Join Nick Brazzi for an in-depth discussion in this video Identifying processor-intensive activities, part of Speeding Up and Maintaining Your Mac.
- If you think that your processor might be causing your computer to run slowly, you really have two options. You can get a new processor or you can stop running the applications that are over-taxing your processor. But as we discussed earlier, processors are not easy to upgrade on a Mac so that might not be an option without buying a whole new computer. Before we go down that road, let's talk about identifying which applications are a burden on your processor and see if we can get rid of them. Fortunately, there's a way of seeing the actual demand each application has on your processor at any given time and to do that we need a tool called Activity Monitor.
To get to Activity Monitor, I'm going to go to Finder. I'll go to Applications and I'm looking for a folder inside of Applications called Utilities. I'll double click on that and we'll find Activity Monitor here. Activity Monitor comes on all Macs so I'm gonna go ahead and launch that. Let's take a look at what we're dealing with here. Up at the top, we have several tabs. I wanna make sure we're in the tab for CPU because that's the area that we're interested in right now. Then we see a list of every application or process that's running on my computer.
There's a bunch of information about each of those processes and they're organized by columns. I can click on the head on any of these columns and it will sort them by that category. I wanna sort all of this information by the percent of the CPU used. That way, we can see which application is demanding the most from my processor, and so right off the bat, I can see that Adobe Media Encoder is very demanding on my processor. I can see it's using over 700 percent.
That's because I launched Adobe Media Encoder before I started recording this movie and I started it on this process. What it's doing is it's converting video files into another format. That's a very processor demanding process. I'm just gonna let that go and we're gonna look at the effect that it has over here in Activity Monitor. What's the deal with this number, 700 percent? In this case, it's 780 percent. How can one process use over 100 percent of my processor power? Well, let's see how that works.
I'm gonna go into the system menu and I'm gonna hit About This Mac. This is something we saw earlier in the course. This window tells me some specifications about my computer so I know how much RAM I have, which video card I have and, in this case, I'm interested in which processor I have on my computer. Now, I'm going to really oversimplify this. It doesn't exactly work this way but just to understand how this works. What we're looking at is two quad core processors. Having multiple cores in a processor is sort of like having separate processors so if I have a quad core processor that's kind of like having four separate processors.
If I have two quad core processors, well that's sort of like having eight separate processors. Theoretically, the maximum amount of load that any application could have on my computer would be 800 percent. Again, I'm oversimplifying here and this is very different from one computer to another but the point is that explains why these can be well over 100 percent. The point is I'm looking for any application that has a very high percentage and I also wanna take a look at this box down here so I can get an idea of how much overall demand these applications are taking on my processor.
I can see that the operating system itself is taking up around 18 percent of my processor. The applications that I have launched, and that I'm actively using, are taking up a different number. You can see it dip down here for a moment. I wanna let Adobe Media Encoder catch up to one of the more processor intensive activities and, in a moment, this will jump up again. There it is and I can see that the applications that I'm running are taking around 30 percent of the processor load. So, even though 700 percent seems like a really high number I still have 30 to 40 percent of my processor's ability still available to me.
So, what this tells me is I'm being very demanding of my processor right now but I'm not hitting it's maximum capabilities. Now, I'm gonna move this window over for just a moment. I'm gonna launch another application. I already have Affect Effects running and this is a pretty complex project. You can see I have nine strings of video. Each of these video clips has effects on them and I wanna start a RAM preview which should also be very demanding of the processor. We should see that After Effects will jump up here. In this case, it's running over 600 percent and Media Encoder has jumped up again.
Now, I can see the overall idle CPU time is about eight percent. Now it's 12 percent so I'm starting to hit the maximum load that my processor can handle. If I keep on this path, my computer's really gonna start slowing down. Let me just stop this here in After Effects and I'll get that out of the way. Let's talk about how we can use this information. First of all, if you find that you're hitting sort of the maximum amount of percentage that your computer is capable of well you might have to start quitting some applications otherwise your computer is going to run very slow.
You should consider quitting the applications that have a very high CPU percentage. Maybe you don't use those applications in the future. If you've got something that's too demanding, and it's using too much of your system, you might not want to use it anymore or maybe you recognize that when you run that application your computer will be slow. So you only use it when you really need it and you make peace with that. Or maybe you'll find that two or more applications running at the same time push the limits of your CPU, which we saw a moment ago when we had After Effects and Media Encoder both doing things that take up a lot of processor power.
If that's the case, you might decide that you only use one of those applications at a time in the future. Now, as you're looking through this information, you're gonna see a lot of things on this list that you don't recognize. Usually, these are background tasks and they're usually things that the operating system is doing. Now, fortunately, the percentages on these processes are usually pretty low. 1.3 percent is very low. Now, that After Effects is in an idle mode, it's very low. Some of these background tasks .5 percent, .1 percent that's pretty insignificant.
Some of them have such a low demand that they don't even register even as one tenth of a percent. So most of these background processes you can just ignore. Who cares they're just using very little percentage of your processor. Now, as I said before, if something is using a high load on your processor you might want to quit it. We could go over to Adobe Media Encoder, which has actually finished the process it was doing, and I can quit it and I can go over to After Effects. I can quit After Effects.
I'll see neither of these show up on the list and they're no longer taking any percentage. What if you've got something that's demanding on your system and you can't figure out what it is and you can't quit it? Well, you could always select it and go to this button up here at the top, this x which would force a process to quit. You should be really careful about this. Force quitting something can cause other problems especially if you don't know what it is. So it's really a much better idea to quit things the old-fashioned way but it's good to know you've got the force quit option if you really need it.
Looking at the CPU load here in the Activity Monitor might reveal that your processor is just not the problem at all or it might reveal that you're running applications that demand too much of your processor. At least now, you've got a good place to figure out whether your processor is the bottle neck causing your speed issues.