Geek’s Blog

Frozen Mac Hacks – Get Back To Full Speed


Oh no! It’s the dreaded colourful spinning circle icon on your Mac screen! You may have been here before as Macs lean towards a temporary freeze – even when they’re known as some of the best computers on the market. So, why is your Mac freezing? Well, it could be any number of reasons from a full hard drive to old hardware. But whatever the problem is, you can be sure that we know the best ways to unfreeze your Mac as well as tips and tricks to keep it performing the way you want it to.

Frozen Mac -Tell me WhYYYYYYYYY!

It’s never fun when your Mac temporarily freezes, especially when you’re in the middle of working on something important, or better yet, catching up on the latest episode of Game of Thrones! Thankfully, full-on Mac crashes rarely happen, but even a short freeze can be ultra-frustrating.

Before you start thinking that the time is nigh for an upgrade, there are plenty of things you can do to stop your Mac from freezing. But before we get a-fixin’, it’s best we understand what’s happening. There are plenty of ways to repair your Mac, there are even more reasons why it’s freezing in the first place.

The main culprits are:

  • Software bugs
  • Software incompatibilities
  • Shortage of system memory for applications to run properly
  • Resource-intensive applications depleting the CPU

In addition to these, there are usually two kinds of issues when your Mac freezes.

Application Freeze:

Say hello to the multi-coloured spinning icon again – lovingly known as the Spinning Beach Ball of Death, whatever you want to call it when you see this icon, it means you’ve got an application error.

Here’s what to do if you encounter a frozen app:

  1. Switch to another area of your OS X and click on another App window or the desktop. Alternatively, press Command-Tab to switch to another app.
  2. Control-click the app icon in the Dock.
  3. Hold Option (Quit in the menu will change to Force Quit).
  4. Select Force Quit.

The app is now closed. Whew! Now you can either launch it again or delete the app and reinstall it.

System Freeze:

This occurs when your entire Mac system slows down and becomes unresponsive. There’s no beach ball of death, just an unusable mouse and keyboard.

If OS X is completely unresponsive, then follow these steps in order:

  1. Choose Apple Menu > Restart and click Restart.
  2. If you cannot interact with the Apple Menu, press Command-Control-Eject. This instructs OS X to restart immediately.

If that doesn’t work, cry. Just kidding! Simply press and hold the Power button on your Mac until it switches off. Press and release the power button to turn it back on again.

Once you’ve restarted your Mac you may find that a file you were working on was damaged or corrupted. Recover what you can from it, and transfer any contents to a new file. Then delete that time-wasting file!

Make it Stop!

If your Mac is suffering from either of the two kinds of freezes or even both if you’re really unfortunate, there are some basic precautions you can follow to minimise the occurrences of these darn things. While many of the following tips might seem obvious to you, you’d be surprised to know how many people neglect their Macs. Over time, these small issues tend to get worse, leaving you with more than just a frozen Mac, but rather a broken Mac. So, it’s wise to take the necessary precautions in taking care of your Mac.

First things first, start with a quick hardware check to make sure that everything is working the way that it should. This will help highlight any issues that could possibly be contributing to system problems.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. In the Apple menu choose About This Mac
  2. Click on the More Info button
  3. Choose System Report to view the status of all your hardware

In addition to this hardware scan, there are a few more steps you should be taking to ensure your Mac doesn’t freeze.

Perform Regular Housekeeping

When applications start to freeze or crash it’s time to tidy things up! Start with the following:

  • Delete unused applications
  • Verify and repair disk permissions
  • Empty application caches and clear browser history items periodically
  • Free up unused memory with an app like Memory Cleaner
  • Defragment your hard disk

Just keep in mind that Macs don’t usually need to be defragged. This is because the Mac OS X file system was designed to automatically defragment files on its own. The process is otherwise known as Hot File Adaptive Clustering (HFC). What a mouthful!

Keep Apps Fresh

We know that it can be hard staying on top of the latest updates as they come hard and fast at us daily, but we highly recommend that your Mac OS and all applications you use are up to date with the latest versions. Updating all of your applications will help fix performance, increase security and iron out any compatibility flaws between Mac OS and your apps. Lucky for you, Macs automatically check for OS updates and the App Store alerts you to the most recent versions of the apps you use.

Install More Memory

So often the insufficient RAM in your Mac will cause applications to run slowly because your computer has to work hard to free up the memory space it needs. This is one of the most common causes of system freezes, and it’s so easily avoidable. By adding more memory you’re giving your Mac the best chance to be the best Mac it can be! Having more memory at your fingertips will also allow you to have several applications running at once, without any issues with speed.

Free Up Some Space

As you know, no computer likes to operate with minimal disk space, and Macs are no different. If you have close to no space left this will certainly increase your frequency of system crashes, slowdowns, and freezes. To free up some space on your hard working hard drive, do the following:

  1. Find and remove any duplicate files by using smart applications such as Gemini.
  2. Regularly empty your Trash and each individual application’s Trash cans.
  3. Find, delete, or archive any large files such as videos and photos.
  4. Move your documents to the cloud via iCloud or DropBox.

Power Cycle

So, turning your Mac off and on again may seem like the most ridiculous advice you’ve ever heard when it comes to a frozen Mac, but trust us, it’s for real. Restarting your Mac boots its OS and you can boot in safe mode if you want to test your Mac. More often than not, a restart will fix whatever ails your Mac. But, as with most things you’ve got to do it right. To boot into safe mode, simply hold down the shift key when turning on your Mac. There’s no indication in the text that you’re in safe mode, but clues such as a slower system response and wonky animations will tell you’re there! Keep in mind that a forced shutdown by holding the power key should only ever be used in cases where nothing else is working.

Remove Unused Apps

Sometimes a software problem is caused by another app with which it is incompatible. While most Mac applications are just apps in the Applications folder, they are still able to place additional files elsewhere on your computer. Removing any unused software will make sure potential incompatibilities are avoided while freeing up precious disk space too. To get rid of your apps you can simply trash them through the Applications folder or even the Launchpad.

Yuck, Viruses

There’s an urban legend that states that Macs are exempt from the viruses that so often afflict PCs. Unfortunately, that’s a myth. Your Mac can be infected with malware even though Apple’s built-in malware detection and file quarantine capabilities make it less likely that you’ll download and run any malicious software. There’s no software that’s able to catch everything though, especially considering how often new malware, virus and even spyware is developed. It’s always best to be vigilant when downloading software from unknown sources.

Troubleshooting Checklist

So before you go calling the experts about your broken Mac, run through the following checklist.

  • Run Apple Hardware Test. this is a special utility from the Apple Support Site that detects problems on your Mac.
  • Use Disk Utility’s Repair Disk function to clean up any problems with your hard drive.
  • Use a Safe Boot by holding down the Shift key while starting up your Mac. This launches OS X without any additional processes and runs clean-up scripts.
  • Check that you have enough free hard drive space in OS X.
  • Check that you’ve used Updates in the App Store app to make sure OS X and your installed apps are up to date.
  • Update apps installed outside of the App Store manually.
  • Disable plug-ins.

If you’ve done all of the above and you’re still experiencing Mac freezes, it’s time to get in touch. We’re New Zealand’s most trusted Apple repair experts, and we’re here to help. Get in touch today!


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