Fix Finder Slowness & High CPU Usage Issues in OS X Mavericks

Nov 13, 2013 - 44 Comments

Finder icon Finder is the file manager in OS X, and it’s actually one of the oldest components of the Mac operating system, having been around since the earliest days of Mac OS. Despite it’s long history, many users who have upgraded to OS X Mavericks have discovered some peculiar behavior with Finder, where it can become extremely sluggish and slow doing when in use, even when doing just about anything. With some minor investigation through Activity Monitor, it’s typical to discover that the Finder process is pegging CPU, sitting somewhere between 80% to 200% – again, Finder is seemingly doing nothing strenuous or out of the ordinary.

Finder high CPU use and sluggish behavior

Having encountered this problem on several Macs that have been upgraded to 10.9 from 10.7 and 10.8 (it has yet to occur on a clean install of Mavericks for what it’s worth), a fairly reliable solution has been found to resolve the high CPU usage and speed issues with Mavericks Finder: trashing the plist file and forcing it to rebuild.

* If you’re comfortable using the command line and Terminal, jump down to find a faster solution.

  1. From the OS X Finder, hit Command+Shift+G to summon “Go To Folder” and enter the following path:
  2. ~/Library/Preferences/

  3. Locate the file named “com.apple.finder.plist” and move it to the desktop (this should make a copy of the file, if not, hold down the Option key when moving it to make a copy) – this serves as a backup in the unlikely event something goes wrong
  4. Delete the remaining com.apple.finder.plist file from the ~/Library/Preferences/ folder
  5. Delete the Finder plist file

  6. Launch Terminal, found in /Applications/Utilities/ and enter the following command:
  7. killall Finder

  8. Hit return to execute the command and force the Finder to relaunch, Finder should now behave

Trashing the com.apple.finder.plist file basically resets Finder to the default settings. This means you will need to reconfigure custom Finder preferences if you made any through Finder > Preferences. This includes things like the default new window, tab preferences, what is shown on the desktop, sidebar items, changes to search preferences, filename extensions, etc.

* Comfortable with Terminal? Advanced users who are familiar with the command line can use the following command sequence to put the entire sequence into a single command string:

rm ~/Library/Preferences/com.apple.finder.plist&&killall Finder

This will delete the preference file and relaunch Finder. If you’re not comfortable with the command line this is best avoided because an error with the ‘rm’ command could theoretically remove unintended files without warning.

Whichever method you use to trash the file from the user Library folder, the result of ditching the Finder preference file is a dramatically calmed down Finder process. If you’ve been following Activity Monitor throughout the troubleshooting process you should now find the Finder process hovering somewhere below 8% if not barely on the radar at 1% now under the same conditions.

Finder being normal with low CPU usage in OS X

This is obviously a huge improvement, so whether the original cause is simple preference corruption that occurred during the process of upgrading to Mavericks, or something else entirely, thankfully there’s a very easy resolution.

Assuming all is well, you can trash the backup “com.apple.finder.plist” file made during step 2.

Note: An unrelated problem discussed in the comments is also impacting some users, manifesting as an unusually slow Open and Save dialog box, for which a workaround for that bug is covered here.

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in Mac OS X, Troubleshooting

44 Comments

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  1. Ben says:

    Another great trick is to reset PRAM after install. Everything just works so well!

    • Federico says:

      I solved this problem by uninstalling Cinch instead.

      Surprisingly, every time I clicked on the desktop, Finder would take a whole core (50% CPU on my computer). Once you quit Cinch, it stops doing that.

      Magnifique!

  2. media_lush says:

    I use the killall Finder command each time I turn my mac on just to bring back coloured and icon folder designs

    incidentally terminal command ‘purge’ no longer works in Mavericks… do you know the new command?

  3. Kelsey says:

    Fantastic! Thank you so much. It surprised me that Mav’s Finder was so slow and I’m surprised the update didn’t handle this without my needing to do this.

  4. Allen says:

    I have an issue and I’m not sure what causes it. I haven’t had any luck with google – perhaps I don’t even know what to properly search for.

    The issue is that when I am in an application, such as Photoshop, and go to open a file, the window shows all my directories as empty for about 10-15 seconds. I can see the main folder, but no files or subfolders?

    It happens in all types of applications, not just PS. Also happens when I go to Save a file.

    Seems to me like a Finder issue, but I have no clue really.

    Can anyone help, or steer me in proper direction? It’s very frustrating.

    Thanks!

    • Gazza says:

      Would you be using the ALL MY FILES as the default view when you are in the Open and Save dialogue boxes? I’ve found that slows things down on one of my Macs. (I’m going to try the Fix Finder technique when I get back to my Mac).
      I changed the default preference and things populate the dialogue boxes as expected.

    • Lalo says:

      Hi Allen, exactly my problem. Did you find any solution or help for this? Many thanks

  5. andy says:

    @media_lush
    you have to use sudo in order to use purge.

  6. Kerry says:

    This seems to have resolved all my Finder problems with OS X Mavericks completely, thank you.

  7. Fabrizio says:

    great tip, now Finder is nappier!

  8. Tim says:

    I did a clean install and the Finder was still sluggish. I tried the Terminal tip provided here, and it seems to have helped. Thanks!

