12 Replies Latest reply: Jul 26, 2012 1:27 PM by wmd4u
Hotwheels22 Level 1 (5 points)
I have a first generation MacPro and it is now a year since I have converted over to mac software now that I have a new mac laptop. Previously I ran bootcamp on the Mac Pro.

In this year I have noticed a relatively loud (for mac) CHURNING sound coming from my MacPro. Oftentimes this is happening when I wake up in the morning. Oftentimes it is almost impossible to get work done due to slowness and pinwheel hangs.

Can anyone recommend some zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance type steps for me to solve this?

Sometime I Cancel Time Machine Backup and it fixes it.
However I also have a Parallels install to access the XP drive in this machine and I notice there is a prlvm that seems to be taking up some CPU.
Now I am using Dropbox to transfer files from the laptop to the desktop and vice versa and I notice this takes up some CPU.
This morning I noticed Carbonite online backup was taking up a lot of CPU.
On top of this I am backing up to secondary external drives using Deja Vu (software is fantastic but tech assistance needs a bit of a jumpstart).

Thanks for any guidance and wisdom.

Mac OS X (10.6.3), Mac Pro, MacBook Pro
  • T5GP5Ox32 Level 3 (590 points)
    What exactly do you mean by churning? May sound like a stupid question but there are several components that can be making noise as well as noting an issue.

    Does it sound like it's a fan making the noise? Maybe running faster than it should be.
    Possibly the Hard Drive cranking itself up? This will sound similar to a fan but may also vibrate the machine slightly and sounds a bit heavier.
    Maybe even the CPU? This sound is somewhat distinct and is more of a rapid ticking or crackling noise than something cranking or winding.

    You also noted that stopping Time Machine helps the issue. So any or a combination of the above 3 could be the point or something else entirely. You may want to check Activity Monitor as well to see if any applications are using up more CPU and Memory.

    Also may want to think about cleaning out the dust from the inside and around the fans. Always good to keep things clean.
  • Grant Bennet-Alder Level 9 (56,679 points)
    How much RAM do you have installed?
  • Hotwheels22 Level 1 (5 points)
    Hi Grant.

    5GB. I have a 500 GB HD with Win XP installed and one with Snow Leopard.

    The only thing weird (that I know of) is that I have Parallels installed on the Mac HD to access the Boot Camp install of XP on the Win side. I've been converting over to Mac over the last year and this is really the first chance I have had to address it.

    Today I tried to go in and methodically troubleshoot this.

    Shut Down Win XP. Shut Down Parallels. Stop Time Machine from Backing up. Turn off Carbonite online backup.

    Still churning. Sounds like the hard drive is being written to or searched I guess.

    Oftentimes I see Finder taking up a bunch of CPU but also a prlvm which is some kind of Parallels deal.

    I did a restart and she sounds nice and quiet like she should.

    I'm no computer genius but I would like to optimize the machine because when this happens things slow to a crawl and I get the pinwheel a lot (Safari, etc, etc).

  • Hotwheels22 Level 1 (5 points)
    Hi. I tried to give a good reply to Grant here as well.

    It pretty much sounds like the hard drive is being searched or that it is being written to. I want to say that it doesn't sound like it is mechanical but I guess writing to or searching the hard drive is mechanical.

    Anybody know what kind of CPU percent or what kind of RAM amount numbers I should be looking for when I hear this? I mean, lets say Finder is taking up 35% or 55% CPU - does that sound like there is some kind of issue?

    At one point I thought I had a problem with Carbonite taking up too much bandwidth or Dropbox doing the same or even my Time Machine backup. But I'm starting to think that Parallels is trying to go out and find some things and it is asking Finder to help with its wacky search...

    Thanks Much.
  • T5GP5Ox32 Level 3 (590 points)
    Your idle % for your CPU should be above 80 unless you're actively doing something. Finder taking more than 10% consistently could be that it's indexing Spotlight, check the upper right to see if the icon has a dot in the center of it, or that there may be an issue somewhere. You could also try relaunching Finder with Force Quit.

