Submit Hint Search The Forums LinksStatsPollsHeadlinesRSS
14,000 hints and counting!

A small collection of performance hints System
A brief collection of tips to enhance perceived and actual speed of OS X on your machine:

Review login-in items
If you added login-in items in System Preferences -> Login Items, review them. Some of them you may not need anymore.

Disable Disk Journaling
Journaling may make your filesystem less prone to errors, but it does so at a large performance decrease. If journaling was enabled before, you can disable it in the Terminal by typing sudo diskutil disableJournal /

Don't use a login window on a single-user system
Disabling the login window if enabled (System Preferences -> Accounts -> Log in Automatically) will make booting up faster (not just counting the time needed to type the password.)

Don't use "suck-in" minimizing
"suck-in" minimizing can be enabled in TinkerTool, but uses more proccessing time than "scale" or "genie".

Disable menu fadeouts
Download and install FruitMenu and go to System Preferences -> FruitMenu and check "Disable Animated Menu Fadeouts." This will make menus snap instead of fading in and out when you use them.

Disable window shadows
Use ShadowKiller (free) or WindowShade X (shareware), both from Unsanity, to disable windows shadows. This might slightly increase performance on Quartz Extreme computers and drastically on regular Quartz computers.

Speed up 'sudo' operations
If you missed this hint, use it to speed up 'sudo' operations by about a second.

[robg adds: Some of these have been published before in other hints; if you're interested in more tips for affecting the speed of OS X, check out this hint from February of 2002. Some of the info may be a bit dated, but there's still some good advice there as well. Personally, I'm more than happy with the speed of OS X on both our G3/500 iBook and the new 12" G4/867 PowerBook, but if you're not, these hints can help.]
  • Currently 1.33 / 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  (3 votes cast)

A small collection of performance hints | 19 comments | Create New Account
Click here to return to the 'A small collection of performance hints' hint
The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
A small collection of performance hints
Authored by: bluehz on Apr 07, '03 11:59:14AM
I know this is going to sound crazy - but I have been astonished with the results. Have been discussing this in a thread in the forums recently.

I run OS X on a G4/400 and it has consistently maxxed out the CPU at %100 and load avgs. over 3 many times. For months I have been posting about "what's the deal!" and most everyone gave the stock answers - but nothing ever seemed to calm the CPU usage down. Most times - If I did a fresh restart - the system was great for a day or so then it would become bogged down. The whole time I would constantly see CPU usage in the %90-100 range - even when idle. This is crazy - especially since I have 1.2G of RAM installed!

Anyway - just for the heck of it I decided to try a theming pkg this weekend and try and relieve some of the stress of Aqua rendering. I have NEVER been a fan of themes and eye candy in general - but there is some evidence and documentation at that removing some of the Aqua interface (e.g. theming) can relieve some CPU stress. In the past I have tried themes before and in most case - yes - they did relieve some stress on the CPU, but they were so half-baked that many of the interface items were squirrely, ill-rendered, and in general amateur. And yes - like any one out there that has used one of these theming apps before - I have been bitten by the "theme bug" that renders your system unbootable - until you fix the problem.

So needless to say - I was a bit scared of trying theming again.... but hey.... I like to live on the edge. So I downloaded the latest Duality 4 (theming app) and found a nice theme (not flashy, more platinum like - but with X flair) and tried it out. I have to say I have been running solid for three days now and I am nothing if not flabbergasted at the results I am seeing. Using MenuMeters (while not scientific or probably even accurate) I can keep a fairly good eye on CPU usage. As I said before - it normally hovered in the 90-100% range. After switching themes - my system CPU usage ranges from about 2-3% to 10% and my user usage ranges from 10-20% to 40-50% on average now. That?s a remarkable difference if you ask me. I have not even seen the 100% mark since installing the theme. Right now I have 12 major apps open including biggies like Photoshop 7, Illustrator 10, Acrobat, and others. I am typing this in Safari - and previously any typing in a browser would spike the CPU something fierce - I am currently watching fluctuation between 20-30% right now with all that open and typing in Safari.

Now while I don't want to become a proponent of theming - I can not refute the results I am seeing right now. I personally believe that theming has progressed passed the amateur phase and at least with the theme I am using "Rhapsodized" - all the GUI elements are complete, and perfectly rendered. Be wary though - there are still many flawed and amateur, uncooked themes still floating around.

If you have a desire to try this out get the following:

I recommend the manual install pkg - this will allow you to fix your system in single-boot mode should you have any problems.

Duality 4
This is theme changing app.

This is the particular theme I am having such great luck with.

[ Reply to This | # ]

A small collection of performance hints
Authored by: trevor on Apr 07, '03 12:33:09PM

Most times - If I did a fresh restart - the system was great for a day or so then it would become bogged down. The whole time I would constantly see CPU usage in the %90-100 range - even when idle.

It sounds like you have an HP printer driver installed on your machine. Remove it and your excessive usage should go away.


