Very very slow 2009 iMac

Discussion in 'iMac' started by njmh, May 26, 2015.

  1. njmh macrumors newbie

    May 26, 2015
    Melbourne, Australia
    Hi all,

    I have a 2009 27" iMac (2.8Ghz i7 with 8GB) that over the last few months has become almost unusably slow. It's not what I would normally describe as slow though, it's kind of weird... some of the symptoms include:

    • switching between tabs in Chrome will give me a white page for 10 or so seconds (as if it was using the swap file) even though I'd just been on that tab moments earlier
    • the dock which I have on hiding will sometimes take a few seconds to display
    • youtube/netflix videos will every so often freeze with the audio track still playing, then "catch up" really quickly (like I've hit the fast forward button)
    • switching apps (eg. from Illustrator to Photoshop, or even to finder), will sometimes take several seconds, again even though they're actively used apps at the given time
    • as part of my web dev work, I use gulp. On this machine it can take upwards of 10 seconds to run a compass task, whereas on my 2012 iMac at work (i5 with the same amount of RAM and old school HDD) will take less than a second for the same project file

    That's just some of the symptoms I can think of right now. At other times, the machine can be super fast as it always had been in the past, but it just keeps bogging down.

    I've investigated the common causes of slowdown that I can think of:

    • HDD replaced in November 2014 because the former (stock Seagate) had SMART errors. Gave the machine a fresh install of Yosemite, so it's not like years of gunk has accumulated in the system
    • Activity Monitor shows no out of the ordinary CPU and excessive memory usage, even while it's bogging down. Most processes sit around 1-2%, with only the normal peaks you'd expect.
    • I don't get any hangs or crashes that would normally be caused by hardware faults, everything seems to be operating normally... just at a snails pace compared to what it used to be.

    Can anyone suggest anything that I should be investigating, or any tests I should run?

    I'm going to be upgrading to a new MBP in the latter half of the year, but I'd like to try and get this one back to it's former glory to get me through the next few months with ease.

    Many thanks in advance if anyone has any ideas!
  2. Samuelsan2001 macrumors 604

    Oct 24, 2013
    I'm assuming you did the usual repair disk and disk permissions and reset SMC and NVRAM. If not do all of those things and see how it looks these can often fix a slow mac.

    It still sounds like a dying hard drive new or not to be honest.
  3. njmh thread starter macrumors newbie

    May 26, 2015
    Melbourne, Australia
    Thanks mate, could be a dodgy HDD again. It does seem to churn quite a bit. I've got a spare SSD at work which I'll give a try.

    Yeah I did try an SMC reset, PRAM, permissions, disk verify etc and no go there.
  4. skyhawkmatthew macrumors member


    Oct 1, 2007
  5. keysofanxiety macrumors G3


    Nov 23, 2011
    You can very quickly verify if it's the hard-drive by downloading SMART Utility (unless you prefer to use a different SMART application).
  6. njmh thread starter macrumors newbie

    May 26, 2015
    Melbourne, Australia
    Thanks for that. Gave that a try, says it PASSED.


    Anything I should be concerned about in this attributes window?

  7. keysofanxiety macrumors G3


    Nov 23, 2011
    Hi there Njmh, thank you for your response. The hard-drive looks OK, no issues there. You've already tried a volume verification, so no issues there. Is the OS fully up-to-date? What about login/startup items?

    Other things to try:

    1) Restart with the option 'reopen windows when logging back in' disabled. If you don't shut down often it's best to do this every few days.

    2) Apple Hardware Test -- press and hold the 'D' key on startup. Click the option for extended hardware test and run that. Should take between 20-40 minutes. Any issues detected?

    3) MemTest (though this will take ages). You can download it here: Then restart your Mac and hold Cmd+S to boot into Single User Mode. Then type memtest all 10. This will do 10 passes on the RAM to ensure there aren't any problems there. Of course if you want to do more or less passes, just change the number from 10 to something else. Again this will take absolute ages to complete, (depending on how many runs you choose) so it's best to maybe run this overnight. Or just type 'memtest all' for 1 pass to see if there are any immediate problems detected.

    Other things to verify may be ...

    Did you clone the hard-drive or restore from a Time Machine backup? If the OS is quite old or was restored from an upgrade (e.g., Lion to Mountain Lion, etc.), it may be worth running a clean install. If it was a clean install on the new HDD then that's definitely identified it must be something else.

    Sorry for the absolute essay of troubleshooting steps, it's just a case of trying to identify what isn't wrong so we know what to try and diagnose next.
  8. Fishrrman macrumors P6


    Feb 20, 2009

    I would like to offer a possible suggestion.
    You will need an external hard drive and a little time.
    You'll also need ether CarbonCopyCloner or SuperDuper. Both will work fine in "demo mode", if you don't already have these apps.

    What to do:
    1. Use CCC or SD to create a bootable clone of your internal drive onto an external drive.
    2. Do a "test boot" of the external drive (hold down the option key at bootup until the startup manager appears, then select the external drive with the pointer and hit return)
    3. Do you get a good boot? Does the drive boot and run "more smoothly" than the internal?
    4. If the external drive actually seems more responsive, then do this:
    5. While still booted from the external drive, RE-INITIALIZE the internal drive using Disk Utility (you don't need to do a "secure erase" that zeros out data -- all you need to do is a quick erase).
    6. Now, use CCC (or SD) to "RE-clone" the contents of the external drive BACK TO the internal drive.
    7. Finally - REBOOT.

    Why I am advising you to do this:
    Over time, the files on a hard drive get "fragmented". But even worse, the "free space" BETWEEN the files becomes split into tiny fragments, as well.
    During the normal course of operations, the OS (and some applications that create caches and temp files) needs to read and write to the free space on the drive. If the free space is one, long, "contiguous" section, this process goes easily. But if the drive has to start searching around for "fragments of free space", it can consume more time.
    Thus, the perception of "slowing down".

    If you try the procedure described above, the "re-clone" of the backup drive will result in all files being written contiguously, eliminating file fragmentation AND resulting in a large contiguous area of "free space" behind the files for the OS and apps to use.

    It might produce a noticeable improvement.
    No promises, but worth trying.
  9. njmh thread starter macrumors newbie

    May 26, 2015
    Melbourne, Australia
    Hi all, thanks for your replies, much appreciated! Some things came up and I haven't had a chance to get back here til now. I also haven't been able to look much further into the slowness issues. Bloody forums look completely different since I was last on here a few days ago.

    I'm leaning more and more towards this being an HDD issue. Even though it's only about 6 months old, some of the symptoms do seem a lot like those I was getting prior to the original reporting SMART errors. It definitely should not be related to system age or file fragmentation as I had run a fresh install and didn't run migration assistant when I installed this new drive.

    I'm just going to put up with this bloody machine until I can order a new MBP in a few weeks and just make sure everything is backed up in case the HDD does cark it. I'll just use this as an external display then.

    Thanks again for all your suggestions and taking the time to reply!
  10. BradHatter macrumors regular

    Oct 7, 2014

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9 May 26, 2015