Monitor the Mac with MiniUsage menu bar tool

Find out what is happening under the surface of your Apple Mac. Monitor CPU activity, memory, disk usage, internet speeds, temperatures and more.

What goes on under the surface of your Mac's pretty graphical interface? Is it working hard or idling, is it downloading or uploading, is it getting hot or running cool? Monitor all this and more, and detect when things go wrong.

Sometimes the Mac runs slowly, sometimes you want to download a big file, but keep an eye on the download speed without having Safari on the screen. You might want to see what is using all the processing power, check the CPU temperature, see how many times a MacBook battery has been charged, and so on. All these items can be monitored using a menu bar utility called MiniUsage.

This free utility can be found in the Mac App Store, but the version there is v1.5 with a last updated date of 2012. Click the MiniUsage Support link and Safari will open to show the website where there is a more recent version, v2.0 dated 2014.

(Update: This utility was originally tested on an older version of OS X. It has been found to run fine on the latest macOS Sierra too.)

You should be aware that the Mac App Store does not always have the latest or the best software. If you go to the developer’s website there is sometimes a better or more recent version, as can be seen with MiniUsage.

Download MiniUsage from the website and then open the Downloads folder on the Mac. Double click MiniUsage.dmg to open the archive and then drag the MiniUsage folder to the Applications folder. Go into Applications/MiniUsage and double click MiniUsage.app.

What happens next depends on the security settings on your Mac. The default is not to allow apps from outside of the Mac App Store to be run and you will probably see a message like this:

Blocked apps in OS X

You could change the security settings by going to the Apple menu, System Preferences, Security and Privacy, then under Allow apps downloaded from, choose Anywhere. However, there is an alternative method and this is to right click (or Ctrl+Click) the app and select Open on the menu:

Open blocked apps in OS X

A new message appears and this time there is an Open button to run the app:

Open blocked apps in OS X

When MiniUsage is run, it adds an extra item to the menu bar at the top of the screen. Click it and a menu is displayed that contains lots of useful information. The first section on the menu shows the apps that are using the processor the most. If your Mac is running slowly you can display this menu and see which apps are responsible for hogging all the processor time.

MiniUsage monitors from the menu bar in OS X

In the screen shot the Mac is idling and nothing is using the processor significantly. Start up a few apps and take a fresh look at this menu to see the load the CPU is under.

The second section of the menu shows a collection of useful statistics such as the CPU average load, the CPU temperature and fan speed. When the CPU is working hard, the temperature will rise and the fan will increase its speed in an effort to keep the system cool.

Too high a temperature can cause stability problems or even processor failure. How high is too high? It varies from CPU to CPU, but often they can run reliably at up to 100 C. Don’t worry about 60 to 70 C temperatures because this is normal.

The network in and out is the amount of data that is being transmitted over the network. If the Mac is connected only to the internet and not a networked disk, then the network in and out figures correspond to the internet download and upload speeds. It can be useful to keep an eye on the download speed when you are downloading big files because it shows the quality of the internet connection.

The battery charge percentage is also displayed. All these items have sub-menus that display additional information. For example, the Charging submenu shows the cycle count (number of times the battery has been charged), voltage and amperage.

The item in the menu bar that is displayed by MiniUsage can be configured and there are several options on the Preference menu.

MiniUsage shows CPU, disk and network usage

Select Data Type to Display and select one of the items to display. CPU usage is a good one, but Network In shows the internet download speed. If you suspect an overheating problem, show the temperature. It is up to you.

MiniUsage is a great tool, although I did experience the odd glitch here and there. There is an option to show live graphs of some statistics, such as the processor load and temperature. These sometimes cause MiniUsage to quit unexpectedly. Apart from this, it is a useful tool.

If you like this menu bar utility, you should check out Bandwidth+, it monitors the internet connection and disiplays up and download activity.

 

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