MacBook Pro Running Very Slow And Freezing? [Solutions Explained]

There are two-dozen-plus reasons for a MacBook Pro running very slow and freezing. But all of them can be trimmed down into three main categories: personal use habits, hardware incompetence, and OS/app/software bankruptcy.

For example, longer use hours, too many apps/widgets opened at once, multiple apps on startup, incompetent CPU, low RAM, less storage, virus/malware raid, unauthorized third-party apps, filled-up browsers, outdated OS (X), app permissions’ clash, etc., etc.

Given that, there are the same two-dozen-plus fixes for it and other related issues. Some notorious ones of them include, freeing up the memory and startup disk, terminating login items, cleaning up your web browsers, removing iffy apps/software, curbing the hungry background programs, and upgrading RAM/SSD/OS (X), etc.

There is however a lot more to add to both these lists but don’t worry as you’re just to witness a comprehensive debate on this matter below. Come along!

Some Noteworthy Reasons Why Your MacBook Pro Gets Slow and Freezes

Apple laptops and PCs although sit in a distinguished category as for the class and performance are concerned, they are no exception when it comes to those common computer errors. That said, it’s ok for Macs too to show anomalies (as their Windows counterparts) like lazy boot-ups, lagging, freezing, unresponsiveness, etc.

So let’s see what are the several different reasons a MacBook shows such performance hiccups.

#1. The Person’s Use Routine/Habits

Your day-to-day use habits play the most significant role in deciding how your Mac is gonna respond. Like, if you are continuously up on your Mac for ruthless time durations, it will wear out and eventually run slower with every passing minute.

Moreover, having eleventy of auto-on (on startup) apps and multiple login programs on startup, etc., also negatively affect the suaveness of your MacBook Pro.

#2. Inadequate and Non-Complying Hardware

If you’re a gaming enthusiast, a full-time content creator, or anyone with extreme hardware-intense loads, then it’s your Mac Pro’s hardware that’s impeding the flow.

Some of the most common hardware inadequacies causing performance stutters include getting low on RAM, running short of storage, having an outdated HDD, or a low-performing processor (maybe CPU, GPU, or both), etc.

#3. Apps, Software, and Operating System Issues

The 3rd reason why MacBook Pro running very slow and freezing is because of its software and OS issues.

Lagging and freezing issues are generally attributable to the software firmware of a computer. Ranging from something like just a stuffed web browser to inappropriate (or virus-tainted) third-party downloads and even extended system desync(s), anything can bottleneck your Mac’s work grace.

That said, multiple OS-related issues also impede your Mac’s performance. For example, indefinite license and permission clashes, damaged preferences files, spotlight indexing issues, etc. And most importantly, your OS X version – so always have the latest of it on your laptop.

MacBook Pro Running Very Slow And Freezing? Understanding and Getting the Issue(s) Resolved

Now that we know all the probable reasons that (can) turn even your lavish M1 MacBook Pro slow, let’s find out what are the different types of scenarios one might encounter if he is hit by such bad luck.

So let’s break down the high-level “Mac Running Slow” issue into smaller pieces to get at the exact impact point.

Different Symptoms of Your MacBook Pro Slowing Down and their Remedies

Here are some of the most common symptoms and scenarios where, you can say, your laptop is probably running into this issue.

Note though, regardless of the issue(s) you’ve got, I’d suggest you get in touch with Apple Support first than to undertake the fixe(s) yourself. It’s because not necessarily must the solutions discussed below work for every problem, especially when you’ve got an issue like abnormal boot-ups or some other hardware disorder. Anyways, here is how to access (and fix) your Mac’s slow-running issue(s) like a pro.

#1. MacBook Pro Very Slow and Unresponsive Usually Only at Startup

It’s not that small spinning wheel that causes frustration all the time. At times, users even struggle to get to their desktop screens just because their Mac refuses to end booting and becomes lazy to show its first beautiful display.

Well, if you too have the same frustration i.e. my Mac takes forever to startup, consider taking the below-given measures.

Remember! If your Mac is still slow after you have just upgraded to a new macOS X version, don’t hurry as it takes time for the new firmware to agree to the existing data on the machine. Give your Mac some time, keep it ON for a day or two and restart it multiple times (during and) after that. As soon as it’s done with the re-indexing, you’ll start feeling that typical MacBook’s charm again.

#1. Manage Your Startup/Login Items

There are lots of auto-on systems (you might even don’t know some of them) on your device that start consuming resources soon you start up your Mac. Regulating them and disabling the automatic activation of login apps/programs/services you don’t use much can surely help you tune your Mac Pro’s startup times.

Here is how to manage them.

Via System Preferences

Access your System Preferences (by clicking on the Apple icon) > Users and Groups > click on your Username > select Login Items. Over there, choose the apps/programs you want to quit from auto-launching and check the Hide box next to each one of them (or click the minus sign located down there).

