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MacBook running entirely too slow.

Sky Coning

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I realize that this particular computer is old. But I still feel like it’s fixable (and hopefully without paying apple a fortune to do it) , please let me know if I’m wrong.

I have a 2012 series MacBook Pro. It was my main editing device up until this year. It started running extremely slow on me. I mean upwards of 20 minutes to even move from the login screen once entering my password, slow. I tried everything I could think of on my own, but it was almost impossible as it was just too lagging to do anything. I contacted apple support, they walked me through a ton of steps that I couldn’t tell you now, but they helped me to delete things that I didn’t know needed to be deleted and had never done in 6 years ( there was over 800,000 files ) and cleared a bunch of other things as well. It did nothing. Nothing at all. I ended up taking it in to be looked at, there was some malware? I think it was they called it, they got it off, and it went from about 20 min lag to a 18 min lag. They ended up replacing a hard robe cable, something about that years harddrive has movable parts and my cable was ruined. (It’s been out of commission for 5 weeks at this point)  I was told it would be checked before getting it back. I can only assume that it wasn’t since it still wasn’t working properly. I took it back in, and ended up buying a new one as I was now almost 7 weeks behind on editing... I would however still like to have this computer as a back up if needed, if it’s possible. I will try to attach all the work order from apple so you know what they did. Thanks for your help! 


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It is true that a traditional hard drive or what apple calls a Fusion Drive (Hybrid Drive, more on this in a bit,) does having moving parts. Cables do fail, but it doesn't sound like this is the issue. The biggest thing I see is you only have 4GB of RAM, which will definitely slow things down, and I'm sure your hard drive was pretty full since it's only a 500GB drive. Truth be told, laptops...even fancy MacBook Pros only last about 4-5 years and the main symptom is they become "Too Slow" during this time period. It's just not Apple; ALL manufacturers seem to do this. Heck, laptops that cost $500 or less only last about 18-24 months. If you want something to last a bit longer, say around 7-8 years, skip the MBP and buy a 27" iMac.

Honestly, the next thing I would do to this MBP is to reformat the HD and re-install a fresh OS, since you have a new one to edit on. If your MBP can be upgraded to 8GB or even 16GB, that would really speed things up. Bear in mind that you don't want to go over 75-80% Full on any HD when it comes to a Mac. This includes both the internal drive and any externals. As soon as you hit 90% full, you are in dangerous territory and once you hit 95% full, things can start to corrupt. I feel that this would have been the correct course of action, nuking the drive and starting all over, but there is still no guarantee that it would be as fast as it was new. It's still a old laptop.

The other thing one can do to keep their Macs running well, is to not store files on the Mac Desktop!! The more files and crap you have on your Mac Desktop, the slower it runs. The reason is the Mac OS treats those files and folders as "Open Windows" for lack of a better term. So if you have 2000 photos from the Smith-Jones Wedding and a 300 from the Davidson family photo session, that's 2302 "open" windows. (You have to figure in the folders themselves in this count.) To give you an idea of what your Mac Desktop should look like, here is a screenshot of mine:


Screen Shot 2018-11-12 at 7.55.18 AM.png

All that is on it is hard drives, memory cards (when inserted) and the occasional screen shot file. I will put stuff on the desktop to make uploading a bit easier, but once I'm done, those files are deleted. What you CAN do, is right click on files and folders within your HD that you normally open and choose "Make Alias." Then drag the Alias File to the Desktop. Alias files are meant for the desktop. What are they? It's Mac-Speak for Shortcut.

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Here is the process to create an Alias. We will use the "Documents" folder as an example.

  • Open the finder:

Screen Shot 2018-11-12 at 8.05.35 AM.png


  • Then find the Documents folder under your profile right click on it and choose Make Alias:


Screen Shot 2018-11-12 at 8.02.54 AM.png


  • The Documents Alias should appear just below the Documents folder:




  • Simply Drag the Alias to the Mac Desktop



  • Then Rename it:




Now you have a "Documents" Folder on your desktop that won't kill performance. You can drag files to the Documents Alias Icon and the Mac OS will put the files in the Documents folder. You can do this with any folder on your hard drive and it's the way Apple wants you to do things, though it's really not broadcasted.


