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Managing processes in Activity Monitor

From: Mac OS X Mountain Lion Essential Training

Video: Managing processes in Activity Monitor

Let's take a short tour of the important elements of Activity Monitor. Activity Monitor, as its name implies, is a utility that allows you to peak into what your Mac is doing in the background. Let's see how that works. We'll launch it some other way. Let's go to the Go Menu, we'll go to Utilities, and there's Activity Monitor. What we see in this window is a series of things called Processes. These are the things that your computer is doing, and some of them you're going to recognize. So let's look through the list of Processes and see if we find something. There! Mail, we know what Mail is.

Managing processes in Activity Monitor

Let's take a short tour of the important elements of Activity Monitor. Activity Monitor, as its name implies, is a utility that allows you to peak into what your Mac is doing in the background. Let's see how that works. We'll launch it some other way. Let's go to the Go Menu, we'll go to Utilities, and there's Activity Monitor. What we see in this window is a series of things called Processes. These are the things that your computer is doing, and some of them you're going to recognize. So let's look through the list of Processes and see if we find something. There! Mail, we know what Mail is.

There's the Finder. We're aware of what the Finder is. There's Dashboard, and here's Activity Monitor itself. So great, we understand what those things are, but what's all this other stuff? Well, these are background processes, things that your computer is doing that aren't necessarily tied to a specific application, but are nonetheless important to your computer running. Now we know what's happening in the background. What use is this to us? For our purposes, the real benefit of Activity Monitor is to see what's taking up your Mac's time.

So, if you find that your Mac is running slowly, it's possible that there's something going on that's slowing it down. And we can use Activity Monitor to see what that is. So first of all we'll go to the All Processes pop-up menu, and I'm going to choose just My Processes. These are the ones that are happening within my account. Then I'll click on Percentage CPU, and that tells us the percentage of CPU being used by various things, and the one with the greatest appetite appears at the top.

So, right now we've got this thing called Screenflick going that's about 15% to 16%, which isn't a lot. Let me plug in a camera card and see what that does. So it opens iPhoto. Look, iPhoto is taking 85%. At least it was for a second. Now it's down to about 19.3, 17.1. So what it's doing now is cataloging my camera card and as it does so, it's using more CPU. But notice it settles down pretty quickly.

There are other things you can learn about it, for example, the number of threads, which is really something you don't need to worry about. However, you may want to look at the RAM that it's using. If there's something that's using a ton of RAM, that makes less RAM available or less short-term memory available to your Mac. So if something's hogging that, you may want to look at that process and see if it's something that you really need. Now, in most cases when you see things here that you have no idea what the name is for, just leave it alone. However, if you see an application that's running, say, GarageBand.

GarageBand, for example, is a big memory hog, and it really taxes your processor. So if you're working on a GarageBand project and then you leave it, and you find that GarageBand is still churning away and taking up a bunch of CPU cycles, it's not a bad idea to quit it. When you do that, you may find that your Mac works a little bit better. Now, let's take a for-instance scenario. I'm going to launch Safari. So I've launched Safari.

Now, what's Safari doing? Let's look in Process Name and we can look at it alphabetically. And here's Safari, and it's behaving itself. It's hardly taking up any CPU. However, what if it was, and what if it was taking up a bunch of CPUs, using a bunch of RAM, how can you stop? Well, of course you could quit it and that wouldn't be a problem, so off it goes and it wouldn't do this anymore. But what if it's some kind of a background process that you recognize and you'd like to get rid of it? Well, you can't go to an application to quit it because you don't have access to that application. But what you can do is choose Quit Process.

You'll be asked if you'd like to quit. Try that first, if it quits, great. If it doesn't quit -- let's look at Photo Stream, for example. I could choose Quit Process. If it doesn't get out of the way, you can force quit it, and essentially that means "I'm going to quit you whether you like it or not." And indeed it will quit. Now, there are a few processes that will come back because your Mac needs them. So they'll quit, your Mac will think "Uh-oh, I need that thing." It will start up again. Hopefully, when it does, it doesn't start hogging your CPU.

There are few other things that you can do within Activity Monitor. You can check your System Memory. So in this case we've got a lot of free memory. You can look at Disk Activity. So what's going on with your hard drive? Do you see a lot of peaks like these? Do they make sense? If you're doing something like backing up to another drive, for example, yes you're going to see data moved back and forth and you're going to see peaks like these. But if your Mac seems to be idle and it's doing something like this, you may want to investigate. Disk Usage, how much free space do you have? And then you can also look at the Network Activity.

Does your network connection seem to be slowing down? Well, let's take a look. Gee, it seems to be doing an awful lot here. I wonder why that is? At that point, start your investigation and see if you can track down what's using your network. But again, most important of all for our purposes is looking at the CPU. And that's the ups and downs of Activity Monitor.

