Mac Slow Startup? 7 Possible Causes and Fixes

So, your Mac is taking forever (like a few minutes) to fully startup? Recent studies show that when a slow startup is not only a waste of time, it also affects your health.

Is your MacBook taking forever to turn on?

There is nothing more frustrating than a slow Mac computer when you need it to get the work done in the morning. Normally, a Mac takes 20 seconds or less to start up. But if it takes much longer (or forever) to reach the first screen, then something is wrong.

We’ve found a few possible causes behind this Mac slow startup issue, along with tweaks to help you fix it. Let’s get started.

1. You’ve Got Too Many Startup Items

Nothing slows down a Mac more than having dozens of apps and services launching when you press the start button. If you can reduce the number of auto-startup items, you’ll have less waiting time and your Mac will perform better too.

How to fix it: remove unnecessary login items

Login items are those applications that run automatically once you log in.

To check and disable those unnecessary items, click the Apple icon > System Settings > Users & Groups, and then click on the Login Items tab. Then select those items you don’t need to open up on startup and click the minus “-” symbol.

Meanwhile, don’t forget those launch agents (i.e., app services that autorun and show up on Mac Menu Bar). For example, Amazon Music, Adobe Creative Cloud Helper, etc.

When you install an Amazon or Adobe app, its helper services are often pre-installed too. The worst part? They don’t show up under Login Items.

How to find and remove them? One of the best ways is to use CleanMyMac X. ​The app has a feature that allows you to quickly identify those launch agents and disable them.

Note: This app is not free, but has a free trial version that allows you to try it out.

2. Your Mac’s Startup Disk is Getting Full

Lack of storage is one of the main culprits for many computer performance issues, including a slow startup. When your Mac’s startup disk is almost full, the entire computer will run sluggishly. It is a best practice that we should keep the free disk space at a minimum 20% level.

If you can lighten the Mac drive and delete those unnecessary files, for example, system junk, duplicate files, unused third-party apps, etc., that will help optimize your Mac startup.

Make sure your Mac has more than 20% free storage.

How to fix it: clean up the Mac drive

There are many manual fixes, for example, you can uninstall Mac apps that you barely use, remove duplicates and similar files, transfer large old data (especially movies and photos) to an external drive or the cloud, clean system junk, empty Trash, etc.

If you are new to Mac, we also recommend using a Mac cleaner app for efficiency. It will help clean up Mac disks more quickly so you save time.

3. Third-Party Device Connections

To be honest, how many peripherals do you have on your Mac now? If you use your iMac or MacBook as a hub for everything, chances are it’s now surrounded by a number of peripherals like a USB-C hub, printer, scanner, portable drive, iPhone charger, etc.

These third-party items are prone to drag down your computer performance, particularly when they are not working correctly due to hardware/software conflicts.

How to fix it: disconnect unused peripherals

It’s best to connect the external device only when you need it. Also, don’t forget to check relevant settings and software related to the device you use, making sure they are correctly set up and up-to-date.

4. NVRAM Issues (for Intel Macs Only)

NVRAM, short for “Non-volatile Random Access Memory”, stores many pieces of information a Mac needs before it loads Apple’s macOS operating system.

If the values in this memory get out of order for some reason, your Mac won’t start up correctly β€” one of the typical symptoms is your Mac takes forever to start up.

How to fix it: reset NVRAM

Here’s how to do it:

First, shut down your Mac, press the start key (or button). Then quickly hold these combination keys: Command + Option + P + R, right after you hear the startup sound. Then release the keys when you hear the sound for the second time.

Note: the video uses a MacBook as an example. If you’re on an iMac or Mac Mini/Pro, the process is the same.

5. Your Mac Disk Has Errors

Sometimes disk errors can occur on your Mac, especially when your machine shows its age. When that happens, your Mac’s hard drive may act up, and the overall system performance will be taxed. And it’s no surprise that the startup time will be affected as well.

How to fix it: verify and repair the disk using Disk Utility

Go to Finder > Applications > Disk Utility, and click First Aid.

  • If your Mac is running with macOS Sierra or later (you probably are), just click First Aid and it will tell you whether disk repair is needed or not.
  • If your Mac is running with OS X Yosemite or earlier, under First Aid, you’ll see two buttons located in the right corner: “Verify Disk” and “Repair Disk.” Click the former first to check whether your Mac disk has issues, then click the latter to fix it.

6. Your Mac is Running an Outdated macOS

In my experience, each time when I update my Mac to a major new macOS, my MacBook boots up a bit slower. However, my machine was running excellently while performing small updates like upgrading from macOS 10.13.1 to 10.13.4.

