I wrote several weeks ago about an eMac with mysteriously disappearing disk space. The machine’s hard drive kept filling up to the point that the “Your startup disk is almost full” message would pop up persistently, even though no new files had been added to the drive in several days. The solution was to delete the logs and restart a process called ASLServer.
This week, after backing up a machine for repair to our backup workstation, the workstation slowed down dramatically–keystrokes took seconds to register, and the beach ball was omnipresent. Several restarts had no effect on the machine’s performance. Adding complexity to concern, the workstation I was using for the backup was my own workstation! I had to solve this problem immediately.
First stop was Activity Monitor (located in your Utilities folder) to see exactly which processes were causing the issue. The two stalled processes were aslmanager and HFSMount; I had an unrecognizable, mechanically-failed hard drive connected, and my iMac was not happy about that. Unplugging that external drive only marginally improved performance, as the HFSMount process went away. HFSMount is a process that mounts the disk on your desktop.
Looking at Activity Monitor, I noticed that aslmanager was still using over 90% of the CPU (keep in mind that each processor core accounts for 100% capacity; my dual-core iMac has 200% capacity). I hoped for the best and tried the simplest thing I could think of: I restarted the computer. No luck.
Time for Google. I entered aslmanager and hit I’m Feeling Lucky. I got lucky and landed here: http://www.macfixit.com/article.php?story=20090122213555897
I followed the steps outlined in the article, and the machine returned to normal. The problem hasn’t surfaced again.