[ Reply to This | # ]
A small collection of performance hints
Authored by: Bioinformatics on Apr 07, '03 05:48:35PM

You can get this effect if Classic crashes out on you - or at least I do...

What happens with me is like this: I open an ancient copy of Word under Classic (can't justify the ridiculous price of the OS X version). I work for a bit then eventually hide Word and go off working on other stuff with OS X apps, leaving Word and Classic lurking in the background. Eventually, hidden in the background, Word does a nasty (what's new?) and ties up Classic. (Its a pain: here is an app which is being left to itself, yet it manages to crash out... and it happens with disgusting regularity)

If you look at 'top' in Terminal at this point, you'll see TruBluEnv (Classic) taking up basically all the CPU that is available after other apps have been given their chance to execute. So if the other apps are taking a little shy of 20% (incl. top itself), TruBluEnv wil show a little over 80%. Basically Classic has gone ape-shit.

Use option-command-escape to bring up Force Quit and kill off Word and Classic. Look at top again and things ought to be more sane...

[ Reply to This | # ]
A small collection of performance hints
Authored by: bluehz on Apr 09, '03 10:36:03AM

Nope - no HP printers or drivers installed.

[ Reply to This | # ]
A small collection of performance hints
Authored by: rickg17 on Apr 07, '03 04:55:01PM

The amount of RAM you have will not materially affect your CPU usage. CPU usage should be in the single or low double digits if the system is idling with no open apps. To fix this, open the Terminal and type "top -u" (no quotes of course). This orders the results in decreasing CPU %. Watch this for awhile and see 1) what the split between system CPU usage and user CPU usage is and 2) what things are at the top (no pun intended) of the list when CPU is spiked. I'm betting you have one thing that is behaving badly. Rememeber that top itself sucks up andf 10% of CPU so use it sparingly...

[ Reply to This | # ]
A small collection of performance hints
Authored by: ptwithy on Apr 11, '03 07:53:23AM

You can make top suck less by adding '-s 10' to mean poll every 10 seconds instead of the default 2. Also, hitting space while in top will cause it to update immediately.

If you don't go for the Terminal, Process Viewer is a GUI front-end on top.

This is handy for finding Carbon apps that are still polling in their idle loop, and hence wasting CPU cycles. Quit them when you are not using them.

[ Reply to This | # ]
A small collection of performance hints
Authored by: alajuela on Apr 07, '03 02:47:25PM

Some of these are great, but I'll tell you what. Window shadows are far more important to me than I ever realized. I opened up my WindowShadeX and eliminated the shadows, and suddenly lost all sense of depth on my screen. It was amazing. It is true that the Theme I am running--Milk--is probably more shadow-sensitive, but still, I'm not sure I want to give up that sense of depth.

[ Reply to This | # ]
Disk Journaling
Authored by: sebastienb on Apr 07, '03 03:04:58PM
"Disable Disk Journaling"

Ok, I've heard from both ends of the spectrum, some saying there's barely a difference, other saying it slows everything to a crawl, but never any real hard evidence. Does journaling really affect the system, and how so? Is it:

  • read/write speed?
  • CPU usage?
  • WHAT?!?!??!?!?!?
Does anyone have numbers, or *something* that quantifies any of these arguments?!?!?

[ Reply to This | # ]

Disk Journaling
Authored by: aranor on Apr 07, '03 03:35:46PM

It will slow down file access (read/write) somewhat, but I have no data on how much. It probably really depends on the computer setup.

[ Reply to This | # ]
Disk Journaling
Authored by: Bioinformatics on Apr 07, '03 05:55:41PM

I'm not an expert on this by any stretch of the imagination, but my impression is that journalled filesystems are shouldn't be that hard on system. They - in principle - should only tie up some RAM (for the tables they use), and soak up a little background CPU to write contents back to disk when CPU is available. There should be little effect on reading performance. How go the system is at balancing tasks might come in play, too. But none of this should be a bg hit on a well-configured system. There will be a little overhead - there is another system service running - but it shouldn't be dramatic.

[ Reply to This | # ]
Disk Journaling
Authored by: DanFrakes on Apr 07, '03 07:03:13PM

According to Apple, the performance hit is significant. OS X Server (which offers journaling as a standard feature) has been tweaked to reduce this hit; however, OS X standard hasn't. I have a feeling that OS X standard will eventually offer journaling as a standard feature, and by that time OS X will have been tweaked to minimize this performance hit.

That being said, the truth is that journaling is really a server-level feature. It was developed for computers with very large volumes where (1) data integrity and (2) minimal downtime are of utmost importance. For the average user, you're better off keeping it disabled and simply backing up regularly, IMO. You'll get better performance, similar reliability, and more functionality (you'll be able to use fsck, Disk Warrior, and other disk utilities that can't be used on journaled systems without a bunch of caveats).

