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For a long time now, my Macbook has been overheating and hogging my CPU. According to Activity Monitor, Google Chrome Helper is the culprit. Whenever I am browsing the web, there are usually ten seperate entries of Google Chrome Helper in Activity Monitor, each individually using around %0.5 of my CPU. On YouTube, one of these can spike up to using %82, with a second using %22. I don't understand the math behind it but its evident in the screenshots I took. I own an up-to-date MacBook Pro (13-inch, Mid 2012) so it could be a result of an old system but only Chrome and YouTube (or just videos) are causing this issue.

Here are some things I’ve attempted to control / solve this:

  • updating FlashPlayer
  • disabling extentions
  • turning off Unsandboxed plug-in access to "not allow any site to use a plug-in to access [my] computer"
  • turning off JavaScript (which, of course, just stopped the page from loading in - very power efficient and cool, but not the trade off I had hoped to accomplish)

I've tried other web browsing apps and they net similar results as Chrome. I believe it has something to do with videos in general that are being served

At the moment, I have had to use an app called MacsFanControl so my fan stops the CPU and computer from overheating as it used to get to around 50˚C. Now, it is sits at 40˚C with the fan running on high to prevent it increasing.

Am I missing controls or options to have less heat from the CPU of this era MacBook Pro?

  • Macbooks are temperature resilient, more than PCs. Mine (Core i7 Late 2013) is running steady at 48˚C, more on Youtube, with MacsFanControl kick-in at 54˚C. 40˚C is a dream, it's like new laptop. – modlin Apr 29 at 22:18
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    Videos are processor intensive. Chrome has flash built-in. Uninstall the Flash plugin or disable it in Safari and try that. You may get some better results using a different decoder. Steve Jobs was right in keeping flash of iOS, it is a pox on the web and exceptionally inefficient. That may be half your problem right there. – Steve Chambers Apr 29 at 23:04
  • Did you try a local video for comparison? – John Keates Apr 30 at 2:08
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    @JohnKeates I tried a video using VLC and it skyrocketed to 195.8%. I actually have no idea what is going on but I think my laptop is old and breaking. – SamStark May 1 at 5:55
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You can test the efficiency of video encoding and decoding quite well by getting a video from Apple’s events page and playing it in QuickTime player.

Same in Safari - and then same in Chrome.

You’ll quickly find out which encoding are easy to run for the CPU and which have GPU acceleration.

When that’s done, you can see if Chrome or the app in question can choose a lower resolution or if you can download the file for offline playing so that it doesn’t hit the CPU so hard. Also, you might use an iPad or other far more efficient video handling device if you just want to watch videos with the most economy / least power.

2

I’d suggest trying Opera browser if you have not. I’m sure someone will have bench tested browser resource use.

Also I think there two problems here, intense graphics and a greedy browser.

It might also be worth checking if you can, if the heat sink for the GPU is clogged with dust.

The fan control you mention is excellent.

Can you reduce the resolution settings for YouTube only and try this with the same video?


I have had major overheating grief with my iMac 27” 2011 GPU.

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    I lowered the video quality as you suggested and it did make a huge improvement. The CPU percentage for one of the ten Chrome Helpers went from %82 to %33. However, the second intensive Helper remained at %20. – SamStark Apr 30 at 2:14
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When Firefox released their cool new multi-threaded version, I experienced exactly the same problem as you. The use of multiple CPUs heats the CPU much quicker.

Probably you will not like this solution, but ever since I resorted to using Safari almost exclusively. It keeps my MacBook Pro much more quiet and gives me quite some extra battery time.

