Make Your MacBook Pro Faster for Editing Photos and Videos

Make Your MacBook Pro Faster for Editing Photos and Videos

My MacBook Pro started to lag, get buggy, and slow down when editing photos and videos. So, I decided to do something about it, and with just a few budget tweaks, it now runs like new again.

I run a MacBook Pro and a Windows laptop to edit my photos and videos because of some software-only features on one platform or the other. Far from being the fat cat that makes me sound like, it's actually just because I never got rid of my MacBook Pro from 2012. It still works great, but after eight years, it's lost a lot of its speed thanks to the myriad operating system and app updates.

So, instead of just buying a new laptop, I set about upgrading my 2012 MacBook Pro in an attempt to make it work like new again, and in this article, I'll go through the process step by step in the hopes that you can do the same and revel in the results.

Upgrade Your Hard Drive

Replace a HDD with an SSD

Solid State Drives (SSDs) have no moving parts, and the read/write speeds are incredibly fast compared with old mechanical hard disk drives.

This is by far and away from the best upgrade I made to my MBP. I switched out the old hard disk drive, which runs on old metal, spinning discs, and popped in a brand new solid state drive. The benefit of running an SSD over an HDD is that there are no moving parts, and the speed benefits are enormous.

I bought one and made a straight swap by unscrewing the bottom panel of the laptop and unclipping a few pieces. The process was simple and there are plenty of guides on how to do it online, but the big tip I recommend is using an anti-static sheet when doing the swap. This stops static electricity from shorting out any vital components and wrecking your laptop. I bought the Western Digital Blue 3D NAND 2.5" SATA SSD, and it's been running happily in my MacBook Pro 2012 ever since.

The boot time is ridiculous now, about 10 seconds compared to a minute and a half (I could go and get a cup of tea before). I also timed how long it took to restart: only 30 seconds! I don't have issues with slow software now either; editing photos and even videos is a breeze. I've noticed it even makes browsing the internet faster.

Get the Fastest RAM Possible

Use faster RAM

A larger capacity and faster running speed of your RAM will help software performance when under load.

RAM, your computer's short-term memory, works by storing temporary information when you're using the computer. It's on small sticks of circuit board with a few silicone chips and is actually easier to replace than the simple steps it takes to swap the hard drive because the RAM holding plates allow them to pop in and out with no tools.

There are two aspects you should look for when upgrading your RAM: size and speed. The capacity of the RAM, whether 8 GB, 16 GB, or more, determines how much information it can hold at one time. Not all RAM is created equally; though it may be the same size, the speed at which it delivers the information depends on the frequency it runs at.

A higher frequency usually means it'll run faster and you'll be able to use your editing apps more smoothly. Get the highest speed (measured in megahertz, MHz) possible. Have a search online for the RAM that's compatible with your MacBook Pro, like these here.

Uninstall Old Software

Uninstalling software

Uninstalling old software will speed up your MacBook Pro (especially if you're running HDDs) and save you space for more photos and videos.

If there's any software you no longer use on your MBP, it'll contribute to the slowdown of your machine. Granted, this is less of an issue if you've upgraded to an SSD, but when any of your onboard storage devices get close to full, the computer can grind to a halt. So, it's a good idea to uninstall anything you're no longer using, especially that free trial software you tried but never bought. Just be sure to empty your trash if you move it there, as it'll still take up space on your Mac until it's cleared.

Use Manage Storage Option

Managing storage on the MacBook Pro

Manage what media is stored on your MacBook and get a better look at what kind of files take up the most space with the Manage Storage option.

Head to "About This Mac," and you'll be able to view and manage the storage. macOS now has a built-in feature to automatically delete old, unwanted files such as old iTunes films and TV shows. This is an extended version of the previous step but can be beneficial for those that use their MacBook Pro as a personal laptop as well as one for editing work. The great benefit of choosing this option is that you can see which files take up the most room.

Prevent Apps From Starting Up

Remove login items on macbook

Limit the amount of software/apps that start up when you log in to speed up boot times on your laptop.

Certain applications will launch automatically when you turn on your laptop, and this sometimes means waiting anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes for the laptop to warm up before you can use it properly. But you can customize which apps start up by heading to System Preferences and clicking on "Users and Groups" before going to the Login Items tab and ticking or unticking the software that boots on launch. Restart the machine and you'll notice a faster start-up time.