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One more thing, purchase CleanMyMac X from MacPaw.com. I use this program at least once a week, if not every few days. Apple will say that they don't recommend this program, they are also the ones that say your HD cable was faulty when it wasn't. It's the best $40 on software that I've spent and have been using the program over the past 10 years. It helps keep the junk off your HD.

Yes, you can download the trial and it will clear about 500MB of files, but if you want it to really work, you'll need to pony-up the cash and purchase it. Oh, it also has a Malware Remover built in.

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So, the reason that they replaced the cable in the first place, was because they couldn't find any other reason that it would be running so slowly. My memory and ram was vitally empty because I don't keep anything on my editing computer. I keep it all on externals. I will definitely try all your suggestions and see what happens though! Thank you for your time. 

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12 minutes ago, Sky Coning said:

couldn't find any other reason that it would be running so slowly.

Yep. They are just taking a guess and you are paying for it. I personally don't think it's the HD cable. I would purchase and run CleanMyMac X first and see what happens.


11 minutes ago, Sky Coning said:

I keep it all on externals.

Keep this in mind: With Macs, Hard Drives are not dumping grounds. I have found that if you attach externals that are almost full, it will kill performance. The Mac OS treats external drives just as if they were built into the computer, so try not to go above 75% - 80% Full on any hard drive.


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33 minutes ago, Brian said:

Hard Drives are not dumping grounds. I have found that if you attach externals that are almost full, it will kill performance

Is this only when it's connected? In other words, should I not be utilizing my Mac when the external is attached? Only using it when I need to move files?

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No. You use them like you always have. Just pay attention to the amount of "stuff" you have on them. :) The reason that I say 75% - 80% is based on my own personal experience with Macs since the 1990's. I have found that once you cross the 80% threshold, performance becomes an issue. Technically, you can go a bit higher, like 85% full...but I like to keep things conservative. Hard Drives that are 90% Full and above, is definitely not a good thing.

As a test, why not try removing your externals that are really full and see if your performance improves? If it does, no sense paying Apple to replace the HD cable (and charge you) if it's not going to fix things.

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I did this try that :( I even went through and deleted a bunch of photoshop tools and things that I no longer used and other tid bit things that I didn't need from both the computer and the hard drives. I deleted the guest account to be sure it wasn't something on there since I never used it anyways. That's why I ended up just buying a new one and tossed it aside to mess with later, because I was so frustrated and getting really backed up on editing. 

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Well, such is life when it comes to laptops. You really only get 4-5 years or so out of MBPs. I think it's planned obsolescence. I know my iPhone 6s is running a lot slower with the new iOS update.

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I will say though, something I forgot to mention, and I'm  not sure that this could even be a legit issue. But I did have to go in and adjust the MB I was letting photoshop use to about 85% to make it functional. 

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I just looked at the specs of your machine again from the Apple Repair order. 


500GB HD


I should have paid more attention. Of course it’s going to run slow. YOU ONLY HAVE 4GB OF RAM!!  You do not need a HD cable, you need more friggin’ RAM!!!

4GB is bare minimum for general use and then you tell PS to use 85% of it? 4096MB is 4GB, so you have left your poor MBP only 615MB-ish to work from!! 

MBPs are funny, some can be upgraded, others stay at what you purchase. See if Apple can get it to at least 8GB, or if it can go to 16GB do it.


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Does the RAM over time become less “useable” for lack of better words? I guess I’m just confused how everything works fine for 6 years and then in the course of a couple days just completely goes south. I will definitely look into upgrading the RAM. Maybe that and wiping it out and starting over will make it useable again. 

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Not "Less Usable," but as things get upgraded, patched, etc. there is more being drawn from the same pool of RAM.

Think of your computer as a library. You are the CPU chip, the bookcases are the hard drives, the shelves are partitions and the programs are the books. Are you with me so far? :)

Inside this library are tables and chairs in addition to the books. The Table is the RAM.

So say you want to use a program, lets use Photoshop for this example, so you go over to the bookcase and pull out the very large book called Photoshop. You then place it on the table. Now the "rules" state that none of the edges of the book can go over the sides and there needs to be a 1/4" gap between other items (such as other books) and Photoshop. It all needs to be neat and tidy.

