How to Monitor Mac CPU Usage for Overall Performance

Many regular Mac users don’t know where to look if their machine starts acting weird. For example, even everyday tasks like keeping a tab on the hard drive space, checking the CPU’s load and usage, clearing the browser cache etc, seem like unchartered territory. As such, they feel lost and searching for a solution on the Internet seems like the obvious action. But then, what if the Internet itself is the problem? And what if the cause for that is something else entirely? It is in such situations that the need arises, for every Mac user to know, the tricks and back doors to their Mac. When required, they should know which corner to bend in order to get their Mac to a minimum level from where further help can be taken.

Here we will be discussing one such common scenario – how to monitor Mac CPU usage. The answer to this question is – through the Mac Activity Monitor.

The Activity Monitor is a system application, dedicatedly aimed at providing information about your Mac’s resources and their utilization. If your Mac is running slower than usual, it might be due to some heavy processes running in the background or the virtual memory going too low or a similar issue. To find out exactly what it is, Activity Monitor is the apt application. To launch it, go to Applications -> Utilities -> Activity Monitor.

Activity monitor acts as a mirror for the CPU usage, Memory usage, network activity, and disk activity. There’s a panel on Activity Monitor dedicated to each of these. Users can click on respective panel to view the details. Following is a detailed description of all panels.How to Monitor Mac CPU Usage for Overall Performance1

CPU

This panel shows the processes running on the Mac. Clicking on the %CPU column heading arranges the processes in descending order of CPU consumption. That is, the process using up the majority of CPU’s resources will be listed first. This panel also shows the CPU Time consumed by each process, the number of Threads related to all processes, their PIDs and Idle Wake Ups. At the bottom of this panel is displayed a horizontal frame containing the following:

  • A graph showing total percentage CPU consumption. This graph is updated in real time with the way process are currently affecting the system’s resources. If you’re Mac is being extremely sluggish, the total CPU consumption would be more than 90%.
  • System: The percentage of OS X processes currently consuming the CPU
  • User: The percentage of user opened processes
  • Idle: The percentage of CPU not being used
  • The total number of threads and total number of processes

Memory

This panel shows how the Mac’s memory is being used. Clicking on the Memory column heading arranges the processes in descending order of memory consumption. That is, the process using up the majority of memory will be listed first. This panel also shows the Ports taken up by each process, the number of Threads related to all processes and their PIDs. At the bottom of this panel is displayed a horizontal frame containing a graph showing the availability of memory resources, Physical Memory, Memory Used, Virtual Memory, Swap used, App Memory, File Cache, Wired Memory, and Compressed.

Disk

Generally, all processes read some data (usually configurations and other settings) and write some data to your hard drive. This panel shows the amount of data read from and written to your hard drive. Clicking on the Bytes Written column heading arranges the processes in descending order of amount of data written. Similar is the case for the Bytes Read column heading. The PIDs of all processes are also displayed in this panel. At the bottom of this panel is a horizontal frame containing a graph showing data reading and writing activity going on in the system, total Read Ins, total Write Outs, total data read (amount in MBs or GBs), total data written (amount in MBs or GBs) and the reads and writes per second.

Network

This panel shows how much data is being sent or received by your Mac over the Network that your Mac is connected to. Clicking on the Sent Bytes column heading arranges the processes in descending order of amount of data sent. Similar is the case for the Rcvd Bytes, Sent Packets, and Rcvd Packets column headings. The PIDs of all processes are also displayed in this panel. At the bottom of this panel is a horizontal frame containing a graph showing data sending and receiving activity going on in the system, total Packets In, total Packets Out, total data received (amount in MBs or GBs), total data sent (amount in MBs or GBs) and the data and packets sent and received per second.

Activity Monitor as a Live Feed

The Activity Monitor serves as a live feed too through which you can watch the CPU usage, Memory, Network and Disk activity getting affected as and when it happens. For this just enable the dock icons for the panel, which you want to continuously, observe. Go to Activity Monitor -> View -> Dock Icon and then tick the panels, which you want to observe live. This will place real-time bar graphs in the system tray through which you can keep an eye on the CPU, memory, disk or network usage and activities.

Conclusion

Not only does the Activity Monitor come in handy for observing and managing tasks, but it also facilitates terminating heavy processes, which pull the Mac’s speed down. All in all, it is one awesome application with which all Mac users should know how to work.

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