You can also check each of the programs on your desktop one by one to see if it has auto-on enabled. Simply right-click (or double tap on your trackpad) on the app and select Options from the list that appears. In the new mini-window, you’ll find “open at login”. Uncheck it for the programs you want the auto-on to disable, and you’re done.

Via a Third-party (Cleaner) App

You can use a third-party cleaner tool for the purpose as well. The best software you can call upon is CleanMyMac X (will later discuss it at length).

Download and install the app (it’s available for free) and launch it. Select Optimization (under the Speed tab) from the left-side menu panel > click on Login items (on the right side) > check the box next to each item you want to remove > and finally, click the Quit button located on the bottom there to confirm the removal.

Tidying Up Desktop and Dashboard – Does it Work?

Pretty unlikely to work today, this thing would more or less do the trick in older macOS versions like OS X Jaguar, Panther, Snow Leopard, etc.

The terrific day-based updates have completely changed things, and the newer OS(s) today don’t really treat each desktop item or widget as a distinct small task (nor draw each item on the screen one by one).

Still, if you want to make yourself feel better, minimize the clutter by grouping multiple things in folders and removing unnecessary items from the desktop, Dock, and dashboard. But remember, it doesn’t affect your machine’s efficiency as such.

#2. MacBook Starts Normally but Gradually Turns Slower

If you feel like your Mac Pro acts normal at the booting phase and starts up quite fast but deadens slowly gradually with a bit of use, here’s about what can be the most probable issues back the stage.

#1. There is Too Much Consumption in the Background

Unlike Windows OS where just one click on that “X” button on the top right corner of an app, completely terminates that app (in most cases), the case is different here. In macOS, that red button of the three doesn’t completely terminate the app and most of the time just minimizes it.

It, although, translates into the macOS’s readiness enabling its users to quickly launch the apps again when needed, it comes with a flaw: the apps keep consuming your hardware continuously even if not in use.

Terminate the Active (Minimized) Apps One by One

You can easily determine which app is fully terminated and which one is only minimized as the latter one always have a tiny dot beneath/beside its icon. So review all the minimized apps and completely shut down those you don’t need much.

To fully terminate an active (minimized) app, simply right-click on it and select Quit from the list. It will turn that app(s) off.

Or you can try Force Quitting the active apps as well via this method: click on the Apple icon > choose Force Quit > from the approaching window, select the apps you want to shut > click Force Quit > confirm.

Use Activity Monitor

Activity Monitor is macOS’s built-in feature (app) that shows you what’s going on in the background and which programs are eating the maximum system resources. To get to the Activity Monitor, navigate to your Applications folder and then to Utilities. Or follow the below-given steps.

Begin on the desktop by going through Finder > Go > Utilities > Activity Monitor. Open Activity Monitor, and you’ll now be seeing all real-time processes running on your device. Click on each of the five tabs (CPU, Memory, Energy…) and notice the programs eating the biggest chunks from your CPU, RAM, etc. They’ll surely be somewhere in the top positions.

Then double-click on the greediest chaps and Quit them either by clicking the gray “X” icon or the Quit button placed over there.

#3. MacBook is Always Slow (On Startup as well as During the Whole Uptime)

At times, the system letdown starts just after you press the power button (to turn the Mac ON) and meets no end until you are on and working.

Let’s suppose you have administered your login items, you always keep an eye on your background programs, and you have enough (at least 10%) free SuperDrive (disk drive) space as well. But if your Mac still not only takes forever to start but is very slow and unresponsive throughout the uptime, there can be tons of other issues at the backend.

Here are some of the most critical ones discussed with their quick fixes.

#1. Older macOS Version

Another big reason of the MacBook Pro running very slow and freezing is because you use the older version of macOS.

The OS, being the heart and brain of a device, is vital to how your Mac performs. An older macOS would obviously run inferior compared to the newest release. So if you feel unusual lacks in your MacBook Pro’s performance, first of all, check out if it’s gasping for the OS update.

If there is an updated OS version unleashed and your Mac is meeting its basic system requirements, upgrade yourself right away.

How to Update OS?

Access the Apple icon on the top of your display > About this Mac > Software Update. In the Software Update menu, you’ll find all the details i.e. if or not a new version is available and whether your system meets its requirements or not. If Yes, give it an update, and you are good to go with your again-efficient Mac Pro.

#2. You May Be Running Low on Disk Space (Storage)

The classic suaveness (be it in macOS or Windows), in general, is attributable to the fact that the former utilizes the free storage space as “Virtual Memory” apart from RAM. It particularly happens when the system memory is not enough to handle most things on your Mac.

