Track Down Rogue Apps That Are Slowing Your Mac

Does it seem like your Mac is running slowly? It’s always possible that you need more RAM, a speedy SSD to replace a slow hard drive, or even a new Mac. But you might just have a rogue app that’s hogging your Mac’s CPU. Here’s how to figure out if that’s the problem.

The key is a utility app called Activity Monitor that Apple bundles with every Mac. Open your Applications folder and scroll down until you see the Utilities folder. Open that to find and double-click Activity Monitor.

Activity Monitor can seem daunting because it lists every “process” running on your Mac. In many cases, a process is the same as what you think of as an app, so you’ll see processes for apps like Mail and Safari. However, some apps use multiple processes, and macOS itself relies on a ton of processes too.

Notice the buttons at the top of Activity Monitor that provide access to different views: CPU, Memory, Energy, Disk, and Network. Those views show the impact each process has on those aspects of the Mac. For now, we’ll focus on the CPU view that’s the default, but if you were trying to figure out why your MacBook Pro’s battery was draining so quickly, you’d look in the Energy view.

At the bottom of the CPU view is a graph of CPU load, and numbers that correspond to how much of that load comes from the system and how much from the user (apps you’ve launched). As long as the sum of those numbers stays under 100% most of the time, you’re probably fine. But if you’re near or at 100%, you’ll want to hunt for rogue processes.

To identify them, click the % CPU column header to sort the process list by CPU power. If necessary, click again to change the direction of the sort so the arrow next to % CPU is pointing down, so those processes using the most CPU power are at the top. Be aware that the percentages in this column are by core (unlike the graph and numbers at the bottom), so a runaway app on a 4-core iMac could claim to be using as much as 400% in the % CPU column.

Now watch the list for a while. If one process is sucking CPU power, you’ll see it at the top of the list. If it matches an app you’ve launched, quit that app to give other apps a chance at the CPU. That often solves your problem quickly. In the most extreme case, the process name will be in red, which means it’s not responding, at which point you can force quit it by selecting it and then clicking the X button at the left of Activity Monitor’s toolbar.

Equally likely, though, is that the top process will be one you don’t recognize immediately, like backupd (Time Machine), mds or mdworker (Spotlight), photolibraryd or photoanalysisd (Photos), or kernel_task or WindowServer (core macOS functionality). You can’t (or at least shouldn’t) quit those processes manually, but at least you’ll know that things are slow due to a Time Machine backup running, Spotlight indexing new files, or Photos analyzing the images in your library. If one of these processes has gone nuts, the best solution is to restart your Mac.

 

Four New Apple OS Features You Can Use Today

Apple just released new versions of all its operating systems—iOS, macOS, watchOS, and tvOS—fixing bugs, plugging security holes, and, best of all, adding a few new features. Here are four things you can do once you’ve updated. (If you’re concerned that installing the updates may cause other problems, check with us first, but it’s best to stay current.)

1: Sleep better after using your Mac late at night.

macOS 10.12.4 Sierra has gained Night Shift, a feature from iOS that automatically shifts the colors of the screen to the warmer end of the spectrum after dark. Night Shift may help you sleep better by reducing the amount of blue light that tricks your body into thinking it’s earlier than it is.

To set up Night Shift, open System Preferences > Displays > Night Shift and choose Sunset to Sunrise from the Schedule pop-up menu. Night Shift knows when the sun rises and sets wherever you are, but if you prefer, you can also set custom on and off times. (If you don’t see the Night Shift button in the Displays preference pane after upgrading to 10.12.4, your Mac is unfortunately too old to support Night Shift.)

If you’re working with graphics at night, or if video looks odd, you can turn off Night Shift manually. Do that either in the Displays preference pane or by scrolling down in Notification Center (click it in the upper-right corner of the screen) to see the Night Shift switch.

2: Find the AirPod that fell between the couch cushions.

Apple’s wireless AirPods earbuds are cute, but they’re also easy to misplace. If you can’t find yours, iOS 10.3’s Find My iPhone app can help. Bring it up, tap the AirPods icon in the display, and then tap the Play Sound button to make them play a locator sound. If you’ve lost only one AirPod, you can mute the other so it’s easier to hear where the sound is coming from.

Note that Find My AirPods works only when in range of a paired iOS device, so it may not help if you lose an AirPod while running.

