There is a hidden gem on your Mac concealed in the Utilities folder that is able to speed up the machine in many cases. It's called Activity Monitor, and despite the seemingly overwhelming abundance of information it displays, it will become your best friend when troubleshooting a slow-running Mac.
Why will you love using Activity Monitor? Well, the reason is simple: this is the most powerful built-in utility (perhaps second only to Terminal) and has a nice graphical user interface to monitor and manage all the processes running on your Mac.
The processes shown in Activity Monitor can be user apps, system apps or invisible background processes. The utility has five different category tabs – CPU, memory, energy, disk and network – to delve into, allowing you to check out how the active processes are affecting the Mac.
In the CPU category you'll find all the processes and how much hardware resources they require. Click on the top of the “% CPU” column to sort them by percentage or by the CPU capability used by each particular process. If you combine this information with that displayed in the Energy pane, you can easily identify processes that are affecting the Mac’s performance and kill them to speed up the machine.
How to Use Activity Monitor to Improve Your Mac's Performance
When a Mac’s slowdown is caused by an unresponsive app, it's important to know what is happening in the background to understand why a process has to be terminated. Apps that are not doing very much tend to use more hardware processor resources than they should, and as the burden on the CPU increases, its energy consumption also grows. That leads to a reduced battery life and speeds up the charging cycle, therefore pushing the battery closer toward the end of its lifecycle. Also, as the CPU becomes more and more busy with a task, it generates more heat and after a while the Mac fans will begin to spin harder, an intentional reaction in an effort to cool down the processor.
Fortunately, Activity Monitor lets you identify hardware resource hogs to help you reduce the strain on your processor, keeping it cool, efficient and speeding up your Mac. Here is how to use it:
- Launch Activity Monitor, then click on View in the menu bar and select All Processes.
- Click on the top of the “% CPU” column to sort by the amount of CPU used by each process.
Apps performing intensive calculations such as encoding video use a much higher percentage of CPU, but should return to normal once the task is finished. To easily identify such processes, consider 70% as a threshold: any process above this mark is putting a heavy load on the CPU and could suggest a malfunction if this remains after the task is complete.
In these cases, Activity Monitor provides all the options to help here. If the usual way of quitting an app doesn't work, then select the process in the utility window and press the Option + Command + Q keys, or click View > Quit Process.
How to Check the Relationship Between Processes
If, for some reason, you don't recognize the name of the process, there is a chance that it belongs to a system process. In this case, the View > All Processes Hierarchically will help you see which processes belong to an app such as Safari. But before killing a process, it is recommended that you quit the app first to avoid any unnecessary problems.
Either way the result will be the same: a speedier Mac that is ready to perform tasks lightning fast. However, it’s recommended that you instead use a Mac optimization app from time to time, since this will help you to keep the machine clean of junk data and corrupted apps to help keep its performance smooth. Check out our reviews page to pick the one that's right for you.
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