What Is opendirectoryd, and Why Is It Running on My Mac?

You’re checking Activity Monitor, seeing what’s taking up resources on your Mac, when you notice a process called opendirectoryd. What does that even mean?

This article is part of our ongoing series explaining various processes found in Activity Monitor, like kernel_task, hidd, mdsworker, installd, WindowServer, blued, launchd, backup, and many others. Don’t know what those services are? Better start reading!

This particular process, opendirectoryd, is a key part of macOS. It is a daemon, which means it runs in the background performing system tasks, and it’s the main process of Open Directory, the directory service used by macOS. A directory service handles most everything related to local networking, including users and shared folders. To quote the opendirectoryd man page:

Open Directory forms the foundation of how Mac OS X accesses all authoritative configuration information (users, groups, mounts, managed desktop data, etc.).

The process is particularly important in macOS environments connected to a server, but also serves an important purpose for home users who do things like share files over the network or connect to Wi-Fi enabled printers.

How to Configure Open Directory

The man page goes on to say that configuring opendirectoryd mainly happens through the “Users & Groups” section of System Preferences.

We’ve explained how to set up multiple user accounts in the past, including network-only accounts. You didn’t know it, but you were configuring Open Directory when you did that.

And you can dig in deeper, if you’re curious. For more granular control over opendirectoryd you should open the Directory Utility, which you can find from this window. First, click the Login Options button in the left hand panel, then click the “Join” button.

You’ll find a button for the Directory Utility; click it.

Now you’ve opened the Directory Utility, which will give you a comprehensive look at what opendirectoryd is doing for you.

Don’t change anything unless you really, really know what you’re doing, because this is not exactly user friendly. But digging through here should give you a pretty good idea of what it is opendirectoryd does.

If opendirectoryd Is Using Up System Resources

It’s relatively rare for opendirectoryd to take up much in the way of system resources, and it tends to mainly happen in managed environments. If you work in an office with a central server, let IT staff know if opendirectoryd is taking up system resources: there might be some issues with your network.

If you’re just a home user experiencing these sorts of problems, restarting your Mac will solve any spike in opendirectoryd’s resource usage most of the time. If problems persist you’ll have to do some digging, because there are all sorts of reasons this might be happening. Etrecheck runs dozens of diagnostics at once; run that and see if any networking related issues come up. If you don’t find anything consider heading to the Apple Store.

Photo Credit: Helloquence

Justin Pot is a staff writer for How-To Geek, and a technology enthusiast who lives in Hillsboro, Oregon. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, if you want. You don't have to.