3: Don’t be “that person with the Apple Watch” at the theater.

You’re in a darkened theater, at a movie or a play, and when you move in your seat or cover your mouth to cough, your Apple Watch’s screen turns on, annoying the people around you. Even worse is when a notification rolls in, causing the watch to make a sound. Embarrassing, we know. Happily, watchOS 3.2 adds Theater Mode, which turns on Silent mode and keeps the screen dark by disabling its standard “raise to wake” behavior.

To enable Theater mode, open Control Center by swiping up from the bottom of the screen. Then tap the Theater Mode button, which is emblazoned with theater masks. After the performance, you’ll need to disable Theater mode manually by tapping its button again.

If you do need to check the time surreptitiously (who knew this performance would go so long!), tap your Apple Watch’s screen, or press the Digital Crown or side button.

4: Ask Siri to find your car in a humongous parking lot

We’ve all been there. You parked at the mall, but got turned around while you were inside, and now you can’t find your car in the sea of automobiles. In iOS 10.3, you can now search for “parked car” in Maps, or just ask Siri, “Where did I park?”

And if you ever lose your car at a place like Disney World, this feature alone will be worth the price of the iPhone!

Apple Tweaks iPad Product Line

New iPad replaces iPad Air 2

The most significant of Apple’s changes is the replacement of the iPad Air 2 with a new 9.7-inch iPad model called simply “iPad.” This latest iPad is extremely similar to the iPad Air 2, and although most of the changes are for the better, Apple cut a few features so as to reduce the price to the lowest ever for a 9.7-inch iPad.

Physically, the new iPad is almost identical to the iPad Air 2, apart from being 1.4 mm thicker (which might cause problems for some existing cases). More interesting is that Apple swapped the iPad Air 2’s A8X processor for the faster A9 chip, improving performance. The cameras remain mostly the same too, though photos taken with the rear-facing camera are somewhat better, thanks to two improvements over the iPad Air 2’s camera: auto image stabilization to help avoid blurry images and a hybrid infrared filter to improve color accuracy and sharpness.

On the downside, the new iPad lacks the iPad Air 2’s laminated display and anti-reflective coating, which combined to increase screen clarity, particularly in bright light. You’d have to compare the new iPad against the more expensive iPad mini 4 or the much more expensive 9.7-inch iPad Pro to see if the screen change is a major problem for you.

The big win with the new iPad is price, which has dropped $70: it’s now only $329 for the Wi-Fi–only 32 GB model or $429 for 128 GB. The cellular models cost $459 for 32 GB and $559 for 128 GB. It’s now the least expensive iPad and what Apple expects most new buyers to purchase. It’s available now.

Apple reduces iPad mini 4 price, drops iPad mini 2

The new iPad takes over the entry-level iPad spot from the iPad mini because Apple simultaneously dropped both the iPad mini 2, which had been priced at $269, and the 32 GB model of the iPad mini 4, which previously sold for $399. That leaves just the 128 GB iPad mini 4, and Apple slashed $100 off its price to bring it down to $399. Despite the price drop, unless you especially want the iPad mini’s smaller size or better screen, it’s probably worth $30 to move up to the new 128 GB iPad.

Pin Frequently Used Web Sites in Safari Tabs

Everyone has a few Web sites that they check every day, or even multiple times throughout the day: a social network, a Web-based email app, a go-to news Web site, or a favorite online comic. The desire to access certain sites quickly and repeatedly isn’t new, of course. Over the years, Apple has added a variety of features to Safari to make this process easier. You can create bookmarks, add bookmarks to your Favorites bar, click thumbnails in the Top Sites view, and more. But do you know about pinned tabs?

The name may evoke images of a butterfly collection, but don’t worry, no harm is done when you pin a tab in Safari. All that happens is that the tab you’re pinning slides over to the left side of the Tab bar and shrinks down to a size that’s just big enough to display a representative icon, called a favicon. You can click the icon at any time to view the page.

Until you unpin or close a pinned tab, it remains in that easily accessible spot no matter what other tabs are open. Other advantages to pinned tabs include:

  • Pinned tabs stay in the same place even if you open a new Safari window or quit and relaunch Safari.
  • If you have multiple windows open in Safari, the pinned tabs are the same in all of them.
  • When you first launch Safari, it loads content for your pinned tabs, so you’re less likely to have to wait for those pages to appear.
  • Web apps that update automatically will do so in pinned tabs, so switching to one will always give you the latest data.
  • Unlike normal bookmarks, which you can sync through iCloud to copies of Safari on all your Apple devices, pinned tabs are specific to a particular Mac. This allows you to customize your pinned tabs on a per-Mac basis.

