Nothing speaks Apple computers more than the iconic MacBook Air. Wildly successful since Steve Jobs first slid the Air out of an envelope on 2008 Keynote, its popularity is hard to argue with. Even after clocking 10 years it stays true to its design aesthetics - thin, light, and capable – and it is still for sale to date. The only thing that’s really been changing in the Apples’ MacBook Air lineup, besides a few minor design refreshments, is the internals.

Notebook’s exterior still looks relevant, and it should not come as no surprise that many MacBook Air users still hold onto their machines. It’s the performance that is not quite on par anymore. So what is it that you can do to help your tried and true MacBook serve you a shade more?

Why Is My MacBook Air So Slow?

Before diving in, note that you will have to cross-check all the information in this article with your exact MacBook configuration. You can do so by heading over to Apple Menu > About This Mac. This should help clear the air (pun intended) regarding the configuration you’re running.

macbook air specifications

Your Startup Disk Is Almost Full

Super slim form-factor comes at a cost as all internals are being made smaller to fit the chassis. This includes the disk technology and its capacity. Since Late 2010, MacBook Air disk capacity ranges between 64, 128, and 256 GB SDD.

macbook available storage

It was a decent-sized drive for the days, yet currently this space can be filled up in no time which makes MacBook Air especially prone to the issue. Full startup disk on a Mac is never a good for a number of reasons. Your MacBook performance will immediately go from sufficient to dumpster fire, and macOS will start having trouble with swaps, caches, temp file, and even maintenance scripts. To check how your drive space is allocated open About This Mac > Storage from within the Apple Menu. If you notice that you have less free space than 15-20% of the total drive capacity, then it’s time to make some room.

Limited RAM Capacity

Another hardware aspect of the MacBook Air that can cause potential stutters and beach balls is its memory. Prior to 2015, even the beefy top-spec MacBook Air was available with the maximum of 4 GBs of RAM. And while 4 gigs aren’t terrible, you won’t find yourself multitasking much.

Unfortunately, the Air never offered RAM upgradability which means you’re stuck with what you’ve got in your memory department. However, what you can do is step up your RAM management game by actively monitoring its use and proactively quitting unused apps.

Juiced Out Battery

Batteries don’t do well at aging. There is a fixed limit to how many charge cycles your battery can take before being considered “consumed” by Apple. In the case with MacBook Air, the maximum cycle count is 1000. This means that you should not expect your battery health to be any good when this number is surpassed. You can determine your cycle count by holding the option key in the Apple Menu and clicking on the System Information. Select Power and look for Health Information.

battery charge cycles mac

What does battery have to do with performance you may ask? Well, lucky for you, MacBook users are not getting the same treatment as the fellow iPhone users. Your CPU clock speed will not be limited in any way. In fact, you can continue using your MacBook Air to its full potential even with a consumed battery plugged using the right power adapter. It may lead to additional stress and heat on your hardware, but nothing critical.

When on battery power, however, performance can be indirectly impacted. Lack of stable charge can lead to sudden shutdowns (which is never good), forced energy saving, dimmed screen brightness, etc. If you plan on keeping your MacBook, then investing in battery servicing may be worth the $$$.

Sweep Out Junk & Make MacBook Air Cleaner

Already noticed you’re not meeting the advised 20%-free-space cap? Then you should be setting off on your optimization journey with drive cleaning.

Having drive capacity this small should put you in a mindset of constantly staying on top of things stored on your disk. This means, first of all, sweeping out all kinds of files that you don’t need, especially in the Downloads folder where tons of stuff tend to get moss-covered. Second, keep up with what’s in your Trash as files that are sitting in your bin are still technically taking up invaluable SSD space. Empty your Trash regularly and if you keep forgetting – enable Apple’s automatic Trash cleanup. Go to Apple Menu and choose About This Mac. Next, navigate to Storage, click Manage and enable Empty Trash Automatically.

empty trash automatically macbook

On second thought, the forgetful folk will appreciate MacFly Pro. The app doesn’t just offer the cleaning suite and utilities that you may be used to by now, but also something called Smart Assistant. MacFly Pro enables you to do all the routine MacBook cleaning from removing cache and temp data, to deleting unneeded localizations, to finding duplicates and much more. Smart Assistant, on the flip side, runs background scans and analyzes files for you to clean. When subpar data size exceeds acceptable limit, Smart Assistant will remind you to clean up your drive.

macfly pro smart assistant

Clean your startup disk using MacFly Pro (or manually if you prefer the hands-on approach) to maximize free space. It should put you in the spot where you have enough space to get your MacBook Air back to fair performance. In case it doesn’t pan out, you should probably be considering a drive upgrade or moving big media files to external storage.

Supplementary Settings on Clear MacBook Air

Few additional adjustments can be made after clearing the startup disk. These adjustments are aimed at optimizing the use of RAM and improving boot up time.

For instance, you can prevent apps from launching upon startup in order to reduce the time taken to boot up your MacBook Air. Open System Preferences, then click on Users & Groups and select Login Items. Add or remove item by using the “+” and “-“ buttons. Ideally, you want only to keep useful applications only.

macbook air login items

They say when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. And when Apple gives you 4 GBs or less of non-upgradable RAM, you do the same – make the best of it. Get back to MacFly Pro, the app you’ve used to clear out your drive, and look for Memory module. Next time you run into RAM-demanding work, simply hit the Clean button to maximize available memory. It won’t magically add a few extra gigs of RAM, what it will do is unload idle background apps from your memory and free it up.

Like most Apple notebooks, MacBook Air suffers from lack of upgradability and battery wear. Its dated hardware is still capable of comparable performance on average tasks, but don’t expect it to shine when dealing with demanding operations. Your speed-up options mostly come down to software optimization and drive cleaning. Finally, instead of attempting MacBook Air hardware upgrade start saving up for a wiser investment into a new computer.

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