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Mac Task Manager Equivalent And How To Use It [Quick Guide]

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Last updated: September 6, 2023

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Transitioning from Windows to Mac can be challenging, especially when familiar tools like Task Manager have different names and locations. While you can use the Windows Task Manager’s Mac equivalent, the Activity Monitor, to end unresponsive processes, you cannot access it from the familiar Ctrl + Alt + Delete sequence of Windows.

So how to get Task Manager on Mac? If you’re a long-time Windows user who’s recently transitioned to Mac, or even a seasoned Mac user who’s yet to explore this tool, this guide is for you to learn everything you need to know about the Mac Task Manager equivalent and how to use it effectively.

Before We Begin

Although Activity Monitor can help manage system processes and quit unnecessary apps, there’s an even quicker, one-click solution you can use: MacKeeper. This system maintenance utility can close unwanted apps and help free up RAM on your Mac, so your system functions smoothly.

Optimize Your Mac With MacKeeper in One-Click

Say goodbye to sluggish performance and hello to MacKeeper, your ultimate one-click solution for optimizing your Mac. With its advanced features and user-friendly interface, MacKeeper empowers you to speed up a slow Mac, declutter your Mac, and protect your privacy with just a single click.

If you open applications on your Mac that start causing performance issues, you can use MacKeeper to close problematic apps, uninstall corrupt apps, and free up your Mac’s RAM to improve its performance.

Here are the steps to use a MacKeeper’s Memory Cleaner to free up RAM on your Mac:

  1. Download and install MacKeeper on your Mac.
  2. Open MacKeeper and click Memory Cleaner under the Performance tab.
select memory cleaner under performance 4

3. Click Open.

click open in the memory cleaner 4
  1. Click Clean Memory.
click clean memory 4
  1. It will clean your Mac and free up available memory. You can see how much memory it freed under Last Cleanup.
memory cleaned after a cycle 2
  1. You can also close a single problematic app on Mac using MacKeeper. To do it, click the Memory Usage tab in the left pane.
select apps and processes and hover your mouse on an app click the x
  1. Click Quit to confirm your decision and it will close the selected app.
click quit on the pop up

If you think app cache is causing performance issues on your computer, you can use the Safe Cleanup feature to delete junk files on Mac. Here’s how to use the Safe Cleanup feature to remove cache and junk files on Mac:

  1. Download and install MacKeeper on your Mac.
  2. Launch the app and open Safe Cleanup from MacKeeper’s Cleaning section.
click safe cleanup under the cleaning section 4
  1. Click Start Scan.
click start scan 3
  1. Select the files you want to remove or click Check All.
select junk files to remove or click check all 4
  1. Click Clean Junk Files.
tap clean junk files 4
  1. This will remove the selected junk files from your Mac. You can click Rescan to repeat the process.
click rescan to scan the system again 1

Lastly, you can use MacKeeper to uninstall corrupt and problematic apps on your Mac. Here’s how:

  1. Download and install MacKeeper on your Mac.
  2. Open MacKeeper and click Smart Uninstaller in the left sidebar under Cleaning.
click smart uninstaller in the left sidebar
  1. Click Start Scan.
click start scan in smart uninstaller
  1. When the scan completes, Applications in the left sidebar, select the unused apps and click Remove Selected.
select the applications you want to remove and click remove selected
  1. Tap Remove on the pop-up window.
click remove on the pop up window in smart uninstaller
  1. This will delete the selected apps from your Mac, and you’ll get a Removal Completed notification. Click Rescan to start the scan again.
click rescan in smart uninstaller

What Else Can MacKeeper Do?

Besides freeing up RAM, uninstalling unwanted apps, and clearing the cache on your Mac, you can use MacKeeper to scan your system for virus, delete duplicates on your Mac, and track app updates on your Mac. If you want to learn more, read my detailed MacKeeper review.

What Is the Mac Task Manager Equivalent?

The Mac Task Manager equivalent is called Activity Monitor. It’s a built-in application exclusive to macOS. Despite its different name and location, the Activity Monitor serves the same purpose as the Task Manager, allowing you to oversee your system resources, including CPU, memory, energy, disk, network, and cache usage.

cpu usage in activity monitor

Activity Monitor serves as an alternative to the Windows Task Manager on Mac, functioning as a tool that reveals the amount of memory consumed by processes on your Mac and displays the currently active applications, even if they are not visibly open.

