As expected, Apple’s release of OS X El Capitan for Macs was less about adding major new features than “refining the experience and improving performance” from Yosemite — in other words, under-the-hood optimizations to make any Mac run more reliably than before. Thanks to El Capitan, my older (mid-2011) 27″ iMac is running better than it has in years: fast, quiet, and cool enough that it might as well be fanless. Rarely does the volume level in my office climb above a whisper, an experience I’ve come to love so much that I’d never want to return to a loud computer.

“WAIT!,” you might be saying. “My Mac’s fan is on all the time. Apple didn’t start selling iMacs with silent solid state drives (SSDs) or hybrid Fusion Drives until late 2012. How could your older Mac be that quiet?”

Below, I’ll walk you through seven steps that will help you bring your older Mac to a hushed, zen-like state. The first four involve mostly free software, and the last three are small hardware upgrades…

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