What to Do When MacBook Pro Runs Slow after macOS Big Sur Update?

macOS Big Sur is packed full of features to help your MacBook Pro, or any other macOS device, boost performance and user-friendliness across the board. Big Sur has one of the most significant visual changes from the previous macOS updates that I’ve encountered in some time.

This is because Apple is attempting to narrow the gap between how macOS and iOS look and operate – meaning, these two different operating systems for computers and mobile devices are becoming more similar in a lot of ways.

macos big sur slow

And even though macOS Big Sur is designed to be a welcomed upgrade, you might still run into issues when installing the update on your MacBook Pro.

Let’s take a look here at what to do when your MacBook Pro runs slow after the Big Sur update.

Initial Considerations

The full version of macOS Big Sur is finally available to the public, as of this writing. Previously you can get the beta version of the update, which is essentially a preview version that is available to download now.

And be sure to back up your computer before installing the full version.

I downloaded and tested out macOS Big Sur and have not run into any issues, aside from taking a long time to download.

However, depending on the model and year of your MacBook Pro, you may experience slowdowns upon installing the software and should try the fixes found here to get things up to normal operating speed again.

It’s also important to check for compatibility to ensure that your MacBook Pro will even work with Big Sur. Whether it’s planned obsolescence or actual technological advances, older model MacBooks will eventually not be updatable.

This is annoying and unfortunate if it happens to you, but be sure to research if the MacBook Pro you have will indeed work with the update.

How to Fix Slow MacBook Pro after macOS Big Sur Update

Several different reasons can cause your MacBook Pro to run slowly after the Big Sur update.

Below, you will find some easy and recommended ways to fix some of these issues to have normal operating speeds again.

If one of the fixes doesn’t work, try the others until the issue is resolved.

Some of the information found here will be specific to macOS Big Sur, while other fixes are general advice on how to speed up your MacBook Pro no matter what operating system you have.

Fix 1: Check Available Disk Space

This first fix can be done before you even attempt to install the update.

If you don’t have enough free disk space available to handle Big Sur, you will encounter speed issues across the board as your system struggles to keep up.

You want to have as much free disk space open as possible with a minimum of 50GB available for the Big Sur update.

Here’s how to check available disk space:

  • Click on the Apple icon in the upper left corner of the screen
  • Select About This Mac
  • Click on the Storage tab
  • You can see how much available free disk space you have
about this mac macos big sur

If you have enough free disk space, you can go ahead with the download. If not, you will want to free up disk space by doing any or all of the following:

#1: Empty the Trash

  • Open the trash bin from the dock or finder
  • If there are any files present in the trash folder, click empty to free up space

#2: Manage Storage

From the Storage tab found in About This Mac, you can select the Manage button. Here, you can optimize your storage by removing files you don’t need, storing files on iCloud, and reducing clutter on your computer.

Once you click the Manage button you will see a list of recommendations on how to better manage your storage and can take action from there.

#3: Run CleanMyMac

If you prefer to clean your Mac hard drive in a faster way, use this app called CleanMyMac X — which will help you solve most of the common Mac issues, including Mac cleaning and optimization.

After running CleanMyMac, you’ll probably gain a good amount of free space in just a few minutes.

Fix 2: Disable Auto Start-up Items

Another way to speed up your MacBook Pro after the Big Sur update is to turn off and/or disable unneeded start-up items.

These are programs that automatically start to run whenever the computer is turned on.

They can cause slowdowns by using your computer’s resources without you even knowing they are running.

Here’s how to disable startup items:

  • Click on Apple icon in the upper left corner of the screen
  • Select System Preferences
  • Select Users & Groups
  • Click on your username
  • After selecting your username you will see a Login Items tab on the left of the window. Click on that, and you will then see a list of login items that open automatically when the computer is started up.
  • Select the checkboxes located next to any of the items you wish to turn off on startup.
  • Click the (minus) button to remove them
macos big sur login items

Don’t forget the auto-run applications and services, they can drag down macOS Big Sur speed as well. But it’s not easy to find those autoruns, we again recommend using CleanMyMac X to do this for efficiency.

