I recently upgraded from Leopard to Snow Leopard on my white Macbook (mid-2007) and immediately noticed a bunch of performance issues:

  • Finder is a lot slower at displaying the Applications folder. Scrolling through the applications list consistently hangs the Finder for several seconds while the Cover Flow display is being re-generated. Leopard had little to no delay when rendering the list or the icons.
  • System processes (kernel_tasks) and applications are eating up my memory at a voracious rate. For example, only using Safari (all other apps closed) for about an hour leaves me with around 250 MB out of 2 GB left. Closing Safari only frees about 100 MB of memory. I've used Intego VirusBarrier X5 and the latest virus definitions but did not encounter anything suspicious.
  • The "Smart Eject" functionality now takes 5 to 20 seconds to eject a DVD, when it previously was instantaneous upon pressing the Eject button in Leopard.

Aside from completely wiping the drive and installing Snow Leopard again (I have a lot of data all over the place that would be a significant hassle to restore), what are my options?

The following are screenshots that display Activity Monitor with all processes visible and the other with only system processes visible. Both are sorted by Real Memory used.

All processes:

enter image description here

System processes only:

enter image description here

I am not sure how much of the memory is being consumed by the operating system itself, but it appears to be much more than what Leopard was using. After a clean boot, Leopard used to have about 1.2 GB memory free; Snow Leopard in comparison has around 800 MB free right after startup.

  • You ruled out the answer that I would give. :-) – hanleyp Sep 3 '09 at 3:10
  • 2
    if you could post a screenshot of your Activity Monitor (with all applications closed), it might be helpful. – caliban Sep 3 '09 at 3:31
  • 2
    Why are there so many virusbarriers processes? Additionally 64-bit applications require more memory than 32-bit applications. – Chealion Sep 3 '09 at 5:42
  • the issue of 64-bit applications requiring more memory is not really an issue - don't worry too much about it for now. – caliban Sep 3 '09 at 5:59
  • 1
    Read about the different types of memory. Inactive memory can be reused pretty quickly by other applications if necessary. support.apple.com/kb/HT1342 – Georg Schölly Sep 6 '09 at 20:02

mds is Spotlight, indexing your data. It will take some time (though I heard it's faster in Snow Leopard than in earlier versions), but let it do its work, and once it's done, your Mac should be much faster again.

Also, .0 versions of OS X have had many problems, and 10.6.1 is likely to be available in a month (based on data) - it will likely contain several bug fixes that didn't make it to 10.6.0.

  • mds is not using any cpu time according to the screenshot. – mark4o Sep 4 '09 at 20:17
  • 1
    One would expect Spotlight indexing to be disk I/O limited, so it still could be the reason for the sluggishness, even if it's not maxing out the CPU. – las3rjock Sep 5 '09 at 5:11
  • I'll second that Spotlight is likely the cause of the sluggishness. What the screenshot needs is the CPU time column to be turned on, and it'll be more apparent. – Curtis Tasker Oct 4 '09 at 8:32
  • When Spotlight finished indexing, speed noticeably increased. Thanks! – David Jul 4 '11 at 3:10

Okay upon looking at what I can see on your screen, you do have quite a fair bit of processes running.

I would recommend these steps to narrow the troubleshooting steps :

  1. Put the Mac into a Safe Boot mode. *(hold down the Shift key when the Mac is booting up)
  2. Assess the Mac while it is in Safe Boot mode, is the severe slowdown still present?
  3. If the slowdown is no longer as severe (test the CD eject thing, that one is interesting), then you can conclude that one of the processes starting up with the Mac is killing it.

It shouldn't be Spotlight (mds, mdsworker), it's quite streamlined, and if it is chomping away we will be able to see on the Activity Monitor.

Now, what you can do is to do a full system clean using Onyx or something. That might help. Also, removing software that has startup processes is good. I noticed your httpd daemon running too - try checking to see if you got any services such as Web Server turned on? Try turning it off to see what happens?

The problem is that there could be MANY reasons why SL is crawling on your notebook - but having used SL for closed to a month now (10a432 dev release), I would say it is most probably a 3rd-party software that is causing the slowness.

Good luck, keep us updated what's happening.

P.S It's fun to troubleshoot sometimes, but with SL's install speed being so fast, I would seriously ask you to reconsider a reformat, reinstall, and TM restore. Cheerios.

  • 5
    Instincts are screaming at me now to help you rip-out Intego VirusBarrier X5... but it's your Mac after all. Make sure you have updated VBX5 from this link intego.com/services/updates.asp – caliban Sep 3 '09 at 6:03
  • I have to agree. I just ripped Clam off mine because I realized there is no need for me to have it, since I don't use Windows VM's on my Mac anymore. I run the same model Macbook with no issue since SL, in fact I have the opposite effect, once Spotlight finished indexing and I cleaned out the apps I haven't used in a year. – BinaryMisfit Sep 6 '09 at 18:04
  • Reinstall all the way – Telemachus Oct 14 '09 at 11:42

It's probably because Spotlight is indexing your files again. Wait a few hours and see if it's still sluggish.


Am guessing it's VirusBarrier - seems to be taking up a huge amount of memory.

Why do you have antivirus on your Mac? Pretty strange decision.

  • A Virus Scanner on a Mac isn't completely unnecessary. There will be more than the 2 viruses that exist today. And another thing to consider is that one doesn't want to forward infected mails to your friends. – Georg Schölly Sep 6 '09 at 19:59
  • 1
    Isn't it their responsibility to scan their email? – Rich Bradshaw Sep 7 '09 at 9:41

mine is doing the same i have lots of videos files on mine and photos and big programs i have a 500GB hard drive so i am guessing it will take a while to get spotlight going


I once had to remove a snapz pro process on a friends machine (Leopard) which was causing all sorts of problems, try removing that and rebooting.

Your screenshots should have been sorted by CPU, not by Real Mem as you are not seeing much swapping and have lots of available menory (free+inactive)...

Safe mode is great for troubleshooting. Also try to remove all your startup items and 3rd party lauch daemons/agents:

Common Mac OS folders/settings to check (when trying to get rid of a pesky self-launching app)


Outrageously slow here, 2 or 3 minutes to run even the preferences. 2 minutes to delete a file. Very little CPU activity (after waiting 2 minutes to load activity monitor), very little virtual memory usage. Its like walking in Tar. Its on an upgrade installation, installing from scratch will take a full-time week as the machine is totally stocked, and finding the 3rd party application that is "causing" the slowdown is near impossible.

Luckily I carbon copied my previous build so I'll be popping the disk out and reverting and trying again in 3 months.

System is a 2.2MBP 4gigs ram, and a DualHead2Go to 2x 24"s

My dream of open CL and 64bit computing shattered, along with the jetpacks, hoverchairs and robots they promised us in the 60s.


I had this exact experience when trying to do an upgrade to Leopard. The answer in that case was to backup any settings and data that I wanted to keep and then do a complete reinstallation of Leopard (that is, wipe the drive when you install - don't just upgrade in place).

Anecdotally, I've since heard from many people that this is common with significant Apple version bumps. They tell you that you can upgrade, but really you should reinstall. It takes longer, but it was worth it for me.


I had the same problem (and I use virusbarrier - it's not that, it runs lots of little processes), my Macbook was much zippier than my iMac after the upgrade. It turned out that the upgrade had shaken out a faulty hard drive.

My iMac started kernel panicking, and I had to send it back under warranty. It might be worth running the Extended hardware test just to check - pop in the system disk and hold down the 'd' key on reboot. If you get a HDD error it's your hard drive.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.