Background processes are applications or parts of them that run in OS X without telling you they are there. You won’t see them in the Dock and while they don’t normally constitute a huge drain on your system, if enough of them are running, the can slow you down. Here’s how to stop them and speed up your system, especially if you have less than 2GB of RAM.
How to find them:
While background processes aren’t sitting on your Dock, you can find them running by using Activity Monitor.
– Run Activity Monitor, located in your /Applications/Utilities Folder.
– At the top of the window, Click the box that says “My Processes”.
– Change it to “All Processes”.
You will now see everything running in OS X. Now, most of these processes are part of OS X and turning them off can result in some nasty behavior. However, there’s a few that aren’t.
Note: In the interest of a stable system, we’re only going to mess with processes that deal with Applications, not OS X system processes.
Stopping Background Processes:
You can kill them via Activity Monitor but that’s pointless because they will just restart themselves whenever you reboot the computer or logout and log back in. To stop them, you will need to remove the setting that tells them to start up in the first place. There’s two places where you can look.
1. Login Items: Not to be confused with the “Open at Login” function you can set on an application’s icon in the dock. These are background processes that start up when you log in. In Activity Monitor, your user is the owner of these processes.
– Go to System Preferences and choose “Accounts”.
– Click on your User Name if it’s not already highlighted.
– At the top, click “Login Items”.
– Highlight the process you want to remove.
– Press the minus sign at the bottom.
Which processes you need and which you don’t are entirely up to you. Most of them are either updaters or auto launchers when you plug in your iPod, iPhone or some other gadget. I have nothing in my Login Items, as I prefer to launch apps when I need them rather than just having them waiting for me.
2. Application Daemons: The next place to stop unwanted background processes is when they are running as another user – usually root or the system. Before messing with this, make sure you know which applications you need as they may not work without their background processes. We’re also going to create a “Disabled” folder to put them in, so we can turn them back on if necessary.
– Head to the root of your drive (Double-click Macintosh HD).
– Click on the folder called “Library”.
– There are three folders to look into:
Once you’ve identified something you don’t need or no longer use, create folders called “StartupItems-Disabled”, “LaunchDaemons-Disabled”, “LaunchAgents-Disabled”. Move the corresponding items from the active folder to the disabled folder you just created. Restart the machine to have the changes take effect.
If something goes wrong or a function does not work, move the processes back into their corresponding folder and restart the machine.
Note: Be careful and do not delete any items until you are absolutely sure you will never need them.
Lastly, there is one more place where Launch Agents and Daemons are located, however it is not recommended that you go there because 99.9% of them are necessary system processes and stopping them could easily cause OS X to function poorly. Almost all background processes that are unnecessary relate to an application, not system processes.