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What Do You Know About High WindowServer CPU Usage On Mac?

High WindowServer CPU Usage
Written by Hassan Abbas

Are you wondering about hight WindowServer CPU usage on Mac? The Mac received lots of modifications with OS X Yosemite with a notable visual redesign. But some modifications and different transparent effects might be taking a toll on some users Mac performance with offending WindowServer behavior. This is illustrated with the WindowServer process sticking into heavy CPU use for apparently no reason, often with an accompanying excessive usage of memory. Also, it leads to very inactive and rough behavior during the general usage of Mac OS X and MacOS on some PCs.

Also, something like opening Quick Look, opening some latest Finder windows, or moving through a busy Finder folders contents leads to a rush in WindowServer processor usage that is quite high to cause a PC to freeze up or also the appearance of the much-maligned beachball pointer.

If WindowServer is staying at stabbing high CPU usage for apparently no meaningful cause in some cases with Mac OS X or macOS this guide is good at you. We’re going to attempt to tame the WindowServer process after limiting elements and features that might be amazing WindowServer behavior. However, a challenging task provided that WindowServer is important to draw everything view in Mac OS X. Hopefully the WindowServer CPU usage problem is just an optimization or bug problem that will be addressed. But this behavior continues well into the newest model of Mac OS even on the latest Mac hardware. Also, there are some fixes that help, so let’s check it out:

Fix High WindowServer CPU Usage -> DisableTransparent Effects in Mac OS X

Just disable transparency effects singlehandedly speeds every single Mac I’ve experienced executing Mac OS X Yosemite or later. However, the hardware is old or new. Also, if the PC can’t feel specifically slow, it will almost feel faster disabling the effects of transparency.

High WindowServer CPU Usage

Step 1:

Head over to the Apple menu and select “System Preferences”, then move to “Accessibility”

Step 2:

Select “Display” from the left menu

Step 3:

Toggle the switch located next to “Reduce transparency” to be ON (otherwise, you can turn on Increase Contrast if you want the UI to be quite easier to differentiate. Also, it disable the translucent elements throughout OS X)

When the speed increase is immediately notable in some actions, and you can also measure the after or before results with the FPS frame rate monitor in Quartz Debug. However, it depends on the hardware that can be a 10 FPS or a bigger boost in the refresh rate of display animations.

It’s still the case with Mac OS X 10.10.3, so maybe there is a wilful bug or might a bit of performance optimization is still in order for OS X Yosemite.

I like the transparent effect. So I keep this on with the latest Mac hardware, but also my 2015 version Retina MacBook Pro with 16GB of RAM gets a lift from disabling transparency. Also, barely older hardware like a MacBook Air from 2012 is irritating slow with transparent effects on. Also, users complain Retina iMac 27″, which is quite new and sturdy hardware. That latest hardware with enough resources can still struggle to show transparent effects in OS X recommends an eventual software solution is likely.

Close Unwanted App & Finder Windows

When OS X Yosemite has several windows of Finder or apps open, WindowServer begins to consume an excessive amount of resources. However, it happens in all models of OS X there is something unique about Yosemite that causes this to be a specifically draining event.

The fix is more user behavior-oriented than anything else; get in the habit of closing unwanted windows or apps so they are no longer needs resources.

Remembering the Close All Windows keystroke can be essential for managing or organizing this.

Stop Mission Control Spaces Reorganizing Itself

After using Spaces, that is actually the virtual desktop environment on the Mac, stopping the spaces from rearranging them based on usage looks to make a small difference in WindowServer behavior.

Step 1:

Head over to System Preferences from the Apple menu and head over to “Mission Control”

Step 2:

Turn off the setting for “Automatically rearrange Spaces based on most recent use”

Multi-Displays Setup? Disable Spaces for Each

If you have a multi-display setup, another setting is to turn off Spaces for each individual display.

Step 1:

Head over to System Preferences and move to “Mission Control”

Step 2:

Toggle the setting for “Displays have separate spaces” to be OFF

Step 3:

Then log out, or better yet, then reboot the Mac

Of course, if you’re not one to use different display screens with your Mac, that modification will have no effect so your focus should be elsewhere.

High WindowServer CPU Usage -> Reboot or Shut down

If you’re one of those Mac users who can’t reboot or shut down their Mac, but you’re encountering WindowServer high CPU problems. You might want to restart or adjust the Mac a bit more often. Simply restart the Mac offers a temporary fix to the WindowServer process misbehavior. I know this sounds awful, but various commenters have claimed temporary success with this.

Once done of all of the above. You can then continue to search WindowServer misbehaving or the Mac executing excessive slow.

Have you encountered WindowServer issues? Do you have any tricks to limit WindowServer resource usage in OS X Yosemite? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below!

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About the author

Hassan Abbas

Tech enthusiast with too many items on his wish-list and not nearly enough money! Specializing in all things tech, with a slight Apple bent he has been writing for various blogs for the best part of (too many) years

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