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When switching between two screens, all the icons in the menu bar appear to be re-drawn, causing an annoying jittery effect. This started happening after upgrading to Yosemite.

Is there any documentation available on this problem? Are others experiencing the same issue? Is there a fix available?

I currently have in my menu bar:

  • Twitter
  • Dropbox
  • Grabbox
  • F.lux
  • Caffeine
  • Time Machine
  • Menu Meters
  • WiFi
  • Sound
  • Battery (incl. percentage)
  • Time (digital)
  • Account switcher
  • Spotlight
  • Notification Center

Though I doubt any one of them is the cause.

  • Has this been going on for a long time? If not, try relaunching Finder. – woff Oct 21 '14 at 16:04
  • 2
    This isn't a new problem. It was reported it way back in the early developer releases. Very disappointing to see it in the final release. :-\ – jdm404 Oct 21 '14 at 19:04
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    @mehmenmike It's been going on for months, according to what I'm reading. – Joost Oct 22 '14 at 22:38
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    First off thank you! I thought I was going crazy. I noticed this day 1 of my install but just now found someone else with the same issue. For me clicking onto another monitor causes a split-second freeze of the OS followed by the menu bar going to spasms. I've tried killing off MB apps or putting everything under bartender but it still does it. This issue is EXTREMELY frustrating! – JoshStrange Oct 28 '14 at 20:41
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    It looks like there are a few threads from 2008/2011 with Snow Leopard and Mavericks that seem related, but yes, there is a thread on the Apple forums for this: discussions.apple.com/thread/6601144?start=0&tstart=0 – Lingnik Oct 30 '14 at 16:58
45

Update 2015-03-04: According to some updated release notes from the Bartender app (v1.2.32; emphasis mine):

Apple appear to have fixed the flickering item issue for multiple monitors in Yosemite with 10.10.3 Beta 2; but in doing so Bartender stopped working correctly. We have made changes to Bartender for 10.10.3 Beta 2 and anticipate it to now be working smoothly; if you see any issues with Bartender please do let us know.

So there may be an end to this problem in sight.


I'm sorry to say that, according to my own email exchange with their Advisors, Apple Engineering's official response is that this is by design:

This is normal behavior caused by transparency being turned off and on to differentiate between which display is active.

There are a few workarounds you can try.

— Adjust the settings in System Preferences —> Accessibility and enable reduce transparency.

— Disable displays have separate spaces.

— Enable Use Dark Menu Bar and Dock in System Preferences —> General.

Another Workaround with Bartender

In my experience, I also run Bartender to limit the number of active status bar icons. Since fewer icons have to redraw, it decreases the redraw delay when switching monitors. They still redraw, and it's still annoying, but the increased UI responsiveness helps me ignore it.

Troubleshooting Steps that Do Nothing

I performed the following steps with a Senior Apple Technical Advisor and Engineer during a support case for this same issue. None of these fixed the issue:

  • creating a new user (and thus a blank user profile)
  • going into safe mode (including with a new user account)
  • reinstalling the OS
  • resetting SMC and NVRAM
  • running Apple Hardware Test
  • running VGA dongle diagnostic tools

Detailed Problem Description

Videos of the behavior are posted here: https://flic.kr/s/aHsk5xxSb1

  • When either one or two external monitors is attached,
    • via HDMI, MiniDP>DP, or MiniDP>VGA
  • regardless of whether the lid is open or closed,
  • and Displays have separate Spaces is enabled,
  • one can click the desktop on any inactive desktop (the desktop with a grayed-out or muted menubar),
  • and that display's menubar's icons will begin redrawing,
    • which manifests as a jittering of icons (expressed as a shifting laterally and vertically),
    • a rearranging of icons (in the case where one has rearranged them manually by holding down the CMD key and dragging them),
    • and a brief de-antialiasing followed by a re-antialiasing (or dithering) of the icons.
  • This occurs with all icons in the right-hand side of the menubar,
    • but not those on the left (apple, and menu items),
    • and also excluding the sidebar icon.
  • The symptoms do not occur when transitioning from one external monitor to another.
  • The shifting of icons causes a functional delay between initiating the transition and using the application in the destination screen. (In my case, 3-5 seconds.)
    • The delay's timing appears related to the number of status bar icons you have.

