Previous 1 2 Next 17 Replies Latest reply: Dec 20, 2011 5:34 AM by a brody
msreimol Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

Hi everybody,


lets face it: OS X responsiveness needs to be improved. I'm not ranting about overall OS X performance, I've been using macs for many years on many machines alongside Windows, Linux and other systems, and for most purposes, I preferred the mac.


But there is one thing that has never really been improved since Mac OS X (it wasn't an issue on Mac OS 9): the time the system and/or applications need to respond to keyboard input or mouse clicks. Of course, there is always a reason why the system is busy. The network may be sluggish, an application is running in the background, memory may be at its limits, the hard drive might be fragmented (although it shouldn't) and so on. This is how the world is. Any system can be brought to its limits by such issues. BUT, on Mac OS X, when something isn't working as it should be, gui responsiveness is going down. This isn't the case on Windows, at least not to this degree! Let me give you two examples:


Displaying from the menu bar is not a complicated task for the system. However, when I click on the menu bar, it always takes some milliseconds until the submenu is displayed. Milliseconds aren't a big deal, but they are perceivable and my feeling is that they indicate that something isn't as it should be. If the system or the network or whatever is busy, these milliseconds may turn into seconds and this is not good.


Using a word processor (MS Word for most of the time, so you could indeed blame Bill Gates), I want immediate feedback when I am typing. On Windows, I get it. On Mac OS, when there are some background activities, it can happen that it takes 1 to 2 seconds until the characters I've typed are displayed. No character gets lost, so in case of no feedback, I can still go on typing, hoping that the text will appear sooner or later. But this is not how it should be. I guess this is the same sort of problem as the following one: when a browser, e.g. Safari, is busy opening a slow website, it may take some seconds to stop loading the page and typing in a new address.


I guess the reason for these problems lie deep in OS X architecture. A wild guess of mine is that it is somehow related to OS X's good overall latency. But when I am not using my mac on stage to play keyboard, but simply to work or to surf, I don't care about the latency of backgound processes, I simply want immediate feedback to my input (just as I get it on my windows machines). What about having the option to choose between "optimized for app latency" or "optimized for gui responsiveness" in the system preferences? Or is there another reason?

  • Linc Davis Level 10 Level 10 (169,130 points)

    First, you're not addressing Apple here; you're addressing other users.


    Second, you're extrapolating your own problem to everyone else. I have no problem with latency in the UI. If you have unusually high latency only in Microsoft Office, then your concerns should be addressed to Microsoft. If you have it in all applications, then you should troubleshoot your setup. Most usablility issues are caused by third-party system modifications that the user chooses to install.

  • a brody Level 9 Level 9 (64,780 points)

    Every version of Mac OS X has had people who believe its responsiveness is horrid.   Turns out just about everyone

    who says it has been making errors in judgement of what to install over which system, and not mixing and matching

    software and hardware in the correct proportions.  My page* covers speed across every

    version of Mac OS X.  If you are still having trouble, please identify which version of Mac OS X, what you have installed, which Mac model, how much RAM you have installed, how much free space you have, and the status of your backup.   Without a properly backed up system, optimizing Mac OS X for your needs is impossible.

  • msreimol Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    thanks linc, davis,


    OK, this might the place to primarily target other users. So why do I post here? I have to admit, I'm not expecting help with the configuration of my system. In fact I was summarizing my experience from 6 difference macs I was working with (and 3 others I set up) during the last 12 years, including every Mac OS X release. Instead I am hoping for some explanation for the described problems. Perhaps an OS freak who is able to tell me that all this is due to mach interrupt handling stategy xyz that cannot be changed for reason abc.


    There is also another reason why I was posting. If you google for OS X latency problems you may get the impression that there are some individual users with an individual setup who encounter latency problems with a particular version of OS X under certain circumstances. I think the opposite is true. I think there is something wrong deep in OS X related to ui interrupt processing. And I simply want this fact to get more attention so that my favourite hard- and software company one day might fix it.

  • Linc Davis Level 10 Level 10 (169,130 points)

    Please read this whole message before doing anything.


    This procedure is a diagnostic test. It won’t solve your problem. Don’t be disappointed when you find that nothing has changed after you complete it.


