G4 Powerbook Runs Slow; CPU Maxed
March 18, 2008 11:23 PM   Subscribe

G4 Powerbook (1.5 MHz, 2 GB RAM, Tiger) slows to a crawl and activity monitor shows 90-100% CPU usage - with minimal number of open applications. Might this be software (Tiger?) or hardware (CPU)?


The machine has been slow for a long time. Fall 2006 - power supply replaced under warranty. Then Genius Bar said to reinstall OS -- did a clean reinstall late last spring (2007). No help. Tune-up in November. Hard drive died in December and I thought, "That was the problem!" Installed new (MacSales/OWC) faster (7200 rpm) drive; installed 10.5. All apps installed as new.

Machine crawls. System resources maxed out regularly -- everything slow. Tabbing between applications is painful.

Genius Bar person said he thought my processor was bad. (??) Before I spend $350 (the "flat rate" fix), I'm trying alternatives.

Regularly use Firefox, Thunderbird, BBEdit -- background apps Snapz Pro, Twitterrific. Have learned that MarkSpace sync for my Blackjack seems to be a resource hog, so now I kill it after use (via Activity Monitor).

Sometimes: PPT or Keynote, Word, Excel. Would love to be able to use Photoshop again; haven't tried since new hard drive because of performance.

Have done most of the things on the list on this thread: http://ask.metafilter.com/80841/Help-My-mac-runs-slow

In the process of disabling FF extensions -- here's what I have left: Session Manager, ScribeFire, Web Developer, Extended Status Bar. If it's any of these four causing the resource issue, I'm guessing its Session Manager. Sigh. That's a lifesaver.

Since disabling some FF Extensions, in Activity Monitor CPU graph, the CPU is no longer always maxed out -- but everything is still slow, especially when an app is *doing* something. FF is still at 35-50% CPU "on idle" and goes up to 90+ when it's loading a page or doing something. RAM: 500 Free, 245 Wired, 700 Active, 600 inactive (rounding). But it says my VM size is 42 GB!!! WTH?

Any suggestions gratefully appreciated! Even if they echo the Genius Bar recommendation re $$$.
posted by kegill to Computers & Internet (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Pop into the Terminal and type:
> ls -l /var/vm
What's it say?
posted by ikkyu2 at 11:27 PM on March 18, 2008

And while in the terminal type:

> sudo fs_usage

and watch it for a while - what processes are using disk and network the most when the usage is high?
posted by nicwolff at 11:52 PM on March 18, 2008

It sounds like Firefox is a significant part of the problem here. Do you have these issues when you quit Firefox? If not, you should try starting the browser in Safe Mode which disables all extensions and resets other settings. Some misbehaving extensions may cause 100% CPU usage. Try it first with no extensions, and then add them back one at a time. Talk to the extension developer to see if he/she can work on a fix if you find the culprit. You might also want to look at resetting your Firefox profile; I had a corrupt history file that was causing similar issues for me at one point.
posted by zachlipton at 1:17 AM on March 19, 2008

I'm on Leopard on a 1.25 Ghz Powerbook G4 and I'm using the Firefox 3 Beta. The Firefox 3 Beta runs a lot faster and uses fewer resources than the current Firefox 2. Please give the Beta a try and see if that makes a difference.
posted by gen at 5:40 AM on March 19, 2008

Even on a newer MBP with 4 gigs of RAM Firefox 3 Beta runs noticeably faster than FF2. It's been stable on my Mac since Beta 2 at least (up to Beta 4 now). It's worth a try.

Note that with the beta you'll probably need to run Nightly Tester Tools extension to enable some add-ons. Also, add-ons not installed through the Mozilla add-ons site may be disabled if the source website does not use secure updates; this is a security measure, there is a config editor workaround if you need it.
posted by caution live frogs at 6:08 AM on March 19, 2008

Try Safari on FF3, they're both much leaner than FF2.

Also, anything using Flash on PowerPC macs sucks up system resources like you wouldn't believe.
posted by Oktober at 7:13 AM on March 19, 2008

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