  9. Andrew says:

    From above, just FYI:

    rm ~/Library/Preferences/com.apple.finder.plist&killall Finder

    A single & sends the `rm` process to the background; if you only want to execute `killall Finder` after successful deletion of the file, use two:

    rm ~/Library/Preferences/com.apple.finder.plist && killall Finder

  10. Alex says:

    Thanks for tutorial but…
    It’s not working well on my MacBook Pro 5.2.
    Yes, when I use terminal command

    rm ~/Library/Preferences/com.apple.finder.plist && killall Finder

    it solve the high CPU usage for a moment but then it came back (high CPU) again.
    I have actually uncheck everything in Finder’s view tab bit still no good result.
    And one more strange observation.
    The high CPU consumption by Finder appeared just after i click on the desktop!!!
    If I manage to not click on desktop (not a Finder tab but desktop itself) the CPU usage is bellow 10%.

    Thanks in advance for advise.

  11. Lalo says:

    Hi. I tried removing ‘com.apple.finder.plist’ as said…and after entered the indication in ‘Terminal’. The problem is still there….but now a biggest problem for my daily workflow. Before this change i could copy a list of files or folders into a txt file or an email body. Now, instead of copying just the file names or folder names, when I paste a folder Icon or the complete image is copied…not just the name of the file or folder…I think this happens because i changed something important in the Finder preferences panel… Do you know hoy to go back? Many thanks in advance!!!!

    • Paul says:

      The resolution described here is aimed at resolving excess Finder CPU use, it does not impact your copy/paste issue. You can adjust Finder Preferences through the Finder menu and choosing “preferences”, or hit Command+, to bring up the panel. Though there is no setting to adjust the copy and paste behavior you describe, but you can use Paste and Match Style to achieve the desired results.

      Copy as normal, then use “Paste and Match Style” to paste just the file names into a text file or an email. That is accessible from the “Edit” menu, or by hitting Commant+Option+Shift+V

  12. Lalo says:

    Paul !!!! Many thanks for your help, it´s ok now!!!…my problem began after trying to solve the very slow way in which files and folders are recognized in the dialog boxes of mostly all programs (specially photoshop, photomechanic and attaching files in emails) after I installed Mavericks…any clue for this issue??? thanks again in advance!!!

  13. Mark Dodel says:

    From a thread on MacRumours http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=1654986 it appears that the problem with finder and other apps file containers can be solved temporarily by killing (Force Quit) com.apple.IconServicesAgent from the activity monitor. At least when I have the problem I kill that and the file list populates immediately. I found this because of the endless “com.apple.IconServicesAgent: Failed to write file ” messages in the console and searching on that. Is anyone else seeing this as well?

    • Mark Dodel says:

      Following up on this, I unchecked “Show Icon Preview” and “Show icons” in Finders “Show View Options” and so far the problem hasn’t reoccurred even when opening a new folder that I haven’t accessed recently. There is just a very short delay in populating the new folder list.

  14. Michael Maier says:

    Thanks a lot! My Finder was that trash, i can’t open anything.
    So your command line was my rescue.

    Thanks again from Germany

  15. Pappa K says:

    Thank you OSXDaily!

  16. bill says:

    worked perfect, thanks!

  17. Kwoolf says:

    Excellent, this was really driving me nuts but a simple fix restored my sanity?

    Many thanks

  18. Will says:

    That worked really well … thanks! Now all I need is something to stop Google Update Installer popping up every half-hour.

  19. Clay Asbury says:

    THANK YOU! I was about to burn down Cupertino.

  20. Ben says:

    Worked perfectly!

    Thanks!

  21. Fatih Kovac says:

    When I installed OS X Mavericks to my 13 inch macbook pro – i5 – 4GB RAM, it slowed my mac very much. After a few weeks I tried to reinstalling it as ”clean install” and now it works perfect. Clean install may be a solution.

  22. Geir says:

    Hello,

    Thank you so much for this tip.

    I upgraded from 10.8 to 10.9 a couple of weeks ago and my mid-2009 MacBook Pro seemed a bit more sluggish. Today I saw that Finder ran at more than 50% CPU despite the fact that it basically did nothing. Clicking from folder to folder was very slow, despite the fact that I have upgraded to an SSD.
    After running your command my MB is silent and much more snappy when I navigate between folder with Finder.
    Thank you so much!

    Cheers,

    Geir

  23. Bart says:

    Great post, thx

  24. Jim says:

    This worked like a charm! Thanks so much!

  25. Fredrik says:

    I don’t seem to have the file com.apple.finder.plist in the Preferences folder…. What to do?

  26. Eva says:

    Thanks a million! It worked easy peasy and so happy to have my Mac back.

  27. Chris says:

    Just did this and it didn’t fix anything. As soon as I went back to open up a folder with more than 200 items in it, the Finder’s CPU usage went up past 80% and practically froze.

    Should I be deleting the “lockfile” as well as the plain plist?

  28. Derek says:

    Great tip! :-)

    I’ve had a very sluggish finder since Maveriks install, where it took an age to navigate folders (a busy spinner was usually in the bottom of File Open Dialogs). All that seems to have gone with trashing the plist file

  29. Jesse says:

    Hell ya. THANK YOU!

  30. Chloe says:

    Wow, this is a life saver. I am a grad student and I do NOT have time to wait for my finder to load for ten minutes. Thank you thank you thank you! :)

  31. re says:

    This was driving me nuts for the past week. Your fix did the job.

    Many thanks.

  32. sjlee says:

    Thanks!

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