MacBook Pro High CPU Mystery Solved

MarkGeneral2 Comments

Is your Macbook Pro experiencing high system CPU usage above 60-70%? Maybe you’re only noticing that all your applications are lagging like they are running in quicksand? There are surely a number if potential reasons and I don’t propose the following is for everybody but it seems obvious enough that its certainly worth your consideration.

This is what I was going through for a couple of days this past week working at our offices just outside of Boston [hint coming →] during the mini heat wave we experienced with several days in the 80s and 90s. The answer was actually very simple and I feel silly now for not having figured it out sooner.

First of all, for those who have a Macbook Pro running slow and don’t know why here is how to see if its your system or a program to blame. Find the program on your Macbook Pro named “Activity Monitor”. You can search for it with spotlight or navigate to Applications…Utilities…Activity Monitor.

When you open the program you will immediately notice the CPU usage display on the bottom panel. The mystery we are solving here is one where the % System is extremely high. The image below shows what mine looks like right now. The CPU usage is low and the graphic shows minimal red blocks which represent the amount of CPU being used by the system itself. Last week the red blocks covered 75% of this display.

Macbook Pro Hight CPU Usage Problem

So after rebooting, killing all programs and having nothing work (and being unable to get anything accomplished) I pulled out my iPad and research the issue. It soon became clear that it was indeed an obvious answer. My MacBook Pro was sitting flat on my desk, in front of a closed window (with Air Conditioning Running) but with the sun hitting it.

It was simply getting so hot that over 70% of the CPU was being used to run the cooling fans. Sort of like on Star Trek when Scotty puts all the power to the front deflector shields. It just doesn’t leave enough power for other things. And this is on a 2012 MacBook Pro with maxed out everything possible and internal solid state drives (SSD).

The solution was nit a very technical one. I closed my blinds, got my Macbook Pro up off the desk and on a monitor stand and then set a desk fan on it all day. Problem solved. Silly me. I hope this helps others get their work done this summer if the same thing happens to you.

2 Comments on “MacBook Pro High CPU Mystery Solved”

  1. J.Y.

    I had this problem as well, but the solution was just unplugging the power cord and then plugging it back in again. I have no idea how this solved the issue when multiple restarts did not…just a quirk of Apple engineering, I guess.

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