Slow Mac

last update: 6 February 2023

I felt that my 2021 MacBook Pro was 'going a bit slower than normal'. Time to look at some of the reasons why!

I went through many of the suggestions that I found on the Web, and despite being a bit incredulous, things did appear to get better. It also made me think about decluttering my Desktop, and installing
macOS Ventura.

I noticed that downloading Ventura took ages, and it made me wonder
about my Wi-Fi and Internet connection. Later I would check out my Wi-Fi, and I now think the 'bit slow' problem was related to a poor Wi-Fi configuration. This webpage will describe a chronological review of my attempts to 'speed up' my MacBook Pro, including decluttering, installing Ventura, and reconfiguring my Wi-Fi.

Note: I use the word expert when the advice comes from professionals who has provided convincing descriptions of their domains of expertise, and 'expert' to cover anyone from a journalist to a self-described guru who may or may not be providing a correct analysis and sensible advice.

My hardware

I have a 2021
MacBook Pro with the M1 Pro chip, 16 GB of memory, and 1 TB of flash storage.

My laptop is usually connected to a
LG HDR 4K display, and a 1 TB LaCie BackUp (ad-hoc and organised by hand).

I have a 2 TB
Time Capsule, and I also have 2 TB of iCloud storage.

I had not upgraded to
macOS Ventura 13.2, so I was still running macOS Monterey version 12.3.1.

Slowed down…

What do I mean by 'slowed down'?

Initially I noted that for a time Google was asking me to confirm that I was not a robot, claiming unusual activity from my IP address. This is perfectly possible because I move around, and this particular IP address had been almost dormant for the best part of 7 months. After a couple of weeks Google almost stopped asking me to confirm that I was not a robot. See the bottom of this webpage for a more extensive discussion of this problem.

The first 'signs' were when I saw an occasionally slowness in moving stuff to the bin, the odd spinning beachball for a few seconds.

Then when converting and saving png file to pdf or jpg, they might not immediately arrive on my Desktop. Sometimes it took a second or two, but sometimes 10-20 seconds.

I had a habit of just leaving my laptop on all the time, and when I returned and logged in, I would be met with a
blank Desktop and the spinning beachball. I would have to power down, and log-in again.

Another thing I noticed was that in the past my laptop was always at around 100% charge, but for example, today it's connected permanently to mains power, but it's still indicating only 77% charge. But then I disconnected the mains power for 1 second, and since then my laptop is powered to 100%!

Finally, in my new location, the wi-fi signal strength is not as good, but still sufficient, and my Internet connection does drop sometimes, and is often slow to 'come online' as if it has to be woken up. Can this be the source of a 'slow' Mac?

For the rest of the time my Mac appears to work perfectly well, and this is why I detected a possible 'running slowly'…

Start at the beginning

Apple told me that
if my Mac was running slowly to:-
  • Check if the computer’s startup disk may not have enough free disk space.

  • Check if an app required more memory than available.

  • Quit apps that weren't compatible with the Mac.

  • Quit apps not being used.

My startup disk

The startup disk is an
internal disk that contains the macOS system software. It's usually just the internal disk on my laptop and the 'Get Info' told me that my 1 TB Macintosh HD had nearly 600 GB available, and that around 60 GB was 'purgable'.

I also checked my 1 TB LaCie BackUp and that had around 550 GB free, with 157 MB purgable.

I could also check to see how the internal disk was being used. I found that macOS used around 23 GB and my Applications used about 8 GB. Nothing unusual in the list of easy to recognise Applications. Mail was 1.2 GB, but Message was just 2.7 MB. I keep a lot of emails in a kind of archive file, just in case. Music was around 900 MB, Photos was 43.1 GB, and Documents was over 300 GB. Finally there was an iCloud Drive of over 200 GB.

I certainly had some work to do on cleaning up my Documents, but I could not see my Macintoch HD being the cause of any 'slowness' problems.

My next step was to
check the 'health' of my Macintoch HD using First Aid on Disk Utility. Nothing to report.

My apps

I used
Activity Monitor to see how much memory my Mac and apps were using.

Firstly the only 'non-standard' apps I use are Adobe Acrobat Reader, Cyberduck, Firefox, FunBridge, RapidWeaver, VLC, VueScan, and WiFi Scanner.

Running though CPU on the Activity Monitor its good to check out any 'biggish' consumers. In my case the processes RapidWeaver, Finder, 'bird', photoanalysisd, photolibraryd, Safari, etc. did not look out of place. There was nothing unusual in memory usage, energy, disk or network.

I didn't see any need to quit the apps that I was using.

What next?

The obvious ones are:-
  • I should turn off and on more frequently my Mac, since it clears memory and reloads processes.

  • I should close apps when I'm not using them.

  • Often there is advice about clearing cache files, including in Safari.

