I have a 2008 Mac Mini with 4 GB of RAM. Recently (post installation of Lion), it started to behave extremely sluggishly, so I used Activity Monitor to see what was using up the system resources. Turns out that kernel_task is using 2.95 GB of RAM. Not a typo: it's using ~3 GB of RAM.

I use this Mac Mini as a home media server, connected to a TV and a Drobo. In other words, beyond running iTunes, I don't really use it for much. I don't have a ton of applications running, nor do I have any accessories other than the Drobo and the TV connected to it.

What on earth could kernel_task possibly need 3 GB of RAM for, and how can I tell it to stop eating all my RAM and dragging my system to a screeching halt?

  • 1
    How recently was Lion installed? What I've found is that it takes a little while to bed down. You could try a refresh of the OS and restoring your apps (not sure how you did the upgrade), which may improve performance.
    – user479
    Jan 10 '12 at 5:22
  • I installed Lion about two months ago, and I've noticed this problem only within the last month or so. I did the basic upgrade, not a clean install. Jan 10 '12 at 12:56
  • Do the answers at apple.stackexchange.com/questions/16304/… or apple.stackexchange.com/questions/30617/… help with your question?
    – bmike
    Feb 13 '12 at 2:30
  • Have you tried the suggested solutions? Which one is the evil module? Jan 9 '14 at 20:01

In the past, I've experienced odd memory consumption issues after upgrading OS X, due to older kernel extensions that were still being loaded. Some of the extensions were for applications that I was no longer using and had forgotten about. You might try listing out all the non apple kernel extensions, then try unloading them one by one to see if you experience any improvement in memory consumption.

To list what is loaded, type the following from a terminal shell:

kextstat | grep -v com.apple

So, each of the kernel extensions, will have a corresponding kext file, located in the default /System/Library/Extensions/.

Then, to unload a kernel extension, type the following:

sudo kextunload /System/Library/Extensions/<NAME_OF_KEXT_File.kext>

If you identify any extensions that are wonky, you then have a starting place to see if perhaps there is an updated version of the application that is more Lion friendly.


I'd recommend a clean install of Lion. I've seen quite a few issues with upgrading from 10.6 to 10.7 without doing a clean install.

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