A slow iMac and malware links posing as USPS | Q&A with Patrick Marshall

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Q: Thank you for your column. I always learn so much from it. Now I hope I can learn why my iMac keeps slowing down to a crawl. 

It’s a 2-year-old 2.3GHz Intel iMac with 8GB memory and a 1-terabyte hard drive. Not a race machine but you wouldn’t think it would take five minutes to start a Zoom meeting, three minutes to open Excel, or two minutes to open an email or a web page. It ran fine until earlier this year when the performance just started gradually degrading. I don’t run a lot of applications at once and I only have pedestrian apps like Microsoft Office and Quicken. I have Malwarebytes running. The hard drive has no errors and is only 33% full. I’m running the Monterey operating system and apps are all up to date. 

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I spent hours chatting with Apple tech support last summer until they finally recommended flattening the hard drive and starting over. I bit the bullet and did that at the Genius Bar. It ran great for about a month but now is slowing down to a crawl again. Any idea where the molasses might be coming from?

Jeff Schario

A: You’ve already hit most of the most likely causes of system slowdowns.

I did notice, though, that most of your performance issues are related to internet-related activities. Have you checked your internet speeds to see what you’re actually getting? I use Speedtest by Ookla: www.speedtest.net.

Still, since your performance problem went away when you started from scratch and then gradually returned I suspect it’s something in your system that is eating up memory, especially since your iMac has only 8 gigabytes of RAM. Accordingly, I suggest using the Activity Monitor to see what is actually running on your computer and how much memory it is consuming. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to tell just what programs or services items in Activity Monitor refer to so you may have to do some sleuthing on the internet to get clues. Focus on the biggest memory hogs.

Next, you could try purging your computer’s memory see if something is eating away at it. Go to Applications > Utilities > Terminal. Next, enter the following command in the Terminal window: sudo purge. (Without the period, of course.) You’ll be asked to enter your user password.

Q: I sent a package to a family member in Texas and several days after the expected delivery day I received a text saying USPS regrets to inform me that there was a problem and the package would be returned to me unless I corrected the address by clicking the provided link. Unfortunately I clicked it on my iPhone but it went no where. I called USPS and they told me USPS never sends such texts. My question to you is have I likely downloaded a virus or malware, how would I know and what can I do to protect myself? I’m feeling quite dumb for falling for this but somehow someone knew I had a delayed package in the mail.

John Waldhausen

A: Actually, the U.S. Postal Service will send texts with information about the status of package delivery, but only when customers request it. More information about the USPS texting service is available here: https://www.usps.com/text-tracking/welcome.htm.

But yes, scammers have employed fake USPS text messages. You can find out more about that here: https://www.uspsoig.gov/blog/when-usps-text-not-usps-text.

The bottom line is that you may have inadvertently downloaded malware by clicking on that link. If you haven’t already, I recommend that you install anti-malware software and run a full scan. A number of anti-malware products are available for iOS, the iPhone’s operating system. Just search the internet for “iOS malware removal.”

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