How to Fix WindowServer Mac High CPU Usage Featured Image

How to Fix WindowServer Mac High CPU Usage: 14 Quick Ways

Reduce WindowServer CPU load with these Mac optimization steps.

Written by

Reviewed by

Last updated: December 18, 2023

Expert verified

SVG Image

TL;DR

To fix WindowServer Mac high CPU usage, follow these steps:

  1. Close unnecessary programs, declutter your desktop, and restart your Mac.
  2. Remove extra desktops, disconnect gaming accessories, and delete the cache.
  3. Go to System Settings > Accessibility > Display. Toggle off Reduce motion and Reduce transparency.
  4. Go to System Settings > Desktop & Dock and toggle off Displays have separate Spaces.
  5. Go to System Settings > Displays > Night Shift, set the Schedule to Off, and click Done to disable Night Shift.
  6. Update your Mac apps and uninstall the corrupt ones. Also, update your macOS.
  7. Reset the SMC to fix issues related to display management and CPU usage.

High CPU usage on your Mac due to the WindowServer process can slow down your system and hinder performance. I’ve personally faced the frustration of WindowServer high CPU usage but it is a fixable problem. So, in this guide, I’ll share tried-and-true methods I’ve used to tackle this issue effectively.

Before We Begin

Your Mac uses excessive CPU if your startup disk is full. Download MacKeeper and use its Safe Cleanup to delete junk files, declutter your Mac, and optimize its performance.

What Is WindowServer on Mac?

WindowServer is a key part of Mac’s system, handling the graphics you see and inputs like keyboard and mouse actions. It communicates with other system processes to ensure the user interface operates smoothly.

It’s always running in the background and normally doesn’t use too much power, but if it starts using a lot of CPU, there might be a problem that needs checking out.

Since WindowServer is a core process of the macOS system, it constantly runs in the background. It typically doesn’t consume excessive system resources and high CPU usage attributed to WindowServer is often a symptom of an underlying issue.

How to Find Out If WindowServer Is Using Excessive CPU Cycles

    Why You Can Trust MacBook Journal verify badge We always conduct first-hand research and verify every method or solution we present, ensuring you receive reliable and effective advice. Learn more about our process.

    To check the CPU usage of WindowServer on your Mac, you can use the built-in Activity Monitor app. Here are the steps to follow:

    1. Open Finder > Applications > Utilities.
    open utilities in applications
    1. Double-click the Utilities folder and launch Activity Monitor.
    open activity monitor in utilities
    1. Alternatively, you can use Spotlight to search for Activity Monitor.
    2. In the Activity Monitor app, select the CPU tab to see a list of processes currently running on your Mac, sorted by CPU usage.
    click the cpu tab in activity monitor
    1. Find WindowServer in the list. You can use the search field at the top-right of the Activity Monitor window to find it quickly.
    windowserver cpu usage in activity monitor
    1. Check the % CPU column to see how much CPU usage is attributed to WindowServer. If WindowServer is consuming a large percentage of CPU resources, it could be a sign that something is causing it to work harder than it should.

    How to Fix WindowServer Mac High CPU Usage

    Now that you have identified the causes of WindowServer Mac High CPU usage, let’s explore the steps you can take to fix it.

    1. Restart Your Mac

    Restarting your Mac is a good first step. This will reset all the memory and remove underlying issues causing excessive CPU or memory usage.

    Here are the steps to restart your Mac:

    1. Click the Apple icon in the top-left corner of the screen and select Restart from the drop-down menu.
    click the apple icon and select restart

    Alternatively, you can press Control ^ + Command ⌘ + Power buttons on your keyboard to initiate a restart.

    macbook air control command power keys
    1. A pop-up window will appear to confirm if you want to restart your Mac. Click Restart to proceed.
    click restart on the confirmation pop up
    1. Your Mac will now begin to shut down and restart. Wait for the process to complete.
    2. Once your Mac has restarted, you will be taken to the login screen.

    If you have an unresponsive or frozen Mac, force restart it by pressing and holding the Power button until the screen darkens. Wait a few seconds, then press the Power button again to turn on your Mac.

    2. Declutter Your Desktop

    Cleaning up your desktop by organizing or removing unnecessary files and icons can reduce the workload on WindowServer. This leads to better performance and lower CPU usage. Here are some of my tried and tested tips to declutter your Mac desktop:

    • 📁 Organize Files into Folders: Group related files into folders to reduce icons on your desktop.
    • 📑 Use the Documents Folder: Store files in the Documents folder instead of the desktop for a cleaner look.
    • ☁️ Use Cloud Storage: Utilize cloud services like iCloud, Dropbox, or Google Drive for less frequently used files.
    • 🚀 Utilize the Dock: Use the Dock for frequently used applications, rather than desktop shortcuts.
    • 🛠️ Use Desktop Management Tools: Use tools like Stacks in macOS for automatic organization of desktop files.
    • 🎛️ Limit Active Widgets: Keep only essential widgets on your desktop to avoid clutter and save resources.
    • 🗃️ Archive Old Files: Move old but important files to an external hard drive or cloud storage, keeping them off your desktop but accessible.
    • 🧹 Regular Cleaning: Set a routine to clean up your desktop regularly, removing or archiving unnecessary files.
    • 🖼️ Desktop Wallpaper: Choose a simple wallpaper to make your desktop appear less cluttered.

