A longtime customer came in with her MacBook Air, which she uses daily both in the office and in her very frequent travels. She uses the QuickerTek Charger/Backup Battery Pack for MacBook Air and is thrilled that it allows her to fly across the country or the Atlantic and work the whole time. Recently, though, she began to notice that the computer was getting much warmer than usual, even with light use. She reported the fan had been overactive and that battery life isn’t what it used to be, even with the QuickerTek.

There are two real clues in these symptoms. More heat is created the harder a computer is working, and the harder a computer is working, the less time it’ll function off of battery power. Immediately I knew this was a software issue, not a hardware issue.

I also noticed that I couldn’t pull down the Date and Time menu in the Menu Bar: any time I’d place the mouse pointer over that item, the pointer would change into the spinning beach ball. I knew that a background process called systemuiserver is responsible for this menu bar item, so I went into Activity Monitor to see if that process was taking up more processing power than necessary.

Sure enough, systemuiserver was consuming almost all the processing resources the Air had to offer. I used Activity Monitor to quit the process, and set the computer on a table. In a few minutes it was noticeably cooler and the estimated battery life jumped from 45 minutes to over two hours—and I could pull down the Date and Time menu.

I knew from the beginning the cause of this problem, but for those of you without quite so much troubleshooting experience the Activity Monitor application is a great first stop in all overheating and battery life issues. Just look for something consuming a lot of CPU resources.

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