You can also use the Activity Monitor to force quit unresponsive apps when the regular methods fail. If you’re unfamiliar with this Mac Task Manager, it may initially appear overwhelming.

To help you out, I’ve covered how to use open and use the Activity Monitor on Mac in detail below.

What Is the Control-Alt-Delete Shortcut for Mac?

On a Mac, the equivalent to the Windows Control-Alt-Delete shortcut is Command ⌘ + Option ⌥ + Escape. However, this keyboard shortcut doesn’t open the Task Manager Mac equivalent, Activity Monitor. Instead it opens the Force Quit Applications window, which is like a mini version of Activity Monitor.

force quit applications window

In the Force Quit Applications window, you can select an unresponsive application and force it to quit which is something Windows Task Manager does.

Here’s how to force quit an app using Force Quit Applications on Mac:

  1. Press the Command ⌘ + Option ⌥ + Escape shortcut or click the Apple icon and select Force Quit.
click the apple icon and select force quit
  1. The Force Quit Applications window will appear, displaying a list of currently running applications.
apps currently open in force quit window
  1. Find the app you want to force quit from the list. If the application is unresponsive or frozen, its name may be highlighted in red.
  2. Select the application by clicking it once. Click the Force Quit button in the bottom-right corner of the window.
force quit any processes that are causing problems
  1. A confirmation dialog will appear, asking if you want to force quit the selected application. Click Force Quit to proceed.
confirm by clicking force quit
  1. The application will be forcefully terminated, closing all its associated processes.

Please note that force quitting an application may result in any unsaved data being lost, so it’s recommended to save your work before proceeding with force quitting.

How to Open the Task Manager on Mac

To open the Task Manager on Mac, you have to open its equivalent: Activity Monitor. There are different ways to open the Task Manager Mac equivalent. To open the Task Manager on your Mac, you can use Spotlight, Finder, Launchpad, or the Dock.

Below, we’ve shared all the methods you can use to open Activity Monitor on your Mac.

From Spotlight

Spotlight search is a built-in feature on macOS that allows you to quickly search for files, applications, documents, emails, and perform various tasks on your Mac. It provides instant results and suggestions as you type, making it easy to find and access information and perform actions quickly on your Mac.

To open the Activity Monitor from Spotlight, follow these steps:

  1. Press the Command ⌘ + Space keys or click the magnifying icon in the menu bar to open Spotlight Search.
macbook air command space keys
  1. In the search bar that appears on your screen, type Activity Monitor.
type activity monitor in spotlight search
  1. As you type, Spotlight will start displaying search results. Look for the Activity Monitor application in the results list.
  2. Once you see the Activity Monitor app, click to open the utility.
click the activity monitor app in spotlight search

The Activity Monitor will launch, providing you with detailed information about the processes and resource usage on your Mac.

From Launchpad

Launchpad on macOS provides a visually appealing and easy-to-navigate way to access and launch applications installed on your Mac. It displays a grid of icons representing your applications, similar to how apps are organized on iOS devices. Launchpad is especially useful for users who prefer a more app-centric approach to accessing and launching applications on their Mac.

To open the Activity Monitor from Launchpad, you can follow these steps:

  1. Click the Launchpad icon in the Dock.
click on the launchpad icon in your dock
  1. The Launchpad will open, displaying a grid of application icons and a search bar on the top.
all apps in launchpad
  1. Type Activity Monitor in the search bar and it will display the Activity Monitor app icon.
  2. Click the Activity Monitor icon to launch the utility.
type activity monitor in the search bar and double click the app icon

This will launch the Activity Monitor app on your Mac.

From Finder

To open the Activity Monitor from Finder, you can follow these steps:

  1. Open a new Finder window by clicking the Finder icon in the Dock.
click finder in your dock
  1. Click Applications in the left sidebar.
click applications in the left sidebar
  1. Scroll down and find the Utilities folder.
open utilities in applications
  1. Navigate through the Utilities folder to find the Activity Monitor application.
open activity monitor in utilities
  1. Once you find the Activity Monitor application, double-click to open the utility.

