4 Methods To Monitor Running Processes on Mac

Jeffry Thurana 07-01-2010

00 play pause.jpgHave you ever wondered why there are times where your computer suddenly runs slower even though you have only opened one or two applications? It seems that the phrase “more than meets the eye” applies not only to a bunch of transforming robots, but also very true to describe the running processes on a Mac. There are many things unknown that lurk behind the scenes.


The ability to monitor everything that’s happening inside is especially useful for those with slower machines. They need all the juice they can get. Running applications – even if they are in the background waiting – eat up system resources.

Hours are wasted everyday just waiting for the computer to repeatedly get back to its senses. It would be very nice if you could know all the running processes on a Mac, pause the ones that you currently don’t need, and force some of them to quit if you need to.

An Ounce Of Prevention Is Better Than A Pound Of Cure

Sometimes people think they know what’s best for us. That’s why there are applications that take the liberty to add themselves to the startup list even though the users do not ask them to. What’s even worse, some do this quietly without letting the users know.

So it’s no surprise if there are suddenly tons of applications appearing at start up.


The first step in taking control of the running processes on a Mac is to filter these self-added applications. You can do this in Mac by going to the Accounts Preference pane. Open System Preferences > Accounts > Login Items and you can delete the ones that you don’t need by selecting them and press the minus (-) button.

running processes on a mac

Monitor The Madness

Mac OS X also provide its users with tools to monitor all the running applications called Activity Monitor (Applications > Utilities > Activity Monitor).

Upon opening, you’ll see everything, along with other necessary information like the amount of memory used, percentage of utilized CPU power, number of threads, etc.


This is the window display when I consciously open only one application – Firefox.

running processes on a mac

Quickly Quit Or Pause

Quitting an application is simply pressing “Command + Q” or going to the “Quit” menu. But as a last resort – when your system has become unresponsive with all the open applications, you could force some applications to quit using Activity Monitor. Just select them from the list and press the “Quit Process” button.

02b Activity Monitor - Quit Process.jpg


You could also terminate major applications via Force Quit Applications window. Press “Command + Option + Escape” to summon the window.

view running processes on a mac

But forcing the application to quit is not always the only answer. You can also try to pause the inactive applications and give the computational power to the applications that you are currently use. Later on, when you want to use those halted apps, you can easily activate them again.

This method is perfect for applications that take up a large amount of system resources, but you need them all the time and the process of quitting and relaunching them will take too long. Something like Firefox with lots of open tabs.


I couldn’t find any native Mac OS X way to pause/unpause applications. But I found an application called Pauser that can do it. It’s an old application, but it works just fine under Snow Leopard.

04a Pauser-1.jpg

Pauser will reside in the menu bar. To pause any application, click on the icon and choose the application from the list. Clicking the item again from Pauser list will unpause it. The paused application will be in the not-responding state and take zero amount of CPU processing power. Unfortunately, pausing an application will not free the memory used by it.

Here are the comparisons beween active and paused Firefox.

running processes mac

running processes mac

Here’s an article related to Activity Monitor you might want to check out: Macnifying OS X: Learning To Utilize Activity Monitor on Mac Macnifying OS X: Learning To Utilize Activity Monitor on Mac Read More .

If you know another alternative to Pauser, please share using the comments below.

Image Credit: andresrueda

Related topics: System Monitor, Task Management.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

Whatsapp Pinterest

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Elena
    December 6, 2015 at 11:37 am

    Hi! Thank you for article! Do you have Pauser? I can't find it alive :)

  2. QM
    November 15, 2015 at 2:45 pm

    From the command line interface (bash shell), you can "renice" a process, which may help with CPU vampires. "renice" changes the CPU priority "nice" number higher (lower priority). [Only the super user can lower the priority number. Not even if the user is the owner can it be reduced.]

    Open the "terminal" app, and type "pgrep firefox", which will return the PID (process ID) of all processes named "firefox". Or pick the PID off the Activity Monitor listing.

    In the "terminal" app, "renice 20 12345", using the PID of the process you want to diminish.

    For the nimble fingered, there is a shortcut, "renice 20 $(pgrep firefox)", which will change the CPU priority to 20 for all processes named firefox.

    Pgrep has a "-f" option to match against the full argument list, in case you have several instances of a process, and want to distinguish them by the arguments.