  • I need to clean up my cluttered Desktop.

  • Check for malware, a suggestion often made by companies selling 'cybersecurity' tools.

  • Finally, update to macOS Ventura 13.2.

So one step at a time…

How frequently should I reboot my computer? Some 'experts' say rebooting "clears memory and stops tasks eating up RAM", getting rid of "digital grit". It is also claimed that it can fix peripheral and hardware issues, and can be a trick to stop computers 'running slow'. Other experts go even further and claim that a reboot can stop computers "getting sluggish or having issues". They also mention that a reboot can "flush the system memory", "solve application issues", "can fix Internet or Bluetooth connection problems",and can "stop memory leaks".
On the other hand other experts claim that it not necessary, except when a system has been updated. Some just note that leaving a computer on 24/7 wastes money. Others think that rebooting daily adds wear on the hard drive. And many experts claimed that computers can be left running for months, without problems, and only rebooted after system installs or upgrades.

It is true I have rebooted occasionally when I've had a wi-fi problem or a printer that did not connect, but most of the time I just let it go to sleep, and wake it in the morning.

Should I close apps when I'm not using them? This a very common suggestion for both computer and phones, etc. The idea is that open apps run in background and closing them improves performance and saves battery life on a phone. This appears not to be true, but an app should be closed if it is not working properly or is known to impact on battery life. Firstly, apps don't run in background, they are simply suspended. There are ways to find out the usage of an app over a pre-set period, and also the power consumption of that app. On an iPhone, Setting>Battery shows consumption over last 24 hours and last 10 days, app by app. Some apps 'misbehave' and can have a high battery consumption, but most will sleep when not being used, and consume less than 1% over a 24 hour period.

The finally word to Apple, which tells us we may want to
quit an app if it uses significant energy. This appears to be the main criteria. It's worth noting that a Mac can be running several hundred background processes, so quitting one or two won't make a difference unless they consume a lot of energy or are 'misbehaved'.

Should I clear cache files? Firstly go to System Preferences>Sharing and select Content Caching, now 'Cache' will be available in Activity Monitor. This indicates the amount of data served from cache for different uses. In my case I could see that 0% had been served over the last 30 days, and obviously 'cache pressure' was also 0%. On the other hand I could also see that under 'Memory' 9.50 GB of the 16 GB was used, and 6.40 GB was cached files. Given that the cache is intended to improve performance, it is not obvious that clearing the cache will have a positive effect. The idea is that OS X stores data in the cache that it needs to access often, e.g. anything from extensions to icons, etc. Of course, if there is a problem then clearing the cache might help, but often this is suggested by vendors marketing their software tools.

Most experts think you can clear the cache, and after a reboot the system will start to rebuild the cache. They say that caches in /System/Library/Caches are generally small and useful, the ones in /Library/Caches are less system caches and much more readily cleared. In ~/Library/Caches is where applications have a cache, usually quite small, but some can be substantial. Overall, this folder can be quite large because of the number of apps holding caches.

What about browser caches? Again, in principle the cache is there to make visits to websites faster. Go to Safari>Preferences>Privacy and select 'Manage Website Data…'. You can see for each website if it has stored cache, cookies and 'local storage'. The stored data for each website can be removed, or all can be removed. You can also find Safari 'local storage' at ~/Library/Safari/LocalStorage. The Safari menu also mentions 'Clear History…' which removes data about the history of web pages visited, the frequently visited site list, recent searches, icons for web pages, snapshots saved for open web pages, list of downloads, and websites that asked to use location or send notifications. The 'Clear History…' will work also across all devices if Safari is turned on in the iCloud settings.

Do I need to clean up my cluttered Desktop? We will look at this question in more detail below, but the answer is that it's good to keep a tidy Desktop, but it's usually not the reason for a slow Mac.

Do I need to check for malware? MacOS has many malware protection features. Under Security & Privacy in System Preferences I don't use FireVault, but I leave the Firewall on. Finally I decided to download the Bitdefender Virus Scanner from the App Store. It told me my Mac was clean. It does require fill disk access, but reports were very positive, and it did come from the App Store. It's worth noting that XProtect is enabled by default as part of OS X.

Should I update to macOS Ventura 13.2? Of course the answer is yes, but the question is when. The latest version of macOS Ventura is macOS 13.2, and it arrived on January 23, 2023. I decided it was time to update because version 13.2 included 22 security updates (many critical fixes) and several new features and fixes including support for physical FIDO-certified security keys that were announced as part of the Advanced Data Protection for iCloud.

Need to focus on the 'blank Desktop' and the spinning beachball problem

This is not the same as just a 'blank screen'. My problem is that after waking-up my Mac, the Desktop is empty and the spinning beachball means that I can't do anything, except reboot.

This problem has been reported before, and the first advice was always just restart the Mac. In my case this fixes the 'problem', but the question remains, why does it happen now?

