Troubleshoot Slow Macs in 5 Steps
As a technician, the biggest skillset you can develop is troubleshooting and resolving “slowness” issues.
In previous posts we discussed four of the main causes of slow macs. Those four posts are actually the first four troubleshooting steps. Finally, in this post we are going to package the entire process and answer the question, “What do I do when the Mac passes everything?”
Build your Mac Master skillset with these 5 Troubleshooting Steps for Slow Macs:
Step 1: Make sure the computer has had a recent reboot.
Step 2: Look for applications and processes that are using all available resources.
Step 3: Open up console and search for hard drive errors.
Step 4: Test the reliability of the hard drive.
Step 5: What do I do when everything passes?
Most Macs won’t make it to this step. You’ll discover the issue somewhere in the previous 4 steps. But what happens when the Mac has passed everything? We’re likely down to some sort of software corruption. The RAM is the temporary storage on a computer where the computer places files and data while they’re in use. Hear me out on this analogy,
Think of the RAM of the computer like the countertop for a chef. If the the chef was in the middle of preparing a meal and the waiter came in and took the meal at its unprepared state–the meal probably won’t taste good. If the countertop is dirty and covered in bacteria, the food prepared will be bad and make people sick.
Just like the chef, the computer is the same way. If the computer is shutdown unexpectedly or there’s something wrong with the RAM itself, then the files that are being prepared may not be good (like the unfinished meal) or corrupted (like the bacteria). Overtime, after enough of the Mac’s core system files have been damaged or incomplete, the computer does not run as well as it once did.
Unix nerds at this point are probably screaming “But the Mac has journaling, so it can take those rough shutdowns!” Which is mostly true, until it’s not. The Mac does take abuse from hard shutdowns really really well because it has built in “journaling” that allows it to revert back to older files if it wasn’t able to save a file it was working on. But like every man-made system, none of it is perfect. It has its limits people, and I’ve seen users fly past these limits. After enough hard shutdowns, even the journaling begins to crumble. Now, back to troubleshooting…
Have you heard technician stories about the “computer from hell” that seems to continually have reoccurring issues? Sometimes, the hardware seems to be running fine so the software is reinstalled and everything runs great. So the client is sent home with their computer only to return more angry than before because the issue has resurfaced….again….and again. This can often be a memory issue that’s being overlooked.
Save yourself the headache (and your clients frustration) and take a few extra minutes to check that the memory is functioning properly before reinstalling the software. You can use a free memory diagnostic utility called MemTest. The article listed will show you where to download it and how to use it.
After resolving any applicable memory problems, we need to repair the corrupted software by reinstalling the MacOS software. Be sure to backup the mac first. Boot into the Recovery Partition (by holding command+R when starting up), then reinstall the macOS.
Work on knowing these steps whenever possible. Finely tuning these skills can allow you to thoroughly diagnose a slow Mac in 15-20 minutes and avoid repeat issues.
The skills learned in this post alone can run over half of your Mac Technician business. Congratulations, you’re on your way to becoming a Mac Master!
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