From Dock

If you frequently use Activity Monitor, you can keep it in your Dock for easy access. But before you can do that, you need to open Activity Monitor using one of the previous methods. Then, once it is active and showing in the Dock, follow these steps to keep it in the Dock for future access:

  1. Right-click the Activity Monitor icon in the Dock.
  2. Hover your mouse over Options.
  3. Select Keep in Dock.
hover your mouse over options and select keep in dock

When you select Keep in Dock, a checkmark will appear next to it, indicating the application will remain in the Dock even after quitting. It means, from now on, you can conveniently access the Activity Monitor with a single click from your Dock.

checkmark next to keep in dock

How to Use Activity Monitor on Mac

Using the Activity Monitor is easy but you have to familiarize yourself with the interface and how to use its indicators. When you launch the Activity Monitor, you’ll see the following six tabs in the top toolbar:

activity monitor top toolbar

You can use these tabs to monitor various aspects of your Mac’s performance. Understanding how to interpret the data in Activity Monitor can help you troubleshoot issues and keep your Mac running smoothly. Here’s a breakdown:

Check CPU Usage on Mac

The CPU pane in Activity Monitor provides information about the central processing unit (CPU) usage on your Mac. It displays real-time data on the percentage of CPU resources being utilized by each process or application.

You can sort by CPU usage to see which processes are using the most CPU. Navigate to the CPU tab in Activity Monitor to view the percentage of CPU capability being used by macOS (System), by your apps (User), and what’s not being used (Idle)​.

cpu usage in activity monitor

To check CPU usage on Mac using Activity Monitor, follow these steps:

  1. Open Activity Monitor. You can find it in the Applications folder, under Utilities, or use Spotlight Search (press Command ⌘ + Space and type Activity Monitor).
open activity monitor in utilities
  1. Once Activity Monitor is open, click the CPU tab at the top of the window. This will show you the CPU-related information.
  2. In the CPU pane, you’ll see a list of processes and applications, with their corresponding CPU usage percentages. The higher the percentage, the more CPU resources that process or application is consuming.
cpu usage by percentage in the cpu tab
  1. To sort the processes by CPU usage, click on the % CPU column header. This will arrange the list in descending order, making it easier to identify which processes are using the most CPU.
cpu percentage in activity monitor

By monitoring the CPU pane in Activity Monitor, you can keep track of CPU usage and identify any processes causing high CPU usage or impacting system performance.

Check RAM Usage on Mac

The Memory pane in Activity Monitor provides information about the Random Access Memory (RAM) usage on your Mac. It displays real-time data on the amount of memory each process or application uses.

Go to the Memory tab to see how much RAM is being used, including by apps (App Memory), by the system (Wired Memory), and how much is being compressed to make more RAM available (Compressed)​.

memory usage in activity monitor

To check RAM usage on Mac using Activity Monitor, follow these steps:

  1. Open Activity Monitor by going to Finder > Applications > Utilities.
open activity monitor in utilities
  1. Once the Activity Monitor is open, click the Memory tab at the top of the window. This will show you the RAM-related information.
memory tab in activity monitor
  1. You’ll find a list of processes and applications, along with their corresponding memory usage. The Memory column displays the amount of RAM being used by each process.
memory usage column in activity monitor
  1. At the bottom of the RAM pane, you’ll see a summary of your Mac’s total physical memory, memory used, cached files, and swap used.
memory stats in the bottom pane
  1. To sort the processes by memory usage, click the Memory column header. This will arrange the list in descending order, making it easier to identify which processes are using the most memory.
memory column header

By monitoring the RAM pane in Activity Monitor, you can keep track of RAM usage and identify any processes consuming excessive memory. This information can help you troubleshoot performance issues and manage memory resources effectively on your Mac.

Check Energy Use on Mac

The Energy pane in Activity Monitor provides information about the energy usage of applications and processes on your Mac. It shows how much energy each application consumes and provides insights into the impact on battery life for laptops or power consumption for desktops. The lower the score, the less battery your app is using.

