Need to downgrade OS. How far back should I go?

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by AVR2, Mar 7, 2016.

  1. AVR2 macrumors 6502

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    #1
    I'm running 10.11.3 on my 2009 Mac mini (2GHz 8GB) and it's just got too slow. I'm seeing the beachball way too much. I want to downgrade to an older version of OSX to get some speed back. How old should I go?

    If I could definitely remember which iteration of the OS was the last to run at an acceptable speed I'd just go there, but I can't. But I've got a vague idea that I started feeling that things started to slow down with Mavericks. So I'm thinking Mountain Lion... any major reasons why I shouldn't?
     
  2. Mr_Brightside_@ macrumors 68020

    Mr_Brightside_@

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    #2
    Do you need iCloud features? Most are very happy with 10.6.8.
     
  3. nufanec macrumors regular

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  4. AVR2 thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #4
    Is it really just the HD that causes the progressive slowdown with each new interation of the OS? Would an SSD get me back to Snow Leopard speed under El Capitan on a 7-year-old Mac mini?
    --- Post Merged, Mar 7, 2016 ---
    I have one or two apps that need 10.7 as a minimum.
     
  5. jpietrzak8 macrumors 6502a

    jpietrzak8

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    #5
    No, not really. But the "cult of the SSD" has many followers on this forum board, so you'll find that "SSD" is the answer given reflexively to most problems. :)

    As a partial answer to your question, my mother has a 2009 Mini, and she started seeing significant slowdowns at the point she upgraded to 10.10. I think I lot of it was due to memory issues (her 2009 had only 2 GB of RAM, and much of the slowdown went away after I upgraded it to 4 GB). But in any case, I know 10.9 worked well in just 2 GB of RAM, so that may be a good version for you to initially target...
     
  6. Mr_Brightside_@ macrumors 68020

    Mr_Brightside_@

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    #6
    I've got a number of minis at work that are a year or two behind yours with maxed RAM and 256 SSDs and they do fine with El Cap.
     
  7. jpietrzak8 macrumors 6502a

    jpietrzak8

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    #7
    ??? The Mini prior to the 2009 Minis was the 2007 model. I've got one of those. OS X 10.7 was the last officially supported version for that model...
     
  8. Mr_Brightside_@ macrumors 68020

    Mr_Brightside_@

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    #8
    Whoops. They are also 09 models.
     
  9. redheeler macrumors 603

    redheeler

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    #9
    The HDD is a big factor, and Mavericks is pretty much when OS X started to feel slow on mechanical drives. An SSD upgrade should bring your Mac much closer to the performance you saw on Snow Leopard.
     
  10. EmlynDewar macrumors member

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    Aug 17, 2011
    #10
    It's not really a "cult of the SSD", it's just that 6-7 year old mechanical drives, are pretty miserable... And the speed difference is quite considerable, when moving to an SSD.

    My old 2010 MBP had similar specs to your mini, but only 4gb memory, with SSD, and for day-to-day tasks, it was reasonably nippy, even in 10.11. You're not setting the world on fire, with a 6 year old machine, but start-up/app opening, was quick.

    I'm using an early 2008 MBP now (god knows how the GPU is still alive), and again with 4gb ram/SSD, I'd say it seems reasonable, the SSD is limited to SATA1 speeds in that old junkheap also!
     
  11. jpietrzak8 macrumors 6502a

    jpietrzak8

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    #11
    Ok, I've gotta ask: in what way did Mavericks "feel slow on mechanical drives"? Are we talking bootup speed here?

    I am, at this moment, typing this post on a 2010 Mini, no SSD, running El Capitan. So far as I can tell, the only noticeable slowdowns over the years have been the bootup time, and the amount of time it takes to bring up System Preferences. Running apps still run just as quickly (or as slowly) as they ever have.

    One thing I have done (and I encourage the OP to try this as well, if they have the time) is use Activity Monitor to examine CPU and memory usage. I try to avoid or modify any processes that consume a lot of either resource, and I've upgraded my RAM when I needed to run an application that previously caused swapping. So, perhaps there's something out there slowing down other OSX users, and I'm just not seeing it?

    (And really, an SSD should provide just as much of a speedup to Snow Leopard as to any other version of OSX. I don't really see how, say, bootup time for Snow Leopard on an HD and El Capitan on an SSD could be similar; the SSD has gotta be far faster.)
     
  12. r6mile macrumors 6502

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    #12
    It's not a 'cult of the SSD', it's just that not only do hard drives become slow after 6-7 years of use, but I also think that newer versions of OSX are optimised for flash storage (or fusion). Downgrading might help, but you lose compatibility with the latest versions of many apps, etc. SSD have come down in price a lot recently, so to me it's a no-brainer upgrade.
     
