Computer users love Macs because they are great in terms of aesthetics and performance. However, macOS is not without flaws. We’ve established that Macs are also vulnerable to malware and they are also prone to errors, including slowdowns and crashes.
One of the common reasons behind performance problems on Mac is when some of the processes eat up a huge chunk of your device’s resources, including CPU and RAM. When your computer is left with limited resources, lots of problems crop up.
So when you notice something’s wrong with your Mac, the first thing you need to do is check Activity Monitor and see if there are any processes that are behaving suspiciously, such as the kernel_task process.
Several users have reported an issue with Mac’s kernel_task CPU usage. Because Mac’s kernel_task is using high CPU, you’ll notice that your computer is so slow and unresponsive. In some instances, you might even encounter kernel panics that cause your system to crash.
What is Kernel_Task?
When you find that the process named kernel_task is using up a lot of your CPU power, the first thing that might come to your mind is that it is malicious. Well, it is not. It is a core component of macOS in charge of managing CPU temperature to prevent your system from overheating. And kernel_task does this by making your CPU resources less available to applications that are using it intensively. So to prevent your CPU from getting too hot, it pretends to be using up your CPU power so that other CPU-intensive activities won’t get too much power and the heat is regulated. When there isn’t much risk anymore, everything will get back to normal.
What Causes Kernel_Task High CPU Usage on Mac
Flash is one of the worst applications that prompt kernel_task to behave like this, especially if it is outdated. When you’re running an application that uses Flash, you’ll probably have an issue with Mac’s kernel_task CPU usage. So if you have Flash on your Mac, better disable or uninstall it to prevent Mac’s kernel_task from using high CPU. Flash is going to be obsolete soon, anyway.
Another reason why your CPU usage is shooting off the charts is because you have too many apps running on your Mac. With so many processes the kernel_task has to attend to deal with, the more stressed out it will be.
Some users also noted that the high kernel_task CPU consumption is caused by high chassis temperature when charging. So if you notice that your CPU consumption is quite high when your Mac is plugged in to the power adapter, you need to apply the appropriate solution.
Corrupt kernel extensions, or kexts, can also be the cause of the issue with Mac’s kernel_task CPU usage. These third-party extensions, if not configured properly, can take up a huge chunk of your CPU resources, triggering the kernel_task to try and sort things out.
Mac users should also not forget about malware, particularly cryptominers. These malicious entities tend to use up all available resources to mine cryptocurrencies, causing kernel_task to go berserk as it tries to lower the CPU usage of this malware.
How to Fix Kernel_Task CPU Usage Issue on MacBook, iMac, Mac Pro
If, upon checking Activity Monitor, you found out that kernel_task is hogging all the CPU resources and your Mac has become extremely slow, you need to figure out how to lower its usage to get things back to normal.
Here are some of the things you can do when your Mac’s kernel_task is using high CPU:
Solution #1: Update or Uninstall Flash.
If you’re still using Flash on your Mac, then that’s probably the reason for the spike in kernel_task’s CPU usage. The spike gets worse if your Flash version is outdated. If you can’t live without Flash, make sure to update it regularly to prevent the kernel_task problem from escalating.
However, with Flash technology being slowly replaced with better software, it is highly recommended that you find an alternative that doesn’t use Flash to avoid these problems. You can uninstall Flash by going to Finder > Go > Applications, then dragging the Flash icon to the Trash. Make sure to empty your Trash to completely remove it from your Mac.
Solution #2: Close Unused Apps or Windows.
If you have a lot of apps running or windows open, kernel_task is forced to work double-time. To minimize the pressure on kernel_task and to lower its CPU consumption, quit all apps that are not being used and close all windows that you no longer need. This not only frees up your CPU, but your RAM as well.
Solution #3: Charge on the Right, Not Left.
If your kernel_task CPU consumption spikes when charging, then move the charger to the left-side thunderbolt port instead. High CPU usage by the kernel_task process can be caused by high Thunderbolt Left Proximity temperature when you’re charging and have peripherals plugged in at the same time. To balance the temperature, you need to balance the load of the thunderbolt ports.
Solution #4: Reset SMC.
The system management controller (SMC) is responsible for a lot of macOS functions, including temperature management, hence resetting it might resolve your kernel_task problem.
To reset SMC, follow the steps provided below:
- Shut down your Mac.
- Press and hold the right Shift key + left Option key + left Control key for at least seven seconds.
- Press and hold the Power key for seven seconds while holding the other keys.
- Release all the keys at the same time.
Solution #5: Scan for Malware.
If all of the above solutions don’t work, then you need to consider the presence of malware on your Mac. Scan your computer using your anti-malware software and delete all threats detected. Make sure to delete all the malware’s components to prevent it from coming back.
High CPU usage of the kernel_task process can be quite troublesome, but you don’t have to worry because it can easily be resolved using the above solutions.