In addition to that you can try the following things (some of these apps may not work on your specific MacBook Pro model):

  • Use Turbo Bosst Switcher. This app disables the Intel TurboBoost functionality, meaning it won't overclock the CPU above the base frequency anymore. The result is a slower Mac, especially in single-threaded applications, but also some power saving and less noise.
  • Use Volta. Basically the same as the above, but it can undervolt your CPU in addition. Undervolting can lead to unstable operation, while disabling TurboBoost usually creates no issues. I have less experience with this app.
  • Use App Tamer. It more or less does the same thing as the macOS built-in App Nap function and throttles inactive or background apps. However, it gives you more control and can be more aggressive. This sometimes leads to unexpected situations, such as a slow clipboard, and therefore takes some experimenting. Especially if you use many apps in parallel this can help to keep your Mac more quiet.
  • If your MacBook has a dual-GPU, don't use an external screen and avoid apps that trigger the use of the dedicated GPU. This used to be an issue for Chrome, but I am not sure if it still is.

In addition to these things, I also observed that all my older Macs became more noisy over time. As others said this may have to do with dust, but also with thermal paste thermally connecting the CPU to its heatsink, becoming less efficient. A number of people reported some success when replacing the thermal paste.

  • I have tried to take the bottom cover off to check for dust but one of the screws just will not budge. I'll again and see if I can get it off so I can clean it out if it requires it. – SamStark May 1 at 5:46
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Google Chrome is exceptionally inefficient, especially on macOS. Some developers (including myself) suspect Google has purposely made Chrome consume excessive and absurdly expensive resources.

Just for grins, try using Safari instead of Chrome.

If that convinces you Chrome is a resource pig, try using Firefox for the same activities.

In my experiments, Firefox is 15% worse than Safari, but Chrome squeals like a pig.

See Why do so many insist on using Google Chrome instead of Safari?

BTW, with a video playing in Safari on my 15" MacBook Pro, I get a whopping 5.5% CPU usage. Activity Monitor takes twice as much CPU as YouTube playing in Safari, and I have a host of other applications running at the same time, including Docker, Creative Cloud, Mail, etc.

CPU usage while playing music video on YouTube in Safari

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    OP has already tried other web browsers: "I've tried other web browsing apps and they net similar results as Chrome. I believe it has something to do with videos in general." – abc Apr 29 at 23:28
  • I went to the YouTube homepage, and the FirefoxCP Web Content (seperate entry from Firefox in Activity Monitor) spiked to 68%. – SamStark Apr 30 at 2:17
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    At the risk of entering full-on crackpot territory, what motivation would Google possibly have for purposely making Chrome exceptionally resource-inefficient on macOS? – Cody Gray Apr 30 at 5:40
  • Adding to @CodyGray's comment, Google would only be harmed as a company if Chrome was purposely made inefficient. Google would have zero interest in doing that. Chromium is also open source, so people would know if it was purposely made inefficient. – abc Apr 30 at 16:30
  • Apple has refused to open many API for Google for privacy reasons, particularly on iOS. Blocking user tracking and ads harms Google financially. Apple is Google's frenemy. Ironically Apple tries to make Safari the most secure/efficient browser ever and many insist on using Chrome instead, even though Safari is better in most every way. – Wilfred Smith Apr 30 at 17:06
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Unfortunately, Mac overheating issues arise often :(( If you faces this problem constantly, I kindly recommend you to make the following steps in order to reduce and prevent overheating of your Mac:

  1. monitor the state of Mac constantly (special apps can help here)
  2. clean your Mac from all the unnecessary files and apps
  3. move large files to the cloud
  4. don't open too much apps or tabs in browser at once

Also I use several apps which help me a lot to overcome overheating problem. But I know almost definitely that I have no troubles with hardware, so if you had ones - I don't know whether these apps will also help you. Anyway, if someone have overheating problems - I recommend to start from this step (for instance, try iStat Menu and CleanMyMac - here you can try these apps for free https://explore.setapp.com/8) and then see what happens with your Mac (whether cleaning your Mac helped you) and decide what to do next.

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    Could you expand on point 3? I've not heard that before as a solution to overheating, what's the thoughts behind this? – grg Jul 25 at 11:55
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    Large files or "unnecessary files" are unlikely to have any effect on heat generation if they are just sitting on the volume, unless you are actually using CPU to work on them. CleanMyMac is not going to improve overheating (and I would question whether it has any merit at all). – benwiggy Jul 25 at 13:06

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