The problem is, that the Photoshop Book gets larger and larger. There are also other things on this table. A laptop, a bag of some sort, a lamp, a drink...all sorts of various things. These "things" are background processes/drivers and other programs, that are all competing for space on the table. Since you have told PS to use 85% of the table, the CPU chip (You) needs to spend lots of time shuffling things around, because you need to keep that 1/4" gap between things at all times AND you can't go over the edges of the table. This is the "slowness" that you are experiencing, all that shuffling around since PS is so massive these days.

The other thing is that PS and the operating system uses portions of the HD to supplement RAM. As our cameras get more Megapixels and Dynamic Range improves, the larger our Raw files become. Since you have 4GB of RAM, the extra horsepower to meet that request has to come from somewhere, and that's the PS Scratch Disk. So if you have a full HD, in addition to a small pool of RAM, things are going to get slow. Why all of a sudden? It could be that last Mac OS Update that you did now requires more RAM and processing power, or the latest PS CC Update is doing the same thing. Honestly, there is a big difference in performance between 4GB and 8GB. Not as dramatic going from 8 to 16GB, though 16GB these days is a good thing to have.

Now for the good news...

You have a Mid 2012 MBP. You can upgrade the RAM yourself!!! It also seems that you can go to 16GB though Apple says 8GB. I'm confident that 16GB will work fine, though some users did report problems so I will link to a 8GB Configuration. What you will need to do is pull the existing RAM, which is made up of two 2GB sticks and then replace them with two 4GB sticks. It's pretty straightforward, just remove some screws from the bottom of the laptop, disconnect the battery cable and then remove the existing RAM. It only comes out / goes in a certain way and should take you no more than 15 min total to do this.

Here is the 8GB RAM Kit from Amazon.

Here is a YouTube Video Demonstrating the Installation Process.

Just be sure to have a small screwdriver and to touch something metal before handling the RAM / taking things apart. Electronics do not like to be zapped by static electricity. Oh, yes...you can do this. Even if you don't think you "know enough about computers." If you can follow directions and assemble a Lego Set meant for a 12 year old, you can upgrade your RAM yourself.

Now for the "Bad" News. Once you install 3rd Party RAM, Apple will blame ANY PROBLEM that you have on the Crucial / 3rd-Party RAM. Keyboard Batteries are dead and you can't type? Oh, that's the Crucial RAM. The Magic Mouse's Power Switch is turned to the Off position and it won't work? It's the Crucial RAM's fault. You accidentally deleted that file? It's the Crucial RAM's fault. Screen is flickering? Oh the Crucial RAM damaged the computer, blah-blah-blah. It's complete BS. The truth is, Apple Memory is insanely over-priced and is no better than other memory out there. In fact, I remember reading that the New iMac Pros use Micron Memory, and Crucial is a division of Micron. LOL!!  The other hard truth is the Apple Genius Bar isn't made up of Geniuses. Sure, they have access to tech bulletins and have special diagnostic tools, but they are usually made up of regular users that have just been put through a few training courses. They also have to be very careful on what they say and tow the Apple Company Line at all times. That's why they were thinking of replacing the hard drive cable because they had no idea of why it was running so slow. I hope you didn't pay for that HD cable.

Now don't get me wrong, I have used the Genius Bar in the past and they are usually quite helpful and I've had my issues resolved quickly. I also am a Professional Computer Technician for the last 25 years and am Apple Certified. So I know what to expect and what to look for. It's kinda like being a Auto Mechanic shopping for a car. ;)

Now for more good news, if you were planning on nuking the HD and starting all over, why not upgrade it to a SSD Drive? I will say, that there is a lot more steps involved with that and that's a topic for another thread. Let's start with the RAM first.

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That makes total sense! I can't believe how cheap those RAMS are compared to apples. This time around I did buy the 16GB on my new mac book pro. Im not sure what my options were in 2012 as I didn't care lol. I didn't start photography until about 6 months later, and only had the program for elements for a few years until I upgraded to CC in 2014. So this all makes much more sense now. Had I known then that it would be that easy and affordable to change the ram, I would have started there and saved $100 on a hard drive cable I probably didn't need. :/ Oh well. Live and learn, right? Thank you so much for all your help. I will invest in the new RAM and report back with my findings! 

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