To pin a Web page, first load it in Safari. Then use one of these three pinning techniques:

  • Drag the tab that contains the Web page to the left, into the pinned tab area. When you see it shrink down, let go. (If you don’t see a tab, choose View > Show Tab Bar.)
  • Choose Window > Pin Tab.
  • Control- or right-click the tab and choose Pin Tab from the contextual menu that appears.

If you pin a tab that you wish you hadn’t, you can reverse any of those actions: drag it to the right, choose Window > Unpin Tab, or choose Unpin Tab from the contextual menu.

Pinned tabs behave like regular tabs in most ways, with a few exceptions:

  • Clicking a link to another Web site opens that site in a new tab, but if you follow a link within the pinned site, you’ll stay in the pinned tab.
  • Pressing Command-W won’t close a pinned tab, so you don’t have to worry about losing them accidentally. To get rid of a pinned tab, Control- or right-click it and choose Close Tab. Or unpin it and close it as you would any other tab.
  • Since pinned tabs stick around all the time, you might want to rearrange them. To do so, drag them into your desired order.

So if you open and close Facebook, Reddit, and Gmail throughout the day and check xkcd every morning, try creating a pinned tab for each site and see if you like having them more easily accessible than ever before!

If you prefer using Mozilla’s Firefox or Google Chrome instead of Safari, never fear, since both of those browsers have almost identical pinned tab features.

Mark and Navigate to Arbitrary Locations in Maps

Sure, you know how to search for a place or address in Maps, and you probably even know that you can ask Siri to “Take me home.” But sometimes you want to go somewhere that doesn’t have an address, or where the address you can find doesn’t match the precise location you need. For instance, a festival or fun run taking place at a large park may be far from the address of the park office, or even require that you enter on a different side of the park.

Luckily, the Maps app in iOS has you covered, with a feature that lets you mark any location and then get directions to that spot. It’s easy to use and provides several enhancements, but like many things in iOS, you might not run across it in normal usage.

First, marking locations is usually easier in the satellite view in Maps. If you’re in the standard Map view that shows just streets, tap the i button in the upper-right corner, and then tap Satellite so you can see the terrain and any buildings.

Next, position the map over the general area you want to navigate to, and then pinch to zoom in. Drag the map with a single finger as necessary to see the place you want to mark, perhaps a parking area or trailhead.

Then, to mark the location, press and hold on the exact spot. A pin appears on the map at the marked location. On the iPad, a panel appears on the left side of the screen with controls and more information, such as distance from your location, approximate address, and latitude and longitude. On the iPhone, the top of an identical panel appears at the bottom of the screen; drag it up to reveal the rest of its contents.

In that panel, you can:

  • Get directions: Tap Directions to start navigating to the marked location. The button defaults to telling you how long the drive will be, but once you tap Directions, you can switch to directions for walking, transit, or ride-sharing. You can also tap the route summary to see and share a turn list.
  • Move the marker: To reposition the marker slightly, tap Edit Location; for a more significant change in location, press and hold on a new spot.
  • Share the marker: If you’re trying to explain to others how to get to the marked location, tap the Share icon and then an app like Messages or Mail to send them a link to your location.
  • Delete the marker: Tap Remove Marker.
  • Favorite the marker: For a marked location that you might want to use repeatedly, tap Add to Favorites and give it a name. After that, you’ll be able to search for the location by name. Maps automatically syncs your favorites via your iCloud account, so you can favorite a location on your iPad and later search for it on your iPhone in Maps or even via Siri.
  • Add the marker to a contact: If the marked location goes with a person or business, tap Create a Contact or Add to Existing Content to record it.
  • Report a problem to Apple: If you find something missing or wrong with Maps’ data, you can mark a location and then tap Report an Issue at the bottom of the panel.

Maps may be good at finding many places and addresses, but it’s far from perfect, especially in less populated areas. By using marked locations, you can work with areas that can’t be found with a search.

If you use Maps on the Mac, most of these features are available when you click and hold on a location, and then click the i button in the tag that appears. The interface looks a bit different but works in much the same way.