8/11/2020 – I opened up the case to my work MacBook Pro laptop. I have two since one is for work and the other for personal / freelance. I noticed a dramatic performance issue to the point the computer would freeze after I plugged my work one into my 3 external monitors (3 monitors + 1 MacBook Pro screen) and used it for a random period of time.

Scientific method time!

Question:

Is it the dongles I bought? Were they made like crap where there’s a short / not built stable enough to handle so much data (higher resolution = more data)?

Background Research:

I know my USB hub was highly rated on Amazon (seems like legit reviews not fake ones), I know I have multiple types of dongles for the monitors so maybe one of them shouldn’t have passed QA.

Hypothesis:

The dongles weren’t well made. The MacBook Pro couldn’t handle all those pixels, CPU+GPU usage, and apps I was running at the time.

Experiment:

Go to just MacBook Pro monitor only when performance issue happens next. Look in Activity Monitor to find who’s killing my CPU %. Then disconnect the monitors. Observe CPU usage.

Results:

“kernel_task” was over 1000% CPU usage

Or over 9000 if you’re into Dragon Ball Z…

The MacBook Pro started to get its act together again.

Perhaps that’s because I had it focus on just one monitor vs 4 total monitors? Will it happen when I’m not plugged into other monitors?

 

After just MacBook Pro monitor usage for a few days:

CPU issue + freezing did happen again when no monitors were plugged in.

 

Question:

Am I running too much at once?

Background Research:

This computer is a really powerful machine. Usually “not responding” happens which gives me an idea I’m stressing the computer out too much with my apps / code running. I’m going to stop here because I don’t believe this is the where the fault is.

 

Question:

What is kernel_task and what can it be linked to?

Background Research:

One of the functions of the kernel task process is to help manage the temperature of your CPU.

Activity Monitor might show that a system process named kernel_task is using a large percentage of your CPU, and during this time you might notice more fan activity. 

One of the functions of kernel_task is to help manage CPU temperature by making the CPU less available to processes that are using it intensely. In other words, kernel_task responds to conditions that cause your CPU to become too hot, even if your Mac doesn’t feel hot to you. It does not itself cause those conditions. When the CPU temperature decreases, kernel_task automatically reduces its activity.

Found here: If kernel_task is using a large percentage of your Mac CPU

Found a post on forums (google your issue and you will uncover forums, blogs, etc) where people said to clean the fan inside the computer and the problem will be resolved. I was blown away by such a simple solution…but after reading how apple explains high kernel_task usage…this sounds like it could be it!!! I’m a big fan of these types of fixes. 

Hypothesis:

Clean fans that the computer uses so heat can move away from internal parts and function correctly.

Experiment:

Opened up the MacBook Pros. Here’s how both Macbook Pros looked inside:

Not pretty but it didn’t look like they were stopped or blocked from spinning…could this REALLY be it? Keep in mind the internal layout of laptops vary. Some account for and handle dust, dog hair, leftover cheetos, etc. There’s only so much testing a company can do for different environments. SPECIALLY when it’s a laptop so it could be on your bed, couch, beach, a bagel, or a boat

Here’s what one of the fans looked like after I cleaned it:

 

Computer manufactures need to buy and install fans that can spin at X rpms to keep their internal parts cool. If they aren’t cool…bad stuff happens.

Honey Bunny (Amanda Plummer + amazing actress on top of counter) was stopping this coffee shop from conducting business. Jules (Samuel L Jackson not Laurence Fishburne) works to diffuse the situation. It was a stressful moment for all involved but Jules told Honey Bunny to be cool…

Finally with some assistance from her partner Pumpkin (Tim Roth + guy in booth with gun pointed at him + watch the movie four rooms if you haven’t seen it), Honey Bunny became cool.

Jules is kernel_task, Honey Bunny is your computer performance / lag time, Pumpkin is you cleaning the fans.

Results:

I haven’t seen kernel_task issue since the 11th for my Work laptop, but today my personal laptop hit what I believe was the same issue which prompted this explanation and massive post to all in hopes I can help prevent you buying a new computer when this type of issue…hits the fan.

Conclusion:

  • Be pumpkin when you can and clean the fans in your computer safely
  • Be cool like Fonzie
  • Watch Pulp Fiction

Keep in mind…you can void your warranty, break parts, shock yourself, shock other parts, break your case, etc. Find your model and google how to clean fan videos. If you can’t find any…ask a friend you trust to give it a shot. Newer MacBook Pros have a unique hinge system you need to deal with even after you take out all the screws so be sure to read up on your computer before doing anything.

It also goes without saying but here I am saying it…Do this at your own risk and I’m not responsible for any negligence encountered.

 

PS: Heavy use of Pulp Fiction stems from:

  • My favorite movie of all time
  • Using a BAMF wallet as my wallet for 12 years and counting
  • Going to film school (School of Visual Arts in NYC) for 2 years to learn more about directing, writing, editing and acting in films so I can understand the process better. 
  • Showing Tarantino the BAMF wallet (which Tarantino had as his personal wallet) I had and him appreciating the love.