Stop Storing Files on Your Desktop

Stop storing files on desktop

Any files stored on the desktop will hang around in RAM, which has the potential to limit other software performance, such as Lightroom, Photoshop, and video editing software.

Any file stored on your desktop is kept in the RAM. If you reallocate these files to a proper folder somewhere under Pictures or Documents, you'll see that you get more RAM back, and this can be used to run your editing software like Lightroom, Photoshop, or Premiere more effectively.

There's More

I could spend all day telling you about little tweaks here and there that vastly improve the speed of your old, slow MacBook Pro, but the above steps should take care of a big bulk of the problems and help get the laptop running quickly again. If you have an old MacBook laying around that you don't use, try the above steps and see how fast you can make it. You might find yourself using the laptop again after all.

Main image by Adriel 00, used under Creative Commons.

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Joe Petolino's picture

This sounds dubious: "Any file stored on your desktop is kept in the RAM."

Deleted Account's picture

Agreed - never heard of icons on your desktop slowing down performance.

M M's picture

The previews might take some computing time. Not sure how Apple manages these. But I don’t think it will be significant unless you have all your files on the desktop which I have seen on some people’s machines. I am talking about thousands of files.

If you still have a regular hard disk, an SSD will definitely provide a huge boost in performance.

Slevin Mors's picture

I found an old thread on Apple's support site. Technically this is true but you are talking about negligible results. Its just the drawing of the icon not the contents of the files in ram.

Joe Petolino's picture

No, technically what he said is not true. The article claims that files on the desktop are stored in RAM, and if you move them to someplace else in your filesystem, you'll get the RAM back.

Greg Wilson's picture

In fact that's kind of true and the advice was valid for very old macs, like Power Mac G4 with Mac OS 9. Now it's less relevant and you're unlikely to notice any performance gain.

toni 2's picture

Best advice: Sell the Mac and buy a PC.

Today I was watching a video on YouTube of a boy editing a photo on a Mac and I was surprised at how slow it was and how caught it was. Unbelievable.

stuartcarver's picture

I rebooted my fairly powerful windows PC at work today, I sat looking at the windows logo and the loading ring for 12 minutes before I could use it.

Let’s not start with all the Mac vs PC bullshit eh.

Carlos Dacosta's picture

Btw, my pc takes 15 secs or less to start up. You have seruois issues on your machine if it takes that long. Perhaps its time to srnd it to a shop to get it looked at

stuartcarver's picture

The point was not about the state of my work computer, it’s about looking at one specific incident then trying to preach that everyone should sell a brand of computer and move to another.... generalised nonsense.

toni 2's picture

A PC at work maybe has a lot of configs, an antivirus, a big network profile, perhaps it must do an update... So it can't be compared with an alone computer.

stuartcarver's picture

And neither can a single YouTube video of a person using a Mac, hardly a benchmark to judge the whole brand by.

toni 2's picture

Obviously there is much more: own bad experience at university, friends and family that owns it...

stuartcarver's picture

Yet pretty much every single professional movie, design and music studio, plus a great amount of photo studios all use Apple, are they all deluded fanboys using inferior equipment? I’m guessing I know what your answer is going to be anyway.

toni 2's picture

I don't know what are the sources you are using. Yesterday I was watching a video about the Mandalorian special effects and there were only PC machines. So, I think Apple is a good toy, but if you really want power... I'm sorry, but the reality is that. No fan boy, only facts.

stuartcarver's picture

I think this conversation is over, I can’t read any more of your bullshit.

toni 2's picture

I think the same about Apple, their toys and their fans.

stuartcarver's picture

Go away troll

toni 2's picture

Go back with facts, fucked fanboy.

stuartcarver's picture

Ok troll.

stuartcarver's picture

Awww the troll only has one word... with his hidden profile, fake name, nothing of use to say, a nobody in every aspect.

toni 2's picture

Only the truth.

stuartcarver's picture

Nope just bullshit, don’t worry I can keep this going forever, I never tire of leading trolls down the path of outing themselves... troll

toni 2's picture

If you don't get carried away by trolls, I don't know what you're doing defending Apple.

stuartcarver's picture


stuartcarver's picture

Told you ill keep going forever, anonymous troll.

toni 2's picture


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