How to View Running Processes on Mac OS X

By Andrew Tennyson

If your computer is slowing down or behaving strangely, you may have some rogue processes gumming up your Mac’s metaphorical gears. The Activity Monitor application on your Mac is designed to help you in instances such as these. With Activity monitor you can track CPU use, memory, energy, network and disk activity on a process-by-process basis. It's a handy tool, and it comes bundled with your OS X Mavericks operating system.

Step 1

Click the “Applications” folder if it’s pinned to your Dock, scroll down and select the “Utilities” folder and then click “Activity Monitor” to launch Activity Monitor. Alternatively, you can also open Activity Monitor by searching for “Activity Monitor” in the Search field on the Launchpad and then selecting “Activity Monitor” from the search results.

Step 2

Scroll through the processes listed in the Process Name column on the far left side of Activity Monitor. Each process currently running on your computer appears on its own line in this column. Follow along the row to the right of the process name to read its statistics.

Step 3

Click the name of a process and then click the “i” icon located above the Process Name column. Clicking this icon displays a brief snapshot of information about the selected process, including how much CPU and memory it’s using, how long it has been active and which files and ports it’s using.

Step 4

Select a tab along the top of the Activity Monitor window to view how processes are using resources on your Mac. Available tabs in OS X Mavericks include CPU, Memory, Energy, Disk and Network. Each tab then has an associated list of sub-sections that help you to further drill down into process resource usage.

Tips & Warnings

  • Sort processes by clicking the column headings in Activity Monitor. If you want to sort alphabetically, for instance, click the “Process Name” column heading. If you want to find out which process is using the most CPU, click the “CPU” tab and then click the “% CPU” column heading. If you want to find out which process is sending or receiving the most data over your Internet connection, click the “Network” tab and then click “Sent Bytes” or “Rcvd Bytes.”
  • You can quit any listed process using the Quit tool. To do this, click one of the processes listed under the Process Name heading and then click the “Force a process to quit” button in the top-left corner of Activity Monitor. Click the “Quit” button to stop the process. Your Mac will stop the process when it is safe to do so. If quitting the process immediately could harm your computer or cause you to lose data, OS X will hold off on executing the quit command.
  • If you want to quit a process immediately, regardless of whether it's currently active, click “Force quit.” Be aware, however, that forcing a process to quit can result in lost data and can negatively impact the functionality of associated processes. If you force Google Chrome, Safari or Firefox to quit, for example, you will lose the data contained in all open browser tabs. Forcing the Finder process to quit will remove items from your desktop and many from your task bar, making it necessary to restart your computer. Quitting the Dock process will eliminate the Dock from your screen, making it less easy to launch applications.