What to Do When Your MacBook Air is Slow

Like any other computer, a MacBook Air can slow down over time. And in Apple’s laptop lines, MacBook Airs are designed for portability thus it is less powerful than MacBook Pros in terms of hardware configuration.

Is your MacBook Air running slow?

The causes for a slow MacBook Air can vary widely. For example, you may have limited hard drive space; Certain applications may be draining the CPU, you’re running an outdated macOS, you have too many applications running on startup, and the hard drive may be cluttered.

Fortunately, there are some simple and effective solutions that can help speed up a MacBook Air. That’s what we’re going to share with you in this post.

Note: the tips and tricks below are merely general ‚Äčadvice based on my own experience. They are never intended to be viewed as official fixes from Apple. If you have a brand new MacBook Air and it’s running slow, contact Apple Support directly or schedule a visit to Genius Bar.

1. Clean up Macbook Air Hard Drive

An almost full hard drive can cause a number of issues, including slowing your MacBook Air’s overall performance.

You may have saved numerous photos, documents, and videos that are eating up much of your MacBook Air’s hard drive. If you are a heavy app user, you may have downloaded many apps that can also take up a significant amount of disk space.

To see the disk usage information, click on the Apple logo in the top left corner. Then click About This Mac, and check Storage.

On My MacBook Air, it shows I have more than 50% free disk space.

In general, aim for 10-20% free space. The more, the better.

To make up more storage, you can click the Manage button and you’ll see a window like this:

System Information, macOS also gives you some hints about which types of files are taking up disk space.

This should give you a quick idea of where to start cleaning. You can also manually identify and remove large duplicates, clean system junk, or uninstall apps you rarely use.

If you prefer a more efficient way, you may also want to try a Mac cleaner app that does all these kinds of tasks semi-automatically, including deep cleaning of your MacBook Air to help release gigabytes of valuable disk space.

2. Close Background Applications

MacBook Air is less capable of handling too many programs at the same time due to limited RAM (random-access memory). If you continuously run multiple programs at once, chances are your MacBook will lag. Even worse, it freezes to death.

To check whether you have apps that are consuming more system resources than they should, open Activity Monitor (Applications > Utilities > Activity Monitor).

Once you identify one or several culprits, select the desired apps and processes, and quit it by clicking the “x” icon on the top.

Note: for some apps, even if you have closed them by clicking the “X” button, they may still be running in the background. These processes can slow down your MacBook Air. Make sure you have quit them for good.

3. Optimize Startup Items

This tip applies to those of you who are experiencing a slow startup on your MacBook Air. For instance, your Mac takes more than 20 seconds to load into the first screen.

Most of the time, it’s due to an excess of auto applications and launch agents, which run by default the moment you start your Mac.

To manage these auto startup items, first launch System Settings. Then click on Users & Groups, select your user account, and then click on Login Items.

There, you will see a list of items (apps and processes) that open automatically when you log in. Check those items you do not want to run during startup and hit “-” to disable them.

4. Update macOS

An outdated macOS may make your MacBook Air sluggish as well.

To check which macOS version your Mac is running under, click on the Apple icon in the upper left corner, then click About This Mac, now the new window will show basic information about your Mac including which OS version it’s currently running.

My MacBook Air is currently running under macOS Monterey.

If your MacBook Air is still running a very old macOS, consider updating your Mac.

Before reinstalling a new macOS, be sure to back up your files and applications to an external hard drive. After that, restart your Mac. When a gray screen appears, press down on the Command + R buttons; this will launch the OS Recovery mode.

Choose your language, and then click on “Reinstall macOS”. The installation process will begin and your MacBook Air will download the necessary information from Apple.

Final Words

These are the speed techniques I’d like to share with you about making a slow MacBook Air run faster.

There are also some other ways to speed up a slow MacBook Air, for example, if you are willing to invest in hardware upgrades, such as getting extra RAM, which would help run apps more smoothly and perhaps eliminate freezing times.

Or if you are using an old MacBook Air with a hard disk drive, you may find replacing it with an SSD (Solid-state drive) highly effective in taking the performance to a new level. We did this to an old MacBook Pro and the performance boost was amazing.

Any other tips to help optimize the performance of a MacBook Air? Let us know by dropping a comment below.

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  • Amy Atkinson

    Regarding Step 2:
    “… Once you identify them, quit as many processes running in the background as possible, simply select the desired apps and processes and hit Quit.”

    How do you know which are safe to delete? I have about 10 ‘Google Chrome Helper (Renderer)’ Can I get rid of them all?
    Also, I was not allowed to Quit accountsd, despite not knowing what it is.

  • Barb

    My MacBook Air (ca. 2012) is slower after I updated to Catalina. Is there a reason why? Al

  • JohnIL

    I own a 2019 MacBook Air and honestly the hardware choices Apple made were not so great. They chose a Y series Intel duel core for better power use probably to make up for the extra retina screen power draw. Unfortunately the duel core is also a passively cooled CPU with a circulation fan not directly cooling the CPU heat sink. Not a whole lot better then the previous 12 inch MacBook. Its a really nice netbook with a beautiful screen but not going to keep up with a multi tasking user who opens lots of tabs in Chrome. Even web based 3D games struggle with this hardware. Sadly Apple created a new MacBook Air that isn’t worth the price tag when for a couple hundred more you can buy a MacBook Pro. Maybe this is why you can find plenty of discounts on the MacBook Air. Personally for $800 its not bad for a on the go machine. For $1100 its not a good value.