The usual list of potential reasons include:-
  • Finder malfunctions.

  • System bugs.

  • Conflicts between processes.

  • The interference from the ongoing iCloud Drive syncing process.

  • Malware or virus attack.

Many of the suggestions don't link with the spinning beachball, e.g. corrupt preferences files, files on the Desktop having become 'hidden', etc. This just means the Desktop is empty, but the user can access all the usual system menus, etc. But in my case the empty Desktop is linked with spinning beachball, meaning I have to reboot.

The good point is that no one suggested that the Mac might be ready to fail, etc.

In the past, the advice for those with a blank Desktop and a spinning beachball, was to power down, and restart into Safe mode (continue to press and hold the power button at startup), and then use safe mode to isolate any 'issues'.

According to the latest advice from Apple, if the issue doesn't continue while in safe mode, leave safe mode by restarting the Mac normally. Then test for the issue again. The issue might be resolved.
If the issue returns after leaving safe mode, startup items are probably at fault. Apps can install such items in numerous places, and they aren't always easy to find or recognise. For that reason, its important to installed any available updates for Apple software and third-party apps.

It was said that if update software doesn't help, then try any of these solutions:-
  • Test login items.

  • To learn whether software in the user account is causing the issue, set up a new user account, then log in to it and try to reproduce the issue in that account.

  • Unplug all accessories from the Mac, including printers, drives, USB hubs, and other nonessential devices. The issue could be with one or more of those devices or their cables.

  • Reinstall macOS.

So some pretty drastic options.

So what to do?

I'm not
going for the drastic options just yet. In any case I know I will need to upgraded to macOS Ventura sometime soon.

Firstly, I will close all apps I'm not using at any given time.

Secondly, I will 'Shut Down' my MacBook Pro every evening, and reboot it in the morning.

Third, I will clean up my Desktop.

And I've run a malware check, and everything is fine.

And we will see if I still have a blank Desktop and spinning beachball problem…

So how best to clean up my Desktop?

Cleaning up a Desktop is not the same as better organising what is on the Desktop. Nor is it the same as trying to make it look less cluttered by hiding Desktop icons, or stacking everything along one side of the screen.

Certainly it helps to put files into folders, but the key for me is to try to use the Desktop as a temporary work space.

This means just trying to have things on the Desktop that are in use, and to clear everything away that is not being used.

My main problem is that I use my physical desktop and my Mac Desktop much in the same way. I leave stuff on it so that I don't forget it, but sometime it can stay for months on the Desktop because I'm not sure I know yet what to do with the stuff. As an example I have six screen shots of physical wallpapers I'm interested in. I've order samples, but I still keep the six png files on my Desktop. I know one day I will bin them, but they clutter up my Desktop anyway. Some called the Desktop a 'digital dumping ground', and my question is how to stop dumping stuff on my Desktop. Is it just a question of calling a folder 'Digital Dump'.

One of my biggest problems was when using a 24" monitor there is just a lot more real estate on the screen, and its doesn't look overcrowded. Whereas on the laptop screen it looks decidedly over cluttered and very messy.

First thing I did was to take
an inventory of what was on my Desktop, namely:-
  • 15 folders, including a 21 GB folder and two folders exceeding 0.5 GB each

  • 6 documents

  • 5 jpeg files

  • 4 spreadsheets

  • 10 pdf files

  • 8 png images

  • 2 RapidWeaver files, one 1.31 GB and the other 3.17 GB.

The total on the Desktop was 55 GB.

These folders and files are not physically stored on my Desktop. What I am seeing are icons and titles of folders and files actually stored on my iCloud, along with my Documents folder with 155 GB.

Next was to look at how the Desktop folders and files were grouped together, namely:-
  • One of the two RapidWeaver files is used daily, the other not

  • Three folders and three spreadsheets are used daily

  • Nine pdf files and four documents were waiting for me to do something with them

  • One pdf file and two png files were a group, waiting for me to decide about making a purchase

  • Six png files were also related to a different planned purchase

  • Five jpeg's were waiting to be processed through Apple Photos

  • Four folders contained jpeg images waiting to be processed through Apple Photos

  • Six folders were waiting to be filed definitively

  • Two folders were being worked on daily.

In checking through advice about cleaning up and keeping a Desktop clean I can across a lot of useful hints, etc.:-
  • The Desktop is really just a location in Finder, and is no different from any other folder except that it contains folders, files, etc. that appear on the Desktop

  • That any folder, files, etc. on the Desktop has the same features and functionalities as any folder or file in Finder, the Desktop is just a visualisation tool

  • so the argument is that a big file will react no differently on the Desktop than in any other folder

  • I would regularly use Finder>View>Clean Up to make my Desktop a bit more of a 'structured mess', but using Finder>View>Sort By>Date Modified would at least tell me the stuff that had been waiting on my Desktop the longest (and if you Finder>View>Sort By>None everything goes back to their original position)

  • You can also use Finder>Desktop and sort by date modified, which told me that there were two files that dated from 2017 and two from 2021

  • This might be like playing in the orchestra on the Titanic, but for the first time I also used Finder>View>Sort By and switched on 'Snap to Grid'

  • The one hint that is mentioned by many is Finder>View>Use Stacks, but I will never use it because it just mixes up what I don't want mixed up (i.e. most of my work mixes folders, jpeg's, pdf's, etc.)

