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I have had my Mac for a couple years now and after formatting its still sluggish and I always get the rainbow wheel and is causing me some serious time and frustration issues.

A friend has suggested switching to Linux because he said it can do everything a Mac can, but more and is very stable if you get the right one.

I am hesitant to do this because I have got so used to my Mac but I have got to the stage now where, I feel I have to do something.

What are the advantages of Linux over Mac and if I was to switch what Linux should I go with?

I am running an early 2009 Macbook. 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo Memory: 4GB I have just upgraded to OSX Lion.

My friend gave me another option of formatting. Which could be an option.

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You might as well have written "Insert flame war below." –  frabjous Aug 7 '11 at 20:15
    
There are lots of missing details here, in particular - what Mac you have (PPC or early intel) what OSX version you are running, etc. –  crasic Aug 7 '11 at 20:17
    
Description updated –  RSM Aug 7 '11 at 20:20
2  
If you haven't diagnosed your Mac's problem, how do you know it's not a hardware problem that a different OS won't fix? –  Spiff Aug 7 '11 at 22:53
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closed as not constructive by Nifle, techie007, Hello71, RedGrittyBrick, slhck Aug 8 '11 at 11:07

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5 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

A lot of people seem to have a slow Mac after upgrading to Lion. Try to backup your personal stuff and do a clean install of OSX 10.7.

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Well, your friend is wrong - neither is "better" than the other. Each has strong and weak points, and there is software available on OS-X that you can't get anywhere else, including on Windows. And yeah, a lot of that software is really cool software. :-)

There's a good possibility that your hard drive is going bad - failing drives often display this symptom, and if you haven't done anything else to the system, a clean install of OS-X should run fine.

To help you decide, create an Ubuntu or Mint (probably Mint if you're used to OS-X) live-cd/usb and give it a try - run it live, or install it. Or better yet, do both. If it runs better live than installed, it goes back to a hard drive issue.

Edit: Well, okay, if things went bad after upgrading to Lion, then I suggest doing a complete reformat and re-install. A lot of systems have issues when upgrading an in place OS, including Linux. It's hit or miss.

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If you have a traditional HDD rather than an SSD, the symptoms you describe sound like the early stages of hard drive failure. Run the free demo of SMART Utility to see if your hard drive has any Pending, Removed, or Reallocated bad sectors. If it has any at all, it's starting to fail and you should replace it immediately. Note that Mac OS X's built-in Disk Utility will often say "SMART status: Verified" even when there are bad sectors, so you really need to run SMART Utility, not just Disk Utility.

Formatting is not enough. Formatting with "Zero Out Data" will probably cause the current crop of bad blocks to be taken care of, but once a drive has any bad blocks, it's probably in a death spiral.

By the way, it's worth noting that SMART Utility queries the drive's controller and returns results immediately; it doesn't have to waste time testing the entire disk, so there's no time waste involved.

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Have you tried opening up your Mac and clearing any dust away from the CPU or other areas?

Dust build-up can cause poor airflow and thus components overheat. Most modern processors have thermal throttling that limits the CPU speed when they are overheating and so clearing the dust could restore some performance.

Likewise the slow performance could be a sign that your hard drive is either full or potentially failing and replacement with a newer/larger hard drive should not be too difficult to fit.

How to clean your Mac

Here is a page showing how to open up and (basically) dismantle your Macbook which may make it easier.

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I have the same MBP with Snow Leopard and my machine was slow until I increased the ram to 8Gb. Check Activity Monitor >System Memory to see if you have pages outs. This means your occasionally maxing out your RAM and OSX is writing active content out to the hard drive. I rarely have page outs since I upped the RAM.

Your available space on your hard drive needs to be greater than 10% of the total drive space to allow room for page outs.

Lastly, you can run a utility link Onyx to clean out some of the cruft that has accumulated.

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