    Third-party system modifications are a common cause of usability problems. By a “system modification,” I mean software that affects the operation of other software -- potentially for the worse. The following procedure will help identify which such modifications you've installed. Don’t be alarmed by the complexity of these instructions -- they’re easy to carry out and won’t change anything on your Mac.


    These steps are to be taken while booted in “normal” mode, not in safe mode. If you’re now running in safe mode, reboot as usual before continuing.


    Below are four lines of text in monospaced type, which are UNIX shell commands. They’re harmless, but they must be entered exactly as given in order to work. If you have doubts about the safety of running these commands, search this site for other discussions in which they’ve been used without any report of ill effects.


    Some of the commands will line-wrap in your browser, but each one is really just a single long line, all of which must be selected. You can accomplish this easily by triple-clicking anywhere in the line. The whole line will highlight, and you can then either copy or drag it. The headings “Step 1” and so on are not part of the commands.


    Note: If you have more than one user account, Step 2 must be taken as an administrator. Ordinarily that would be the user created automatically when you booted the system for the first time. The other steps should be taken as the user who has the problem, if different. Most personal Macs have only one user, and in that case this paragraph doesn’t apply.


    To begin, launch the Terminal application; e.g., by entering the first few letters of its name in a Spotlight search. A text window will open with a line already in it, ending either in a dollar sign (“$”) or a percent sign (“%”). If you get the percent sign, enter “sh” and press return. You should then get a new line ending in a dollar sign.


    Step 1


    Copy or drag -- do not type -- the line below into the Terminal window, then press return:


    kextstat -kl | awk ' !/apple/ { print $6 $7 } '


    Post the lines of output (if any) that appear below what you just entered (the text, please, not a screenshot.)


    Step 2


    Repeat with this line:


    sudo launchctl list | sed 1d | awk ' !/0x|apple|com\.vix|edu\.|org\./ { print $3 } '


    This time, you'll be prompted for your login password, which won't be displayed when you type it. You may get a one-time warning not to screw up. You don't need to post the warning.


    Step 3


    launchctl list | sed 1d | awk ' !/0x|apple|edu\.|org\./ { print $3 } '


    Step 4


    ls -1A {,/}Library/{Ad,Compon,Ex,Fram,In,La,Mail/Bu,P*P,Priv,Qu,Scripti,Servi,Sta}* 2> /dev/null


    Important: If you synchronize with a MobileMe account, your email address may appear in the output of the above command. If so, change it to something like “” before posting.


    Remember, steps 1-4 are all drag-and-drop or copy-and-paste, whichever you prefer -- no typing, except your password.


    You can then quit Terminal.

  • msreimol Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    thanks for your reply, a brody,


    but, I am in fact summarizing my problems during the last 12 years on 6 different macs. I think I do have at least some sense about how to mix hardware and software in the right proportions. I am NOT complaining about mac os x overall performance. I am complaining about the fact that mac os x ui latency is quite vulnerable. E.g. I don't see a reason why an ui shouldn't work properly if the network is slow!

  • etresoft Level 7 Level 7 (27,120 points)

    msreimol wrote:


    If you google for OS X latency problems you may get the impression that there are some individual users with an individual setup who encounter latency problems with a particular version of OS X under certain circumstances. I think the opposite is true. I think there is something wrong deep in OS X related to ui interrupt processing.

    The internet is a big place. Google will always tell you what you want to hear. Uninstall your anti-virus and you'll be fine.

  • msreimol Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    well, I have no anti-virus software. BTW: I would accept anti-virus software slowing down harddrive access. But if anti virus software introduces ui latency, then there is something wrong with interrupt handling.

  • a brody Level 9 Level 9 (64,780 points)

    Well this is STRICTLY a user to user forum.   Any issues you have with code should be addressed directly to where you can get a free account to send in bug reports here:


    You can also provide general feedback here:



    Unless you wish to troubleshoot an existing latency issue you are observing on your computer now, you are in the wrong place.