  • One suggestion was to have nothing on the Desktop, and to place all the content in custom defined folders in Documents on the iCloud

  • Following on this suggestion, it's possible to create a folder with a name like 'Current', and even drag that folder to the right side of the Dock, or drag that folder holding the Command and Option keys down and place a single link to the folder on the Desktop (I think Apple calls these 'aliases', and you just double-click to open it)

In hunting through Google results for the best way to clean up a Mac Desktop, I was inundated by add's and pseudo advice from vendors. It's a shame there is not a Google 'cut the crap' command. I was amazed by the regurgitated advice that was being proposed, e.g. put things in folders, etc., or even worse 'use a third-party tool'. And of course there was the occasional "add more RAM".

I was also surprised how quickly the 'how to reset a Mac before selling it' appeared, as if a cluttered desktop is next to deciding to sell your laptop and buy a new bigger, better, faster laptop, to solve a Desktop clutter problem!

However, there was some good advice here and there, it was just difficult to find on Googles first 10 pages…

One 'expert' advised:-
  • Not to use 'My Documents' as a default, which is interesting because other 'experts' suggested just the opposite. The risk is 'My Documents' becomes a technical dumping ground for most files or downloads. Keeping important files in this folder, the risk is that they get lost amongst less important files. Consider all of the folders or files that are saved over time, inevitably finding something important will mean digging through all of those old folders and files. I have this problem in two ways, find a particular document, and knowing which document contains the information I'm looking for. That's why I keep a couple of important folder/flies always on my Desktop, and I'm sure my Desktop 'dumping ground' is smaller than any 'My Documents' dumping ground, and a lot easier to clean up.

  • One suggestion was to have everything organised in a root folder on the hard drive, making it easier to back things up since everything is in one place. In addition, if it’s time to upgrade hardware, the complete backup process is more streamlined.

  • There was a claim that organising the Desktop makes it easier to sync files with cloud services or other systems. I think this refers to using folders and sub-folders so not to mix up files, etc., and the fact that Desktop is automatically synced and backed up on the iCloud.

  • Creating an organised structure makes it much easier to find things. A formal filing system makes discovering files or groups of files manually much simple. I keep a kind of 'crib sheet' of my decisions concerning file naming and folder organisation, e.g. as far as possible all my files start with a date

Another 'expert' suggested:-
  • Don't leave files on your Desktop! Whenever you have a file on the desktop on your Mac it uses up system resources. All of the files on the desktop have to be loaded into active memory each time you go to the desktop. This slows your computer down significantly.

  • Files belong either on the hard disk or network storage, not on the desktop. For easy access to files, create a shortcut and put that on the desktop.

  • Having files on the desktop can create a lot of problems. Problems with speed, also some incremental backup programs don't specifically backup the desktop, which means the folders and files are unprotected in the event of a system crash.

  • Leaving 'Tabs' open in a browser slows it down.

  • Don't resent the small amount of time that it takes to save a file to protected storage.

One other comment that is worth considering is that a poor network connection can cause tasks to be sluggish or time-out. With a wireless Time Capsule hardware for backup, and poor network, wireless bandwidth can be stressed and make everything else slow too.

One website put out a
Digital Declutter Challenge consisting of:-
  • Week 1: Take control of your inbox(es), which is about an empty inbox, using folders and unsubscribing to as many emails as possible.

  • Week 2: Deep clean, means deleting everything that is non-essential, right down to bookmarks in the browser.

  • Week 3: Delete duplicates and fuzzies, means getting rid of duplicate and poor quality photos. Know which photos to keep and why, don't just keep photos for the sake of keeping them. Give each photo meaning.

  • Week 4: Set yourself up for success, means cleaning the Desktop, deleting files, emptying trash, …

Bit weak on Week 4, but not a bad way to focus the mind, and put decluttering as a constant background task.

Is a cluttered Desktop a cause for a slower Mac?

The question emerges about the overhead in running an empty or cluttered Desktop. Does a cluttered Desktop really slowdown a Mac? My first impression is that dealing with all the icons on the Desktop 'folder' will not be a major overhead (although it might take a touch longer for large image files to create thumbnail icons). At worst it could be a 1% effect. Syncing with iCloud Desktop is likely to be a bigger overhead if the Desktop had a lot of folder and files on it.

