For Snow Leopard Speed Freaks

Last Modified: Jul 25, 2013 10:12 AM

Hello and welcome to my User Tip.


This user tip is designed for experienced users who want Snow Leopard (10.6) Mac's to run at their absolute fastest possible.




It's a series of easy hacks, browser preferences and rebuild, hardware advice for maximizing your Snow Leopard Mac's performance.


This is NOT designed for OS X 10.7 or later operating systems, sorry. Upgrading OS X from 10.6.8 to 10.7/10.8 will not make it faster.


This is not designed as a repair system, although software fixes will obviously result when everything is replaced with new stuff.


For software fixes on a existing system, see this: ..Step by Step to fix your Mac However if your going to erase everything and install 10.6.8, then you can use this tip.


This is for Early 2011 and earlier Mac's that originally came with Snow Leopard from the factory or 10.4/10.5 Intel processor ones that were upgraded or are going to be upgraded to 10.6.8 and remain there for maximum performance (not going to the slower 10.7 or later versions)


Those who "shoehorned" Snow Leopard onto their later OS X 10.7 issued machines know how to go about doing that again But can apply the advice given here.


If you upgraded to a later version of OS X (like 10.7+) and want to downgrade to 10.6.8, or your present Snow Leopard Mac is acting slow, and your capable of doing the steps here, then you will have a very fast machine again. But you need to read this first for file preparation before downgrading to Snow Leopard.


How to revert your Mac to Snow Leopard




Be sure you understand the above and are clear about what your going to do, data destruction is going to occur.



1: Backup your user files off the machine to a regular external storage drive


Make sure to write down all your account names, passwords, email addresses, export bookmarks, programs and their activation keys. Because everything is going bye bye. We are not going to restore from TimeMachine or Migration Assistant, only user files will be returned manually to a brand new install.


If your downgrading from a later OS X version make sure the versions of programs on the older OS X 10.6 will run your presently altered files. You may have to export the neutral data (like jpg, mp3, .txt, and so forth) out of those proprietary file formats so they can be reimported into older versions of those software's support files.


iTunes and right click on iPhoto Library to "show package contents" to grab a copy of the Originals or Masters folder containing your original files. It's because 10.6 programs may not be able to read the newer programs changed file formats.


As a extra precaution, I highly advise you to download Carbon Copy Cloner, then format a blank powered (no port powered!) external drive in Disk Utility to be 1 partition, Option: GUID with OS X Extended Journaled and click Erase and Security > Zero All Data. (or move the slider one spot to the right in 10.7+). Then when that is complete use Carbon Copy Cloner to clone the existing boot drive to the external drive. This will also take some time, but it's a bootable backup and you can access it in case you forget something.


Do NOT use TimeMachine for this backup procedure, leave that in case you need to restore the older system for some reason, disconnect the TM drive.

TimeMachine will not work "backwards" it's all forward type backup and restore system.


Most commonly used backup methods




2: Evaluate your current hardware and see if you can upgrade


Download the free MacTracker and look under Apple Menu > About This Mac > More Info for details like the model and find your machine on MacTracker.


The purpose with this is to evaluate if you can put more RAM memory and or a faster boot drive into the machine and it's specifications


For boot drives you need to look at the SATA your machine has. I advise a 7,200 RPM drive for SATA I and II, or a SSD for SATA II and III connections.


If you can't upgrade the boot drive to a faster one, it's no bother you can proceed here even with a stock 5,400 RPM drive as it will be quite fast regardless.


However RAM does play a big part in a machines speed so you should maximize that, you can do it yourself if it's not a sealed box.

Install/upgrade RAM or storage drive in Mac's




3: Erase and install OS X 10.6


How to erase and install Snow Leopard 10.6


Erase the ENTIRE boot hard drive with the Security > Zero Erase All Data option (SSD's no need, just Erase or format) and then come back here for the speed tweaks.


The Zero Erase procedure/software hack will attempt to map off as many bad sectors as possible, thus your reads speeds will be more reliable and fast. It takes some time but it's worth it and it flags a bad or failing area of the hard drive in advance, so you can have it immediately replaced.


