Tap the iStat Menus app for system information on the macOS menu bar

Apple minimizes distractions within its designs, and sometimes this makes performance monitoring difficult. Find out how the iStat Menus app solves this problem.

Image: Apple Inc.

Apple strives for refined operation, which is one of the reasons Macs don't even have disk activity lights. But what should Mac users do when they wish to monitor memory usage, disk and network activity, CPU performance, and other system information? Sure, the macOS Activity Monitor tracks such metrics, but what if users wish to receive custom notifications and monitor activity unobtrusively without stealing screen real estate needed for other programs? That's where the iStat Menus app comes into play.

SEE: How to get the most from Apple's free productivity apps: 9 tips (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

The $9.99 Bjango Pty Ltd.iStat Menus 6 app delivers customizable performance monitoring that displays corresponding metrics within a Mac's menu bar. With the third-party utility, Mac users can, at a glance, confirm network, disk, memory, CPU, sensor, battery, and power performance metrics. Figure A provides an example in which the iStat Menus app is customized to display just CPU, memory, disk, and network status.

Figure A


Clicking upon any of the iStat Menus items within the menu bar opens the iStat Menus window for that element. For example, Figure B shows the iStat Menus Memory window, which provides detailed information regarding memory allocation (listed by Wired, Active, Compressed, and Free), swap memory status, and memory pressure, which reveals memory availability--likely the single most important memory metric Mac users can monitor.

Figure B


The iStat Menus drop-down windows also provide convenient single-click access to a variety of other context-based utilities, which can include Activity Monitor, the macOS Console, Terminal and System Information, or the Disk Utility, depending upon which resource metrics are being viewed. Also accessible from the iStat Menus drop-down windows are broader app settings (Figure C) that are reached by clicking the iStat Menus icon.

Figure C


The app, which is highly ranked and well-reviewed within the App Store, permits tracking all the following performance metrics, in addition to others:

  • Real-time CPU activity
  • Real-time GPU activity
  • Memory allocation
  • Memory usage
  • Memory pressure
  • Disk activity
  • S.M.A.R.T. status monitoring
  • Disk input and output
  • Free disk space
  • Hard drive sensor temperature
  • Fan status
  • Voltage status
  • Current and power status
  • Date, time, and calender
  • Mac battery status
  • Power status
  • Magic Mouse, Magic Trackpad, and Apple Keyboard battery status

SEE: Software usage policy (Tech Pro Research)

Mac users specify whether the program is to start automatically at system startup by checking the Open At Login box that appears on the application's welcome screen. To disable the program, just click the pause icon within Global settings and close the app.

While version 6.31 doesn't possess a dedicated dark mode setting, the program adjusts most menu backgrounds to match Light and Dark Appearance settings configured within the macOS General System Preferences. iStat Menus also permits customizing the color of menu bar icons, borders, drop downs, and graphs.

macOS users choose whether to display iStat Menus notifications, too. Notifications support sending an alert, a banner, or both for an exhaustive list of options, including CPU usage, battery status, memory pressure, disk space and temperature, and all at custom thresholds the user specifies, although the program offers default settings for those unfamiliar with common operating ranges.

The convenience and customization options iStat menus presents make the program a handy utility many will choose to automatically load at startup, especially when you're willing to take a few moments to customize which settings are displayed within the Mac's menu bar. Other users will also opt to set notifications for specific alerts. Regardless of which you might choose, iStat Menus is sure to help you better understand your Mac's operation.

Also see