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Mac Freezes - How to Stop your Mac Freezing Randomly


Does Your Mac Freeze Randomly or at Startup?

It’s every Mac user’s biggest fear: the spinning wheel of death. Once you see that spinning rainbow circle, you know something is wrong. You could have been trying to open a file, to play a game, browse photos, or simply boot up your computer. You never know when it might happen.

Mac Freezing? Click here to clean your Mac.

If your computer freezes a lot, you might also notice that it’s running pretty sluggishly - that even simple applications and processes can take much longer to run than they did previously.

If this sounds familiar, then read on to find out some quick and easy steps you can take to optimize your computer’s performance and prevent it from freezing again. This article will go over some common causes for a freeze and offer some simple fixes that will get your computer back in shape in no time.

Why Does My Mac Freeze Randomly?

There could be a number of reasons that your Mac freezes. Most people think it’s because they don’t have enough memory and that they have to purchase more RAM. However, there could be simpler reasons that your computer slows down or freezes.

Two of the most common reasons are:

  • You have a corrupted file or program or an application that’s sucking up all the computer’s memory
  • Your computer doesn’t have enough storage space.

Option 1: Fix the Problem Through the "Activity Monitor."

Sometimes a program you’re running will take up a large amount of your computer’s resources. In that case, you’ll likely want to shut the program or application down. If you’re computer hasn’t frozen and is just running sluggishly, you can identify and shut down the offending program in your Activity Monitor. You can find the Activity Monitor by going to the Utilities subfolder in your “Applications."

At the very top of the window, click “CPU,” which will sort all of your running programs according to the percentage of CPU power that each is using. Programs with a high percentage of CPU may be the reason behind your computer’s slow down.

Once you’ve identified the offending program, you can select it from the list and then click the “X” on the top left of the window bar to quit the program. Your screen should look like the picture below.

Just remember that you’ll lose any unsaved work by closing the application.


Option 2: Force Quit the Frozen Program

Most often a computer freezes when a program runs incorrectly and locks up your system. There are two ways to force quit a program. The first is to press Command + Option + Esc. Select the unresponsive program from the list and click Force Quit. Alternatively, hover your mouse over the application’s icon in the dock at the bottom of your desktop and “right click.” Doing so will cause a menu to pop up that will likewise allow you to force quit.

Option 3: Restart Your Computer

If you can’t move the mouse at all and none of the commands you input onto the keyboard appear to work, you’ll have to physically reboot your Mac in order to get it working again. Since you won’t be able access the shut down menu, you’ll want to press and hold the power button on your computer for several seconds. Once the computer has shut off, wait a minute or two and then turn it on as normal.

mac freezes

mac freezes

How to Prevent Your Mac from Freezing

1. Make more space on your hard drive. If you have less than 10 gigabytes of space, you are likely to experience significant slowdowns. The less free space you have, the likelier you are to see the spinning color wheel of death.

2. See if your program is corrupted. If your computer always freezes when opening a particular program or document, then that file may be corrupted. Try to avoid opening the file and, if at all possible, delete and reinstall it.

3. Verify and repair your hard disk. There could be some errors on your hard drive that cause your computer to freeze up and become unresponsive. One easy way to check for these is to use the Disk Utility program to run a diagnostic check on your hardware. You an find the Disk Utility application under “Utilities” in the Applications folder.

  1. Open up the Disk Utility application.
  2. Select your hard drive in the left menu. Select the “First Aid” tab in the center of the window and then click the “Verify Disk” button.
  3. If any errors are detected, you’ll be given the option to repair the disk.

4. Update your software. Make sure your operating system and any frequently used applications are up-to-date, because a recent update may have fixed or patched a bug responsible for the crashes. To check for updates, select “Software Update” from the Apple menu, which will check for updates to the operating system and any programs downloaded from the App Store.

5. Disconnect peripheral devices. If you connected any new hardware to your computer through the USB drive, try disconnecting it. Restart the computer and see if the problem persists. If the problem goes away, there may be a problem with the device, or it may require updates to its software.

6. Try a safe boot. A safe boot may will disable certain software upon startup and run cleanup processes that may fix random bugs responsible for your computer freezing up. To do a safe boot, restart your mac and, immediately after hearing the startup sound, press and hold the Shift key until the Apple logo appears on the screen. If the problem goes away, restart your computer in the normal way.

