This sounds like a pretty open, multi-possibility question, but I'm at a loss. I continually experience my mac falling behind by several words or characters. I mainly notice it in chrome and adium, but it isn't necessarily specific to those. When it happens I look at menu meters and notice the following.

4 cores at idle The hard drive is sitting idle as well.
1,000 MB of ram free at a minimum
network usage under 10KB/s

If I look at the load averages I'm generally fairly low as well. This last time I was around .2 on all three numbers, certainly nothing close to 4.

What else could be causing extreme slowness like this? While I mentioned typing, this is not exclusive to typing, I also notice long delays on simply opening another tab in a web browser. The symptoms might last for a few minutes or more and then completely subside to the point that things feel fast again.

It might be evident based off 4 cores sitting at idle, but looking in activity monitor shows nothing taking much CPU at all, and the biggest ram usage for a single app was around 300 MB this last time a few moments ago.

  • Also, the hard drive is sitting idle too. Forgot to mention that. Thanks.
    – wilbbe01
    Jan 9, 2012 at 20:11
  • Added that to your question.
    – daviesgeek
    Jan 9, 2012 at 21:09
  • Do a surface scan of your drive. This sort of thing is indicative of imminent drive failure. You can ignore SMART reports, on that note.
    – user479
    Jan 10, 2012 at 5:14
  • Do you have enough free space on your primary HD to allow for fast access to the swap? Have you tried running top?
    – segiddins
    Jan 17, 2012 at 1:49
  • I do and I have. I have not seen anything when I look in activity monitor and/or top, and even with the network traffic suggestion someone else had I look at the traffic currently moving which is usually minimal to none. I suppose there could be some chunk of traffic that is holding programs back while waiting for it to come back though...which is something I haven't really looked into.
    – wilbbe01
    Jan 18, 2012 at 16:54

1 Answer 1


There are a lot of possibilities, but worst thing first:

Run /Applications/Utilities/Console.app and check system.log.

Look especially for entries that say something like disk4s3: I/O error. If you see that, see this: Hard Drive Recovery

Also look at Console Messages. There are usually a lot of weird messages in there, but look for repeated things occurring at the same time as the slowdowns.

If the app is completely unresponsive for several seconds at a time, particularly if it is giving you the spinning ball cursor, then it is likely a disk I/O issue. If the app is just slow, particularly if other apps are fine, then it may be trying to do something in the background that happens to involve a lot of time dependent operations (like network chatter) which don't show up in activity monitor because they mostly involve idle waiting.

Graphics issues can also cause weird slowdowns, but that should be something obvious like having a 3D shooter (or iTunes visualization) running in the background, a second display hooked up, or custom graphics drivers installed.

Clear all browser caches, quit all unnecessary apps.

Another possibility to consider is overheating. Make sure all vents are clear, get a Fan or temperature utility. But now I'm really reaching. The answer is likely in the logs somewhere.

  • I didn't see anything on the surface scan I ran earlier, and glancing through the console in the past I didn't see anything jump out at me either. I'll keep it running today and see if I can see anything happen at the time of slow. Thanks for the suggestions.
    – wilbbe01
    Jan 12, 2012 at 14:27

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