Install order for software as follows:


OS X, first login and setup with user name, software update to 10.6.8 and repeat until clear.


Do NOT enable Filevault, it's a CPU hog. Do NOT install always on anti-virus.


In 10.6.8 Apple included OS X anti-malware for OS X malware, if you need more for Windows filth cleaning, then I advise the free ClamXav as it run as you need it and not eating CPU cycles or causing issues in the background, freezes, delays etc.


Install any and all possible programs from original sources making sure they are compatible and updated for 10.6.8,


Install iLife from the disk or 10.5 disk using Pacifist from CharlesSoft. Software Update for that too. Tweak the OS the way you want.


Last and only last, restore user files and accounts from the files on the storage drive you made earlier.


Do not go over 50% of the boot hard drive filled (use Activity Monitor) for maximum performance, never more that 90% filled. OS X needs room on the drive for swap space and downloads.


The more your OS X boot partition is over 50% of the hard drive filed, any data on the second 50% of the drive is going to be slower and even more slower as the hard drive fills up further after that. So frequently used programs and OS X should remain at close to be being first on the drive as possible. With user data allowed to expand and contract into the slower parts of the drive if necessary as it's accessed less often.


You can partition the boot drive 50/50, this way you will always keep OS X and your data fast on the first 50% partition. The second 50% can be a clone of the first for portable backup needs (software protection and undelete ability only, for hardware protection use external clones too) or for those times you have files you don't care if it reads slow (or for BootCamp or whatever)


SSD 's are equally fast on all parts of their hardware so you can fill them to about 90%, however if it gets too near full it can slow down a little supposedly.



If for some freaky reason you did something wrong in the install order or later have slow performance on your hard drive, then do this: How to safely defrag a Mac's hard drive


If visiting a web page and your machine is slow, try resetting Safari caches and or do #12 OnyX cache cleaning routine here:  ..Step by Step to fix your Mac



Installing Rosetta


Rosetta is a compatibility for older PPC based software, even though you may have 10.6, a lot for software was written for PPC and thus allowed to run on 10.6, but won't do so unless Rosetta is installed.


Apple would download this to your machine via the Internet if it was required and not installed, but you might have to use the 10.6 method now.




Have a portable Mac and using TimeMachine?


You might have noticed some substantial drive space going to "Backups" on your boot drive. This is so you can use TimeMachine to restore deleted files while not physically connected to the external TimeMachine drive.


This can cause a slowdown problem on boot hard drives (only, not for SSD's) because hard drives get slower the more they are filled up past 50%, so with TimeMachine local backups taking space it's forcing your new files to be written and read from the slower parts of the drive.


If you don't want this taking up extra space on your boot drive and not prone to accidentally deleting files, or for more security reasons you want you delete stays deleted.


Then enter this into Terminal program: sudo tmutil disablelocal  press return and entering your Admin password. Turn off TimeMachine in System Preferences and back on again after a few minutes to see if your drive space is reclaimed.


To re-enable it: sudo tmutil enablelocal


Advised to turn off local backups BEFORE connecting a new TimeMachine to your speedy Snow Leopard machine. In fact consider bootable clones instead as this way you can keep a pristine 10.6.8 boot copy on a external drive to restore/boot with.


Most commonly used backup methods




5: OS X 10.6 tweaks for speed


These will speed up the general user interface speed of OS X


Open Terminal and paste each line and press return/enter


defaults write NSGlobalDomain NSWindowResizeTime .001


defaults write _FXShowPosixPathInTitle -bool true

defaults write workspaces-swoosh-animation-off -bool YES


defaults write DisableAllAnimations -bool true


defaults write IKImageFlowShowFrameRate 1


defaults write autohide-delay -float 0



Reboot the machine for the changes to take effect.


Source and restore commands, other tweaks:



You may also want to explore the options the free TinkerTool also has.  (some may be duplicates of the above)




6: Browser tweaks for speed


Your Wifi router if your using one, should be Wireless N and configured with a WPA2(AES) encrypted non-hidden network.


Use the 5Ghz channel if your Mac can handle it, some have dual bands and one band will adjust for slower Wifi computers.


