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.

If you can’t identify a single rogue app, or if the slowdown doesn’t seem to be related to any app, you can learn more about how to resolve performance problems in the ebook Speeding Up Your Mac: A Joe On Tech Guide. Or, of course, get in touch, and we’ll see if we can suggest software fixes or new hardware that will help.

3 Shortcuts for Teleporting Web Links between Your Apple Devices

The iPhone is great for quickly viewing a Web page on the go, but what if you later want to work with it on a bigger screen? Or, what if you come across an interesting article on your Mac over breakfast, but want to finish reading it on your iPad later in the day? There are several simple methods of transporting a Web page among your Apple devices, but it can be difficult to pick the best one. Here are your best options.

Hand It Off

Apple’s Handoff feature is ideal when you want to move a Web page to another device immediately. Make the switch as follows:

  • If that other device is a Mac, click the Handoff/Safari icon that appears at the left (or top) of your Dock.

  • If that other device is an iPhone or iPad, look on the Lock screen for a Safari icon and then swipe up on that icon. Or, double-press the Home button to access the App Switcher and tap the Safari bar at the bottom of that screen.

Open a Tab

When you open a page in Safari, it appears in a tab. You can see this easily on your Mac in the Tab Bar (if you don’t see it, choose View > Tab Bar). It gets more interesting, however, when you view all the open tabs on all your Apple devices. To do this, click (or tap) theTabs  button, which appears at the top of Safari on the Mac and iPad, and at the bottom of the screen on the iPhone.

In the Tab view, you first see tabs from the device you are using. Beneath them (and you may need to scroll down) are the tabs from your other Apple devices. To open a tabbed page, click (or tap) its listing. Presto!

Assign It as Reading

Safari can store a list of pages that you want to read later in its Reading List, which is ideal for magazine-style articles that you want to return to when you have time to focus.

To add the current page to your Reading List on the Mac, choose Bookmarks > Add to Reading List. On your iPhone or iPad, tap the Share button and then tap Add to Reading List.

To access your Reading List in Safari on the Mac, choose View > Show Reading List Sidebar. In Safari on your iOS device, tap the Book icon and then tap the Eyeglass icon. Then, select the article you want to read to load it.

For most people, these techniques should just work, as is the Apple way, but they do rely on a lot of wizardry behind the scenes. If you have trouble, make sure that:

  • All your devices are signed in to the same iCloud account
  • Safari is enabled in System Preferences > iCloud on the Mac and in Settings > iCloud in iOS

Handoff has a few additional requirements, so ensure that:

  • Every device has Bluetooth turned on and is connected to the same Wi-Fi network
  • Handoff is on in System Preferences > General on the Mac and in Settings > General in iOS. If you don’t see a Handoff option, your device is too old to support Handoff.

Once you’re up and running, you’ll be zapping Web links back and forth between your devices with ease!

Can’t Find an App on Your iPhone? Ask Spotlight or Siri!

It’s easy to find the apps you use regularly on your iPhone or iPad, but there’s little more frustrating than needing an app you seldom launch and not being able to find it. You could scroll through all the home screens on your device and hope you recognize the icon, but here’s a faster approach. Search in Spotlight by swiping down on the home screen and entering the first few letters of the app’s name. That’s especially handy if you can’t remember exactly what the app is called. If you can remember the app’s name, another quick approach is to hold down the Home button, wait for Siri to activate, and then ask Siri to “open” the app’s name, as in “Open Runkeeper.”

Peer Deep into Your Mac’s Soul with About This Mac

It’s easy to forget details about your Mac—what precise model it is, how much memory is installed, and so on. The quick way to remind yourself of the specifics is to choose About This Mac from the Apple menu. Obvious, we know, but it’s essential to remember when talking to tech support or trying to determine if you need more storage or can add more memory. Click each button at the top to learn more about your Mac’s configuration or, in the case of Support and Service, to get links to information from Apple.