  13. jpietrzak8 macrumors 6502a

    jpietrzak8

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    #13
    Really??? How in the world does that work? Do they mechanically start spinning more slowly? Do they start only reading every other byte after a while? Is there some buffer somewhere that kicks in after 6-7 years, that collects the data being transferred and pauses before allowing it to continue moving? ;)

    I think the only way an HD can seem to "slow down" after a long period of use is if the data stored on it has become "fragmented"; i.e., each file has been broken into multiple small pieces and scattered to various different places. OSX contains features to minimize fragmentation, but the problem can still occur if you've got a drive that has been used for a long time and is nearly filled to capacity.

    There are several defragmentation utilities out there, but probably the easiest way to defragment an HD is to copy the contents to another drive, reformat the fragmented drive, and then copy the data back.

    (Note! Don't do this for an SSD. Fragmentation doesn't cause problems for SSDs, and unnecessary extra writes only speeds up the rate at which they wear out.)

    And here, too, I've only ever heard this claim on this forum board. I can find no mention of it on Apple's website, and see no signs of it on my own El Capitan machine. So far as I can see, SSDs provide their particular speed benefits to every machine they are installed in, regardless of OS version.

    Could you point to the new features of OSX that, in its optimization for SSDs, have actually degraded its performance on HDs? Thanks!
     
  14. Ebenezum macrumors 6502a

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    #14
    OP:

    Mountain Lion is probably best since you can't go back to Snow Leopard. Mavericks is in my experience slightly slower than Mountain Lion and Yosemite is much slower on hard drive (in iMac 2007, slightly faster processor than 2009 Mini). El Capitan is slightly faster than Yosemite but I wouldn't call it fast...

    If you want to use your Mini with El Capitan SSD will help since you already have 8 Gb of RAM. Is it worth the expense and relatively difficult install process? Maybe, maybe not depending on your needs.

    Activity Monitor might show what software is using the most RAM and Processor time but it might not help if the answer turn out to be one of the internal OS X processes...
     
  15. ActionableMango macrumors 604

    ActionableMango

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    #15
    ML was a great version of OS X, one of the best. However, some software and features require a newer OS, so you'd want to make sure you don't rely of any of that.

    There are other ways to speed up your computer:
    • An SSD will vastly improve disk access times, which also benefits the general perception of speed for your computer.
    • If you are near the capacity of your hard disk drive, you are probably running into fragmentation issues which will slow things down quite a bit. Move what you can to a different drive to free up space and then defragment the drive.
    • If you are running out of RAM (check Activity Monitor), then additional RAM will help. However, if you have plenty of unused RAM, then adding more RAM won't help at all--something a lot of people don't seem to understand.
    • If it has been many years since a fresh install of OS X, then the natural cruft associated with using a computer is probably bogging things down and it may be time for a wipe and fresh install, after backing up your important files to a external drive or something of course.
     
  16. AVR2 thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #16
    I've settled on 10.8, and I'm seriously toying with the idea of an SSD. Might as well swap in the SSD, do a clean install, then copy back personal files from the old drive using my USB-to-SATA adapter.
     
  17. adam9c1 macrumors 65816

    adam9c1

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    #17
    I have several of these units.
    Is your HD factory Apple?

    If so its a 5400 rpm drive.

    I highly recommend SSD and Yosemite.

    I see big differences between Yosemite and El Capitan.
     
  18. adam9c1 macrumors 65816

    adam9c1

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    #18
    You can also pickup a caddy and remove optical drive and run both drives in the machine.
     
  19. EmlynDewar macrumors member

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    #19
    The chocolate platters that are used on Apple's drives (I think most of mine have been Toshiba from memory?), are always a misery to use after several years...
    I've never had one that's not got a few bad sectors, with performance taking a nose-dive to match.

    Sure, you can get OK performance from a mechanical drive, but I'd sooner just get the SSD and stick with the latest OS, rather than downgrading to keep some pace.
    You'll probably find the pace still isn't there, after the downgrade.
     
  20. jpietrzak8 macrumors 6502a

    jpietrzak8

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    #20
    Wow, sorry to hear that. I'm kind of amazed, as I've almost never had a problem with bad blocks on my drives (and I don't recall ever having that problem with a drive bought from Apple). Both of my current Macs have Hitachi drives, so maybe that makes a difference. (One of those is a 2007 Mini, and it's still running fine right now, so I know that these drives can last for a while...)
     
  21. Micky Do, Mar 9, 2016
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2016

    Micky Do macrumors 68000

    Micky Do

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    #21
    I have Mountain Lion on an early 2009 Mini with a 2 GHz CPU and 5 GB RAM. It's sweet.

    Many of the benefits of more recent iterations are either not available to older Minis, or are not applicable to my situation.
     

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