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This video is part of

Image for Mac OS X Mountain Lion Essential Training
Mac OS X Mountain Lion Essential Training

76 video lessons · 20938 viewers

Christopher Breen
Author

 
Expand all | Collapse all
  1. 1m 4s
    1. Welcome
      1m 4s
  2. 6m 56s
    1. Installing Mountain Lion
      6m 56s
  3. 47m 16s
    1. Personalizing the interface
      4m 11s
    2. Touring the Finder
      3m 29s
    3. Staying current with Software Update
      2m 52s
    4. Configuring Gatekeeper settings
      3m 17s
    5. Getting on the Internet
      5m 36s
    6. Setting up iCloud
      4m 55s
    7. Understanding AutoSave and documents in the cloud
      4m 42s
    8. Configuring Mail, Contacts, and Calendar
      4m 33s
    9. Configuring your printer
      3m 39s
    10. Protecting your data with Time Machine
      4m 28s
    11. Learn your way around the Mac App Store
      5m 34s
  4. 11m 17s
    1. Finding files with Spotlight
      6m 6s
    2. Digging deeper with Finder searches
      5m 11s
  5. 23m 35s
    1. Configuring basic personal preferences
      11m 15s
    2. Adjusting Input Device preferences
      9m 38s
    3. Examining the basic system preferences
      2m 42s
  6. 1h 13m
    1. Organizing workspaces with Mission Control
      5m 49s
    2. Modifying Language & Text settings
      4m 5s
    3. Optimizing Security & Privacy settings
      6m 18s
    4. Getting notifications
      4m 38s
    5. Configuring displays and AirPlay
      2m 20s
    6. Using Energy Saver
      6m 1s
    7. Setting up Bluetooth wireless devices
      3m 39s
    8. Sharing files on a network
      6m 1s
    9. Configuring sharing
      6m 28s
    10. Editing your users and groups
      6m 48s
    11. Setting rules with Parental Controls
      7m 4s
    12. Taking notes with Dictation & Speech
      6m 0s
    13. Exploring the Accessibility settings
      5m 54s
    14. Listening with Sound
      2m 53s
  7. 36m 2s
    1. Organizing your business with Mail
      12m 42s
    2. Scheduling time with Calendar
      8m 32s
    3. Keeping tabs with Contacts
      5m 30s
    4. Tracking your tasks with Reminders
      3m 39s
    5. Staying in touch using Messages
      5m 39s
  8. 37m 18s
    1. Tracking your documents in TextEdit
      7m 3s
    2. Looking up words in Dictionary
      1m 56s
    3. Keeping notes with Notes
      3m 48s
    4. Working with images in Preview
      6m 14s
    5. Working with PDFs in Preview
      4m 27s
    6. Installing fonts with Font Book
      4m 42s
    7. Posting a note in Stickies
      1m 55s
    8. Adding things up with Calculator
      4m 46s
    9. Organizing apps with Launchpad
      2m 27s
  9. 34m 5s
    1. Navigating the web
      3m 38s
    2. Working with bookmarks
      4m 49s
    3. Using Reading List
      2m 4s
    4. Saving web pages and creating web clips
      1m 44s
    5. Viewing and saving PDFs
      3m 24s
    6. Using Safari to search the web
      2m 20s
    7. Opening local files in Safari
      1m 59s
    8. Working with preferences in Safari
      11m 1s
    9. Managing your Internet footprint
      3m 6s
  10. 8m 48s
    1. Playing media in QuickTime
      4m 15s
    2. Recording videos with QuickTime
      4m 33s
  11. 10m 13s
    1. Video conferencing with FaceTime
      3m 38s
    2. Taking pictures in Photo Booth
      3m 47s
    3. The great utility of Image Capture
      2m 48s
  12. 12m 40s
    1. Writing a simple Automator workflow
      4m 15s
    2. Creating an Automator application
      2m 20s
    3. Setting up an Automator calendar workflow
      2m 31s
    4. Creating an Automator service
      3m 34s
  13. 22m 1s
    1. Managing processes in Activity Monitor
      5m 13s
    2. Formatting, partitioning, and repairing storage devices
      8m 58s
    3. Taking care of your passwords
      4m 1s
    4. Setting up a Windows install with Boot Camp
      3m 49s
  14. 14m 57s
    1. Creating a boot drive
      3m 19s
    2. Understanding and configuring permissions
      4m 5s
    3. Exploring troubleshooting techniques
      7m 33s
  15. 19m 35s
    1. Getting your game on
      4m 1s
    2. Integrating with Facebook and Twitter
      2m 38s
    3. Advanced tips and tricks
      9m 35s
    4. Sharing files with AirDrop
      3m 21s
  16. 30s
    1. Goodbye
      30s

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