  • a brody Level 9 Level 9 (64,780 points)

    That interrupt handling is as much a fault of the anti-virus author writing.  They don't appear to understand how Apple's code is developed, or don't bother to read the website properly to write proper code.   ClamX AV is much better than McAfee or Norton for the Mac.    And firewall software for the Mac is redundant because it is already built-in to the system preferences under sharing and security.    Being redundant causes issues for the Mac.    Macs don't have fragmentation issues like PCs either, and are able to regularly defragment files under 20MB in space.   If it gets real bad for larger files many solve that issue by creating temporary swap file partitions that can be erased at will.     If you treat a Mac like a PC, it is more like to act like a PC than the Mac that is desired.  You have to treat a Mac like a Mac.   As such unless you have an existing Mac that needs responsiveness fixing, we really can't help you solve your problem.  Going based on Google reports, and reports on this forum in long threads where people have just ranted on, you aren't going to get any scientific ways of judging true latency.

  • msreimol Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    This forum is meant to be a user to user forum. OK. I am not a developer of mac software so I suppose I am a user (although a user who knows what an interrupt is). Slightly irritating for me is your "STRICTLY" in the "STRICTLY a user-to-user forum". Is it forbidden for a user to hope for a more academic type of discussion? The name of this forum is "Technologies", so I thought this might be a place to discuss OS X technology on a more general level. I still think a discussion about ui latency and differences in interrupt handling between different OS would be interesting.


    And just for the records: no, I don't use any anti-virus software. I do know about mac's on the fly defragmentation and I don't use additional defragmentation tools. And no, I don't use a firewall. And no, I'm not referring to Google reports, it is my own experience I am talking about. And no, my intention was not simply to rant about Macs. If I would be of that type of personality, I wouldn't have bought 6 macs in the past 12 years.

  • a brody Level 9 Level 9 (64,780 points)

    Latency issues can be traced to many issues from third party hardware not written to take advantage of new code where the firmware isn't up to date, bad RAM, lack of disk space, permissions getting damaged, cache files getting damaged, plist files getting damaged, all due to aging of a hard disk, or bad RAM triggering crashes that force one to reboot using hardware instead of software, as well as legacy code trying to run on newer operating systems.   Drivers whose code is legacy need to be updated by certain third parties for certain hardware.   Certain hardware needs more leniancy towards Energy Saver low power mode incorporated in its design and firmware.  I think instead of trying ask Apple to improve matters, a better approach would be to find out why technically your issues are happening, and address that to the developer community as a whole.  Blaming Apple, or asking Apple to fix the issue here is not fruitful.    Isolating your own issues, and issues with hardware and software I find is much more fruitful.  

  • a brody Level 9 Level 9 (64,780 points)

    Also some network latency seems to be more readily traced to something wrong with the DNS chosen, as OpenDNS works better for some.  Those not encrypting their wireless networks with WPA2 are subject to more network latency because their wireless has been hacked and other people are joining on the network with their own heavy network traffic.   Satellite based internet services have a built-in latency that comes from delivering a signal to the satellite, and in some cases because a USB modem is used too many items sharing the USB bus may slow it down too.   


    Spotlight indexing can slow matters down.  Wait till the index is done before attempting searches with any Apple software starting with Mac OS X 10.4.


    Lastly, backing up your data while doing other tasks, will slow down.

  • a brody Level 9 Level 9 (64,780 points)

    If you desire to determine if any of these causes might be what is affecting you, feel free to ask how to determine if it is one of these possible causes based on your experience.   It is a troubleshooting forum. 

  • twtwtw Level 5 Level 5 (4,900 points)

    Let's distinguish two things here:


    1. small delays, like menus not snapping open.


    This is not a latency issue, this is Apple's Human Interface Guideles.  Apple builds-in certain slownesses to make the UI more friendly and comfortable for human viewers.  If you're used to Windows (which doesn't care about such things, and processes GUIs at maximum computational speed) then a tenth-of-a-second delay on a menu snapping open might seem like an eternity.  But that's not Apple's issue.


    2. real delays, like typing slowdowns or seconds-long unresponsiveness. 


    In my experience these are ''always'' caused by:

    • Out-of-date or misconfigured third party software
    • Corrupt preference files (particularly the Finder preferences)
    • Slow network connections
    • User-error of one sort or another.

    Only the third is potentially related to Apple (I do suspect there's something odd about the way webkit handles page loads, though it might be specific to flash-content related). 


    I've never seen ''any'' latency issue that couldn't be traced to one of these things.

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