I have a 2011 generation Macbook Pro, upgrade to 16gb RAM and a 128gb SSD drive - running Mountain Lion and iTunes 11.

During playback (approximately 20 times per song) it stutters, stops playing for a few seconds, and then resumes from where it left off. It seems to co-incide with my using the keyboard or performing any file operations - and at the same time the file operations freeze up. The following screenshot was taken about 3 seconds after a skip and doesn't show any signficant CPU activity:

enter image description here

However, if I close iTunes, I get no problems with file operations, or any other app on my machine - leading me to believe that iTunes is causing the problem. Has anyone else run into anything similar, or have any advice on stopping iTunes being such a resource hog?

Note: Other apps (for instance VLC) have no problem with playback under the same conditions.

  • Can you run top -o cpu (in Terminal) or Activity Monitor during playback to see what else is consuming CPU time?
    – nohillside
    Jan 12, 2013 at 13:16
  • Screenshot of both: img.iamp.me/eI6m (That was three seconds after a skip) Jan 12, 2013 at 13:19
  • Side note- when it happens, the read speed on the drive drops to zero for several seconds, often the write speed is zero too. Jan 12, 2013 at 13:20
  • CPU looks ok, I would suspect the drive anyway now. The speed drop points in the same direction.
    – nohillside
    Jan 12, 2013 at 13:22
  • Does that imply a dud drive? I've been thinking about swapping back to the 'moving part' drive anyhow. Jan 12, 2013 at 13:29

5 Answers 5


Buried deep in the comments are these answers to solve the riddle of the stuttering iTunes playback on Mountain Lion:

I've just remembered that I have FileVault enabled, and as the crashes / skips happen when the computer is performing file ops, I think turning FV off might help - decryping my hard drive now... – George Pearce Jan 12 at 14:34

Update: Turning off filevault and decrypting my hard drive appears to have entirely solved the problem. – George Pearce Jan 12 at 19:20


I have the same issue on Windows since upgrading to version 11. My guess is that the application does not buffer as well as it used to - so a load on the system causes playback stutter.

A workaround that seems to work is to run iTunes as a high priority process. This can be achieved on Windows 8 via the task manager ("Details" tab) or by changing the iTunes shortcut to be:

cmd.exe /c start ""/High "C:\Program Files (x86)\iTunes\iTunes.exe"

  • As the asker here posted OS X screen shot (and mentioned Mountain Lion), a windows tuning parameter might not have the intended effect.
    – bmike
    Sep 20, 2013 at 20:12

Use an external audio player like Amarra to take control of the buffer and playback and see if this helps. Amarra has settings for how much of a track to buffer before playing


You're sure these are not songs that are coming from the cloud?

  • It's terse, but delays to stream under iTunes Match are my #1 cause of unsmooth playback. Just about all machines have iTunes playback at such a high priority (and are fast enough to pause other workloads to prevent the audio play buffer from emptying) that it's almost always a media error and not a performance issue on the Mac IMO.
    – bmike
    Feb 1, 2013 at 14:38

Turn OFF "Put hard disks to sleep when possible" in Energy Saver Settings!

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