One of the 'experts' mentioned all Desktop folder and files being automatically loading into active memory every time the Desktop is used. If thumbnail icons are created for the files I guess a one-off 'visit' would be necessary. Another 'expert' offered the warning that when files don't create thumbnails but just display default file type thumbnails its time to get worried.

Frankly, I could not isolate a credible and full explanation about how exactly the Desktop works, and the overheads associated with a cluttered and an empty Desktop.

What it did do was force me to follow through the different steps, and which finally brought me to clean up my Desktop.

What was the result?

Firstly, I decided to 'Shut Down' my MacBook Pro every evening, and reboot it in the morning. Secondly, I ran a malware check, and fortunately everything was clean. Thirdly, I cleaned up my Desktop. I didn't remove much from my Desktop but I did reduced things to two large RapidWeaver files, 4 spreadsheets, and 4 folders (each 'hiding' what in the past I had left scattered around on the Desktop itself).

Surprisingly, my feeling was that my 2021 MacBook Pro was a bit more speedy, and I found the cleaned up Desktop a true improvement, if only aesthetically.

Early days, but I not seen a blank Desktop and spinning beachball so far…

And having
shoved lots of stuff into my 'Digital Dump' folder, I have to remember to actually open it and do some serious housekeeping, e.g. delete old files, tag and load images into Apple Photos, etc.

I also made a separate backup of all my important files, and installed macOS Ventura. This proved to be a very longwinded process, but I'm not sure why. But it also left me with the impression that either my wifi and/or Internet connection was 'not optimal'. On the other hand, my impression is that macOS Ventura booted up much faster.

Checking my wifi

First things first, what do I know about my
Wi-Fi settings? Firstly, I could see using AirPort Utility that my Wi-Fi network consisted of a 4th generation AirPort Time Capsule connected in parallel to three different AirPort Express units. Two of those units were 2nd generation, and one unit was a 1st generation dedicated to my Hi-Fi setup. One of the 2nd generation AirPort Express units was nearest to my MacBook Pro, and a 3rd 2nd generation AirPort Express unit was connected in series to the other AirPort Express unit.

Interestingly, there has been a warning about a possible failure of Apple's 5th generation Time Capsule, but not the 4th generation.

I had both 2.4GHz and 5GHz options available, 'Limit IP address tracking' was On, and I had no proxy settings. I could also see weak signals from a number of other Wi-Fi networks in the same apartment building and possible in the near vicinity. Most of the networks were provided by the dominant ISP in the region, and it was the same as my network provider.

Looking in more detail at my network, Airport Utility told me that in fact my MacBook Pro, iPhone 12 Pro, and our LG TV were all connected directly to the Time Capsule, and were not using any of the AirPort Express units as wireless access points. My HP printer was connected to a local node as was a Belkin Soundform Elite (a small music player and iPhone charger). Interestingly, despite the music player and HP printing being almost next to each other (and next to my MacBook Pro), they were paired with different AirPort Express units in different rooms.

The configuration of the Time Capsule and various AirPort Express units was not identical to that I had left in place 7 months ago. And with my MacBook Pro connecting directly to the Time Capsule (with a weak and variable signal),
it was time to reset my Wi-Fi configuration.

I disconnected the three 2nd generation AirPort Express units and started by re-initialising the unit next to my MacBook Pro. This AirPort Express unit was placed at about 20 meters from the base station (my Time Capsule), with three intervening walls (but not much else). I am aware that ideally the AirPort Express unit should be placed somewhere intermediate so that it boosts the signal towards the receiver (my MacBook Pro), however it's not always easy to find a intermediate location with power, etc. I placed the AirPort Express in a convenient location in the same room as my MacBook Pro.

Once re-initialised it took a moment for the newly configured AirPort Express N°1 to take over as the access node for my MacBook Pro and HP printer, whilst the LG TV remaining attached to the Time Capsule. The newly configured AirPort Express showed a certificate for tvOS 10, and it also showed the IP address of my router. Oddly, the Soundform Elite sitting 50 cm from AirPort Express N°1 remained
stubbornly attached to Time Capsule. It also took quite some time for my iPhones to be recognised by the local access node AirPort Express N°1.

The reconfigured AirPort Express N°1
made a substantial improvement. For the 2.4GHz band the Received Signal Strength Indication (RSSI) was -43dBm which is excellent, and with a very good Noise value of -93dBm. For the 5GHz band, RSSI was -49dBm and the Noise was -91dBm. It was also interesting to see that displacing AirPort Express N°1 just one meter in the same room changed significantly the Noise value in the 2.4GHz band (from -93dBm to 'only' -80dBm), but did not affect the 5GHz band.