    3. Close Unnecessary Programs

    If the WindowServer on your Mac is experiencing high CPU usage due to background processes and apps, use Activity Monitor to identify and close them.

    Here are the steps to kill background processes on Mac using Activity Monitor:

    1. Open Activity Monitor by searching for it in Spotlight (pressing Command ⌘ + Spacebar).
    type activity monitor in spotlight search
    1. Click the CPU tab to sort processes by CPU usage and look for the processes consuming an excessive amount of CPU.
    click the cpu tab in activity monitor
    1. Select and force quit the process by clicking the X button in the top menu of the Activity Monitor window.
    select a program and click the small cross in the top menu

    4. Reduce Motion and Transparency

    Apps with transparent backgrounds can improve the aesthetic appeal of your Mac, but it costs additional CPU cycles. By reducing the transparency of the apps, you can reduce the CPU usage of WindowServer and improve your Mac’s performance.

    Here are the steps to reduce motion and transparency on your Mac:

    1. Click the Apple icon in the top-left corner of the screen and select System Settings from the drop-down menu.
    click the apple icon and select system settings
    1. Select Accessibility and click Display in the right-hand menu.
    click accessibility and select display
    1. Toggle off the Reduce motion and Reduce transparency switches.
    toggle off the reduce motion and reduce transparency switches

    5. Remove Extra Desktops on Your Mac

    Using multiple desktops with various apps boosts productivity but also increases WindowServer’s load as it renders inactive windows. To ease this, limit your desktops to only those needed and close unused ones.

    Here’s how to close additional desktops on Mac:

    1. Click the Mission Control icon in the Dock or type Mission Control in Spotlight.
    type mission control in spotlight
    1. Move the cursor to the top of the screen to reveal the top menu bar and see the active Desktops.
    reveal the top menu bar and see the active desktops
    1. Hover your mouse over the desktop you want to remove. Then, click the X button in the top-left corner of the desktop.
    click the cross on a desktop icon
    1. Repeat these steps for any additional desktops you want to remove.

    6. Turn Off Separate Spaces for External Displays

    Using external displays enhances productivity but raises CPU usage. Since they depend on your Mac’s CPU for display output, WindowServer has to render all windows. To reduce this load, disable separate spaces for external displays.

    Here’s how to turn off separate spaces for external displays on your Mac:

    1. Click the Apple icon and select System Settings from the drop-down menu.
    click the apple icon and select system settings
    1. Scroll down and select Desktop & Dock in the left sidebar.
    click desktop and dock in system settings
    1. Scroll down the right side and toggle off the Displays have separate Spaces switch.
    toggle off the displays have separate spaces switch
    1. Next, log out of your Mac. Then, log in again for the changes to take effect.

    7. Remove Corrupt Apps From Your Mac

    If the WindowServer process on your Mac experiences high CPU usage when you launch specific apps, a malfunctioning app may be causing the issue. In such a case, it’s best to remove the problematic app from your Mac.

    Here’s how you can uninstall apps on Mac:

    1. Open Finder > Applications folder on your Mac.
    click applications in the left sidebar of finder
    1. Find the app you suspect is corrupt.
    2. Click and drag the app to the Bin icon in your Dock or right-click the app and select Move to Bin from the context menu.
    right click an application and select move to bin
    1. Right-click the Bin icon and select Empty Bin.
    right click the bin and select empty bin
    1. Restart your Mac.

    Alternatively, you can use MacKeeper’s Smart Uninstaller to find and remove unwanted or hidden apps. It can also get rid of leftover files that you may miss in a manual cleanup. Here’s how to use the Smart Uninstaller:

    1. Download and install MacKeeper on your Mac.
    2. Open MacKeeper and select Smart Uninstaller under the Cleaning section.
    click smart uninstaller in the left sidebar
    1. Click the Start Scan button.
    click start scan in smart uninstaller
    1. Select the apps and files you want to uninstall and click Remove Selected.
    select the applications you want to remove and click remove selected
    1. Click Remove to confirm the deletion.
    click remove on the pop up window in smart uninstaller
    1. This will remove the selected files and display a Removal Completed message on your screen. Click Rescan if you want to scan your Mac again.
    click rescan in smart uninstaller

    8. Update Your Mac Apps

    After removing problematic apps, check for updates for the remaining ones. Outdated apps can cause issues with WindowServer due to compatibility problems with the latest macOS.

