Mac Tutorials

Activity Monitor on Mac

Every copy of macOS comes with Activity Monitor pre-installed. Like the Task Manager on a Windows PC, Activity Monitor lets you see everything that’s running on your Mac, including apps that you can see and interact with, as well as background services that are normally hidden.


Many of these processes are part of macOS itself, but you’ll also find background processes for other apps, including your web browser, antivirus, and things like VPN clients.


In this guide, we’ll show you how to open Activity Monitor on Mac before looking at some of the ways you can use it:

  • Quit apps
  • Inspect processes
  • Run diagnostic reports
  • Identify malware
  • Save battery power
  • Limit internet use

Before we start


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What is Activity Monitor?

Activity Monitor is the Mac task manager equivalent. It shows you a complete list of all processes running on your machine, as well as how much of your system’s resources each program is using. You can use task manager on Mac for many things:

  • Kill frozen apps that refuse to close properly.
  • See which apps and processes are slowing down your system.
  • Run diagnostic reports.
  • Find hidden spyware and monitoring apps on your Mac.
  • Identify background processes that shouldn’t be running.
  • See which apps are using your network.

How to open Task Manager on Mac

There are several ways to activate Activity Monitor—the Mac’s version of task manager. We’ve explained the quickest Activity Monitor Mac shortcuts below so that you can pick the one that works best for you.


To open Activity Monitor on your Mac:

  1. In Finder, navigate to Applications > Utilities. Find and launch Activity Monitor.
  2. Another Mac task manager shortcut is to first open Spotlight by clicking the magnifying glass in your Mac’s menu bar. It’s located in the top-right corner of the screen. Find Activity Monitor on Mac by typing in its name, then press Enter to open it.
  3. You can also bring up Spotlight by using the Command + Space keyboard shortcut, then typing Activity Monitor to find and access the task manager on Mac.
Finder on Mac shows the Utilities folder inside the Applications folder. Double click on Activity Monitor to open it.
In Applications > Utilities, find and open Activity Monitor
Spotlight search on Mac shows a search for Activity Monitor. When Activity Monitor appears, press Enter to open it.
In Spotlight, search for then open Activity Monitor

How to use Activity Monitor on Mac

Once you’ve mastered how to bring up the task manager on Mac, it’s time to make the most out of it by learning how to use it. Here are some of the most useful things you might need:

  1. Quit apps in Activity Monitor
  2. Inspect processes in Activity Monitor
  3. Run diagnostic reports in Activity Monitor
  4. Fight against malware with Activity Monitor
  5. Save MacBook battery power with Activity Monitor
  6. Use Activity Monitor to limit internet use
  7. Other handy ways to use Activity Monitor

1. Quit apps in Activity Monitor

The macOS Activity Monitor lets you quit out of apps and background processes that you don’t normally see. This can be useful if your Mac is running slowly or an app is behaving oddly.


You can quit apps in Activity Monitor in a few easy steps:

  1. Start Activity Monitor.
  2. Look through the list of processes and select one you want to quit.
  3. Now click the X symbol at the top of the program window.
  4. Select Quit or Force Quit.
  5. You can also quit an app by double-clicking it, then clicking the Quit button.
Activity Monitor window opened to show the user a list of all actual processes on a Mac
Step 1. Activity Monitor > Pick a process to quit
After the user chose the particular process to stop, they need to click on the X button. You see the latter highlighted with the red box
Step 2. Click X
As the next step, the user needs to confirm the chosen process to be quitted by clicking the Quit button
Step 3. Confirm to Quit / Force Quit
Now you see the final stage of quitting the app in Activity Monitor identified by the Quit button clicked one more time
Step 4. Click Quit one more time

2. Inspect processes in Activity Monitor

If you read the Mac Activity Monitor, you’ll see all kinds of information about what’s running on your Mac. When you’re having issues with your Mac running slowly, this information might help you find the app or background process that’s causing the slowdown.


Here’s how to inspect a process on Mac:

  1. In Activity Monitor, find a process in the list and double-click it.
  2. This will open a new window. In the Memory tab, you’ll see how much RAM the process is using.
  3. Click Statistics to see a view of technical information, including the number of threads a process is using.
  4. The Open Files and Ports tab shows exactly what the name says. You can see which files an app is using at any given time.
  5. If you click the Parent Process, it’ll open up another window with details about that process.
The purposes of using Activity Monitor can be different, and this time, you see its window showing the way to learn more about ongoing processes
Step 1. Activity Monitor > Choose a process > Double-click it
The statistics tab is chosen in the Activity Monitor to give you a more detailed overview of what’s going on on your Mac
Step 2. Memory > Statistics
Now click on the Open Files and Processes tab to see a report on all files and processes taking place on your Apple computer
Step 3. Open Files and Ports
Finish the inspection by selecting the Parent Process option, which will open a separate window devoted to the process details.
Step 4. Parent Process

3. Run diagnostic reports in Activity Monitor

You can create various diagnostic reports in Activity Monitor, including a Spindump, which looks at unresponsive apps that were forced to quit, and a Spotlight Diagnostic report based on all the processes running on your Mac. It may be helpful to provide these to Apple Support if you have a problem.