After about 6 hours, the situation concerning my minimum configuration (Time Capsule and a 2nd generation AirPort Express, plus a 1st generation AirPort Express attached to my Hi-Fi) changed. For some reason my two iPhones were no longer 'attached' to my Wi-Fi network (at least according to AirPort Utility), and the LC TV was now recognised by the 1st generation AirPort Express attached to my Hi-Fi. The Soundform Elite, now sitting 10 cm from AirPort Express N°1, remained
stubbornly attached to the Time Capsule.

Ten minutes later, the situation had changed again. My iPad, which had remained totally invisible, was now attached to the base station (Time Capsule), and both my iPhones had became again attached to the AirPort Express N°1.

Thirty minutes later, the situation had changed again. My iPad had disappeared, the LG TV was now linked to the Time Capsule, and both iPhones had disappeared.

A hour later my iPad, the LG TV, and the ever faithful Soundform Elite were connected to the base station (Time Capsule), and my MacBook Pro, printer, and my two iPhones were connected to the AirPort Express N°1 node.

run the
Mac wireless diagnostics.

I used the WiFi Scanner app to look at my wifi network.

Checking my Internet connection

The two DNS's are the two standard ones provided by my ISP for domestic clients
. It is true that this particular service provider has been criticised in the past for a number of problems. The most common users complaints are about not being able to access certain domains, pages that do not load when browsing with Bing, problems with the captcha to access websites such as PayPal, Dropbox folders not synchronising, and Google pages not resolving. Some sources suggest to change to a different DNS, such as Google's and, OpenDNS Home and, Verisign and, FreeDNS and, etc. Cloudfare with and was recommended by a number of 'experts', although the best known are those of Google and OpenDNS.

You can change the DNS of your router so that this modification is applied, in turn, to the DNS of your connected devices, for example the DNS of your PS4 Movistar.

Change the DNS of your Movistar router by following these steps:

In your browser enter this IP address:
In the user and password sections, enter the data that you can find in your Movistar router, or in the box in which you received it.
Click on the DNS Settings section.
Click on Network.
In the LAN settings section, tap on the DHCP server.
When accessing this page you will find the DNS servers and you can enter the one you want to use.

What I did not do

I did not download a clean up tool.

I did not buy more RAM.

I did not consider simply changing my ISP. Although I would love to if I could be absolutely sure an alternative was noticeable better.

I did not consider switching to another browser.

I did not reduce the frequency of Time Machine backups.

I did not decide to simply factory reset my Wi-Fi network, nor did I try to use an Ethernet cable instead of Wi-Fi.

A word of warning

During my perusal through the comments about optimising Wi-Fi based upon the Time Capsule and AirPort Express, I came across another quite different question involving iCloud and Time Machine.

Apple's iCloud is specifically integrated into the Documents and Desktop folders (as well as Photos). When you enable iCloud Drive on a Mac, iCloud moves those folders out of the Users/[yourname]/Documents and Users/[yourname]/Desktop directories and into its own space managed under the directory Users/[yourname]/Library/Mobile Documents/com~apple~CloudDocs.

In general use, this move won't be noticed, because MacOS sets up symbolic links between where the old Documents folder lived and the new folder that is now tucked under the hidden Library directory.

Two years after introducing iCloud Drive, Apple debuted the Optimize Mac Storage feature in MacOS Sierra. Optimize Mac Storage was designed to solve the problem of users with low-storage Macs who had accumulated a lot of files, or who were running out of space.

The idea is pretty simple. When Optimize Mac Storage is enabled, MacOS keeps the most recently accessed files on the Mac's local drive, but deletes older files locally and keeps copies of them in the cloud instead. Since the older files are stored in the cloud, the theory is they can always be brought back.

To make accessing all your files seem seamless, Apple replaces the full-sized old files with small stub files that take just a couple of hundred bytes instead of the kilobytes, megabytes, or even gigabytes that most files consume.

The trick is that as soon as one of those stubs is accessed, macOS goes out to iCloud, downloads the file and presents it as if it had always been on a local drive. If space is tight, MacOS also deletes another old file from the local drive, keeps a copy of it in the cloud, and replaces it with a stub.

When everything works, this swapping out of older files for recent files is a very useful way to make a lower-end machine with less storage seem to have a lot more available storage.

This swapping capability is really only available to people who have purchased the 200GB or 2TB iCloud+ plans. Macs with only 128GB of storage can make use of the $2.99-per-month 200GB plan, while Macs with 256GB or more can benefit only from the $9.99-per-month 2TB plan.

There is also a 3-2-1 backup strategy involving at least three copies of every file, two of which are on different physical devices, and one of which is located off-site.

With iCloud Drive and one Mac, there are two copies, one on the local machine and one
one the iCloud. With a second Mac, there is a third copy, because iCloud also syncs down to that Mac.

