Mac Internet Slow? Here are 8 Ways to Speed it Up

Last updated: Apr. 24, 2018

Internet slow on a Mac

From app downloads to emails, a lot of the Mac's performance depends on the network connection — a slow Internet can spell trouble across the board.

I live in The Middle of Nowhere, where the maximum speed I can get is 4 Mbps, so I need to make sure my MacBook isn't bringing that speed down even more.

There are many different factors that play into Internet speed, including elements that have nothing to do with your Mac at all like your network service provider, router or another device making automatic uploads.

First, try an internet speed test (via speedtest.net) while connected with an Ethernet cable and see if you are getting the speed you are paying for — if not, start by talking to your service provider.

But if your Internet has still started channeling its inner sloth, try out these seven tricks to speed up slow wi-fi on a Mac.

1. Switch to Safari (if you're not using it already)

I was a big Firefox fan — until I opened up Activity Monitor and saw that having a single tab open was taking up 20 percent of my RAM. Applications designed by Apple are optimized to run on a Mac — they're often the most efficient options.

After switching to Safari, I can have more tabs and apps open without my network slowing down. Safari won't cost a Mac user a thing, but can make a pretty big difference when it comes to speed.

2. Reset (or update) your Internet browser

Already using Safari? Over time, a build-up of files can start to slow it down. Deleting some history and bookmarks will help. To reset Safari in OS X El Capitan (& macOS Sierra), go to Safari > Preferences > Privacy > Manage Website Data to delete cookies and data stored from websites — a lot of data will slow Safari down. (In older versions, there is a "Reset Safari" option in the Safari menu). Clearing your history (Safari > Clear History) will also help.

3. Check for Adware and Malware

While Macs may not be as prone to viruses, malware and adware are a common issue. Malware and adware are essentially programs that hitchhiked a ride on something you downloaded from the internet and spy on your web browsing in order to target you with ads and pop-ups.

Besides being annoying, these hidden programs can slow down your internet as they track you in the background. You can check for malware and adware with a program like Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac.

4. Look for other resources hogging your bandwidth

Sometimes, a slow Internet connection is a crowded connection. Your Mac (or another device in your home) may be working on the internet in the background. One of the biggest culprits is Time Machine. While backing up your computer over wi-fi is a good idea, Time Machine is automatically set to back-up every hour — and that backup process is pretty draining on your internet.

A simple solution is to adjust the frequency of when Time Machine completes backups. Any app that accesses the network (Like Mail, social media apps, etc.) can slow your internet down, so be sure to close out of any programs you aren't using.

Sometimes, the problem isn't your Mac. For example, I realized that every time I plugged my iPhone into an outlet, the automatic cloud backup started — and slowed down my internet. If your wi-fi isn't password protected, your neighbor could be piggybacking your signal too. The more devices you have using the internet at once, like watching Netflix while checking Facebook, the more speed you'll need to avoid freezes.

5. Move, reset or upgrade your router

Router issues can cause speed issues — if your internet is just as slow when your smartphone or another device is connected to wi-fi, chances are, the issue isn't inside your Mac. Try restarting your router by turning it off, waiting a few seconds and turning it back again.

You may also want to relocate your router (or use a repeater, see the best WiFi range extenders for home) so it's closer to where you connect the most — make sure to avoid objects that can affect the signal like metal and microwaves. If you are using an old router, an upgrade could help boost your internet speed.

6. Try Ethernet

While wireless is the most convenient, Ethernet, or connecting directly to the router with a cable, is the fastest. If you can, connect to Ethernet while at your desk, but use wi-fi if you need to stay mobile. Ethernet eliminates the wi-fi interferences, like the distance from the router and objects blocking the signal.

7. Close tabs

Be honest — how many tabs do you have open right now? The more tabs you have open, the quicker you'll max out your internet speed. If you have a fast connection, a few tabs won't be a problem but if you're only paying for a few megabytes, your problem could be simply trying to do too many things at once.

8. Clean up your Mac (& improve the overall speed)

The steps that speed up your Mac's performance as a whole will also help to speed up your internet. If you've tried all the other suggestions (and you've talked with your internet provider), try cleaning up your Mac. The best way is to use CleanMyMac, an app developed by MacPaw.

Cleaning the hard drive so it's at most 85 percent full will help not only your browsing speed, but performance overall. Besides cleaning your Mac drive, here's a few more MacBook Pro speed tricks you can use to improve performance overall.

Final Words​

A slow internet is at the very least frustrating. While sometimes the issue is with your router or internet service provider, your Mac could be the issue as well. Simple tricks like switching to Safari or updating your router can help you get the most speed from your connection.

Hillary is a technology writer and photographer based in Michigan. While her favorite tech brands are Apple and Nikon, she enjoys exploring all but the most frustrating new devices.

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