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Monitor your Mac with Activity Monitor in the Dock

Activity Monitor is a useful tool for, well, monitoring activity on your Mac. It is basically a diagnostic tool and it can show you which applications are using all the processing power, which are using all the memory, how hard the disk drive is being worked and how much data is uploading or downloading from the internet or network.

You don't need to have Activity Monitor on the screen and there are some very useful functions for monitoring activity from the icon in the Dock.

To see these functions, go to the Applications/Utilities folder and start Activity Monitor. Minimise it to the Dock and then right click on the icon. A menu is displayed and on the Dock Icon submenu there are options to replace the standard application icon with one that shows CPU usage, CPU history, network usage, disk activity or memory usage. Select one and see. It's really useful for keeping an eye on what is happening inside your Mac.

In the screen shot above you can see the memory usage icon that shows how much RAM is free and used. The colours are a bit confusing and the free memory is actually the green and blue areas combined. The memory in use is the red and yellow sectors. (For a fuller description of Mac memory usage, go here.)

In addition to showing the usage of various system components in the Dock icon, it is also possible toi display some of the items in floating windows on the desktop too. Right click the Activity Monitor icon in the Dock as before, but this time go to the Monitors menu. There are options to show mini windows displaying the CPU usage and CPU usage history. Try them both. The CPU usage shows each processor core as a separate bar, so you can see when one core is working hard and the other is idle.

There is also an option to display a floating CPU window. This is basically a borderless window and you may prefer it to the standard one. It can still be clicked and dragged around the screen to move it, it just doesn't have a title bar or buttons.

Activity monitor can be used to see what's runnng and solve problems on your Mac.