But what about Time Machine, which is shipped with every Mac. Time Machine is a backup program that runs in the background of a Mac and backs up the drive to either an external drive or a drive located on the network, whether that's another Mac or a centrally located file server like a NAS.

The theory is that with one Mac, iCloud Drive, and Time Machine backing up to a server or spare external drive, there is a fully valid 3-2-1 backup strategy and all the files are safe.

Let's look at someone with more storage in the iCloud than on their local Mac. A typical directory managed by iCloud Drive will have files that are actually on the drive, and files that appear to be on the drive, but the the little iCloud icon indicates that they are actually on the iCloud. What is seen is the full size of these files, but actually on the local drive there are only file stubs. So what we see is MB files, but what is actually stored locally is a stub of a few 100-200 bytes. This is how the system saves space on the local disk.

Turning to Time Machine, it runs a regular back up of the Mac, i.e. backing up all the full files on the Mac. But the iCloud files are not actually on the Mac, and the Time Machine does not back them up. Open Time Machine and what is shown are the stubs with the iCloud download indicator. And any restoration attempt will fail because the files are not actually backed up in Time Machine. In addition pointers to the stubs will disappear in older Time Machine windows. But it is true that some time in the past, Time Machine will have a copy of the original files before they were moved to the iCloud, but when was that?

And, imagine that those stubs respect files in a directory stored on the iCloud. Different files in the directory might have been added or modified on different days, and stubs would exist at that moment in time, but only for those files. Recovering an entire directory would mean going day by day, directory by directory to recover all the files, each with a different directory listing on a different day. It's not very practical.

So it appears that 'optimised' files are represented in the local file system, and they're only sort of backed up and not really recoverable.

Back to Google asking me to confirm that I was not a robot

I mentioned that after using one of my IP addresses that had be more or less inactive for about 7 months, Google started asking me to confirm that I was not a robot.

It woulds appear that this problem has been around for at least 5 years, but this was the first time I came across it. An answer in 2020 said that Goggle considered that its detection algorithm was working 'as intended' and that they would not provide assistance for individual cases. It would appear that the 'Unusual Traffic' page appears when Google automatically detects requests coming from a computer network which appear to be in violation of the Terms of Service. The block is supposed to
expire shortly after those requests stop. Sometimes a reCAPTCHA image may be shown, and solving it lets the user continue to use Google services.

What Google considers automated traffic:-
  • Sending searches from a robot, computer program, automated service, or search scraper

  • Using software that sends searches to Google to see how a website or webpage ranks on Google

  • Using an app, program or script to perform a large number of searches in a short time

  • This traffic may have been sent intentionally using a browser plug-in or a script/program that sends automated requests, or by malicious software. If you share your network connection, ask your network administrator for help — a different computer using the same IP address may be responsible.

Some people commented that Google tries to give a kind of trust rating to a IP address, but it was also mentioned that they would down grade the rating for VPN providers and those users not logged in to Google. Also some people questions the suggestion to use Google's DSN. The argument goes that the main reason for Google's action is that it stops them collecting, harvesting and selling private user information.

Dork sytax

Following Googles logic, they say that sometimes the “Unusual Traffic” message can be triggered if people use advanced terms that robots are known to use, or send requests very quickly.

It's worth noting that:-
The issue is related to the network, not necessarily the single computer, iPad or iphone. Google is simply seeing a large volume of traffic coming from a single IP address. Even a large number of devices on a network using Google Search at the same time could trigger the message. Google has no way of knowing how many devices are sharing the same public IP address.
Because the number of global IPv4 addresses is virtually exhausted, many Internet Service Providers assign the same IP address for a number of customers, using their own equipment to keep track of each customer's internet traffic (much like a home modem/router keeps track of traffic for each device connected to it).
The next step is to report the issue to the "network administrator". This could be the person who looks after a home or work network, the organisation whose provides the public network, or the company who provides the home or work internet connection (i.e. the "ISP").
On a home internet connection with an internet service provider allocating IP addresses dynamically, the solution might be as simple as rebooting the modem to get a different IP address.

Sometimes reCAPTCHA is a simple checkbox, sometime images may be shown.

With the checkbox Google will check the clicking position on the box. Bots click exactly on the centre of the checkbox while humans click somewhere on the box. This helps to decide Google whether the user is a human or bot.

1. Check Your IP Address

Google blocks the search results based on the originating IP address. There are large numbers of databases maintained publicly and by private companies to keep track of the suspicious IP addresses. If there are any suspicious activities from your IP address and is marked for spam then Google will throw the reCAPTCHA message and stop you for verification.

Generally internet service providers use dynamic IP addresses with large range. So disconnect the internet connection and reconnect to get the new IP address. Or just wait for sometime then try searching again. Possibly you can reset your modem or router connection for this. Follow the below steps if you want to reset the IP address manually:

Reset IP Address on Mac:

Press “Command + Spacer bar” to open spotlight search and go to “System Preferences”.
Go to “Network” options and choose your active Wi-Fi connection.
Click “Click the lock to make changes” and enable the edit mode by providing your administrator password.
Go to “Advanced…” option and then “TCP/IP” tab.
Click on the “Renew DCHP Lease” to release and renew your IP address.

