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10.5: Mail, sent messages, and dead process problems Apps
While looking for something else in my running process list in Terminal over the weekend, I noticed something odd in the output of the ps -A command -- a whole bunch of identical processes, apparently dead but not gone, related to AddressBookSync. In the ps output, I had at least 30 processes that looked like this:
....
46487 ??         0:00.00 (AddressBookSync)
46589 ??         0:00.00 (AddressBookSync)
46649 ??         0:00.00 (AddressBookSync)
46710 ??         0:00.00 (AddressBookSync)
.... etc.
A quick trip to Google found that this is a known issue with Mail in OS X 10.5.5 and newer. Basically, for every message you send, Mail will create one of these dead processes.

If you leave Mail running for an extended period of time, and send a lot of messages, this will eventually create a big problem, because you won't be able to open any applications. When you try, you'll see a message stating that "unexpected error -100008 occurred." A friend told me that if you exceed 120 of these zombies, you'll see this problem. I haven't confirmed that exact count, but I thought there was a 100 process limit in OS X, as explained in this much older hint.

To see how many dead AddressBookSync processes you have, just run this command in Terminal:
ps -A | grep [A]ddressBookSync
If you've sent any messages in Mail since you launched it, you'll see one entry for each sent message. The solution is simple, if annoying -- just quit and relaunch Mail regularly. Each time you quit Mail, the system will clear all the dead processes. I hope this will be fixed in a future 10.5 dot release, as it's a fairly major and annoying issue.

[Update: I modified this hint to remove the references to zombie processes, which I took from the linked Apple Discussions forum. As noted in the comments, these processes aren't really zombies.]
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10.5: Mail, sent messages, and zombie process problems
Authored by: zpjet on Feb 23, '09 08:51:52AM

i wonder if it has something to do with the issue i and some customers were observing - Mail sometimes doesn't save to Sent? happened on both Exchange and IMAP/Communigate.



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10.5: Mail, sent messages, and zombie process problems
Authored by: asmeurer on Feb 23, '09 09:07:25AM
Type launchctl limit in a Terminal. The max process limit has been raised from 100 since that old hint.

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10.5: Mail, sent messages, and zombie process problems
Authored by: robg on Feb 23, '09 09:13:47AM

Thanks for that!

-rob.



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10.5: Mail, sent messages, and zombie process problems
Authored by: Styx on Feb 23, '09 09:51:52AM

I have had Mail running for several days now and have sent many emails without showing ANY zombie processes as described. I have the latest and greatest version of OS X and repair permissions with every update.

---
Styx



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10.5: Mail, sent messages, and zombie process problems
Authored by: robg on Feb 23, '09 01:11:48PM

Not sure why you're not seeing them -- I have four Macs here, and all four have the problem. I tested this with five friends in iChat, and they all see them, too. The only thing we all have in common is 10.5.6 or newer and using Mail.app.

-rob.



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10.5: Mail, sent messages, and zombie process problems
Authored by: ssciboz on Feb 23, '09 10:12:51AM

I do have a lot of problems with sync processes or iDisk sync, but really I'm not able to find these "zombie"...
you sure you're not playing any games or ? :)
I'm running 10.5.6, actual update



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10.5: Mail, sent messages, and zombie process problems
Authored by: joelseph on Feb 23, '09 12:44:20PM

Yep, I ran that command in the Terminal, and found about 6 processes... Quit and relaunched mail, and there were none.

Interesting that some aren't finding any... I wondered if this is an Intel vs. PPC issue, but looking in the support discussion that's linked seems to indicate that it's not. Any ideas?



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10.5: Mail, sent messages, and zombie process problems
Authored by: Toadling on Feb 23, '09 02:56:12PM

I don't see any of these processes on my system either. I'm running 10.5.6 on a unibody MBP with a fairly plain vanilla installation.



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10.5: Mail, sent messages, and zombie process problems
Authored by: mikemccallum on Feb 23, '09 04:19:47PM

my mail stops receiving at least once a day. I quit and restart it a few times a day just to make sure I'm getting everything. It also hangs when I quit.

I get these zombies also.



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10.5: Mail, sent messages, and zombie process problems
Authored by: ravencub on Feb 23, '09 06:59:03PM

I see the same thing on my iMac, but why AddressBookSync?



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10.5: Mail, sent messages, and zombie process problems
Authored by: bloodnok on Feb 23, '09 10:13:13PM
the ps output shown in this hint gives no indication that these processes are zombies. ?? just means the process isn't attached to a terminal. that's perfectly normal. in all UNIX systems, including osx, a zombie process is marked with a Z. its parent process will always be 1 (init). try a ps -aux & see if there are any zombies from that output.

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10.5: Mail, sent messages, and zombie process problems
Authored by: robg on Feb 24, '09 05:54:45AM

You are correct; I used the wrong term. They're not really zombies (as they do vanish when you quit Mail, and my understanding of a zombie is that it wouldn't do that), but they are apparently dead processes that are spawned then not killed off each time you send a message.

I've modified the hint and title to be more accurate; thanks for the catch.

-rob



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10.5: Mail, sent messages, and zombie process problems
Authored by: michaeljs on Feb 24, '09 12:08:26PM
Oh, they most certainly are zombies on my system:
  501   308    79   0   0:08.97 ??         0:46.35 /Applications/Mail.app/Contents/MacOS/Mail -psn_0_180268            4000  63  0  1016868  64384 -      U    700a4f4
  501 18460   308   0   0:00.00 ??         0:00.00 (AddressBookSync)                                                   6000   0  0        0      0 -      Z    d01082c
  501 18463   308   0   0:00.00 ??         0:00.00 (AddressBookSync)                                                   6000   0  0        0      0 -      Z    8a626fc


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10.5: Mail, sent messages, and zombie process problems
Authored by: bloodnok on Feb 25, '09 10:36:43AM

note i didn't say these processes weren't zombies, only that the way they were shown in the hint didn't indicate it one way or the other. since i don't use mail.app, i've not had this issue.

that mail.app spawns a huge number of children & then fails to reap their status is extremely poor programming practice. given osx threads, i'm amazed they've resorted to something as cack-handed as this. if users are complaining about these children clogging their process table to the point of failed app launches, a bug probably needs to be filed at bugreport.apple.com.



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10.5: Mail, sent messages, and zombie process problems
Authored by: ghay on Feb 24, '09 01:49:34AM
10.5: Mail, sent messages, and dead process problems
Authored by: AlbGi on Feb 24, '09 09:36:13AM

Hi, I've checked this on 10.5.6 and I have this processes running. A new one appears every time I send an email.
Trying 'sudo kill -9 PID' doesn't work. I have to quit Mail.app for those processes to disappear.



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10.5: Mail, sent messages, and dead process problems
Authored by: sjk on Jul 07, '09 09:27:34PM

Seems to have been fixed in 10.5.7; is anyone running it still seeing these process zombies?



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10.5: Mail, sent messages, and dead process problems
Authored by: sjk on Jul 07, '09 09:29:07PM

Whoops, I forgot they're not zombies… d'oh!



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