CleanMyMac can easily spot out those Launch Agents (i.e. apps/services that automatically run in the background) and remove them in just one click.

Fix 3: Check Activity Monitor

Your MacBook Pro might also be acting slowly after installing Big Sur because of any programs or applications running without your knowledge.

You can close these open programs and free up the CPU to help your system run faster. By checking the Activity Monitor, you can see every program that is running, how much of a demand it has on the system, and close them to help speed up your computer.

Here’s how to check Activity Monitor:

  • Open the Finder app
  • Click on Applications
  • Select Utilities
  • Select Activity Monitor
  • Once you have the Activity Monitor open, you will see a list of every program that is currently running. If you click on the CPU tab, you will see how much of a CPU demand each process running has in the for of a percentage.
  • Select any processes you want to close and click on the X button on the top right of the window
  • Select Quit when asked if you are sure you want to quit the desired process
macos big sur activity monitor

Fix 4: SMC and PRAM/NVRAM Reset

Resetting these two parameters on your MacBook Pro can also help to increase speed after the macOS Big Sur Update.

These are two hardware and software parameters that have a big effect on how your computer runs.

Here’s how to reset the SMC:

  • Shut down your computer
  • Press down and hold the Control and Option keys on the left side of the keyboard while at the same time pressing and holding the Shift key on the right side
  • Hold all three of these keys down for 7 seconds and then also press the Power button
  • Next, wait for a few moments and then press the power button to turn your computer on in the normal manner

Note that the above SMC reset is for newer models of the MacBook Pro. If you have an older computer, the process might be slightly different than what is described above. Check out the Apple site for guidance with older MacBook Pros.

Here’s how to reset the PRAM/NVRAM:

  • Shut down your computer
  • Quickly turn it back on
  • Press and hold down the Option, Command, P, and R keys at the same time for around 20 seconds
  • For older models of MacBook Pro, release the keys after you hear the startup noise
  • For newer models, hold down the keys until you see the Apple logo appear and disappear twice

Fix 5: Close Tabs and Windows

This one is a simple fix that can make your computer speed up quickly. If you have a lot of tabs or windows open on your internet browser, this can cause your MacBook Pro to slow down as it attempts to load and reload all of the information found on those pages.

If your computer doesn’t have a lot of RAM, multiple open tabs and windows can result in slower performance.

Simply close out any windows or tabs that you don’t need running and this can speed up your MacBook Pro considerably.

Note that minimizing the tabs won’t close them. You need to click on the actual close button found within your tab or window. You can also close out of your browser altogether and then only open up the windows that you need.

Final Thoughts

macOS Big Sur is a powerful update that brings many new advances that can improve the experience and capabilities of your MacBook Pro.

It is an exciting update that may seem somewhat drastic compared to other macOS updates you have done over the years.

But for performance and user experience, Big Sur is sure to be a welcomed favorite.

That doesn’t mean it is a flawless update, however. If you experience any issues with your computer slowing down after installing Big Sur, follow the fixes above to quickly and easily get things back up to speed.

And be sure to update Big Sur regularly after installation to fix any additional bugs or problems that can occur.

What is your favorite macOS? What features of Big Sur do you like the most? Let us know in the comments below!

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  • barry

    my mac (late 2013) is very sluggish after the update. Just scrolling a window and typing a key is slower. It is like having an 80s car, where you put your foot on the execrator and 5 seconds later you go.

  • Armand Winsor

    None of these worked and I think the same solution was offered for Catalina (you just changed the name to Big Sur). Also, it’s clear that you are trying to advertise a software here CleanMyMac .. sorry this is crap.

  • Barry Sardis

    The instructions for SMC reset are wrong (as of 11/15/20) and differ from the Apple page you link to. Use shift on left and hold all 4 for 10 seconds, let go, then Power.

  • Marcin

    What is this? Empty your bin and check if apps that you are using are running? Are you kidding me? I paid 3k+ $$ for a laptop that can’t handle basic tasks without a hiccup and pro tip is to empty your bin? Maybe turn it off and on?