You'll have to see what the Airport specifications for your machine are. It might not be able to handle strictly 5Ghz. Then a Ethernet cable would be faster, but if it's a laptop then that's a hassle and your stuck on the slower Wifi bands.


Even though WPA(AES) is CPU hog, I find it's better to be secure than have a someone lunching on my bandwidth or hacking it.

WiFi security issues, at home and WiFi hotspots



Obviously the speed of your Internet Service Provider will make a serious impact, so opt for the fastest, most reliable one, for most users 20+ mb per second download is very decent for most everything for a single user for Internet use only.



Fastest browser


Download the free Firefox web browser here:


Install Ad Block Plus and enable the automatic updates. You can whitelist your favorite sites so they make advertising revenue.


It speeds up the browsing display and keeps malvertising) down to a minimal.


Turn off Java in all browsers preferences as it's a security nightmare, and try not to install Flash (but likely can't avoid it) so disable it in Add-ons when your not using them and keep them updated for security fixes.


Highly advise installing NoScript and dragging a "Temp Allow All" button to the Firefox toolbar, this disables all scripts (javascript, flash, java, etc) by default and makes pages render faster and more secure until you need such things, then you click the Temp button. A small hassle, but great security and  more speed as only the bare site is loading which much of the time is all you need. And if you do need it on a highly visited site, you can whitelist it.



Also if your finding that your zooming the web pages a lot, you can install NoSquint (and even Theme Font & Size Changer) and set a default zoom level for all webpages (images and everything), this way they always appear at the size your require. A  wireless two button smooth scroll wheel mouse works great. Also Firefox has some  hardware acceleration and smooth scrolling features in the Preferences > Advanced.


Web browsing for hard of seeing users





This is for if and only if you have a broadband connection from your ISP.


Once Firefox is installed follow these instructions:


Type "about:config" into the address bar and hit enter. Scroll down and/or search for the following entries:


Alter the entries as follows:


network.http.pipelining to "true"  (click on "false" to set to true.)


network.http.proxy.pipelining to "true"


network.http.pipelining.maxrequests to some number like 30. This means it will make 30 requests at once.


plugins.click_to_play and set to "true" (this will not run Flash/other plugins unless clicked)


network.http.max-persistent-connections-per-server and set (from 6) to 8


browser.tabs.animate: "false"


Right click anywhere on the page then click on new -->string then a window pops up enter content.notify.delay then ok, then put its value: 0


Right-click anywhere and select New-> Integer. Name it nglayout.initialpaint.delay and set its value to "0". This value is the amount of time the browser waits before it acts on information it receives.



What this will do is instead of your browser making only having one download pipe to a website, it opens 30, thus downloads  the page elements simultaneously instead of one after another as stock browsers often have to do for those on slower Internet connections. The benefit for you is increased page rendering speed and for the server it gets your request filled faster so they can tend to all those on closed devices like tablets and smartphones who have to one slow pipe because their processors and graphics are weak compared to normal computers. There is not any increased performance past 30.



Although Safari is the faster stock browser on Mac's, a tweaked Firefox is faster on broadband connections. Pages just snap on the screen when Safari is still showing a loading bar.



Despite everything you can do, there is still the problem of older processors and graphics which on Mac's almost nothing can be done to improve it.


10.6 is the ideal performance OS X version for all Intel machines Early 2011 and earlier. It's faster than 10.5 (graphics) and faster than 10.7 and 10.8 with less of a memory footprint.


Apple is issuing updates to Snow Leopard as of this date of this User Tip update, July 1, 2013 and it's presently a good portion of OS X version market share.


See the chart here of OS X version market share according to Net Applications data.


OS X 10.4/10.5 need to upgrade, 10.6.8 ok still



If you want to continue running Snow Leopard until the hardware dies and should Apple ignore security updates, I suggest eventually installing Deep Freeze Mac and then reducing your online risks (banking, stocks etc) just in case.


Apple did issue a retroactive 10.5 (Intel) update because of Flashback, so now they are paying a bit more attention to older OS X versions now than before.



Thanks for reading and enjoy the sweet performance.