors, the HD was very slow and silently failing.

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