What is kernel_task high CPU usage

If you walk in the Activity Monitor, which is the equivalent to the Windows Task Manager, you will see a number of processes and resource consumption of it. If some of the tasks are highlighted red exceeding the amount of CPU usage, Mac becomes sluggish, overheating boosts fan speed producing a lot of sounds, and other disturbing effects that prevent you from normal usage. Kernel_task is simply the name of different processes, reflecting additional information upon them. There are multiple reasons that can destroy Mac performance such as malware, bugged updates, wrong software configuration, and hardware problems. Unless taken seriously, this can reduce the lifespan of your processor, graphic card, or other components. We have gathered several methods that have been successful at dealing with kernel_task issues.

Download Repair Tool

Download CleanMyMac

There are special repair utilities for Mac, that can solve problems related to file system or app malfunction, virus infection. We recommend you to use CleanMyMac to fix the “kernel_task high CPU usage” problem in Mac.

1. Install/Update to latest OS

Apple rolls out new OS versions annually, with intermediate updates including minor fixes and brand-new features. Historically, there have been a couple of glitched versions that forced throttling issues for unknown reasons. After a while, Apple reviewed this concern and fixed the issue with a new pack of updates. So maybe you got stuck on the same problem and need to install new updates. To do this, follow the instructions below.

  1. Click on the menu (Apple icon on top of your screen) and choose System Preferences.
  2. Then click Software Update and follow on-screen instructions.
  3. If new updates are available, you should install them and see if the problem persists after reboot.

You can also set Mac for automatic updates to not miss the latest upgrades. Do the following:

  1. Go to the Software Update section, likewise we did previously.
  2. Now select the Automatically install Mac software updates and Check for updates checkboxes.
  3. There are many other options for automatic updates that can be chosen based on your taste.

2. Scan for malware

If you have your Mac totally updated, but still experience a significant meltdown in terms of its performance, then you can try another option – run a scan for Potentially Unwanted Programs or other malware. Malicious programs are known for diminishing device productivity and causing confidential leaks. Most malware gets started automatically at the pc startup and continues running in the background. Even browser extensions can pressure your system a lot by uploading an abundance of resources. To check what exactly deprives so many resources, you can:

  1. Click on Applications on top of your screen and go to Utilities.
  2. Find and double-click on Activity Monitor.
  3. Once done, you should go to the CPU section to see all the processes.

The most consuming processes will be shown in the decreasing order in percentages. If you see that something pushes your data close to the limit, but the program is hard to recognize, the more likely it is malware that works in the background mode.

You can use any anti-malware software you like, however, our choice for the best way to get rid of suspicious stuff is Malwarebytes for Mac. Besides maintaining your PC safe, it also allows you to regain extra memory by deleting rubbish like cache, duplicate files, unnecessary registries, and other data. If this method failed to help you, move on to the next one.

malwarebytes for mac

Download Malwarebytes for Mac

3. Reset SMC (System management controller)

SMC is the core of many physical processes enabled on Mac systems. In fact, it is a chip integrated into Intel components. Keyboard, LED indicators, cooling fans, power buttons, battery setup, and other parts cannot operate without SMC. Thus, we will try to reset it back to standard preferences, which may solve the problem. Keep in mind that these actions will reset almost all settings to default, so you might want to memorize them or make a backup using Time Machine or other methods before the reset. Instructions for this can vary slightly depending on what MacBook version you are using. We will list out all steps for all versions down below:

Users who have a MacBook based on Apple T2 Security Chip. (models from 2018 and later):

  1. Turn off your Mac.
  2. Press and hold the Power button for 10 seconds, then restart.
  3. If that doesn’t solve the problem, shut down your PC again.
  4. Then, press and hold the right Shift key, the left Option key, and the left Control key combination for seven seconds.
  5. Keep these keys pressed, and press and hold the Power button for seven seconds at the same time.
  6. Finally, reboot your Mac and check if the problem exists.

Users who have a MacBook with a non-removable battery (pre-2018 models):

  1. Turn off your Mac.
  2. Then, press and hold Shift, Control, and Option on the left side of the keyboard.
  3. Now press and hold the Power button (or Touch ID button) as well.
  4. Continue holding all the buttons for about 10 seconds.
  5. Finally, you can turn on Mac and see the difference.

Users who have an old MacBook with a removable battery (pre-2015 models):

  1. Switch off your Mac and turn it onto the backside.
  2. Then remove the battery.
  3. After this, press and hold the Power button for five seconds.
  4. Finally, put your battery and boot up your MacBook.

Users who have a desktop Mac with a T2 Chip (such as an iMac Pro):

  1. Turn off your Mac.
  2. Hold the Power button for 10 seconds.
  3. After this, wait a couple of seconds, reboot your PC.
  4. If this did not help, you can try to shut down your Mac again.
  5. Unplug the power cord and wait for 15 seconds.
  6. Then reconnect it, wait approximately 5 seconds, and turn on your PC.

Users who have older desktop Macs (pre-2018 models):

  1. Turn off your Mac and unplug the power cord again.
  2. Wait 15 seconds and reconnect the power cord.
  3. Wait 5 more seconds and turn your Mac on again.


These are the most common ways to solve throttling and decrease the percentage of CPU usage back to a regular pace. If you keep struggling to overcome kernel_task problems, you can try and reinstall your system to get a fresh and virgin configuration. You can find other fixes for the most common errors on our website. There is a separate category dedicated to Mac users.

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James Kramer
Hello, I'm James. My website Bugsfighter.com, a culmination of a decade's journey in the realms of computer troubleshooting, software testing, and development. My mission here is to offer you comprehensive, yet user-friendly guides across a spectrum of topics in this niche. Should you encounter any challenges with the software or the methodologies I endorse, please know that I am readily accessible for assistance. For any inquiries or further communication, feel free to reach out through the 'Contacts' page. Your journey towards seamless computing starts here