The Energy metrics include energy impact, remaining charge, time remaining, time on battery, and battery in the last 12 hours.

energy usage bar at the bottom

To check energy use on Mac using Activity Monitor, follow these steps:

  1. Open Activity Monitor by going to Finder > Applications > Utilities.
open activity monitor in utilities
  1. Once the Activity Monitor is open, click the Energy tab at the top of the window. This will display the energy-related information.
energy tab in activity monitor
  1. In the Energy pane, you’ll see a list of processes and applications, along with their corresponding energy impact. The higher the energy impact value, the more power the application is consuming.
energy impact column in activity monitor
  1. To sort the processes by energy impact, click the Energy Impact column header. This will arrange the list in descending order, making it easier to identify which processes are using the most energy.
energy impact column header

Additionally, you can observe other metrics such as App Nap, 12 hr Power, and Preventing Sleep in the Energy pane to gain further insights into the energy usage of specific applications.

energy impact 12 hr power app nap preventing sleep column headers
  • App Nap: App Nap conserves energy by reducing the power consumption of applications that are not currently visible or actively performing tasks. The App Nap column in the Energy pane shows whether an application is using this feature, indicating its energy-saving behavior.
  • 12 hr Power: The 12 hr Power column in the Energy pane shows an estimate of the average energy impact of an application over a 12-hour period. It provides a longer-term perspective on energy consumption.
  • Preventing Sleep: The Preventing Sleep column indicates whether an application is preventing the Mac from going into sleep mode or idle sleep, potentially contributing to higher energy usage.

By monitoring the Energy pane in Activity Monitor, you can assess the energy consumption of applications and processes, identify energy-hungry applications, and make informed decisions to optimize energy usage on your Mac. This can be particularly useful for managing battery life on laptops or reducing power consumption on desktop systems.

Check Disk Activity on Mac

The Disk pane in Activity Monitor provides information about the disk activity on your Mac. It displays real-time data on read and write operations performed by applications and processes. The Disk tab shows the amount of data that each process has read from and written to your disk, helping you identify processes accessing the disk frequently.

disk usage in activity monitor

To check disk activity on Mac using Activity Monitor, follow these steps:

  1. Open Activity Monitor by typing Activity Monitor in the Spotlight Search. You can open Spotlight by pressing Command ⌘ + Space.
type activity monitor in spotlight search
  1. Once the Activity Monitor is open, click the Disk tab at the top of the window. This will display the disk-related information.
disk tab in activity monitor
  1. In the Disk pane, you’ll see a list of processes and applications, with their corresponding read and write data rates. The Bytes Written and Bytes Read columns show the amount of data being read from and written to the disk by each process.
bytes written bytes read columns
  1. To sort the processes by disk activity, click the Bytes Written and Bytes Read column header. This will arrange the list in descending order, making it easier to identify which processes are performing the most disk activity.
bytes written bytes read column headers
  1. You can also check the average disk usage at the bottom of the Disk pane in Data read/sec and Data written/sec options.
data read data written per sec

      By monitoring the Disk pane in Activity Monitor, you can keep track of disk activity, identify processes heavily utilizing the disk, and gain insights into how applications are interacting with your storage system.

      This information can help troubleshoot performance issues, manage storage resources efficiently, and identify potential bottlenecks related to disk activity.

      Check Network Activity on Mac

      The Network pane in Activity Monitor provides information about network activity on your Mac. It displays real-time data on network usage, showing how much data your Mac is sending and receiving over your network.

      network stats in network tab

      To check network activity on Mac using Activity Monitor, follow these steps:

      1. Open Activity Monitor using Spotlight Search. Press Command ⌘ + Space and type Activity Monitor.
      type activity monitor in spotlight search
      1. Once the Activity Monitor is open, click the Network tab at the top of the window. This will display the network-related information.
      network tab in activity monitor
      1. In the Network pane, you’ll see a list of processes and applications, along with their corresponding network usage. The Sent Bytes and Rcvd Bytes columns show the amount of data being sent and received by each process.
      sent bytes rcvd bytes columns
      1. To sort the processes by network activity, click the Sent Bytes and Rcvd Bytes column header. This will arrange the list in descending order, making it easier to identify which processes are generating the most network traffic.
      sent bytes rcvd bytes column headers

      You can also use the Network pane to monitor other network-related information such as the Sent Packets and Rcvd Packets column, which displays the number of packets being sent and received by each process.

      sent packets rcvd packets columns

      By monitoring the Network pane in Activity Monitor, you can keep track of network activity, identify processes utilizing network resources, and diagnose network-related issues. This information helps troubleshoot network performance, identify bandwidth-intensive applications, and manage network resources effectively on your Mac.