[ Reply to This | # ]
Disk Journaling
Authored by: DaveD on Apr 08, '03 11:24:06AM

I'm sorry, but I must say that I disagree. I have used journaling file systems on BeOS, Linux (ext3, reiserfs, etc), and the journaling has in no way slowed down the system, or caused any sort of hit in system performance. While I am not saying that Apple's has issues, or that the slowdown is something that will be worked out as things mature, I do know that journaling should not cause a performance hit <when properly implemented>.

[ Reply to This | # ]
Disk Journaling not a big deal
Authored by: SOX on Apr 07, '03 11:20:01PM

Reading what apples says about I think you can expect journalling to take a hit of
virtually zero on reads from disk
around 10% on writes to disk on average.

Note however writing to disk is not something you really do much of (compared to reading from disk). furthemore just because your writes are 10% slower does not mean your computer is 10% slower or tied up. Your computer can multi-task and while its waiting for disk seeks and such it may well be doing other things.

if 10% on write is keeping you up at nights (and personanlly disk error keep me up, not disk writes), then you can change the settings on journaling.

you do not have to journal your entire drive. you can selectively journal different chinks of the file system.
removing journalling from the swap partition, or /tmp makes complete sense and constitutes the majority of your disk activity when things seem to be getting slow anyhow. you could also create a filesystem directory that has journaling turned off where you can put all the large files you are writing that dont need the extra security provided by journalling (e.g. large photoshop files).

[ Reply to This | # ]
Disk Journaling
Authored by: sgi_oh_too on Apr 07, '03 11:47:30PM

A while back, I wrote a research paper on journaling filesystems. Really, there can be a noticable amount of lag introduced depending on the implementation. SGI's XFS, Be's BeFS, IBM's JFS and softupdates in the BSD BFFS (not really the same as journaling) are by far the best implementations, and thus all result in 'almost' transparent operation in regard to speed. Hacked journaling add-ins like that of HFS et al ... are not usually good performers. If the rumor mill is correct, HFS may not be around much longer anyways. But, journaling is not just for servers, if you have a laptop, it can be invaluable in the situation of an empty battery. So, those of you that are with it, hop on the Darwin project and code us a new filesystem with metadata support and a good implementation of journaling! :)

[ Reply to This | # ]
boot optimizing the file system mount MYSTERY
Authored by: SOX on Apr 07, '03 11:31:06PM

On my computer I have TWO mysterIES that ARE driving me nuts. at boot time there is a very very long (maybe a minute?) wait while the computer mounts the filesystem. Its not doing an fsck or anything its just mounting the file system AFTER A CLEAN restart or shutdown. One can hear a furious amoun of disk activity. (I know this is the file system mount from booting with the command-V option).

Finally after this ends, the computer continues quickly through the rest of the lauch, quickly starting journalling, and a slight pause if the airport is on to set the network. then there is a brief delay while it creates my login and desktop.

Finally it mysteriously hits the disk again just as it finishes the startup items (stickies and terminal app). on and on, ans slow as a snail (hard to change windows, or get a response from the terminal). then it stops and all is well.

if I run TOP during this minute or so of disk grinding I dont see any application gobbling cpu time. the load is about 60% idle.

I think something is hitting the disk (and causing all this "idle" cpu load). but I cant spot the culprit.

is there any tool that can tell me who is grinding on the Disk??

and why does the file system seem to take so long to mount?

it did not do this when it was new. I currently have about 65% of my 60Gig disk used. At times I have had more of it used, so it occurs to me there could be some fragmentation of the disk I guess. Not sure how bsdUnix copes with that, and I'm too scared to use norton utils since there lots of horror stories.

[ Reply to This | # ]
Re: boot optimizing the file system mount MYSTERY
Authored by: hayne on Apr 08, '03 12:54:22AM

Two comments:
1) Have you done 'fsck' yourself to make sure there isn't something wrong with the filesystem?
2) You can use 'sudo fs_usage' to get (voluminous) info on what processes are reading & writing to disk.

[ Reply to This | # ]
boot optimizing the file system mount MYSTERY
Authored by: Anonymous on Apr 08, '03 03:40:11PM

I had similar problems but after

update_prebinding -root / -force

and a restart everything was fine again!


[ Reply to This | # ]
boot optimizing the file system mount MYSTERY
Authored by: johnsawyercjs on Sep 04, '05 03:37:06PM

With very slow disk reads, it's also worth checking for bad blocks on the hard drive--I see a fair number of those on my client's hard drives. If a drive has bad blocks, sometimes they can be "fixed" by formatting the drive with Disk Utility's option to zero all data, but at least half the time, the bad blocks return, so it's better to just replace the drive.

[ Reply to This | # ]
Thread about Theme Performance
Authored by: jason mark on Apr 09, '03 11:22:22PM

Before installing themes to improve performance you may want to read through this thread:

Based on what I've seen which some themes improve performance *slightly* most of them slow things down....

[ Reply to This | # ]