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?

  • 2
    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, 2010 at 7:26

9 Answers 9


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

  • 1
    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, 2009 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, 2009 at 19:20
  • no, but is shows you what processes are running.
    – cust0s
    Aug 18, 2009 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, 2011 at 15:16
  • When I try this in 2016 with Mac OS Sierra I get the error invalid option or syntax: -t
    – Kelseydh
    Dec 6, 2017 at 18:52

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.

  • seems like a big missing piece of functionality compared to Process Explorer is the paren/child subprocess relationship among the processes. If I'm not mistaken Activity Monitor just lists them all out in a flat fashion with no notion of the hierarchy that may or may not exist between the various processes.
    – jxramos
    Dec 4, 2018 at 0:44

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).


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


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


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


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.


If you are using brew. Check htop it's a terminal-based monitor system

  1. brew install htop

  2. htop

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