Optimizing OS X Yosemite

Disabling pretty and automatic:

Disabling “eye candy” such as Transparency and turning off automated features such as Widgets will improve Yosemite performance.

Reduce Transparency:

Go into the  Apple Menu, select System Preferences, and click on Accessibility.

Yosemite System Preferences

In the Accessibility window check the Reduce Transparency box.

Reduce Transparency

Change Minimize Windows to Scale:

Any effect that is used when minimizing windows unnecessarily consumes system resources.

Go into the  Apple Menu, select System Preferences, and click on Dock. Change the Minimize windows from Genie effect to Scale effect.


Uncheck the Animate opening applications box. You can check or uncheck any of these features. Remember: less is more.

Disable Widgets:

Widgets are cool looking and convenient, but they use quite a bit of system resources. Not updating Widgets significantly speeds up rebooting and improves performance. Click on the Widgets toggle in the upper right corner.

Widgets 2

Uncheck, deactivate, and remove as many items as possible from both the Today and the Notifications panels.

Disable the Extensions that you don’t need:

Go into the  Apple Menu, select System Preferences, and click on Extension.


Go to the Today options in the left column and uncheck any or all extensions you don’t require.

Disable sleep, Power Nap, and screen saver:

Go into the  Apple Menu, select System Preferences, and click on Energy Saver.

Energy Saver

Uncheck everything except Prevent computer from sleeping automatically and Start up automatically after a power failure. Move the Turn display off after slider to the far left set to Never.

Disable Notifications:

Go into the  Apple Menu, select System Preferences, and click on Notifications.


In the left column click on and highlight the Do not disturb option and uncheck as many boxes as possible.

Notifications 2

In the left column click on and highlight each of the features (Calendar, Face Time, Mail, Messages, etc) and uncheck as many boxes as possible. Change to 1 recent item for each feature.

Speed up new Finder window generation:

In the Finder pull down menu select Preferences.

Finder Preferences 2

Set the New Finder windows show to the place you go to most often. This could be Desktop, Documents, Music or your user home folder.

Finder PreferencesYou can also control several other aesthetic features by checking or unchecking these features.

Removing unused languages:

Go into the  Apple Menu, select System Preferences, and click on Languages & Region.


Make certain that only the language(s) you use are listed. Highlight and delete unused languages and add any languages you may need using the + and – buttons.

Removing the presentation order for Spotlight:

Go into the  Apple Menu, select System Preferences, and click on Spotlight.

Spotlight 2

In the Spotlight control window select the Search Results tab.


You’ll see a list of Applications with check boxes next to them. Uncheck all of the boxes. There is no point to even leave “Music” for a server because your library/player software doesn’t access through Spotlight.

Disabling Login Items:

Ideally you want only one Application to automatically open when you login to your computer. If you use your Mac as a dedicated music server you would only want to open your player software at Login. If you were a professional, you would want your accounting software, CAD software, etc. to automatically open at Login. At the same time, you want to disable any other applications that may automatically want to open at Login.

Go into the  Apple Menu, select System Preferences, and click on Users & Groups. To streamline the Login items click on the Login Items tab at the top.

Users & Groups 3

Note: this is the same window you can add guests and users with restricted access. For example, you could allow your children to log on to your media server and play recordings from your NAS drive, but not have access to change any of your administrative settings.

You’ll see all the Applications you’ve set to automatically open at Login in the main window. You can remove any optional automated fluff Apps, such as iTunes Helper, to improve system performance.

Users & Groups

I recommended that you upgrade iTunes with a high-performance music/media player Application.

Disabling Automatic Software Update:

Go into the  Apple Menu, select System Preferences, and click on App Store. Uncheck the Automatic Updates box.

App Store 2

Note: this is the same place you can manually check for updates.

I can not recommend more strongly that before updating you always make and test (yes, test) a backup of your drives.

App Store

Often updates have bugs or conflicts with drivers. Having a bootable backup allows you to easily return to your former working system, when as is quite common, an update screws up your computer : P

Repairing disk permissions:

For optimal system performance it is recommended that after you do any OS X updates, Application updates, or transfer large quantities of data, that you Repair Disk Permissions. This is a good habit to get into.

You can find Repair Disk Permissions in your Disk Utility Application.


Activate your Launchpad. Disk Utility is located in your Other folder.

Yosemite Other

Note: use the Esc key on your keyboard to return from the Other folder to the rest of your Launchpad Applications.