How to fix it: restart your Mac more often

Unfortunately, it seems we don’t have any working solutions here except restarting your Mac. Because a slow startup is usually very normal after the installation of a new macOS. Subsequent restarts will help turn it up a bit.​

7. Your Mac Hard Drive is Failing

Every technology has its lifespan, and eventually, it will fail. Hard drives are no exception. If your Mac is not only slow on startup but sluggish on almost everything. More often than not, it’s time to check Mac drive health and get an idea of how long the disk will last.

How to fix it: upgrade the hard drive

If you are using an old Mac with a spinning HDD, replacing it with a new SSD is probably the best way to speed up everything, and you’ll significantly improve the startup time on your Mac.

These are the seven possible reasons and fixes for the Mac slow startup issue. Hopefully, you’ve tried some of them and have tuned up your Mac.

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  • John

    Since loading big sur my 2015 MacBook Pro 8. Meg memory and 250 gig SSD drive takes a few seconds (7) to get the progress bar to half way , then takes 35 seconds to get to sign in screen.
    My iMac also loaded with big sur is exactly the same.

    Why?

    Reply
  • Rohit

    MY MAC IS STUCK ON START UP SCREEN .
    TRIED SOME SUGGESTED MEASURE WITHOUT ANY LUCK.
    NEED HELP.

    Reply
  • GilberCollins

    Thanks for the tips, but I’m with Mac Mojave and the start up is very very slow or sometimes not at all.

    Reply
  • Diane

    Thanks, Chris. I don’t know what HDD and SSD are. No computer savvy, here.

    Reply
  • cyberninja

    30 Seconds is not normal? Thats way too much, my ASUS with Ubuntu takes 18 seconds from cold start, to get to login screen and 4 seconds after providing credentials, but my new shiny MacBook Pro, Mojave takes 30 seconds to get to the logins screen and then another minute after providing credentials. Is this normal?

    Reply
    • Avatar photo
      AnySoftwareTools Team

      Our new MacBook Pro (2017 model) takes 10 seconds to fully start up πŸ™‚

      Reply
  • David Thompson

    I had an increasingly unresponsive iMac (2013, so old!). Eventually it was taking 20 minutes to restart, so I knew something was badly awry. My first thought was RAM, so I installed 8GB extra. That was not easy given the model of iMac I have. The result was underwhelming.
    After going through all of your suggestions with little discernible success, I decided my OS might be the problem. I didn’t do a clean install because I wasn’t sure I would be able to get all my apps back to their former state, so I did a complete Time Machine backup, reformatted the disk, and restored. The result is unbelievable! I’ve got my iMac back.

    Reply
  • mcuser

    … maybe I get into the UNIX command field to lift the SSD out
    of the grave again – pray 4 success. SSD has been a pleisureful
    upgrade for a long time before, wish I had it in all the machines
    I have owned before. OSX is getting troublesome with the low
    current out of the 3rd party power plug and with low disc
    space, too.

    Reply
  • mcuser

    … had some guess around not starting machine, found low current and now use a lab power supply. Macbook pro still with dead/locked SSD

    Reply
  • Charles Lujan

    What a great article! I can’t wait to try these on my wife’s Mac. Thank you!

    Reply
  • Prashant Jayavant

    Hi Chris.
    I have an Imac with OS El Capitan with the latest updates. I also have Microsoft Office for Mac loaded. Apart from this there is no Third party software loaded. The Imac on booting up takes a long time, is quite sluggish and the wheel on clicking any application keeps on turning for a while and applications open after quite some time which is not normal. Some applications like VMware (remote desktop access) used to work before but currently due to some reason does not work. No one is able to advise as to exactly what is the cause for this. Does the Imac require to be reformatted. As you are a computer geek, appreciate your advise.

    Reply
    • Scott Dobson

      I am experiencing symptoms similar to what Prashant has described but my OS is Mojave. I am no longer able to share my desktop via VMware. I have Office for MAC. Overall performance just seems sluggish.

      Reply
    • Greg

      I had the same issue. Installing a new hard drive finally worked. Disk utility said the hard drive was fine and I tried EVERYTHING I could find online to troubleshoot / resolve the matter. As a matter of last resort, I found a 1 TB SSD replacement for my 500 GB HDD online for about $130. It took me a day to back everything up and restore everything to the new drive but that fixed it. The best startup time I had seen in the last year was 4 minutes 45 seconds but it usually took about 5 and half minutes. My start ups are now about 40 seconds and I don’t see the beach ball when opening apps anymore. My 2012 macbook pro is 9 years old now and it’s like I got a whole new machine.

      Reply