      Check Cache on Mac

      The Cache pane in Activity Monitor on macOS Ventura allows you to view content cache activity. Here are the steps to access it:

      1. Open the Activity Monitor app on your Mac, and click the Cache tab.
      cache tab in activity monitor
      1. If you don’t see the Cache tab in the Activity Monitor window, you need to enable it. To do it, choose Apple menu > System Settings.
      click the apple icon and select system settings
      1. Click General in the sidebar and select Sharing.
      click general and select sharing
      1. Scroll down and turn on Content Caching.
      toggle on content caching
      1. After that, quit and reopen Activity Monitor to view Cache information.
      2. To see data served for a particular period of time, click the pop-up menu at the bottom of the window, then choose a time period.
      click the pop up menu at the bottom and choose a time period

      The Cache pane displays the following content caching statistics:

      types of cache in activity monitor
      • Data Served: Total amount of data the content cache has served. When these values are nonzero, the content cache is working.
      • Data Served From Cache: Amount of data the content cache has served from its cache. The closer these values are to the Data Served values, the more the content cache is helping.
      • Data Dropped: Amount of data the content cache downloaded but couldn’t add to its cache.
      • Data Served From Origin: Amount of data the content cache downloaded over the internet.
      • Data Served From Parents: Amount of data the content cache downloaded from any of its parent content caches.
      • Data Served From Peers: Amount of data the content cache downloaded from any of its peer content caches.
      • Data Served To Children: Amount of data the content cache served to any of its child content caches.
      • Data Served To Clients: Amount of data the content cache served to client Mac computers, iOS devices, iPadOS devices, and Apple TV devices.
      • Data Served To Peers: Amount of data the content cache served to any of its peer content caches.
      • Data Uploaded: Amount of data uploaded from clients through the content cache.
      • Maximum Cache Pressure: How urgently the content cache needs more disk space. Lower cache pressure is better. If these values are higher than 50%, you should assign the cache more space, move the cache to a larger volume, or add content caches​.

      How to See Your System Status in the Dock With the Activity Monitor

      You can monitor your system status right from the Dock by right-clicking the Activity Monitor app icon in the Dock, going to Dock Icon, and choosing the type of data you want to display.

      hover your mouse over dock icon

      There’s another way to view a quick summary of system status right in your Dock using the Activity Monitor. Here’s how to set it up:

      1. Open Activity Monitor (You can find it by searching for it in Spotlight, which you can access by pressing Command ⌘ + Space, or access it via the Utilities folder within Applications).
      open activity monitor in utilities
      1. With the Activity Monitor open, click View in the menu bar and hover your mouse over Dock Icon.
      click view in menu bar and select dock icon
      1. From the side menu that appears, select Show CPU Usage, Show CPU History, Show Network Usage, or Show Disk Activity, depending on what you want to monitor.
      2. The selected option will replace the Activity Monitor icon in the Dock with a live graph showing that system statistic.
      activity monitor logo showing network activity

      Remember, Activity Monitor needs to be open for this to work. If you close the Activity Monitor, the Dock icon will revert back to the standard Activity Monitor icon.

      Use Mac Task Manager Equivalent Like a Pro

      The Activity Monitor is a powerful tool for managing and understanding your Mac’s performance. From monitoring CPU and memory usage to tracking energy consumption, Activity Monitor provides a comprehensive view of your Mac’s performance.

      If you need more help, here are some more tips for you:

      Frequently Asked Questions

      1. How do I get to Task Manager on Mac?

        To access Task Manager on a Mac, open Activity Monitor. Press Command ⌘ + Space to open Spotlight search, type Activity Monitor and hit Enter. It provides detailed information about CPU, memory, energy, disk, network, and cache usage.

      2. Why can’t I open Task Manager on Mac?

        If you can’t open Activity Monitor (Task Manager on Mac), it may be due to restricted permissions or system issues. Try restarting your Mac, checking your user permissions, or running Disk Utility to check for disk errors. If problems persist, contact Apple Support.

      3. How to clear RAM Mac using Activity Monitor?

        To clear RAM on a Mac using Activity Monitor, open the application, click the Memory tab, select a process that’s consuming a lot of memory, and click the x button to quit the process. This can help free up RAM.

      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!

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