Disk Utility 3

To Repair Disk Permissions simply highlight the disk you want to repair.

Disk Utility 2

When repairing disk permissions is done you will see Permissions repair complete at the bottom of the Show details window.

Disabling the Time Machine automatic backup:

Go into the  Apple Menu, select System Preferences, and click on Time Machine.

On the left side of the window, you’ll see a slide selector that has off at one end and on at the other. Make sure the selector is switched off.

Time Machine

Warning! Your drive will inevitably fail: back up often. Using a bootable backup will save you a significant amount of time when you have to reinstall your boot drive.

Disable the automatic journaling feature:

Just as before, launch Disk Utility by activating Launchpad, clicking on the Other folder, and selecting the Disk Utilities icon.

Individually select any drive on the list. Hold down the Option button on your keyboard and click on the File drop-down menu. Slide down the File drop-down menu and select Disable Journaling. If you don’t hold the Option button down while selecting the File drop-down menu, Disable Journaling will not be a selectable option.

Disable Journaling

Repeat this for all drives.

If you wish to enable the automatic journaling feature for a drive, simply repeat the above process and select Enable Journaling in the same drop-down menu.


6 thoughts on “Optimizing OS X Yosemite

  1. Hey Ben,

    This is a pretty radical set of recommendations. I’m a Mac computer consultant for a living, so am familiar with most everything you describe here, but I think you could do a better job of explaining why users should do the individual steps. In particular, the suggestion to turn off system sleep should be accompanied by a description of how a user should do to avoid screen burn-in. I know it’s much less likely than it used to be, but it can still happen, depending on the display setup they are using. I’m also very curious as to what the benefit is of turning off journalling on all hard drives.

    I would imagine you often get questions as to the ‘why’ of many of your suggestions, so it would be great if those answers were included in your post as well.

    Keep up the good work!


    • Hi John,

      Thank you for your supportive comments.

      Please keep in mind that most of our customer are operating a music/media servers. For those listening to music only they mostly operate their system “headless” without monitor, keyboard, or mouse, and view/control using an App on a pad or phone. Those that are using their HDTV as the monitor simply turn off their TV when it is not in use.

      In any event, your recommendation to add a paragraph on managing screen burn in is a good one. I’ll make a note of that and try to add some info on that with the next set of edits to the blog. BTW, what would you recommend as a good strategy to manage screen burn in?

      As for the “Journalling,” that too is more targeted to the AV user as opposed to the office user. It does save a bit of system resources and speeds things up slightly, but it is more significant in AV server applications.

      All the best,


  2. Can’t thank you enough for this optimization guide. I am new to the Mac world, but following your very detailed and easy to follow instructions, I created a bootable SD Card, installed a fresh copy of Yosemite and optimized my late 2012 Mac Mini to use as a music server.
    Since I boot from the SD Card, one other thing I do is after every reboot I go to Disk Utilities, right click on my internal HDD and click unmount. No need for the disk to spin and possibly add noise.
    Excellent post!

    • I personally don’t like either one: too bloated with all sorts of unnecessary features. I prefer simpler versions of OS X like Snow Leopard.

      In their infinite marketing wisdom Apple makes their computers only forward compatible. This means you can’t load a version of OS X that is older than the one your Mac came with.

      My favorite Mac Mini for Audio is the best of 2012 with the i7 dual-core CPU and video co-possessor. Even though Apple claimed it could only recognize 8GB of RAM the i7 version can use 16GB of RAM. This 2012 Mac Mini runs on Snow Leopard through Yosemite.

      The question becomes more of what age Mac Mini you may have and then which version of OS X that your specific Mac Mini runs on. Then it becomes a question of which OS X you can run performs best with your favorite player software and/or DAC drivers. With some combos Yosemite will perform better and with some Mavericks will perform better. Some combos won’t work at all.

      Since player software companies and DAC manufacturers usually optimize for the newer versions of OS X there is always a zone of years of OS X that work with most players and DACs. Eventually older versions of OS X become no longer compatible with new players and USB drivers.

      Of course that’s why my company will soon be offering an optimized/minimized Linux option with JRiver that will be more stable and perform better than any OS X or Windows.

      I’m tired of all the buggy operating systems from Apple and Microsoft. I swear Apple must have hired the same clowns that engineered Windows Vista to create Yosemite : P

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