I upgraded to Mavericks yesterday, and everything seemed to go fine, but today I noticed that my computer was becoming a bit slow. I checked Activity Monitor, and CPU / disk were at normal levels so I checked memory use, only to find this:

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The kernel is taking over 5 GB of memory? Surely this is not normal? The machine has 16 GB of RAM. Any ideas on what would cause this and/or how to debug?

Update: it's now at 9 GB.

enter image description here

  • Are you able to reproduce this issue on 10.9.1 / Build 13B42?
    – bmike
    Jan 3, 2014 at 14:57
  • Perfect. You can always reopen, deselect an answer if we discover otherwise.
    – bmike
    Jan 3, 2014 at 23:23

2 Answers 2


A reboot seems to clear my system that experiences similar RAM allocation for the kernel, but it will climb up again over time. I have chatted with Apple support and they suggested an SMC reset, which I did along with a PRAM reset and so far, it seems to be under control. It's hovered just under 1GB as I've been working, and watched it dip down a couple of times when some apps were idle.

Long term, resetting SMC & PRAM didn't affect the memory allocation and I've tracked the insane memory usage to the "installd" process.

Open Activity Monitor and FORCE QUIT that process and watch the kernel usage drop down to normal levels. Unfortunately, you have to do this after every startup as it appears to be leaking memory on builds lower than 10.9.1 and 13B42.

  • I have the same problem--over 9Gb kernel_task memory usage--but installd is not running...
    – Sim
    Jan 21, 2014 at 7:21
  • I have the same issue on an account which I migrated from my mac book pro (16GB Ram) to a mac mini (4GB Ram). The Ram is always complete full and it is really no option to work on that Mac Mini because it is so slow. kernel_task takes 15% CPU Usage and something around 500-600 MB RAM. Does anyone have a solution for that? Thx!
    – Sebastian
    Feb 24, 2014 at 12:23
  • Thanks, killing installd reduced memory pressure quite a bit for me.
    – Navin
    Jan 19, 2016 at 18:51
  • How did you track it to installd?
    – Matt
    Mar 30, 2020 at 15:36

Fontbook was the cause for me, running at 3.9GB and kernel_task at 9GB. Force quitting fontbook caused the kernel_task to drop to 1.12GB and give my fan a break.

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