7. Delete duplicate files. On average, more than 30% of disk space on an average Mac is taken up by unnecessary and junk files. When you download (or uninstall) programs on Mac, some files are always leftover. If your Mac freezes because there’s not enough storage space, then you may want to install and run some cleanup software. A good Mac clean-up tool such as Mackeeper will find all these unwanted temporary, duplicate files and remove them. Running Mackeeper will reduce your complete disk usage, increase space and help make sure your Mac doesn't freeze or crash anymore. It will also significantly speed up your Mac and improve its performance.

Slow Mac? Tips to Speed up Your Mac

More Tips

  • Get rid of unnecessary programs at startup. Removing the number of auto start-up programs reduces boot up time and will speed up your Mac.
  • Remove unneeded desktop files. Every time your Mac boots, it needs to index, create an icon and catalog the contents of each folder on your desktop. This takes time, reducing boot-up time and Mac speed.
  • Shutdown your Mac - Don't keep it on for weeks on end! Shutdown or restart your Mac on a regular basis to clear out defunct processes.
  • Increase Storage Space - Nothing slows a Mac more than having too much on a hard drive.
  • Outdated OS X - Every year or so Apple releases a new OS X. One of the reasons why Apple encourages users to upgrade is that the new system is faster overall.

Does you Mac crash frequently and freezes for no reason?

Alfie lancy on April 15, 2016:

Press and hold the power button in for 30 seconds for it to go all off.

Then switch it back on and see. If it comes on, use Time Machine restore it to a previous date.



ethan green on August 08, 2015:

every once inawhile my mac ill just freeze for like 1 min then i have to close all my stuff and it pisses me off cause i cant save it and yea so when i was writing a school paper i had almost finnished it and then bam could not save it pissed me off and now i cant find a solution (even more pissed off

FaultInWeb on February 09, 2015:

Nothing Happen, my mac 10.4 is frozen.


ronaldcolman14 on December 15, 2014:

I have followed your steps but it doesn’t work, I got this link http://mac.customer-supports.com/ over the internet. I got great help from these guys, I just made a call on their number and get great help.

anonn on November 06, 2014:

Sadlz mz stupid macbook is useless now because i followed the introductions, but still, it doesn!t do anzthing... :(

NecktieCrossHanger on June 28, 2014:

You can use Force Quit to un-freeze your Mac. To bring up Force Quit press the following keys simultaneously.

Whitewf on May 22, 2014:

my mac 10.4 is frozen. The mouse cursor I can move around but can't click on anything and my sidebar is gone. What do I do?

Charmin007 on March 18, 2014:

Starts Up Perfect After 4 Or 5 Mins Freeze ,I Unplug Try Again Same Results Then After A Few More Tries It Work Perfect

anonymous on September 09, 2013:

Very slow when I type emails, stick with a line across middle appears

anonymous on August 07, 2013:

Recently, my computer (MacBook Pro) Has been randomly freezing. No spinny-wheel, just freezing up. The mouse is unresponsive, the keyboard is unresponsive (even the caps lock light won't go on, and I can no longer brighten or dim the backlight or screen, or change the volume when it's frozen). If I'm in the middle of watching a video or listening to music at the time that it freezes, it'll repeat the same part of the song over and over again (as in, the same last half second that I'd just been listening to). Even when I only have 1 thing open, or when I have nothing running, it'll freeze randomly. Even closing the laptop doesn't affect anything, the screen light and keyboard lights are still on while it's closed. The only way that I've been able to 'unfreeze' my computer is by shutting it off by holding the power button. I'm sure that's not good for the battery. I'll find this happening 3-5 times per day since the problem first occurred the day before yesterday. Any idea what might be happening? It's even frozen on the login page of the computer before.

anonymous on August 01, 2013:

My mac keeps freezing as I restart or at least within a minute or two if I get past the restart. I tried cleaning the mac out by deleting duplicates and other programs but that didn't work. I recently down loaded about 10 gigs worth of pdfs(comics) and thought it was that so I deleted them and still no help. also my MacBook pro charger for my mac book pro 13' stopped working so I bought a mac book charger for it. the guy at the store said it would still work for the pro and it is but I don't know if that is the problem. bought charger 2 days ago and have been using it since. please HELP!

anonymous on July 10, 2013:

my MacBook is frozen with a white screen with a ? flashing back in fourth. what can I do?? please help

skjk3318 lm on July 05, 2013:

ummm ya, when i first got my mac and came over from the PC world I had accumulated SO many things duplicated it wasn't funny lol. awesome lens, thanks.

anonymous on June 30, 2013:

