Really Slow 2009 MacBook

Discussion in 'MacBook' started by AppleDuck, Jan 24, 2015.

  1. AppleDuck macrumors member

    Mar 9, 2007
    I have a mid 2009 MacBook running OS X 10.6.8 (Snow Leopard) and over the past year or so it's really slowed down. It has 2 GB of RAM.

    I try to only have one or two programs running at once because anymore than that and it starts to freeze and I get the spinning beach ball on whichever program happens to be at the front. Skype, iTunes, and Chrome seem to run the slowest. All are up to date.

    I had a similar issue with FireFox a while back and it got to the point where I couldn't even open the program without it freezing and crashing. That's when I switched to Chrome. Now Chrome seems to be doing the same thing. It almost always crashes when I watch Netflix. Safari is even slower than Chrome.

    Last night it developed a new quirk. I had it sitting out, plugged in (the battery has its own set of issues), Chrome open, and the screen darkened as it always does when it's been sitting out unused for a few minutes. Then it froze. The mouse wouldn't move, the keyboard wouldn't work, I could not do comand option escape to quit any programs. I had to push the power button until it turned off.

    It turned back on normally and I immediately did a time machine backup. Same freezing thing happened during the backup. I turned it off and on again and did another backup, just to be safe. It hasn't frozen since.

    Right now, with only Chrome and Activity Monitor open, it only has 15.8 MB of free RAM.

    So, questions:

    1. Is this a RAM issue? Would buying more RAM fix it? I'm hesitant to put money into an almost 6 year old laptop.

    2. Does anyone know of another browser I could try besides Chrome, Firefox, or Safari?

    3. Anyone else experienced the freezing thing? Does it happen more frequently as time goes on?

    4. Would upgrading to Yosemite help? Or would that be an awful idea?

    Thanks in advance!
  2. GGJstudios macrumors Westmere


    May 16, 2008
    That's certainly likely to be part of the problem. This should help: How much RAM do I need in my Mac?

    If you're having performance issues, this may help:
    It doesn't matter how much free RAM you have. OS X manages memory and will allocate it to apps on an as-needed basis. As long as you're not paging out significantly, you're not maxing out your RAM.
  3. AppleDuck thread starter macrumors member

    Mar 9, 2007
    I did read that article about how much RAM is needed. 2 GB isn't even an option anymore, so I'd definitely get much more than that if I was buying a new MacBook.

    So, since I'm not maxing out my RAM (yet), would getting more of it help?
  4. GGJstudios macrumors Westmere


    May 16, 2008
    If you're not maxing out what you have, buying more won't improve performance. As far as hardware, one of the most impactful upgrades you could make is to replace your HDD with a SSD.
  5. TheBSDGuy macrumors 6502

    Jan 24, 2012
    Unless you've changed how you use the computer, it sounds like a bad hard drive to me. The unit is now pushing 6 years old, which is about the time a mechanical HD lasts. I use Scannerz to do tests on my units. The how to section on their site also has a section on how to identify failing drives and their symptoms. You can visit the site below to get info:

    You might want to try some of the resets they mention on one of their drive related pages. It might help.

    If you could repartition your backup drive and install a copy of the OS on it, then boot from that, it might help you determine if the problem is with the actual unit or the interal HD. If the problems continue with the external drive, especially if you pull the internal drive completely, then you'll know it's the unit itself.
  6. Altemose macrumors G3


    Mar 26, 2013
    Elkton, Maryland
    4 GB is the bare minimum for good performance in newer versions of OS X and Windows. I would try an SMC reset and also run a hardware test.
  7. poiihy macrumors 68020


    Aug 22, 2014
    You have snow leopard and the minimum of snow leopard is 1GB. 2GB should be fine for Snow leopard. I doubt it is the RAM that is the problem. It worked fine before but slowed down.

    It could be a software issue or it could be a hard drive issue. First you should check your SMART status. Download "SMARTUtility" for Mac and check if it has any problem, like bad sectors or anything. If it is fine then it is most likely your OS. I recommend erasing and installing a fresh system (do not restore from time machine or it would bring back any software that had been causing problems).

    Also, restart your machine if you never do that.
  8. macmesser macrumors 6502a

    Aug 13, 2012
    Long Island, NY USA
    Try Diskwarrior from Alsoft, which optimizes directory structure rather than files. I have found it to be the single best bit of preventive maintenance that I perform. It often speeds up performance. Unless your files are super-fragmented, optimizing the directory will have the most important effect. Using Diskwarrior regularly has virtually eliminated major HD problems for me and I think it should be in everyone's tool kit.

    I have an early 2009 Macbook running OS 10.10 which has only 4GB of memory. I am thinking of upgrading to 6GB but debating whether or not it will be worth it for this old machine. It basically runs OK, so your Macbook should be OK with 10.6.8.
  9. B-Eugen macrumors member

    Jul 26, 2014

    1. Snow Leopard should run fine on 2GB of RAM.

    2. You could try SeaMonkey but I think it's based on Firefox. It used to Netscape (Yes, that's whatever happened to it.)

    3. I had freezing and lock ups on a system when the drive/cable was having problems. I also used Scannerz to find the problem.

    4. NO!!!!!!!!!!!! You'll need a bare minimum of 4G to run Yosemite and it's performance will be slow. It's also pretty bug ridden.

    It sounds to me like the HD is going. I've seen Chrome turn into a complete memory wart hog. Safari and Firefox are probably the best browsers for your system. If it's not the HD and it can't be cured by simple resets, it might be a real hardware problem.
  10. Cloudsurfer macrumors 65816


    Apr 12, 2007
    Upgrade your RAM and get an SSD. I promise it'll be like having a new computer.

