How can I see what’s running on my Mac?

23rd March 2022
two MacBooks with the MacBook background

If you’ve noticed your Mac has slowed down, keeps freezing, or isn’t behaving as it usually does, the chances are, it’s being caused by an application that you’ve got running in the background or the operating system (OS).

MacBook Air 13inch

Apps and background processes can run after programmes have been closed, using valuable system power and memory.

The good news is, it’s usually relatively easy to solve the problem. But, to do that, you’ll need to know what’s running on your Mac.

What apps are running on my Mac?

Some apps continue to run in the background, even after you’ve closed them, making it easy to lose track of what’s running.

Wondering what applications are running on your Mac? There are a number of ways to see what apps you have running on your device, and then quit the ones you no longer need to be active.

Using the Dock

The fastest way to see what’s running on your Mac is to check the dock, which runs along the bottom of your screen.

MacBook apps you would use

Lined up in the dock, you will see the apps you use most frequently, as well as the core Apple apps, such as the calendar, iMessage, photos, etc.

The apps that are currently running will have a black dot underneath them.

If you notice that any unnecessary apps are running, right-click on the app’s icon, and select Quit or Force Quit. The black dot should then disappear, indicating that the app is no longer running.

Using the Force Quit menu

The Force Quit menu displays all the apps that are currently and allows you to close them if they are not responsive.

To access this menu, press Option, Command, and Esc simultaneously. Alternatively, you can open the Apple menu from the toolbar running across the screen, and select Force Quit.

Using the Activity Monitor

The Activity Monitor shows which apps and processes are currently active. To access the Activity Monitor, select Applications, then Utilities.

Once you’ve opened the Activity Monitor, you will be able to see all the apps and processes that are running. If you want to quit any of the applications, simply press the X symbol next to it.

What system am I running on my Mac?

Apple usually releases new versions of the macOS operating system around once per year. If you’re not sure which version you’re running, it’s easy to check

how to check Mac OS system on MacBook

In the top left-hand corner of your screen, you should see the Apple icon. Click this, then choose About This Mac from the drop-down menu.

A window will appear, with information about your Apple device. On the overview screen, the name of the operating system you’re using will appear in bold as the heading. Underneath this, it will also show what version of the OS you’re using.

Find out what the latest version of macOS is here.

What processes should be running on my Mac?

Processes refer to the programmes that are running on your Mac, including apps, system apps used by macOS, and invisible background processes.

There is no specific number of processes you should be running on your Mac. However, if you’ve noticed that your device is slowing down, you might need to kill some of the processes that are running in the background.

You can see all these processes, and details such as how much memory and CPU time they are using, via your device’s Activity Monitor. Find out more.

macbook pro 16 decision tree

A lot of the processes listed in Activity Monitor will sound complex and it might not be clear what they actually are. This can make it tempting to kill them all. However, if you take this approach, you risk losing something important. So, instead, think about the processes you need.

How? Follow these tips:

  • Look for processes that have names similar to apps that you’ve already quit – these should be safe to close.
  • Close any Rosetta applications. These are PowerPC processes running on Intel-based Macs.
  • Quit disk image processes.
  • Quit any processes using large amounts of CPU.
  • Quit any duplicate processes.

Find out more about which processes are safe to quit on a Mac here.

Summary – How to find out what’s running on my Mac?


To find out what programmes and software are running on your Mac, you can:

  • Check the Dock
  • Check the Force Quit menu
  • Check the Activity Monitor

Find out how to see what’s running on your Mac using these methods here.

check what's running on your Mac

Operating system\iOS

To find out which operating system is running on your Mac, open the Apple menu from the tab running along the top of your device’s screen.

Select About This Mac. This will bring up an overview of your device, including the OS name at the top, followed by the version number.

If you aren’t using the latest macOS, you can also update from this screen.

You can now start leasing the latest Mac devices for your business. We have the full range of MacBooksiMacsiPhones & iPads so you can choose the perfect device for your business, to find out more speak to our expert team on 020 7111 1643 or email