I recommend buy a new computer with Window 7 :D

anonymous on June 28, 2013:

only had my macbook pro for 6 months. I use it daily for long periods of times and it keeps freezing and is really slow. The rainbow circle keeps appearing too. It crashed once. What do I do??

anonymous on June 22, 2013:

first my mac was running slow then it started freezing up now it's not coming on as if it is still frozen,how do i fix it?

anonymous on June 10, 2013:

I did an app update then is said it could not install all, so I hit reinstall, it shut down and restarted, but froze. I did command+R and got to the disk utility. Hit Verify disk, then repair, and it says the disk cannot be repaired. I didn't drop it, and it was working fine before I did this update. I can still access the internet, but my desktop doesn't come up. WTF?

anonymous on June 09, 2013:

I bought a late model 2008 MacBook from a friend that had "mess it up" and he couldn't fix it. I believe he deleted or tried to change a user account and deleted most files and corrupted the rest!! It freezes randomly but mostly during start up. If I get to my desktop I am missing the safari app, and many others from the dock. If I find an app to use it will not open just a error report pops up what steps should I take to fix this?

anonymous on May 10, 2013:

My MacBook Pro freezes without warning and with a beeping sound. It did this continually last week till it just would not start up. I had to format the hard disk and reinstall the operating system(Mac OS X Lion version 10.7.5). Yet, the problem resumed immediately after the reinstallation. What is wrong with my mac and what should I do?

anonymous on April 27, 2013:

my mini Mac want let me open anything up,it just freezes and I can't do anything.The color wheel will spend.

anonymous on February 03, 2013:

safari has frozen and i can't force quit or restart? what do i do? im on google chrome now but i can't even turn my mac off.

anonymous on January 26, 2013:

on a raondom web site via Safari... suddenly whole screen freezes.. only cursor will move..no spinning wheel and no access to OSx force quite - nothing on desk top works except cursor..forced shut down by holding off button for ten seconds.. tried a reboot..all comes up on desk top.. still only cursor works..nothing else whatsoeve including OSX upper left hand corner drop downs. Reboot again. Same thing. Stuck.

anonymous on January 14, 2013:

i think something is wrong with my USB ports because my macbook got hanged when i attached a flash drive, or a wireless broadband dongle, and it happened couple of time and then there was no response and i had to keep the power button pressed until it got powered off then i restarted it. what should i do??

anonymous on December 02, 2012:

My Mac completely froze and even force quit or the power button wont work and i also can't move my mouse. What do i do please someone help me !!!

anonymous on November 30, 2012:

iv had my macbookpro for 3 years and iv never had a problem. i think after a certain upgrade in snow leopard it started acting up. sometimes it freezes the entire system, sometimes just the app im using. safari doesn't respond very well, my screen goes black and i have to restart it twice a day at least. this is pathetic! Apple needs to do something asap coz there are soo many issues at the moment. oh my mac runs waaay too hot. even burns my hands, i have to switch off and let it cool. what the heck is going on Apple!!! FIX OUR ISSUES!

anonymous on November 23, 2012:

My Macbook Pro freezes after I log in. The apple logo screen and the "wait" circle stays on indefinitely.

anonymous on November 16, 2012:

I have a Macbook Pro; OS X 10.6.8; HD usage 94.59 GB/749.81 GB; memory 8 GB. Problem: (i) freezing randomly, but more frequently when firefox and/or safari are running; (ii) crashing (screen goes black) and need to shut down using power button. Tried option-command-scape combination, but no response. Any suggestions?

anonymous on November 07, 2012:

My MAC freezes just when it starts. Before log in and after it takes like 20 miniutes to start. Afterwards it goes perfect. Do not understand!!! Please help!

anonymous on November 07, 2012:

A general tip for troubleshooting 'freeze' problems is to look in the Console log. You'll find the Console application under Utilities, open it up and choose 'All Messages' from the navigation pane on the left. The messages will be in date/time order - look through the messages at around the time your Mac freezes to see if there are any clues as to what might be causing the problem. If you can see a particular application is producing error messages around the time of the freeze, then you could always try un-installing it to see if it cures the problem.

anonymous on November 07, 2012:

@anonymous: Have you tried plugging the scanner into an powered USB hub to see if that cures the problem?

anonymous on October 31, 2012:

I started Up tf2 on my macbook pro which is nearly brand new. I plugged in my ipod nano. It Started to slow down and then i unplugged it. My screen and whole computer froze. The mouse doesn't move and i tried turning it off but i didn't work. Im reducing the battery to shut it down. What can i do?

anonymous on October 16, 2012:

Since the last mountain lion update my MacBook Pro has been freezing and the only way to get out of it is to hold the power button. Then on start up it just keeps restarting not making it past the apple screen.

anonymous on October 12, 2012:

My Macbook Pro, turned black and hearing some funny zzzzzzzz. What can I do to fix it? Thnx

anonymous on October 08, 2012:

I've owned a mac mini and a mac book pro for about 2 years now and have had no end of hanging problems. I have tried cleaning software, I have tried upgardes, I have tried minimising the control panel use, in fact I've tried just about every piece of advise possible but both machines still hang at least twice a day. I have come to the conclusion that macs run too hot and the CPUs crash all the time, i.e macs are a pile of poo. I also bought an ACER laptop about the same time as I purchased the mac products - apart from a few glitches I have no hanging problems or software issues at all with that machine. I will never buy another mac product.

anonymous on October 08, 2012:

my mac are freezing but i still can move my mouse but it can't click any icon on it so i force shutting down it using power button what is the solution for my problems?

anonymous on October 06, 2012:

my mac freezes whenever i access files in Document, Download or any desktop location.

anonymous on October 04, 2012:

i entered time machine and itunes is still working fine but i can't see it and i am trying to back up and it wont work

after entering timemachine i can't get out it is parctically frozen but i can move the mouse and play itunes.

anonymous on October 03, 2012:

That when I log into a game such as minecraft or go onto safari it takes a minute or 2 for it to start working. Also, when I go onto Youtube or something it also, takes a minute or tow to load. WHAT DO I DO!?

anonymous on September 30, 2012:

I'm scanning tons of important paper work from my scanner via my MacBpro to my external WD hard drive. This is my dilemma, 10-20min into scanning my computer freezes & resorts to a black screen. Ive been to Apple a few times and they told me my scanner is a power hungry USB device, as well as the external hard drive I'm using. They also told me they can not replicate the problem because it appears nothing is wrong when obtaining results from their diagnostic machine. I'm not computer Savvy but I do know there should b a way my computer can run without freezing when both devices are attached via USB n through a USB port splitter (expand one USB n2 4ports). I'm thinking there are other programs running unknowingly and those programs are interfering with the devices of priority. Please let me know how I can get back to scanning without my computer freezing completely?

anonymous on September 27, 2012:

Every time I'm on itunes, it automatically freezes, and say 'accessing itunes store. It then freezes and shows the rainbow pinwheel mouse thingy, and then completely freezes.

I have the time in my finderbar, and that freezes too.

Sometimes when I play minecraft, it randomly freezes for about 20 seconds. This is embarrassing when I go to my friends house and I play minecraft, and it freezes!

Any Help?

Please help me!

Thank u! KB)

anonymous on September 22, 2012:

@anonymous: The superior hardware, obviously. Have you ever handled a unibody mac?

anonymous on September 08, 2012:

For those who want a cool machine install the Mac OS/X on an Intel or on Linux in a virtual machine. Never had any freezing! I do develop software for various operations systems and I keep a Mac installation for test purposes. Never understood why anybody would waste so much money on Mac products.

anonymous on September 04, 2012:

My new MacBook pro constantly freezes. What can I do

anonymous on September 01, 2012:

Either those reasons or I might have not read correctly. My MacBook Pro freezes randomly, not because of an overload of opened programs, or because there are too many duplicate items, because it just does. It happens every time and is highly annoying. Even when I am on a Word document typing something up, nothing else open, it'd freeze at one point. It does this at a certain time interval I cannot figure out. It might be some glitch.

anonymous on August 06, 2012:

Mac stops working at anytime without the spin wheel, just stops, i changed the logic board, the vídeo card and the hard disc drive, i don know what to do, is a mac pro, a virus? The processors? I am quite deperate . Any idea? Please help!

OrlandoTipster on July 11, 2012:

How do you clear mac cache?

anonymous on June 14, 2012:

My Macbook Pro was working fine. I shut it down for the night. The next morning when I started it up it went from the grey apple startup screen to the multilanguage hard crash popup with terminal code in the background within under 3 seconds. thoughts?

anonymous on October 09, 2011:

After my upgrade to Lion my mac has been freezing a lot. The other day I was just listening to pandora and it froze I tried force quitting safari and that froze the entire computer. I tried force shutting down my computer and it would work. After a while I let it there sit frozen, I tried force shut down again and it worked. This has happened multiple times already. I don't know if it's a hardware problem or as mentioned above just memory problem. Should I get my hardware checked?