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MacBook Pro performance becoming too slow

by Satomi Masukami / July 16, 2010 12:05 PM PDT

I have a macbook pro, 2.4 ghz, 2 gb ram, graphics nvidia geforce 8600 - it's about 3 years old.

The problem is that my mac is becoming slower and slower, sometimes it becomes unresponsive with simple tasks such as loading several tabs in the browser (i normally use firefox). And it happens too with photoshop, illustrator and basically any software.

The worst, is running 3D software in it. Some few months ago i could work fluently on a 3D project, now i just can't make anything that it just breaks down or crashes. Even scrolling windows is a pain in the b*tt.
I know that 3D software might be way too heavy for a 2gb ram and my graphics ain't the best... but i'm sure something is wrong with my computer because it was working fine some months ago...

I've been making software updates, i use Onyx like once a week to run the scripts, i've made a SMART hardware checkup and it says it's everything ok...

The harddrive is 160 gb and it has 20gb free space. It doesn't have much space left, but i don't think this could be the source of the problem.

Could it be a graphics card problem? i've been looking for drivers update in nvidia website, i can't find them for mac.

Or maybe some more extra ram could resolve the problem. But i don't know if i want to take the risk of spending 200 euros on + 4gb for nothing....

i'm clueless, any tips/help is greatly appreciated!

PS - Sorry for my crappy english, it's not my native language Silly

Thank you!

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I would suspect
by Jimmy Greystone / July 16, 2010 2:22 PM PDT

I would suspect the HDD is at fault here. SMART verification isn't always that reliable. Get out your restore media and run Apple Hardware Test (the extended version). I'm betting your HDD will be flagged as failing. HDD failures in laptops is probably the single most common hardware problem people have. It's a small wonder you made it to 3 years. You must really baby your laptop.

And I must say, you have far better english than quite a few native speakers. If you hadn't said something, I probably never would have even thought it's a second language. You are to be commended IMO, since english is a language of exceptions rather than rules. You have a grasp of the word "the" and you know the difference between to/too/two, contractions, even some colloquialisms such as the way we have a penchant for overusing the word like and "crappy". Usually people in Europe are taught British style english, which has some subtle differences. I wish I could speak a second language with even half your demonstrated skill. Seriously.

Give Apple Hardware Test a whirl and let us know what it turns up. One of the two restore discs that came with your system will say something about running Apple Hardware Test right on it. I assume you can do the translation given your obvious command of english. You must be near impeccable in your native tongue.

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mac slowing down
by Satomi Masukami / July 17, 2010 11:22 AM PDT
In reply to: I would suspect

Hi Jimmy, thank you for your answer!

I'been looking for further info about Apple Hardware Test, it says i would need the install disk, which i don't have it with me anymore...
Anyway i'll look for someone who can borrow it to me, then i'll let you know.

About being an HD issue, it makes all sense because everytime i make something on the 3D software i gets like "thinking" and then i hear the disk needles putting on or out. It seems like the disk is on sleep mode or something and only wakes up when i require some more activity, then it takes some long to be active again.

If this is another HD problem, i'll be very disappointed lol. About 1 year ago i broke it and i had to replace for a new one. After some months ago, motherboard died too... -_-' And I take good care of it, this mac is like my baby!

Thank you for not censuring my english! haha

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You can always
by Jimmy Greystone / July 17, 2010 1:23 PM PDT
In reply to: mac slowing down

You can always take it to an Apple store if there's one nearby. Try and find some time when they're not too busy, and they might be willing to run AHT on it for you. If you ask nicely, they might take it in the back and run AHT's big brother, ASD, which only certified techs are able to get.

Or you could just take a chance and buy a new HDD, put it in yourself. Usually that is one of the few easy things to do with Apple laptops. If it turns out I'm wrong, just get an external enclosure for it and use it as a backup drive.

And there's nothing to censure about your english. I was dead serious when I said yours is better than many people who grew up speaking it. It's only if I look really hard that I find minor little mistakes. Like instead of "borrow it to me" it would be better to say "loan it to me". To borrow something is more of an active word, while loan is more passive, which is what you'd want if someone is giving you something. Your part in the process is passive, not active. All in all, hardly worth mentioning compared to the way plenty of people mangle the language.

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Hard drive
by onemoremile / July 24, 2010 12:38 AM PDT

First of all, your English is excellent.

I would suspect that your Hard Drive has too little space left. My understanding is that, in general, a computer performs best when about 20% of the space on the drive is empty. Your drive is beyond that threshold. If your 3D software uses a scratch disk during processing, it will grab some space on the hard drive to help with the work. You might want to consider clearing some hard drive space by offloading part of your data to an external drive. The other option is to replace the internal drive, which is not as hard as you might think. I just replaced the internal drive on my 2.5 year old MacBook Pro. Check around and you can find an online video that will show you how.