Root Cause?

I expect that this is a software issue related to SystemUIServer or one of the underlying (private) UI libraries. It seems heavily related to antialiasing. Although Apple says this is expected behavior, I think many users would agree this is a bug introduced with Yosemite.

  • 2
    I get that disabling Spaces works; that removes the menubar altogether, which would be rather unfortunate. Thanks for more clearly defining my problem! – Joost Oct 22 '14 at 5:52
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    For me, it occurs with the lid closed and transitioning between two external monitors too. Redrawing happens only on two monitors (one activating and the other muting) while the third menu bar is left unchanged. Also the Spotlight magnifying glass and Path Finder icon on all menu bars shift a few pixels up when activating internal monitor and down again with either external monitors active. – Laas Oct 24 '14 at 6:27
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    @Laas: Good description. I ran into this between two external monitors (and not the built-in) yesterday also. All: I updated my notes above, and posted a link to these videos if you could confirm that this appears to visually match your symptoms. – Lingnik Oct 24 '14 at 14:10
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    I'm going to have to disable "Displays have separate space" the lag when clicking into another monitor has me close to throwing my MBP across the room... I really hope apple fixes this soon or gives us a way to have only 1 menu bar but still different spaces per monitor. As for "Apple says this is expected behavior" in what world is a 1-3 second lag when clicking on another monitor "Expected behavior"?? – JoshStrange Oct 31 '14 at 17:54
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    The flickering is even worse with the dark menubar. I get the icons redrawn with complete white rectangles every time I switch screen (between built in and external display), so switching to the dark menubar is not a solution. – Adam Lindberg Nov 4 '14 at 13:02
4

Apple seem to be well aware of this now. I filed a bug report on bugreport.apple.com and it was marked as a duplicate:

Duplicate of 17643875 (Open)

Given it's still open, hopefully we'll see a fix in some revision of Yosemite.

Otherwise, System Preferences —> Accessibility -> Displays have separate spaces (logout/login) by itself does the trick for me - but no menu bar on the second screen.

  • Upvote for the first half of your post ;) – Joost Feb 11 '15 at 8:51
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    Great news - I just saw this in a bartender update: Apple appear to have fixed the flickering item issue for multiple monitors in Yosemite with 10.10.3 Beta 2; but in doing so Bartender stopped working correctly. We have made changes to Bartender for 10.10.3 Beta 2 and anticipate it to now be working smoothly; if you see any issues with Bartender please do let us know. – James V Mar 4 '15 at 7:59
  • That's great news, indeed! – Joost Mar 4 '15 at 9:48
4

My menu bar has stopped blinking for real, my previous answer did not work. The fix? Simply restart your Mac into Safe Boot:

  1. Restart your computer
  2. Hold down shift after the restart sound plays
  3. Log in
  4. restart the computer and no more flashing.

That simple.

  • 1
    Disabling "Displays Have Separate Spaces" worked for me. Now I only have a system bar on my primary monitor which is fine with me. – geekinit Dec 1 '14 at 18:05
  • @geekinit I was trying to understand why the menu bar was visible just in a monitor, and you explained why. – kiamlaluno Jan 23 '15 at 10:07
2

I have the same issue. In Accessibility settings, turn on "Reduce Transparency". That mitigates the issue somewhat, however I still see a bit of lag with the newly selected window on the other monitor being fully focused.

2

I removed iStat Menus from the menu bar, there is no update but it stopped the constant jittery or redrawing quirk. This software, that I liked using, seemed to be causing the issue. The redrawing or jittery effect on the menu icons seemed to also cause a constant slow down in the finder response as well.
My menu icons are stable now. I tried making the various changes such as resetting the SMC, the PRAM as well as removing transparency and going dark but nothing stopped the annoying behavior.
For me I quit Fantastical but then started going through the menu items and iStat menu was next inline. It just didn't play nice with Yosemite. I suggest removing menu items to find the one causing the jittery or redrawing of menu bar icons to stop this quirk in Yosemite.
I went from Lion to Yosemite.
I have no experience with other operating systems in-between.

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