How to Stop Annoying Screen Flipping on Your iPad or iPhone

Normally, it’s helpful when an app on your iPad or iPhone switches from vertical (portrait) to horizontal (landscape) as you rotate the device. But it can be annoying to have the screen orientation flip back and forth, such as when you’re reading while lying on your side and holding the iPhone at an angle. Luckily, you can prevent the flipping by swiping up from the bottom of the screen to reveal Control Center and then tapping the Orientation Lock button. On the iPad, that sticks the screen into whatever orientation it’s in at that time—either portrait or landscape. But on the iPhone, the Orientation Lock button forces the screen into portrait orientation. Tap the button again to disable orientation lock, and remember this setting if you can’t get your device to rotate when you think it should.

How to Use Airline Boarding Passes on Your iPhone

Are you still using paper boarding passes when you fly? Sure, they work, but if you’ve ever panicked after accidentally putting a boarding pass in the wrong pocket, or if you’ve been embarrassed by holding up the line as you fumble through a set of boarding passes for multiple flights, consider giving mobile boarding passes on your iPhone a try. They’re easy to set up and use, but you’ll want to get started before you leave for the airport.

First, find and download the iPhone app for the airline you’re using. If your trip involves multiple airlines, you’ll need the app for each one. All the apps are free, and the only hard part is logging in, which might require figuring out an old frequent flyer number or resetting a password. Do that ahead of time.

Once you’ve set up the app, it’s time to check in for your flight, which you can usually do 24 hours before the flight. The airline app may know about your itinerary automatically, but if not, you’ll have to enter a confirmation number or ticket number from your ticket receipt manually—look for a Check In option to get started.

At the end of the check-in process, the app shows an Add to Wallet link or button—the specifics vary by app but should be relatively obvious. Tap it to hand the boarding pass off to Apple’s Wallet app, make sure everything looks right, and then tap the Add link in the upper-right corner. You may or may not need to do this for each boarding pass; check to see what’s in Wallet after the first one. Note that you can also add passes for other members of your traveling party, such as a child or spouse. Now you’re ready to go to the airport!

At the airport, you first need your boarding pass in the security line. Since Wallet knows your flight times, it starts displaying a notification on the iPhone’s Lock screen some hours beforehand. That notification appears every time you wake the iPhone. Swipe it to the right or 3D Touch it to display your boarding pass. Cleverly, when the boarding pass is showing, the iPhone won’t automatically lock its screen. Nevertheless, as you approach the head of the line, check that you haven’t inadvertently pressed the Sleep/Wake button on your iPhone. Then just show your iPhone screen to the boarding pass scanner.

If you have an Apple Watch, you can instead bring up the Wallet app there—you might want to tap the Keep in Dock button to make it easier to get to for your return flight. The watch’s Wallet app shows the same passes that are in Wallet on the iPhone, and tapping the boarding pass displays the same information, although you have to scroll down (or rotate the digital crown) to access the QR code required for the scanner. While the Wallet app is up on the Apple Watch, the screen doesn’t turn off, so you don’t have to struggle with it when you get to the desk. With some scanners, you may have to put your arm in an awkward position for the scanner to see the watch screen; use the iPhone in such situations.

One last thing. Since many flights have multiple legs, each with a separate boarding pass, note that Wallet tries to keep them together. If you see multiple dots at the bottom of a screen showing a boarding pass, try swiping left and right to move between them. The same applies if you’re traveling with your family and have boarding passes for multiple people in your iPhone.

After you return home, there’s no reason to keep boarding passes in Wallet, so you can delete them. Open Wallet, tap the boarding pass, tap the i button in the lower-right corner, and then tap Remove Pass.

Many iPhone-carrying travelers find mobile boarding passes significantly easier and less stressful than old-style paper boarding passes, so give them a try. Of course, if you’re concerned that something might go wrong, go ahead and print paper boarding passes as a backup; there’s no harm in that.

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