    To update your Mac apps, follow these steps:

    1. Click the Apple icon and select App Store from the drop-down menu.
    click the apple menu and select app store
    1. Click the Updates tab.
    click updates in the left sidebar
    1. If any apps have an Update button next to them, click it to update the app.
    click the update button next to an app

    You can also use MacKeeper’s Update Tracker to update multiple apps in one go. Here’s how:

    1. Download and install MacKeeper on your Mac.
    2. Launch MacKeeper and click the Update Tracker tab in the left sidebar.
    click update tracker under performance
    1. Click Scan for Updates.
    click scan for updates
    1. MacKeeper will scan your Mac for outdated apps and display a list. To select an app, check the little box next to it or click Check All to select all apps.
    select individual apps or click check all
    1. Click Update All.
    click update all in update tracker
    1. Wait for the updates to complete. This can take a while, depending on the number and size of updates.
    2. You’ll get an Update Completed notification. Click Rescan if you want to update more apps. 
    click rescan to run the scan again

    9. Delete the Cache on Your Mac

    Cache files are temporary data used by Mac apps for smooth functioning, but they can cause issues like increased CPU usage by WindowServer. So, it’s best to delete cache files regularly.

    To clear the cache on your Mac, follow these steps:

    1. Open the Finder app and click Go in the top menu bar.
    open finder and click go from the top menu
    1. Press and hold the Option key to reveal the Library option, and click it.
    click library under go in the context menu
    1. Open the Caches folder.
    open the caches folder
    1. Select the folders you want to clear the cache for, right-click the selected folders, and click Move to Bin in the context menu.
    select the folders right click them and click move to bin
    1. Delete the cache files permanently by right-clicking the Bin icon and selecting Empty Bin.
    right click the bin and select empty bin

    You can also use MacKeeper’s Safe Cleanup to find and remove junk files from your Mac in just a few clicks. Here’s how:

    1. Download and install MacKeeper on your Mac.
    2. Open MacKeeper and click Safe Cleanup in the Cleaning section.
    click safe cleanup under the cleaning section
    1. Click the Start Scan button.
    click start scan in safe cleanup
    1. Select all the file categories you want to clean or click the Check All box.
    select junk files to remove or click check all
    1. Then, click Clean Junk Files.
    tap clean junk files
    1. This will delete all the junk files from your Mac. You can rerun the scan by tapping Rescan.
    click rescan to scan the system again

    What Else Can MacKeeper Do?

    Besides uninstalling and updating apps and cleaning the cache, MacKeeper is a full suite of Mac optimization tools. You can use it to remove duplicate files on your Mac, check your Mac for malware, and disable login items. If you want to learn more about its features, read my detailed MacKeeper review.

    10. Reset the SMC on Your Mac

    The low-level functions of the Mac, such as display management, are controlled by the System Management Controller (SMC). As a result, any issues with the SMC could lead to high CPU usage by the WindowServer process on your Mac.

    Here’s how to reset the SMC on your Mac:

    On Intel Mac With a Removable Battery

    1. Shut down your Mac.
    click the apple icon and select shut down
    1. Remove its battery.
    remove macs battery
    Image Credits: iFixit
    1. Press and hold the Power button for five seconds.
    macbook air touch id
    1. Release the Power button and reinstall the battery.
    reinstall macs battery
    Image Credits: iFixit
    1. Turn on your Mac by pressing the Power button.

    On Intel Mac With a Non-Removable Battery

    1. Tap the Apple icon and select Shut Down from the drop-down menu.
    click the apple icon and select shut down
    1. Press and hold the Shift ⇧ + Control ^ + Option keys with the Power button for 10 seconds.
    macbook air power shift control option keys
    1. Release all the keys and press the Power button to turn on your MacBook.

    On Apple Silicon Macs

    Apple Silicon Macs, including M1 and M2 models, lack a System Management Controller (SMC). As a result, you cannot perform an SMC reset on M1 and M2 Macs.

    11. Disconnect Gaming Accessories

    To see if gaming accessories are behind WindowServer’s high CPU usage, try disconnecting them and note any changes. If you use multiple accessories, reconnect them individually to pinpoint the cause. If you identify an accessory causing the problem, contact the manufacturer and ask for a solution.

    12. Troubleshoot External Monitor

    Using an external monitor with your Mac can make the WindowServer process use more CPU. This is because external monitors don’t have their own graphics processor (GPU), so the main CPU has to do all the graphic work.

