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I'm running a black MacBook 4.1. Intel Core 2 Duo @ 2.4 GHz, 2 GB RAM, 250 GB hard disk drive, bus speed is 800 MHz. It's about three years old in excellent shape externally. I treat this thing like a baby.

It used to run awesome, but now it's super slow at everything. I get the spinning pizza of death constantly. It takes a long time to boot up or load any program, even Safari and iTunes. iPhoto is terribly slow. The Internet doesn't work properly and it reminds me of a buggy PC.

I've formatted it and re-installed Mac OS X 10.6 (with all updates), and I've done the disk repairs process. As an iOS developer this is driving me crazy, but luckily I have an iMac to work on in the day which is fast. I'm ready to format it again, but that didn't work last time. After the last format, I copied back files from an external drive so maybe the offending files were hidden in there somewhere.

Here are the hard disk drive and RAM specifications. It is upgrade-able to 4 GB of RAM.

Hard disk drive: The Fujitsu Mobile MHY2250BH is a 250 GB, standard hard disk drive. Its burst transfer rate is 150 Mbyte/s. This is a 5400 RPM drive and comes with an 8 MB buffer.

RAM: two sticks of 1 GB DDR2 SDRAM, speed: 667 MHz.

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Just some clarification; when you copy files back from an extenal, does that mean using time machine? Time Machine backs up everything, including system files. If you reinstall and then restore from time machine, it will also bring back your crummy old system files. –  Jeshii Jan 21 '11 at 16:41
    
@Jeshii - I copied back my iPhoto Library, iTunes, and Documents folder which is a lot. But I didn't use Time Machine. It was copy and paste. Any idea where these crummy system files are and how to get rid of them. –  MakingScienceFictionFact Jan 21 '11 at 17:21
    
(As an aside: iPhoto is one of the few Time Machine-aware applications. When using Time Machine backups, then first activate iPhoto and then select "Enter Time Machine" to have a nice integrated Time Machine. So, totally unrelated to your question: you might consider using Time Machine for future backups.) –  Arjan Jan 21 '11 at 19:43
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9 Answers

I had a white MacBook some time ago, which was also very slow. Did everything I could - installed OS X Lion and Snow Leopard, added a new HDD and RAM. Nothing worked. In the end I opened it and realized the problem was it was heating up so much that the CPU was throttling. So, after cleaning the fan and chancing the thermal paste, everything's back to normal.

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I think you haven't maxed out the RAM; I got the same laptop as yours. The suggestions in the other answers are completely great. According to my record, your MacBook can take up to 6 GB or RAM (Apple mentioned 4 GB, but other people successfully installed 6 GB). Check out "mactracker".

BTW, if you can move your iPhoto library to your iMac completely (and maybe cut your music collection in half), try to buy an SSD. A little bit pricey, but if you can get an 80 GB one (and if it's enough for you), this is a real speed boost. It will lengthen the life of your laptop for another three years.

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Good call on cleaning up iTunes and iPhoto. Will do. –  MakingScienceFictionFact Jan 28 '11 at 18:14
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HDD is no problem. Open the Disc Utility program, which is located in the "Utilities" folder of your "Applications" directory. Highlight your hard drive from the list and have the program repair the permissions. This is an easy way to correct some common computer errors which could be slowing your hard drive down. If you use iMovie with Mac OS X 10.3 Panther, and FileVault is enabled, performance issues can occur if your project is located in your encrypted home folder (including the desktop) Another option is to back up your important files, erase the hard disk, then reinstall Mac OS X and your backed up files.

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HDD may be cluttered.

Remove unneded programms. If fails getting speed Reinstall it. It will be same effect as on ned HDD. i dont know why should HDD have problem if its on desktop and not been in 10 earthquaces. If fails install free Ubuntu and forget about mac and paying for programms and mac viruses- any viruses. download it from ubuntu.com

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Do you mean earthquakes? It's a macbook. So it does move around and the HardDrive is the only moving part beside the optical drive. I can understand why a rotating part would wear after 3 years. –  MakingScienceFictionFact Jan 28 '11 at 18:19
    
Couse if nothing is making HDD be moving a lot then it cant miswrite and make a bad block.HDD is no problem. Reinstall all from new (before that backup all u need and installations) will have bigger effect but takes ur time or defragment HDD but may have small effect. –  Kangarooo Jan 28 '11 at 20:47
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The first step is understanding why it is so slow. What is it doing when it slows down? Is it swapping? Is it having I/O errors on the HD? Check Activity Monitor for RAM usage and Console for any significant messages. And what do you mean by "the internet doesn't work properly"? If you're a developer, you should know that "it doesn't work properly" doesn't cut it as a problem description.

That said, assuming it's not a HD problem, the best upgrade you can do on that machine is increasing the RAM to 4 GB.

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Essentially safari is super slow in loading pages and often refuses to load pages. I am ruling out the local wifi because Safari on the iMac is solid. –  MakingScienceFictionFact Jan 28 '11 at 18:17
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I totally agree about replacing the HD. Depending on model of Macbook it can be very easy to replace the drive (see: http://manuals.info.apple.com/en/macbook_13inch_harddrive_diy.pdf) As stated by other users, this can be the source of slowdown. Sometime Disk Utility will tell you nothing is wrong with a disk, you replace the drive and it works perfectly, so clearly there can be bad sectors or head read issues that impede performance but don’t show up on the radar.

I’m also curious if your Macbook runs perfectly after you did a install and prior to importing back your data.

Rather than restoring from Time Machine, you could either a) create a Temp dummy account and use Migration Assistant to import your account back in. b) if you want to be super cautious, reinstall your apps, and bring your data back in piece by piece. Be careful about account names and passwords so you don’t have Privilege issues.

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Thanks for the manual. I will try the re-install soon and test it then. –  MakingScienceFictionFact Jan 28 '11 at 18:15
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I'm going to suggest that you replace the existing hard drive with a new, larger capacity drive. You've already maxed out the ram on this model I believe, or I would recommend maxing that out as well. You would like to select a new 2.5in SATA drive that has a large cache (32mb-64mb), low latency, and seek time, probably 7200rpm instead of 5400rpm. Most drives on newegg.com seem to show these stats, so it shouldn't be too hard to narrow down.

The Larger drive would be better to avoid fragmentation, and hopefully also have faster seek time and better buffering than the factory hard disk which may also improve performance.

Also, be sure you have all system updates applied. The initial release of snow leopard didn't support the Intel GMA X3100 graphics with the 64-bit kernel and had to use the 32-bit kernel, but this was addressed in some more recent system updates and the 64-bit kernel is now supported in 10.6.2 (according to wikipedia entry http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intel_GMA#Mac_OS_X on the Intel GMA)

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Thanks for the specific advice on the hard drives, very helpful. –  MakingScienceFictionFact Jan 22 '11 at 19:24
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You could install more RAM. I'm not sure how much this specific laptop will take, but I'm sure Google will tell you if you put the model in. I'm not sure how much this will help, but another option would be to upgrade the GPU (I know it is a laptop.).

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I do not believe upgrading the GPU is an option here. –  Jeeva Sep 25 '12 at 9:50
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Despite reformatting the disk and reloading the OS you may still have a disk problem that is causing the Macbook to slow down. I have experienced slow downs like this before and the drive checked out okay using Apple's disk utility. However after replacing the HD with a new one the Mac's behaviour returned to normal. HD replacement on the Macbook you describe is very easy, only a few minutes work.

Hope this helps

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