Here’s how to run these reports in Activity Monitor:

  1. Pull up the task manager on Mac, then click the icon with three dots.
  2. Select either Sample Process, Spindump, System Diagnostics, or Spotlight Diagnostics, depending on which one you want to run.
  3. You may need to enter your Mac password. If so, enter it, and let the report build.
  4. At the end, you’ll have a file you can send to Apple Support.
Another method of using Activity Monitor on your Apple laptop is to launch diagnostic reports, which require your click on the three dots icon
Step 1. Activity Monitor > three dots sign
In the newly opened menu, in the Activity Monitor window, go to Spotlight Diagnostics as the prep stage
Step 2. Spotlight Diagnostics
After all is set, you’ll see the confirmation message that Spotlight Diagnostics is in the process of its running, Wait a little while.
Step 3. Enter your password and wait
Finally, be ready to send the ready Spotlight Diagnostic report to Apple Support.
Step 4. Send the file to Apple Support

4. Fight against malware with Activity Monitor

Finding and removing malware is an important part of maintaining a healthy Mac—especially if you want the best performance. You can often use Activity Monitor to stop malicious processes running on your machine, but before you quit anything, search for the process online to ensure it’s not something that macOS needs to run properly.


This is how you can use Activity Monitor to find and shut down malware:

  1. Open Activity Monitor. In the CPU tab, click the % CPU column to sort processes by the percentage of CPU power they’re using. You can also do the same for GPU.
  2. With the most demanding processes at the top, look for anything you don’t recognize.
  3. Select anything suspicious, and click the X icon at the top of Activity Monitor to get rid of it.
  4. Click Quit or Force Quit.
You might find it surprising, but Activity Monitor also allows you to handle malware issues. Open the CPU tab and quit the suspicious processes.
Step 1. In Activity Monitor, find the CPU tab
Activity Monitor on Mac shows a list of all running processes. Select a process then click the X icon to quit it.
Step 2. Select a process, then click the X icon to quit it
Activity Monitor on Mac shows a process being killed. Click the Quit or Force Quit button to confirm you want to close the process.
Step 3. Click Quit or Force Quit to kill the process

Relevant reading: How to Check for Malware on Mac

5. Save MacBook battery power with Activity Monitor

When apps and other processes use a lot of power, they slow down your Mac and use more energy. If you’re using a MacBook on battery, that could limit how long you’re able to work away from an electricity outlet. Thankfully, you can use Activity Monitor to save some energy on your Mac.


Use these steps to check for energy use in Activity Monitor:

  1. Open Activity Monitor and go into the Energy tab.
  2. Look at the Energy Impact tab to see how much power each app is using.
  3. Use the 12 hr Power tab to see how much energy was spent in the past 12 hours.
  4. Quit apps that are using a lot of energy.
Your Mac’s battery power can be also observed and managed with the help of Activity Monitor. Open it and move to the Energy tab
Step 1. Activity Monitor > Energy
Now you see the Energy Impact tab opened in Activity Monitor, showing your apps list and the energy spendings on each of them
Step 2. Energy Impact
Ultimately, you can go to see the 12 hours Power tab to realize how the lastly used apps affect your Mac’s performance.
Step 3. 12 hr Power > Quit the most energy-exhausting apps

6. Use Activity Monitor to limit internet use

Most internet providers don’t limit how much you can download in a month anymore, but there are still good reasons to limit network activity on your Mac. Activity Monitor is a great way to keep tabs on which processes are sending and receiving data over the network.


To check what’s being downloaded and uploaded by your Mac:

  1. After opening Activity Monitor, select the Network tab.
  2. Click the top of the Sent Bytes column to sort highest to lowest. Note any large and unexpected figures.
  3. Do the same with the Rcvd Bytes column.
  4. Kill any apps using a lot of bandwidth.
  5. If you don’t recognize something, search for its name on the web to find out if it’s malware, then run an antivirus scan if necessary.
Another way to use Activity Monitor for Mac’s optimized performance is to limit internet use with its help. In the opened app, go to the Network tab
Step 1. Activity Monitor > Network
Sent Bytes column opened, highlighted in Activity Monitor, as the next step in the user path to control the internet use
Step 2. Sent Bytes
Rcvd Bytes column, opened, highlighted in Activity Monitor, as the final step to quit the energy-consuming processes from the list.
Step 3. Rcvd Bytes > Quit the most energy-consuming apps

7. Other handy ways to use Activity Monitor

These are the key ways to use Activity Monitor on your Mac, but there are other useful things you can do, such as:

If your goal is to speed up your iMac or laptop, regularly reduce system storage and remove cache files to ensure you have plenty of free space, which will keep things running smoothly.

Remember, Activity Monitor tells you what’s happening on your Mac

Activity Monitor is a useful utility that gives you insight on what’s going on with your Mac. It’s particularly helpful when you want to find out what’s slowing down your machine, force quit frozen apps, and when you’re worried you have a malware infection. You can also identify and fix common issues by using MacKeeper’s Find & Fix tool, which scans your computer for potential problems and helps you eliminate them quickly and safely.

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