    If there's any application besides Finder using more than 15% of the CPU consistently you may want to try quitting it temporarily and see if the noise ceases. Some heavy applications like Photoshop, Parallels, etc. that do large amounts of processing can normally take high amounts of CPU. Up and above 40% CPU usage for these types of applications isn't uncommon and doesn't necessarily mean anything bad. Something like TextEdit, Address Book or Finder using 35-55% CPU would be abnormal and cause for some concern.
  • Grant Bennet-Alder Level 9 (56,679 points)
    You said you used Activity Monitor to look at stuff. On the Memory pane, are you seeing any PageOuts?

    A PageOut happens when you are out of memory, and you are out of unmodified pages that can just be marked as "paged-out" and re-loaded later. To make room you need to actually write a modified page OUT to the Hard drive to make room for something to be paged IN. More than a handful indicates you are starved for RAM memory.
  • Hotwheels22 Level 1 (5 points)
    Hi Grant.

    All this is a little tricky here so thanks for the help.

    I have Activity Monitor pulled down to Active Processes.

    I click on the System Memory pane, yes?

    I see % CPU which I think is important (but can't really read intelligently) and I have Real Memory (which I also don't really understand). I also see Threads. Then I see that the User is Root or my Admin name or even _windowserver or _mdnsreponder in one case.

    Is there a good way to get it to stop jumping around? Seems like it wants to move the list around a lot

    I am not getting the churning after shutdown but
    Kernel Task is using 306.6 MB which I guess is totally inconsequential, it has 70 threads and CPU is 1.5% (my top listing at the moment). Obviously not a problem as it is quiet as can be but if I can get a handle on some of those perhaps I can tackle it better next time?

    Can I ask you how I know if I have had a page out?

    Also, at one point someone asked me to open something a little like Activity Manager to see if there were a lot of errors generated. Do you know if this was a history record of some kind or what this utility may have been?

    Thanks a ton.
  • Hotwheels22 Level 1 (5 points)
    Hi. Many thanks.

    AOK. So CPU over 40% or whatever for a particular app - does that mean it is taking up a full 40%? Does that make sense? I mean, can I see Photoshop taking up 35%, Some 3D software taking up 45% and then other apps taking up a percentage that puts me over 100% or does this not happen? Does it depend on how many processors I have in this thing?

    Also, can I ask you where I find the idle %? I can't quite tell if there is some cumulative number that I should look at in addition to the individual Proceses that are listed.

  • T5GP5Ox32 Level 3 (590 points)
    You can't use over 100% of your CPU. A single app like Photoshop or something 3D can take up 35%+ on it's own but your total will not be above 100%. Number of processors doesn't matter. It's a percentage of the total CPU computing power you have that's in use. Basically any single app that is using more CPU than it should can alert a problem. Again though it is very normal for apps like Photoshop that are very intensive will generally use a high % anyways.

    You can find the idle % on the bottom if you click on the CPU tab. It will be the black number in the bottom left. Same with your available RAM under the System Memory tab in the "Free" grouping.
  • The hatter Level 9 (60,930 points)
    You realize that "Apple math" is somewhat unique (or weird) as each core can 'show' 100% and sometimes more.

    A Mac Pro with 8-cores can have 800%.
    Hyper-Threading shows 'virtual' or logical cores, actually threads.

    100% is not equal 100%.
  • Grant Bennet-Alder Level 9 (56,679 points)
    Look at the quiet stuff in the bottom margin. Ignore the big table for the moment.

    A Pie chart of how much memory is used for what, and eight or so percentages and counters. How much of the Pie is green? One of the eight or so counters is Page Outs.

    Message was edited by: Grant Bennet-Alder
  • wmd4u Level 1 (0 points)

    Sometimes my MacPro churns uncontrollably for lengthy periods of time bringing everything to a crawl. 


    It happens when I have too many browser tabs open in too many browser windows.  If say by chance you have to close out of Firefox or Safari and the browser is set to remember tabs, when you open the browser back up again it will churn away as it tries to open all those resources at once.


    If I hear the churning and open up Activity Monitor, inevitably a browser is hogging upwards of 80+% of the CPU.  Eventually the pages load and the churning stops, or force quitting the browser (Quitting usually doesn't work one the churning has begun) will kill it.  I am now better at bookmarking what I didn't finish reading, and closing out browser tabs.


    I also notice "churning" when Spotlight is indexing the computer.  Go into system preferences and find Spotlight.  Turn off anything you don't care to be indexed, like webpages.