When you are low on storage, the macOS finds no extra space to swap it to the startup disk (as RAM) to smoothly launch heavy programs. And thus your MacBook Pro freezes more often than normal (as there’s less system memory left) and even a few additional apps then put the system’s fluency at stake.

So the thing is, more the free space on your Mac, the less will be the issues like MacBook Pro running very slow and freezing.

To check out your device’s storage and other details at length, here are the steps to follow:

Click the Apple logo on the top of the desktop > About This Mac > and you’ll be prompted to a new screen displaying all the system details of your Mac. For now, you obviously ought to navigate to the Storage tab.

How to Run a Detailed Mac (Storage) Cleanup?

Although the best way to clean your laptop far and wide and optimize its overall performance is to use third-party cleaner software, you can optimize the storage manually as well (I’ll discuss it later).

Regarding the quick (auto-cleanup) technique, the only authorized and 100% macOS-optimized tool that you can use for the purpose is CleanMyMac X. It very well knows what to clean, from where to clean, and easily removes all the filth off your device within minutes.

Here is how to use it: Download CleanMyMac X for your MacBook > install and launch the software > click on System Junk (under the Cleanup heading) from the left-side menu > and click Scan. Once the process completes, click the Clean button to evict out all the junk. (You can even Review Details to check and review the content that’s about to be removed).

How to (Manually) Optimize Your Mac’s Storage?

You have got some help from Apple itself too in this regard. There are some built-in steps and recommendations doing up with which can help you manually yet comprehensively clean your device’s disk space.

Again get to the Storage details in the About This Mac menu. Over there, you’ll see a “Manage” button. Click it, and a new window will appear with four different cleanup recommendations: store in iCloud, optimize storage, empty trash automatically, and reduce clutter.

The first one is obvious i.e. transfer data to iCloud to save up some space on your device. The Optimize Storage option cleans up the disk space by deleting larger files like watched iTunes Movies or Apple TV films/shows, etc.

Empty Trash Automatically means enabling your OS to automatically remove older items from the trash bin every 30 days. And finally, with the Reduce Clutter feature, you can quickly look over all the data on your Mac, organize it, and remove the unwanted/resource-consuming pieces of it.

Wipe Out All the Unused Programs

There are oodles of things on your Mac that I know you never need. Lots of apps and programs that you may not even know exist. These uninvited guests on your device are the biggest space-devils. So it’s better to wash them out at once.

For that, open Finder > Go > select Applications from the drop-down. Hover over the list to isolate the apps you don’t use much and organize the list by size so that you can further filter down the hungriest of them. Finally, select the apps you want to delete and throw them out to the Trash bin.

I’d suggest using CleanMyMac X for this purpose as if you manually remove those apps, there may remain some leftovers of them on your system. So the software will masterly do that job as well.

The method is simple: Launch the software > find and click the “Uninstaller” option under the Applications menu on the left-side panel > select the apps on the right side > and click the Uninstall button from the bottom there.

#3. You May Be Running Out of (Free) RAM

Although there isn’t any such solution to the RAM deficiency issue except to install a new stick, you can somehow flush your existing RAM and release lots of bits of it. The first and most recommended way is to use the CleanMyMac X tool i.e. click Maintenance under Speed on the left panel and Free Up RAM.

But macOS has a native tool called “Terminal” via which you can manually do the job as well.

For that, go to Applications > Utilities > Terminal > type/enter sudo purge > Enter your Password > and Confirm. You’ll hopefully immediately witness some free space being created in your RAM.

#4. Virus/Malware Might be the Reason

I know you might be saying, what? macOS can also be invaded by malware? Yes! I agree that macOS is always at an extremely low risk of virus attacks compared to Windows OS, but you can never be 100% sure on anything.

So it’s better to have your MacBook Pro’s health checked regularly. Malwarebytes is one of the best apps you can use for the purpose as it’s available for free (and upgradable per your will). Besides, you can also call upon Norton 360 for MacMacBooster, VIPRE Advanced Security, and lots of other premium antivirus software.

#5. Your Mac’s Firmware Needs a Jerk – Reset SMC and NVRAM

SMC (System Management Controller) is a subsystem in Mac computers regulating all the basic-level operations including thermal and power management, system volume, lights, etc. Quite often when your Mac performs slow 24-7 even without any heavy loads on the CPU, it’s because of damaged SMC preferences. Apple itself suggests resetting SMC if such anomalies happen.

And NVRAM is non-volatile RAM that retains data without applied power and keeps things at a location macOS can quickly access. An issue with the NVRAM affects the kernel panic setup resulting in imbalanced overall system performance.

So yea, resetting these two means giving an electric jolt to your Mac’s internal firmware which then most of the time starts working properly.

If you don’t feel any improvement after a single reset to these two, you repeat the process 2 or max 3 times as well.

How to Reset SMC?