2. Check Your Network

Sometimes (mostly in countries like China) the Internet Service Provider (ISP) masks the IP address and track your browsing activities. This will cause the complete network of IP addresses used by that ISP to get blocked by security systems like reCAPTCHA used by Google. If you face the CAPTCHA on every instance then approach your ISP and clarify with them on the issue.

The other network issue could be due to sharing of WiFi network. In this case there are possibilities someone else on your network might be sending some automated traffic and Google will stop the searches from the entire network. You can contact the network administrator to address the issue and get more details.

Also you can get an unique static IP for you from your ISP. This will help you to overcome the spammy network problem. Learn more on how to assign a static IP address to your computer.

3. Disconnect VPN

Virtual Private Network (or VPN) hides your IP address and route the traffic from different location. This is used to access the blocked websites and also used mainly for hiding the originating IP address to do illegal activities. Use of VPN is illegal in many countries due to the nature of usage. Though you may use for good purposes, the entire server may not be clean or blocklisted.

Therefore, avoid using free VPN applications and uninstall them from your computer. If you are using premium VPN service, discuss with your VPN service provider and get the appropriate server to connect properly. As far as we have checked, most of the time Google shows i’m not a robot reCAPTCHA verification when connecting through VPN server. The problem rarely occurs when disconnected from VPN and using Google public DNS.

4. Avoid Unknown Proxy Servers

Similar to ISP and VPN, the proxy server you use can also cause you the trouble as illegal activities might be identified through that proxy server. Don’t use unreliable proxy servers on your browser to route all traffic through them. On Windows 10, you can press windows key and go to “Settings > Network & Internet” option. Here you can disable all proxy and VPN connections. Learn more about changing network settings in Windows.

On Mac, follow the similar steps as explained above for resetting IP address. Under “Proxies” tab, ensure to remove all proxy servers.

5. Use Google Public DNS

Another problem in the network could be your DNS. Domain Name System or DNS helps to resolve numeric IP address of a website to a host name. The DNS problem could be from your computer settings or from the ISP’s or from the VPN’s private DNS. Though corrupted DNS will not cause reCAPTCHA message it will slow down the connection.

The simple solution here is to switch the DNS to reliable public DNS. Check out the article on how to use Google public DNS. In most of the cases, this will work out to overcome internet connection problems.

6. Stop Searching Illegal Queries

Well, if you are really trying to search illegal terms then most probably Google will stop you for verification. You can clear your browser’s cache and try searching again. Remember Google can easily track all search queries from the IP addresses. So clearing browser’s cache will work only if you accidentally searched something wrong. Otherwise any searches violating Google terms will get stopped and you should wait sometime before retrying.

7. Slowdown Your Clicks

If you are not using VPN, proxy and your IP and ISP are good then the most probable cause could be the unusual clicks from you. When you enter the keyword and hit the enter key very fast, Google will match your activity with the automated bots and stop you.

Though this is strange, slowdown your mouse clicks and speed and use normal speed to avoid the CAPTCHA message.

8. Stop Sending Automated Queries

You can easily search terms directly using the URL like “”. This is the most popular way automated bots send traffic to Google. Always use the search box to send the query terms and avoid searching directly with the URL.

If you are a developer, stop manipulating the user query before sending to Google. Also display the search results as it obtained from Google without manipulating.

9. Avoid Searching Like Robots

There are lot of differences between the search behavior of humans and automated robots. When you are already signed in with your Google account, it is easy for Google to understand you are human. However, this is not sufficient as the network problems can take more precedence than the browsing history of the account. For example, automated bots use capital letters in each word of the search phrase like “I Want To Search This” while most humans will not search like that. So, always search the term using the way normal humans do.

10. Check Malware & Browser Extensions

Your computer may be infected with malware that sends automated traffic to Google. Also some browser extensions and plugins can send automated traffic. If you are frequently seeing “I’m not a robot” message then check your computer for malicious programs and remove unnecessary browser extensions. Try the official Chrome cleanup tool if you use Chrome and Windows operating system.

If you have removed any malware then reset the browser settings to initial settings.

Final Thoughts

Google will only stop with CAPTCHA message when there are unusual traffic activities detected. Once the unusual activity is stopped Google will allow you to search normally. So if you are seeing the message frequently then definitely there is something wrong. Most probably the network is spammy or you are too fast matching the bots. Consider thoroughly checking your network, slow down your activities and use public DNS to get rid of the “I’m not a robot” CAPTCHA message. If you still have a problem then post your issue in official Google search forum to ge