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Typically, my kernel_task process uses 1-4% CPU and 100-700MB of memory. However, sometimes when I have the power adapter plugged in, the CPU usage jumps to around 500% (8 cores) and stays there until I unplug the power adapter. I can plug it back in and everything is fine for a few seconds or a few days, then it eventually happens again. How can I stop this from happening?

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4 Answers

In my experience this has always been due to a hardware fault. However before doing anything else reset the SMC as detailed here: http://support.apple.com/kb/HT3964 as its power related.

This appears to happen when the Mac is struggling to communicate with hardware. Which Mac is it? How old is the battery? Is your battery life still good? Has the Mac had any damage - dropped? Liquid? Have you tried a different power adapter?

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MBP 2011, as old as the laptop, yes, no, no, yes. –  Sparr Nov 25 '12 at 2:13
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http://www.rdoxenham.com/?p=259 covers disabling the kernel extension responsible for triggering this misbehavior. However, doing so also disables some other thermal management functionality.

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This is interesting, but you have to ask what is causing the problem in the first place. Something isn't right. As I said, everytime I've seen this, there has been a hardware fault. –  Justsomeguy Nov 25 '12 at 2:46
    
For me this analysis doesn't explain correctly the origin of the problem. Moreover, I'm deeply convinced through other cases that the overheating and the kernel_task eating all the CPU are just correlated consequences of the same causing problem. Stupid loops within a kernel can only lead to overheating. –  daniel Azuelos Aug 7 '13 at 15:43
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my kernel_task issue (cpu at -> 500% for ever) was blutooth related:

http://droolfactory.blogspot.com.es/2012/08/mac-os-x-lion-kerneltask-with-high-cpu.html

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You should provide at least a short summary of the article you are referencing. The goal is to make Ask Different a self-sufficient resource. –  Jawa Aug 8 '13 at 6:44
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Please have a look at this typical problem: kernel_task at 300% and the suggested method of analysis: diagnosis of a CPU hog.

The Activity Manager isn't acurate enough to help you see that there are other processes indirectly loading the Kernel. top will unveil these hogs.

To display processes sorted starting with the biggest CPU consummer:

top -o cpu

...sorted starting with the biggest virtual memory consummer:

top -o vsize

...sorted starting with the process making the more context switches (being started and stopped with a huge frequency, sometimes the result of 2 processes talking together, not letting the other processes the freedom to get the cpu):

top -o csw
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How do you use top to unveil these hogs? –  Erik B Oct 28 '13 at 10:03
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