  1. First of all, turn your Mac OFF.
  2. Remove all other accessories except the power cable.
  3. Press and hold Control + Shift + Option keys and press the Power button at the same time.
  4. Hold all 4 keys for at least 5 to 10 seconds and release them all.
  5. Wait a second or two and now turn your Mac back ON.

If your MacBook Pro has a removable battery: Shut it down > remove the battery off it > press and hold the Power button for 5 odd seconds > reinstall the battery > and now press the Power button to let it normally start.

How to Reset NVRAM?

  1. Turn OFF your Mac.
  2. Press the Power button to restart it and immediately press and hold Command + Option + P + R keys for a few seconds.
  3. Wait for the screen to light up and goes black again.
  4. As soon as the screen lights up the second time, release all 5 keys.

And you are done with the process. I’m sure you’ll see the improvement once the Mac turns ON.

#6. There Might Be Issue(s) With the Directory Structure

Severe periodic freezing and slowness in MacBook’s functioning oftentimes owe to corrupt directory structure and system cache issues. All you need to fix these issues is to restart your Mac in Safe Mode.

So turn your Mac OFF first and then power it ON again and press the Shift button as soon as it starts rebooting. Release the button when the Apple logo appears on the screen and wait for the device to start. You’ll now see the Safe Boot label on the top right of your screen (no label? Repeat the whole process).

If you can’t do Safe Boot even after multiple tries, check whether your Mac has a firmware password enabled. If yes, disable it, and you’d now be able to boot in Safe Mode. Once your Mac boots up in safe mode, all the directory and cache issues will straight away get resolved.

#7. Your Web Browser(s) Might be the Culprit(s)

Keep a sharp eye on all your web browsers and clear their histories, plugins, and caches, etc. on regular basis. It does save up a lot of system space and keeps your browser(s) light. And this ultimately results in smoother internet surfing and efficient machine performance throughout.

#8. Incompetent Hardware

Finally, if you have tried all the remedies discussed above but the issue “MacBook Pro slow and freezing” is still not resolved, then there is no way out but to upgrade your hardware.

If the built-in storage is HDD (less likely to be), replace it with an SSD stick. If it’s SSD already, replace it with a bigger one. Plus, upgrade your Mac’s memory as well (if upgradable). But remember, some Mac machines just can’t be upgraded. So, try getting yourself a new Mac Pro.

MacBook Pro Running Very Slow And Freezing? A Few Bonus Tips in the End!

  1. If you are on macOS X Yosemite or an even older version, try verifying and repairing disk permissions. If on EI Capitan and newer versions, there is no need to do this as Apple has made all system file permissions to be automatically protected.

Broken permissions also cause multiple programs and ultimately the overall system to work improperly. You can either use the CleanMyMac X app to fix them (click on Maintenance in the left panel > and select Repair Disk Permissions from the right side) as the process can’t get any easier than with this app.

Or do it manually by going to Applications > Utilities > Disk Utilities > click on (or highlight) your Startup Disk > click on the First Aid tab (on the right side). Now, click on Verify Disk Permissions first, wait for the process to finish, then click Repair Disk Permissions.

  • Try cutting down on rich graphics settings and animations on your Mac (especially if you have low/mid-end hardware), as these things also eat a lot of your system resources. Go to System Preferences > Dock > and uncheck: MagnificationAnimate opening apps, and Automatically hide and show the Dock. Try changing the Genie effect to Scale as well.
  • Try keeping your Mac from overheating as it may also result in performance stutters and slowness. In case of overheating, check if multiple windows are open at once. Or if there are dozens of tabs open at once in your web browser. If yes, close or merge the multiple windows and minimize the browser tabs by closing those not much in use.
  • If only a certain app or program makes your MacBook slow, seek help on related forums. If couldn’t find a fix, remove that buggy app and find a replacement.
  • If you are on a macOS version older than OS X High Sierra, you can help yourself by looking for and removing all the duplicate content you have on your Mac. For example, all the twofold files, folders, documents, and other content. Otherwise, don’t bother yourself if you are on High Sierra or the latest OS X as Apple’s advanced APFS file system today don’t let the duplicate (copied) files any extra space on your computer.

Why is my MacBook so slow and lagging?

In order to run efficiently, Macbooks require frequent updates. If you don’t update your Macbook periodically, you may experience stutters and inevitable slowdowns. In addition, ample storage space is also essential to keep your Macbook running efficiently and ensure peak performance.

Why is my MacBook Pro freezing?

Failing SSDs is the main culprit behind a freezing or stuttering Macbook and the only way to resolve this issue is by taking your Macbook to either an expert repair shop or having it fixed in Apple Technical Care Center

Lisa Antonio
Lisa enjoys technology & has built many laptops and enjoys tinkering with technology!