Not all of us can rush out and buy the latest Apple hardware every year. For most folks, the fact that Macs hold their value is owed to how long the computers last. Even so, we can recognize the signs of a Mac that’s not quite in its prime anymore. Booting it up seems to take forever, the latest features of macOS just aren’t enjoyable, and modern software seems to drag. Don’t rush right out to buy a new computer when that happens, though. There may be a few things you can do to an old Mac to make it feel new again.
Recognizing When Your Older Mac Isn’t Worth the Upgrade
First, let’s set the record straight. I’m not saying you can revitalize that old PowerBook G4 and run macOS Sierra. There are limits, after all. You should start off by ensuring your Mac is on the list of models supported by macOS Sierra. You’ll also want to make sure you have at least 2GB of memory and 8.8GB of storage space. Check out your Mac’s specs from About This Mac from the Apple menu.
Upgrade Your Hard Drive to SSD
If your older Mac still has a mechanical hard drive, the best upgrade you can make to revitalize it is to replace that disk with a solid-state drive (SSD). SSD drives don’t have any moving parts, so they’re exponentially faster than their older counterparts. Upgrading to an SSD drive might not be cheap, but it’s less expensive than purchasing a new Mac. You’ll reap the benefits of an SSD in a number of areas – booting up, opening apps, and moving files around.
Make sure you can make the swap without too much trouble. You should also be sure to pick an SSD that’s compatible with Mac. Crucial’s Mac SSD compatibility page is a good place to start, as is Other World Computing. Both sites offer installation guides to help you know what’s involved in the job.
Increase Your Mac’s Memory
The next best upgrade you can perform on an older Mac is to upgrade the system memory. An SSD improves performance in just about every aspect, but more RAM will allow you to have more apps running at once without slowing things down. You can find out how much memory you already have by looking back at About This Mac.
EveryMac’s Actual Maximum RAM page will tell you how much you can upgrade. Apple’s official specifications are sometimes understated. If you have a MacBook Pro Retina from 2012 to present, you won’t be able to upgrade the memory at all. Once you’ve determined whether you can upgrade your Mac’s memory, check out either Crucial’s Mac memory finder page or Other World Computing.
Clear Out the Apps You Don’t Use
This tip won’t cost you any money at all. If you’ve been using your older Mac for a while, you probably have quite a few applications that you installed but never use anymore. It’s a good idea to do “spring cleaning” once in a while to clear out those apps and their associated library and preferences files.
Removing these unused and possibly outdated applications could even give you a performance boost, since those apps might still be loading files in the background. For sure, they’re taking up precious hard drive space. Make sure they’re completely cleared out by using a tool that hunts down all of the extra files associated with those apps. I like the free and simple-to-use AppCleaner. All you have to do is drag the unused apps onto the window, and AppCleaner does all the rest.
Do a Clean Install of macOS Sierra
Finally, you might consider doing a fresh install of the operating system. Windows users do this more often than Mac, but it’s still an option that can sometimes give you even more of a performance boost. As John Martellaro points out, this is often unnecessary and is always a time-intensive process, but you might decide to forge ahead with it anyways. Be sure to read his entire article before you begin, since he outlines the best way to accomplish the clean install.
A Brand New Mac, Almost
After upgrading your memory and swapping to a SSD, your older Mac should feel new again. You’ll be able to get a bit more time out of your Mac, and it’s a less expensive option than buying a whole new computer. Of course, Apple continues to blaze forward, and might “sunset” your Mac with the next version of macOS. Weigh the pros and cons of upgrading versus buying new. If your Mac is from 2012 or later, you’ll probably find the upgrades to be the wisest investment.