    Here are some troubleshooting tips for external monitors:

    • Check that the external monitor is connected properly to your Mac.
    • Check that the external monitor is turned on and has power.
    • Disconnect the monitor and see if the issue has been resolved.
    • Restart your Mac with the external monitor connected.
    • Try connecting the external monitor to a different port on your Mac, if possible.
    • If you’re still experiencing issues, refer to the troubleshooting guide for your specific external monitor.

    13. Turn Off the Night Shift

    Night Shift on your Mac cuts down blue light to be easier on your eyes, but turning it off might lower WindowServer’s usage for some users. Here’s how to turn off the Night Shift on your Mac:

    1. Click the Apple icon and select System Settings from the drop-down menu.
    click the apple icon and select system settings
    1. Click Displays and tap the Night Shift button.
    select displays and click the night shift button
    1. Click the drop-down button next to Schedule and select Off to disable Night Shift. Then, click Done.
    click off in the schedule drop down and tap done

    14. Update to the Latest macOS

    Using an outdated operating system on your Mac can lead to various issues, including increased CPU usage by the WindowServer process.

    Here’s how to update your macOS to the latest version:

    1. Select System Settings from the drop-down menu of the Apple menu.
    click the apple icon and select system settings
    1. Go to General and select Software Update.
    click general and select software update
    1. Click Update Now and follow the on-screen instructions if an update is available.
    click the update now button
    1. Restart your Mac after the update, and it should fix the high CPU usage issue.

    Causes of WindowServer Mac High CPU Usage

    There are several reasons for macOS WindowServer high CPU usage. Here are the most common causes:

    1. 🖥️ Multiple or High-Resolution Displays: Using several monitors or a high-resolution display can increase the load on WindowServer.
    2. 🎮 Intensive Graphics Applications: Running applications that require a lot of graphics power, like games or video editing software, can strain WindowServer.
    3. 🪟 Too Many Open Windows or Desktops: Having lots of windows open or using many virtual desktops can make WindowServer work harder.
    4. Outdated or Incompatible Software: Old macOS versions or apps not optimized for your Mac can cause inefficiencies in WindowServer’s operation.
    5. 🌈 Desktop Complexity: Complex or dynamic wallpapers and lots of desktop icons can increase the load on WindowServer.
    6. ⚙️ System Preferences Settings: Settings like transparency and motion effects can add to the graphical load, affecting WindowServer.
    7. 🔄 Background Processes and Widgets: Active widgets or background processes, like antivirus software, backup utilities, and file-syncing services, constantly updating can increase WindowServer’s workload.
    8. 🔧 Hardware Issues: Problems with hardware, like a failing graphics card, can lead to abnormal CPU usage by WindowServer.
    9. 🐛 Software Bugs or Conflicts: Bugs in macOS or conflicts between different software can cause Mac WindowServer high CPU usage.

    Control WindowServer Mac High CPU Usage

    Now that you know how to identify the causes of the WindowServer Mac High CPU usage issue and take the necessary steps to fix it, you may want to improve your Mac’s performance further. Here are some tips:

    Frequently Asked Questions

    1. Why is WindowServer using so much CPU on my Mac?

      WindowServer’s high CPU usage on a Mac is due to graphics-heavy tasks, multiple open windows, or running outdated software. It’s responsible for rendering the graphical interface, so intensive visual activities can significantly increase its workload.

    2. Can I disable WindowServer on my Mac?

      No, you cannot disable WindowServer on your Mac, as it is a critical process for the graphical user interface on macOS. However, you can reduce its resource consumption by removing corrupt apps, updating apps and macOS, deleting cache, resetting the SMC, disconnecting gaming accessories, and turning off Night Shift.

    3. How can I prevent WindowServer Mac high CPU usage?

      You can prevent WindowServer Mac high CPU usage by keeping your system clean and free of clutter, disabling unnecessary features, using a cooling pad or fan, and monitoring your CPU usage regularly.

    Hashir Ibrahim

    Author

    I'm Hashir, a tech journalist with a decade of experience. My work has been featured in some of the top tech publications like MakeUseOf and MakeTechEasier. I have a bachelor's degree in IT, a master's in cybersecurity, and extensive knowledge of Apple hardware, specifically MacBooks. As the senior writer at MacBook Journal, I write in depth guides that help you solve any issues you have with your mac and unbiased reviews that help you make the right buying decisions.

    Ojash

    Reviewer

    Hi there! I'm Ojash, a tech journalist with over a decade of experience in the industry. I've had the privilege of contributing to some of the world's largest tech publications, making my mark as a respected Mac expert. My passion lies in exploring, using, and writing about MacBooks, and I enjoy sharing my expertise to help others make informed decisions and get the most out of their MacBook experience. Join me as we delve into the fascinating world of MacBooks together!

    Total
    0
    Shares
    You May Also Like