How to See What Is Running on Mac

Kyle Wood

Mac, Tutorials

Have you ever wondered what processes are running on your Mac? Whether you’re troubleshooting an issue or just curious about the background activities on your machine, it’s important to know how to check what is running. In this article, we will explore different methods to see what is running on your Mac and gain a better understanding of the processes at work.

Activity Monitor

The Activity Monitor is a built-in utility on Mac that provides detailed information about the processes and system resources. To open Activity Monitor, follow these steps:

  1. Click on the Finder icon in the Dock (the smiley face icon).
  2. Navigate to Applications > Utilities.
  3. Double-click on Activity Monitor to launch it.

The Activity Monitor window will open, displaying a list of processes currently running on your Mac. By default, it shows all processes in a hierarchical view organized by CPU usage.

Browsing Processes

To browse through the list of running processes:

  • Select a process from the list to highlight it.
  • Navigate through different tabs such as CPU, Memory, Energy, Disk, Network to view detailed information about each process and its resource usage.
  • To sort the list based on specific criteria such as CPU usage or memory usage, click on the corresponding column header.
  • To quit a process, select it and click on the “X” button in the toolbar or right-click and choose “Quit” from the context menu.


If you prefer using the command line, you can also check running processes on your Mac using Terminal. Here’s how:

  1. Open Terminal by going to Applications > Utilities > Terminal.
  2. Type the command “top” and press Enter.

The “top” command displays a real-time list of processes, similar to Activity Monitor. You can see information such as process ID (PID), CPU usage, memory usage, and more.

Interacting with Processes in Terminal

In the Terminal, you can interact with processes directly using various commands. Here are a few commonly used commands:

  • To quit a process, find its PID in the “top” output and type “kill [PID]“. Replace [PID] with the actual process ID.
  • To pause/stop a process temporarily, use the “suspend [PID]” command.
  • To resume/restart a suspended process, use “resume [PID]“.
  • To view detailed information about a specific process, use “ps -p [PID] -o pid,user,%cpu,%mem,time,command“.

Note: Be cautious when interacting with processes in Terminal as terminating essential system processes may result in instability or data loss.

In Conclusion

Becoming familiar with the processes running on your Mac can help you understand how system resources are being utilized and assist in troubleshooting various issues. Whether you use the graphical interface of Activity Monitor or the command line power of Terminal, you now have the tools to explore and manage what is running on your Mac.

Remember to use the Activity Monitor or Terminal responsibly, and only terminate processes if necessary and with caution. Happy exploring!

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