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That's partly true
by Jimmy Greystone / July 24, 2010 1:09 AM PDT
In reply to: Hard drive

That's partly true, but there's no magic number. Most of that really comes from the days before multi-GB drives were common. So 10-20% would be a couple hundred MB not GB.

I would say 20GB, give or take, is plenty of free space. And if you reach the point of thrashing (no free memory or disk space for swap) you'd know it because you're system would become completely unresponsive. It's an all or nothing proposition too. Up until that last bit of disk space is gone, the system will continue to operate normally.

It's not an all around bad thought, but your information is at least 5-6 years out of date at this point. Still, that's not too bad. Plenty of people are still giving out 10-15 year old advice about laptop batteries. Advice for a completely different class of battery that you pretty much only find in cordless phones and power tools these days. So, you're at least ahead of the curve.

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Old advice
by onemoremile / July 24, 2010 2:54 AM PDT
In reply to: That's partly true

Then again, I was just chewed out by an Apple "Genius" two months ago for not fully discharging the battery in my MacBook Pro at least once each month!

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by Jimmy Greystone / July 24, 2010 6:40 AM PDT
In reply to: Old advice

Yep, that would be some of that 10-15 year old advice I was talking about.

Apple's retail arm hires more based on personality, not any kind of technical skill or knowledge. I can't count the times I've gone in asking a pretty simple question, and I get this deer in headlights sort of look.

One time I went to an Apple store, asked if they had a specific tool that is used for various aspects of working on Mac systems. I get a blank stare, then, "What's that?" Another time I went in looking for one of those ACMT certification packs, and they absolutely could not grasp what I was talking about. In both cases I wasn't really expecting them to necessarily have them in the store, it was mostly a case of I was in the area already, so figured what the heck. But the responses I got were quite something. I later came to find out more about how Apple hires people for those stores, and they look for those annoying people who you swear have a hidden Prozac IV drip somewhere on their person. The overly chatty and energetic type, who present the young hip persona Apple is trying to convey so they can fleece all the mid-life crisis yuppies. I do have to commend them on really doing a bang up job at that.

If you ever do manage to find an Apple "genius" who actually knows what they're doing, be sure to get their name. It's like finding an honest and capable auto mechanic. You strike gold like that, and you've got it made. You want to ride that wave until they figure out that they're worth way more than Apple's going to pay them, and move on to other things.

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I agree
by ElementalMac / October 4, 2010 10:28 PM PDT
In reply to: Yep

I took my MBP in for an optical drive problem (1 month before the end of apple care!!) and told hm I think it died due to the all the dirt and dust that is sure to be in my Mac. He said there shouldn't be dirt and dust in there. I told him that I'd spent most of my MBP's life out in the field with it and I don't see how there couldn't be dust in it. He actually said Mac's don't have that problem!! HA!
After my Apple Care ended a couple months ago, I opened my MBP up, and found just what I'd thought, layers of dust. My light sensor sure works a lot better now...
I"m not sure why they wouldn't clean it when they had it open to put the new optical drive in, but at least they didn't break anything...

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You don't want to know
by Jimmy Greystone / October 4, 2010 11:34 PM PDT
In reply to: I agree

You don't want to know some of the things I've found in systems. I have no idea how bits of food and other crap get inside unibody systems, since they're pretty well sealed from the top, and the only major opening is the exhaust vent, but none the less there's quite often rather disgusting crumbs and leftover bits of food in systems.

I haven't seen it personally, but legend has it that at one point someone returned a Mac and when they opened it up they found a literal apple core in it. At first everyone thought they meant like a debugging core dump file... Nope. And supposedly another time someone returned a system where they gutted the insides and replaced it with a cooked bowl of rice. I thought it considerate of them to at least cook the rice first.

It's just important to remember, and I'll say it again, that Apple doesn't generally hire people based on any kind of technical know-how. They want the annoying energetic types who you'd swear took an extra prozac after getting out of bed, and would probably need horse tranquilizers to take down.

Maybe I'm more in the minority than I would have thought, but I prefer a nice calm, almost subdued retail environment. I don't need to be peppered with 50 pointless questions in 2.4 seconds by someone you want to strangle after 5 minutes. And it would be ever so nice if the one or two times I actually go into an Apple store, they knew what I was actually talking about. I get that it's probably rare that someone will come walking in wanting to know about whether or not they sell the certification training packs, and if they don't carry it in the store no big deal, but I expect them to at least know that's something they either do or don't carry, not have to go run into the back and ask someone.

But I digress. Apple is like any other major company. Some departments are exceedingly well run, while others are so dysfunctional the head of the department must be related to the CEO's mistress or something. And ultimately Department A will have absolutely no idea what Department B is doing and the other way around. Their retail stores are not exactly what I would call one of their better run departments.

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