    And for security's sake I'd always upgrade to the latest OS your machine can run.
  11. satkin2 macrumors regular

    Mar 31, 2010
    I've been experiencing pretty much the same issues with an early 2008 MacBook. I've done a clean restore and still slowness issues occur.

    Did you follow any of the steps suggested, or make an upgrades etc? Has anything worked for you?
  12. BrettApple macrumors 65816


    Apr 3, 2010
    Heart of the midwest
    I've dealt with a lot (around 20) MacBooks from this era over the last year. And each time the best solution by far was to swap the old spinning hard drive with a new SSD. For most of the users a cheap 128GB model was the perfect upgrade, especially if you don't have a ton of files. But even the 256GB ones have come under $100. Most of them I've put in have been Crucial SSDs, recently the BX100 since it came out.

    One thing that's quick and easy to check is the SMART stats. Something like SMART Utility will let you see if the drive is in danger of failing soon or not. If it is, than it's a no brainer, if not, I'd still go SSD :)

    From the ones I've used though, Lion is pretty slow even with a clean install on a hard drive, where Snow Leopard and Leopard were perfectly speedy on a 5400rpm drive and 2GB RAM.

    Anyway, highly recommend the SSD if you want to get a few more years out of your MacBook and if it meets your current needs. I finally got off my 2008 MacBook in July of last year when I got a new rMBP. The '08 still works fine, and had 8GB RAM with an SSD, but I needed a little more graphical horsepower.

    If you've got the cash, the new MacBook, MacBook Air, or even the MacBook Pro are all great options right now. The 13" Air seems to be the sweet spot in my opinion.
  13. Sirolway macrumors 6502

    Jun 13, 2009
    I have a 2009 MacBook Pro. I've updated it over the years to 8GB RAM, SSD, and always upgraded to the latest OS. It's been great, but is now getting a bit ridiculously slow; in Numbers you can type something then watch as each character slowly appears in the cell. So it's usable, but a bit ridiculous.

    If you want to keep using it, definitely upgrade the RAM, change to an SSD while you have the case open, and upgrade the OS. But it will still be slow. So after so many great years of service it may be time to start thinking about a new (or refurbed) laptop..
  14. ProwlingTiger macrumors 65816


    Jan 15, 2008
    Before upgrading to the rMB, I was using an early-2008 Macbook that originally had a hard drive and 2GB RAM. I upgraded it to a SSD and 4GB RAM and it was like a new machine. Total cost was like $150. Well worth it if you plan to keep the machine.
  15. Glockworkorange macrumors 68000


    Feb 10, 2015
    Chicago, Illinois
    No--Yosemite will run on 2 GB and I believe in Mavericks Apple started to change the allocation of RAM so the system runs smoother. 2 GB should be fine for most uses.
  16. Michael Goff Suspended

    Michael Goff

    Jul 5, 2012
    I would suggest, at the very least, upgrading your RAM. I'd say max it out if you can. Then get a faster storage option. This could be SSD or just a faster HDD.
  17. CanadaRAM macrumors G5


    Oct 11, 2004
    On the Left Coast - Victoria BC Canada
    this isn't our experience. We have a dozen people a week coming in with Macs that are unusably slow. 9 out of ten times, they have 2 GB and have just upgraded to Yosemite.

    But the OP's problem sounds a lot like a bad hard drive, retrying 1000 time to get a good write or read. Because you start using the hard disk virtual memory swap files as soon as you open more than one program, it crops up as severe slow downs. The end stage is where it takes 30 seconds to open a menu or a finder window.

    If you are keeping the machine, now is the opportune time to replace the drive. Like a hot water heater, its best to replace it week before it fails rather than a week after.

    Make Sure you have a backup!!

    Additional bonus; if your machine is limited to 4 GB RAM, upgrade it by all means, but also install a SSD, because it will be much faster to handle the virtual memory files, so the speed penalty to overflowing your memory won't be nearly as severe.
  18. Glockworkorange macrumors 68000


    Feb 10, 2015
    Chicago, Illinois
    "But the OP's problem sounds a lot like a bad hard drive"

    I agree. I don't think it's the RAM, because it was running fine previously on 2 GB but over time it developed problems, which sounds like a degrading hard drive.
  19. brdeveloper macrumors 68020


    Apr 21, 2010
    If your Macbook is a Late-2009 one (unibody), it support up to 8GB of RAM and the prices are pretty inviting these days. But if you just want investing the bare minimum, get a 4GB kit and a 128GB SSD. It will be like a new machine without USB 3.0 ports :D
  20. gooser macrumors 6502a

    Jul 4, 2013
    one of my mid 2009 macbooks has 2g of ram, a spinning hard drive and is running mavericks. it runs fine so one more vote for a dying hard drive. i do however only run firefox on it.
  21. Altemose macrumors G3


    Mar 26, 2013
    Elkton, Maryland
    2 GB is pushing it with Mavericks... OP's usage which involves Chrome and Skype would require at least 4 GB to be comfortable.
  22. Dayv macrumors 6502

    Aug 18, 2009
    I agree with others that it sounds like possibly a hard drive issue, but if you're going to open it up to replace that, I'd also suggest throwing some more RAM at it while you're in there.

    If you're on a budget but want more storage space, look at hybrid drives (traditional hard drive with SSD cache for frequently-accessed files) I upgraded my 2009 MBP to 8GB RAM and a 7200 rpm hybrid drive a few years ago and it was like a brand new computer.

Share This Page

21 January 24, 2015