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My MacBook seems to be really slow these days, no matter what I do. On Windows I had so many choices to figure out what's taking memory, CPU cycles and what not and take action appropriately.

Wondering if there is an equivalent alternative for Mac OS X for what Task Manager is for Windows?

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As an aside, as the title of your question may bring people here: Opt-Cmd-Esc to get the Force Quit dialog. –  Arjan May 1 '10 at 7:26

8 Answers 8

up vote 35 down vote accepted

Activity Monitor. It's included with OS X. Just look in your Applications/Utilities folder or use Spotlight to find and open it.

alt text

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I wish they made this as part of the "Apple" menu. Pretty basic stuff that can save some people some vent fan heat ;) Thank you! –  DemoGeek Aug 18 '09 at 19:19

Activity Monitor found in Applications/Utilities folder.

O'Reilly Mac Dev Centre has a good run down on how to "read it". And Peek-a-boo is a good way to show you how processes connect to one another.

Although if you really want to know what your system's up to, I'd recommend iStat pro.

istat pro

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I run iStatPro but that doesn't give me the details on what process is juicing up my CPU cycles. –  DemoGeek Aug 18 '09 at 19:20
    
no, but is shows you what processes are running. –  cust0s Aug 18 '09 at 20:42

As others have answered, Activity Monitor in /Applications/Utilities/ is the most direct equivalent to the Windows Task Manager, but there are other options..

I mainly use iStat Menus to work out which application is using up all the CPU time..

Instead of having to launch Activity Monitor (which takes a few seconds to start), I just click the little CPU menu bar item, and it lists the current top processes:

iStat Menus CPU menu

You can also use the "top" command instead of Activity Montior (it's quicker to launch also). Just run the top command in a terminal:

the top command

I have an alias ltop which launches top, ordered by CPU usage, with a few flags to reduce it's CPU usage (reduces it's accuracy with regards to memory usage, but uses about 2% CPU instead of about 10-12% by default):

alias ltop='top -F -R -t -o cpu'
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or alternate is htop –  Jakub Oct 28 '11 at 15:16

One thing that will help when using Activity Monitor is to add columns of information (exactly the same as Process Explorer). Right-click on the process columns and you can add significant additional info:

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Another important piece of information to look at in activity monitor is your paging:

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What this shows is how much hard disk page swaps have occurred and how much swap memory is physically written to disk. If you see active page ins/outs, then an application is forcing swapping.

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Also, interesting to note that you have a shortcut ( that took me a year to remember ) to quick access that:

command+option+esc

Super handy ( as Task Manager in Windows is super super handy )

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Tasks Explorer, which is close to Activity Monitor, although has some features which Activity Monitor does not have (process environment, used shared libraries, opened files, exported symbols).

I also find useful htop utility from *nix-world (available in macports).

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You can check out "Mac Helpmate" to tidy up your OS.

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A powerful utility (CLI) is process explorer from mac, available here. It emulates Linux top with Mac OS X and iOS specific options, and is also grep-able.

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