It’s time to get your geek on, Boomer style. Today’s consideration has to do with open files. Yes, you can see Safari and Mail and Calendar running on your Mac. They’re right in front of your eyeballs.
What about all those macOS High Sierra system files that run in the background? What about those background utilities spawned by apps in the Menubar? You’re likely to have other Mac apps that spawn background processes, too. Where are they? What do they do?
Enter two free ways to begin the process of tracking down all these open files that are running and doing who knows what for whatever reasons, and whether you know what’s going on or not.
First up, Activity Monitor. This Apple Mac utility lives in the Applications > Utilities folder and keeps track of various processes on macOS. CPU, Memory, Energy, Disk, and Network processes, to be precise.
At first glance Activity Monitor seems simple enough. Select CPU to see how much of your Mac’s Intel Inside is being used by whatever application, right? Ditto for Memory and Energy. But as you scan the list you start to see things like kernel_task, distnoted, mids, sysmond, mds_stores, and other terms which make no sense to the uninitiated (Google is your friend).
And, Activity Monitor doesn’t display all the files open by some of your opened applications.
Second, enter Sloth and get ready to expand your geek factor. Sloth displays all open files and sockets by any app running on your Mac. Basically, this simple application works by adding a GUI to the Mac’s built-in lsof command line tool. Think list open files.
Sloth comes with more filter options and more detail.
The first thing you’ll notice with both Activity Monitor and Sloth is how much is going on in the background. You may have Safari, Mail, and Calendar running along with the Mac’s Finder, but behind the scenes are dozens of background applications and utilities that do this or that. Sloth is somewhat complementary of Activity Monitor. It can reveal a specific file in the Finder, and has a tool to kill the file’s owning process. There’s also options for filtering, displaying file information, and more. This can be very useful.
The latest version is even easier to use now that DNS and port name lookup are disable by default, while process binaries, current working directories, and shared libraries are also excluded by default. Yes, they can be turned on as needed.
See, geek time for Boomers. Activity Monitor is including in macOS, while Sloth is open source and free.