Stopping the PTPCamera Process on a Mac from Hogging CPU

Dec 23, 2017 - 1 Comment

PTPCamera Process Gone Wild on Mac hogging CPU

Some Mac users running older versions of MacOS system software may notice that after they plug an iPhone or a camera into their Mac, the computer starts running slower and, if it has a battery, the battery drains faster. Upon closer inspection with Activity Monitor on the impacted Mac, you might notice that a process called “PTPCamera” is running and consuming a heavy amount of CPU usage, usually hovering around 85% or so, and it tends to persist until manual intervention has occurred.


Note this issue may be version dependent, and not all versions of Mac OS or Mac OS X system software are going to have the errant PTPCamera process running overtime an iPhone is connected. If you don’t have the camera process dragging your Mac battery down and hogging processor, don’t worry about this as it does not impact you.

How to Stop the PTPCamera Process in Mac OS from Eating CPU and Draining Battery

  1. Connect an iPhone to the Mac and unlock it via passcode, Touch ID, or Face ID
  2. Hit Command+Spacebar to open Spotlight (or click the little Spotlight magnifying glass icon in the upper right corner)
  3. Type “Activity Monitor” and hit return to launch the Activity Monitor app
  4. Choose the “CPU” tab and click on the “% CPU” column to sort by percentage of CPU usage
  5. PTPCamera Process Gone Wild on Mac hogging CPU

  6. Locate “PTPCamera” and select it, then click the “X” button in the titlebar of Acitivyt Monitor to kill the process
  7. Kill PTPCamera Process on Mac

  8. Confirm that you want to force quit PTPCamera process
  9. Leave Activity Monitor

You might need to repeat this process of force quitting the PTPCamera process every time you notice a slowdown or battery drain after connecting an unlocked iPhone to the Mac. A bit annoying, but it could certainly be worse.

There does not appear to be any side effect of killing the PTPCamera process on a Mac, and you can still copy photos from the iPhone to the Mac Photos app or with Image Capture if need be.

Another option, which has not worked for me but may work for you based on comments left on Apple Support forums, is to try this process:

  1. Connect via USB the iPhone to the Mac, and unlock it via passcode, Touch ID, or Face ID
  2. Launch Photos app
  3. Disconnect the iPhone from USB
  4. Quit Photos
  5. Re-open Photos

Why that would work to stop the PTPCamera process isn’t clear, but some users reported success with it on discussions.apple.com , but your mileage may vary.

Why PTPCamera spins up high CPU usage may just be a bug in certain system software versions, or with a combination of certain devices and system software, and while it likely won’t happen in High Sierra or macOS Sierra, it is reliably reproduced in Mac OS X El Capitan 10.11.6 with an iPhone X and many earlier versions of Mac OS simply by connecting an unlocked iPhone to the Mac running those prior system releases.

Of course another potential solution would be to update to a newer version of system software, whether it’s macOS High Sierra or MacOS Sierra, but that may not be a reasonable solution for many users, and of course some Mac users are intentionally avoiding certain system software releases due to software compatibility, or perhaps simply to avoid potential troubleshooting hangups or nuisances.

On a related note, another photos related process that can stir up heavy CPU usage on a Mac is the Photos Agent process related to iCloud Photos usage, which is a bit easier to avoid by simply disabling the iCloud Photos features on a Mac.

If you know of another way to stop PTPCamera from errantly running on a Mac (without locking down the process and preventing it from launching at all), let us know in the comments!

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in Mac OS X, Tips & Tricks, Troubleshooting

One Comment

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  1. Bill G says:

    The article refers to force-quitting PPTPCamera but the method you describe is actually just doing a regular quit.

    Haven’t had the problem lately but sometimes opening Image Capture would cause PTPCamera to settle down.

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