In this paper, we derive the performances of optical wireless communication system utilizing adaptive subcarrier intensity modulation over the Malaga turbulent channel. More specifically, analytical closed-form solutions and asymptotic results are derived for average bit error rate, achievable spectral efficiency, outage probability, and ergodic capacity by utilizing series expansion identity of modified Bessel function. Our asymptotic and analytical results based on series solutions with finite numbers highly matched to the numerical results. By exploiting the inherent nature of fading channel, the proposed adaptive scheme enhances the spectral efficiency without additional transmit power while satisfying the required bit error rate criterion. Copyright © 2016 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Copyright © 2016 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.