How to Stop the Mac Spinning Rainbow Beachball of Death
Beware The Spinning Rainbow Beach Ball of Death!
Does your Mac constantly freeze and that spinning disc wheel won't stop? Is your Macbook always slow? Have you been seeing the dreaded "spinning rainbow" or "beach ball of death" more frequently?
Officially called the "spinning wait cursor," the rainbow pinwheel appears when an application is not responding to system events properly.
These recurring short freezes are a nightmare for Apple computer users.
How to Stop the Mac Spinning Rainbow Wheel
Try a Mac cleanup utility such as Mackeeper. Checking your machine's vitals—RAM, CPU, disk space, and so forth—will keep things running smoothly:
- Go to your Activity Monitor (you can find it by typing it into the Spotlight). The System Memory tab will tell you information about your computer's RAM (random-access memory) usage. Two of the stats you'll see are "Page Ins" and "Page Outs," which describe the information moved between the RAM to the Mac's drive. Page Outs occur when the RAM is full, necessitating information to be moved from the RAM to the hard drive. If your computer is writing a lot of Page Outs, you may need more memory.
- Run an Apple Diagnostics or Apple Hardware Test (depending on what model you have) to see if anything is wrong with your computer's hardware. Shut down your computer. Turn it on, and before it can boot your desktop, press and hold down the letter D on the keyboard. Your system will run a diagnostic test and inform you of any problems. Depending on what it finds, you can then determine how to fix the problem using Apple's online support or going to the Genius Bar at the Apple Store.
- Check your Disk Utility using the OS X Recovery. Restart your computer and hold the Command and R keys while it boots. It should start up with a Menu Bar and a Utilities Window. Choose Disk Utility from the utilities window. Click on the First Aid tab and select and repair your internal hard disk from the column on the left.
- Using the Activity Monitor, check the Central Processing Unit (CPU) under the CPU tab. In the menu toolbar, select All Processes. This window shows how much of you CPU different applications are using. Sort the applications by clicking the % CPU column and see what applications and processes are hogging your machine's CPU cycles. Frozen processes will say "not responding."
What Causes the Mac Spinning Rainbow Cursor?
Typically, when frozen, the computer will not allow you to do anything for a few seconds and then it will resume. The spinning cursor means that some task is blocking your OS X system from running the program properly usually indicates an issue with your hard drive. Even one impacted application can affect the processor and make it unable to click off onto another application.
The spinning rainbow wheel indicates that an application that is not responding. It could be a temporary failure from which the application will recover. In rare cases, the whole system freezes and then the only option is to press the power button until the computer is forced to shut down. However, this situation is not a normal occurrence for OS X, and should be dealt with quickly because it may point to underlying problems.
What to Do if the Rainbow Wheel Won't Stop
In dire circumstances, the only solution is to reboot because the entire machine locks up when one application enters an infinite loop from which it cannot recover. If the rainbow wheel gets stuck spinning, you won't be able to run anything else until it stops.
To force quit, first control-click on the offending application's icon on the desktop dock. Select "Force Quit," which should cut out the application and let you keep working.
If that doesn't work, try shutting down or restarting the computer using the Apple pull-down menu. As a last resort, manually hold down the power button until the computer shuts down.
How to Stop the Spinning Beach Ball of Death
Before running any involved diagnostics on your Mac, first be sure easy-to-fix problems aren't the culprit. If your computer keeps freezing, consider the following:
- In general, try not running too many applications concurrently.
- Check that your system and applications are all completely up to date.
- If your machine keeps freezing, try doing a safe boot: restart and hold down the shift key until you see the Apple logo.
- If all else fails, try reinstalling your OS.
If none of these work, read on.
The Spinning Beach Ball: Some Background
Apple's wait cursor started as a wristwatch, which later evolved into a beach ball. As advances in hardware and software came along, the beach ball was animated so that it appeared to be spinning. Finally, rainbow colors were added in an effort to make the cursor appear more dynamic.