How to Fix kernel_task High CPU Usage on Mac.
When your Mac warms up or slows down, you will probably notice that a process named kernel_task is using a lot of CPU resources. Why is this happening? What does kernel_task actually mean? Should I be worried?
Read on to find out what is kernel_task on Mac and why it causes high CPU usage. You’ll also learn how to reduce excessive kernel_task activity on macOS.
What Is Kernel_Task on Mac?
Kernel_task is a native process in macOS. It has to do with the kernel, the deepest level of programming that powers the Mac software and hardware.
Kernel_task performs many important background functions on a MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, iMac, or Mac Mini, such as allocating system resources (CPU and RAM) to programs and system services.
But most importantly, it plays a significant role in temperature control. This is where the high kernel_task activity comes in.
Why Kernel_Task Causes High CPU Usage?
Your Mac can get warm for a variety of reasons. For example, performing resource-intensive activities (such as editing or exporting ultra-high definition videos) almost always causes CPU temperature spikes. Rendering resource-intensive web elements, using inefficient plugins in Chrome or Safari, or playing Adobe Flash-related content can also heat things up.
When this happens, the kernel_task will take effect and prevent processes from using the extra processing power and generating even more heat. This is achieved by simulating empty CPU cycles.
Is High Kernel_Task CPU Usage Cause for Concern?
In most cases, high kernel_task activity is not a concern. As a reminder, if you are constantly doing resource-intensive tasks, expect high CPU usage of kernel_task on your Mac. This is just routine maintenance to prevent excessive heat damage to the Mac’s internal components.
But if you’re constantly noticing that kernel_task is using CPU power for no apparent reason, you might be in trouble. For example, unoptimized apps, outdated apps, system caches, and buggy kernel extensions can heat up your Mac without any proportional increase in activity.
Reducing High Kernel_Task CPU Usage on Mac
In order to fix persistently high kernel_task activity, you must address all the underlying causes that contribute to your Mac getting extra hot. The troubleshooting tips below will help you with this.
Start by identifying processes other than kernel_task that are consuming a lot of CPU resources using the Mac Activity Monitor. Hint – Select the CPU column to sort processes by activity.
If the CPU-intensive process is part of a typical activity (such as exporting a video), wait for it to complete. If not, close or force quit the process by clicking the Stop button at the top of the Activity Monitor window.
Shut Down and Reboot
Another fix involves restarting your Mac. This is a quick way to eliminate any rogue processes causing your kernel_task issue.
Then try to update the apps that are running on the Mac. It’s best to focus your attention on any programs that put more stress on your Mac’s CPU.
Start by opening the Mac App Store and look under the Updates tab in the sidebar for any pending app updates.
For apps you got outside of the Mac App Store, look for the “Check for Updates” option in the apps themselves.
Buggy instances of macOS (especially early releases of major version updates) can lead to memory leaks and overheating issues. So update your operating system and see if that makes a difference.
To update macOS, open the Apple menu on the left side of your Mac menu bar and choose System Preferences > Software Update > Update Now.
Use Mac in a Cooler Environment
If you use your Mac outdoors or in hot weather, outside temperatures can cause your Mac to heat up and run kernel_task at high speed. Try moving your device to a cooler or well ventilated area.
Reset NVRAM or PRAM
If you are using an Intel Mac, you can try resetting the NVRAM or PRAM. This is a small piece of volatile memory that stores system-critical settings (such as screen resolution, boot disk settings, date, time zone, etc.). A corrupted NVRAM can lead to all sorts of problems, so resetting it can fix kernel issues.
To reset NVRAM, start by shutting down your Mac. Then turn it back on by holding down the Command, Option, P, and R keys. Release it as soon as you hear the start-up beep for the second time. If you’re using a Mac with an Apple T2 security chip, release the keys after 20 seconds.
In addition to NVRAM, you can take an extra step and reset the SMC (System Management Controller) on Mac.
Clear the Mac’s Cache
Outdated or corrupted temporary files can also cause performance issues on macOS, so the next fix involves clearing the app and system cache.
Use the free Onyx app to quickly clear your Mac’s cache. Check out our guide to clearing the Mac cache if you prefer the manual approach.
Enter & Exit Safe Mode
Entering and exiting safe mode on Mac helps clear the kernel cache. To enter Safe Mode on an Intel Mac, simply hold down the Shift key at startup until the login screen appears.
If you are using an Apple Silicon Mac, turn it on by holding down the power button. When you get to the Startup Options screen, hold down the Shift key and choose Macintosh HD > Continue in Safe Mode.
Run a Malware Scan
Mac computers have a reputation for being resistant to malware, but that doesn’t mean they’re completely immune. To scan and remove malicious processes and rootkits on Mac, consider running a malware scan with a free anti-malware utility. Malwarebytes is a great choice.
Delete Kernel Extensions
Finally, you can spend time identifying and disabling any third-party core extensions (or kexts). Cupcakes extend the default functionality of the Mac kernel, but they can also lead to high kernel_task activity or kernel errors.
You can use a free diagnostic utility called EtreCheckPro to scan and list installed kernel extensions. Then you must uninstall related programs to remove the kexts.
Kernel_Task: Best Left to Its Own Means
We hope this guide has helped you understand the kernel_task process on Mac and what you can do to resolve high kernel_task CPU usage. If the problem persists, you can reinstall macOS in recovery mode. If that also fails, the issue might be hardware-related. In this case, contact Apple Support for assistance.
How to Fix kernel_task High CPU Usage on Mac
How to Fix kernel_task High CPU Usage on Mac