Mac OS X Reload For Better Performance

Brad McAfee
Brad McAfee used Ask the Experts™
Do you find that it is helpful/pruduent to reload MacOSX "every once in a while" similar to how Windows users to so with their PCs.  

I have a MacBook Pro early 2015 running 10.14.2 and it used responsive and never freeze for a few seconds or be slow to start up.  I've done all the optimization/clean up/memory elimination/et cetera I could to do it and it just doesn't feel "as good" as it is did originally.  However, I do use it daily (all day basically) for work.

Would a reload help or is the hardware just wearing out?

(I know there is one way to find out but I just wanted to get some opinion before I go to the trouble of doing a complete reload!)
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Prudent NO.
Helpful, YES sometimes
Recommended, NO unless you've a serious problem.

The OSX updates from 10.11 to 10.12 ... 10.13.. and now 10.14 will perform some cleanups automatically anyway

The hardware does not "wear out" exactly but you can slowly consume the RAM with a load of apps and processes running in the background.  This will slow the computer as it juggles data in and out of limited RAM.

Its also worth bearing in mind that OSX has a number of scripts that run periodically which clear up caches and log files to stop them getting bloated.

A simple trick is to create a NEW user account on the computer .. logout and login as that user and see if the system performs better/faster etc. and if it does then it points to settings/options on your own user profile.

If that makes little or no difference then its more likely the increasing bloat and features of OSX which come with each new version are getting harder and harder for your CPU to deal with .. which slows everything down.  There's not a lot you can do about this apart from upgrade every few years to get the latest CPU and HD etc. if you want optimal performance
Fractional CTO
Distinguished Expert 2018
To expand on Eoin's comment.

1) Reloads may or may not make any difference.

2) Hardware never wears out. Normally it works or is dead.

Exception: There is one exception. If you have a physical/mechanical drive in your machine. As heat builds up, especially when disk is spinning + CPU is running hot, some components may perform adversely due to heat.

The only real test for this is to replace your mechanical drive with an pure SSD device (not one of Apple's Fusion drives, must be pure SSD).

3) Keep in mind the primary problem for computer's freezing up is because of disk i/o + specifically swapping.

Tip: To determine if your machine is swapping (code/data in use exceeds RAM capacity, thus spills to disk) run the top command in the Terminal program.

Look at the top paragraph of output, end of one of the lines, for something like...

... 225(0) swapins, 3503(0) swapouts.

Open in new window

If these numbers continually increase, then you've hit swapping + the only fix is to either add more memory or shutdown tasks using a large amount of memory.

4) The other performance killer is the mds system, which generates the Spotlight search indexes.

Sigh... No good way to say this... Apple's implementation of this code bites rocks... Horrible design...

Tip: To know if mds is the problem, run the top program or Activity Monitor program, during time when your computer starts freezing.

If any programs of the form mds* are running, then mds indexing is the problem.

Using Activity Monitor during when your computer freezes can be highly useful, because you can sort programs by CPU usage, memory usage, disk write throughput. Sometimes this data taken together can yield clues for debugging.

5) One last source of performance nightmares.

Keep in mind OSX runs the process called kernel_task which handles things like i/o + also attempts to reduce heat in machine, when other processes cause CPUs to spin over 100%.

Let's say you have a 4 core machine, with a hyperthreading CPU, you have 8 threads total.

If you run top + see some program, say ffmpeg or Chrome, taking near 800% of CPU or the total of all all running programs is taking near 800%, then you have one or more run away processes which will heat up your machine.

At the point where you machine fans start spinning up, kernel_task will begin CPU cycle stealing in an attempt to cool down your machine.

Chrome is the usual culprit. This occurs when you visit a Website tooled by less than competent developers or Website running Ads which are sometimes served as flash videos. All browsers react this way + Chrome is the only browser where you can easily diagnose + fix this problem.

When problem occurs, navigate to Chrome -> Settings -> Task Manager, then look for some page(s) spinning CPU over 100%. Kill all these pages from the Chrome task manager + avoid this site again.

Tip: Running a well tooled Ad Blocker like uOrigin in Chrome will fix many of these problems.
David FavorFractional CTO
Distinguished Expert 2018

Note: If your problem turns out to be the mds* suite of programs running, close out this question with mds* as the culprit.

Then open another question about How to reduce mds system load on Macs, as the fix lives best in its own thread.

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