Every Mac user might have experienced that sinking feeling when the cursor gets frozen and a rainbow-colored circle keeps spinning on the screen. That rainbow wheel is called “Spinning Beach Ball of Death (SBBOD)” and some users also call it “throbber” in technical terms. Luckily, it doesn’t reflect any signs of crashes. If we simply define it, we can say it shows an “unresponsive Mac”. In this article, we will explore all possible reasons for spinning wheel of death in Mac and solutions to fix the issues.
Spinning Wheel of Death
Basically, the spinning wheel of death indicates that there is a process running and user needs to wait for the process to complete. However, we can’t exactly define why this colorful wheel spins. It happens in various situations like when you download something, open an application or the computer is processing something heavy in background. The main reasons for this issue are:
- An unresponsive app freezes its screen
- Mac is running with low amount of disk space
- Disk errors due to corrupted files or physical damage
- Mac is unable to perform multiple tasks at a time due to overloaded processor
- Mac is running with insufficient RAM
We will go through these problems one by one and discuss the possible solutions for these issues.
1. Restart Your Mac
Many users continue to run the system for months without shutting down. If you frequently notice the spinning wheel, then the first thing you should do is to restart your Mac. This helps to terminate all the hanging processes running in background and stabilizes the system.
- Go to the Apple icon in the top menu bar and click “Restart”.
- Then a dialog box will appear with a question, “Are you sure you want to restart your Mac? Click on the “Restart” button.
Your Mac will restart and you’ll be able to work smoothly again. If the issues get severe, then you can try the below suggestions.
2. Force Close Unresponsive Apps
Most of the time there could be a particular app freezing and the rainbow wheel is spinning on the screen. When any app on MacBook freezes, you may be unable to close it normally. What you can do is to simply force quit the app and you can do that in MacBook using one of the following methods.
- Click on the Apple icon in the top menu and select “Force Quit” menu. Find the app showing as not responding and click “Force Quit” button to close the app.
- You can also follow the keys from your MacBook’s keyboard. Press “Command + Option + Esc” altogether to open force quit menu and close the frozen app.
3. Uninstall or Reset the App
In some cases, the root problem may still not be addressed. If an app keeps on freezing, the solution is to uninstall and reinstall the app. Unfortunately, MacBook has no specific program to uninstall the apps from the system. Even if you drag and drop an app to the Trash, there can be leftovers in the system which will cause problems when you reinstall the app again. One effective method is to use third-party uninstaller apps like CleanMyMac X.
- Download the free version from App Store.
- Open the app, go to “Uninstaller” section and click on “View All Applications” button. You need to provide the permission for the app to access your user and applications folders.
- Select the application that you want to uninstall.
- You will see a small dropdown appears showing two options “ Uninstall and Reset.
- Select “Uninstall” option and then click “Remove” button to completely delete the app from your Mac.
If uninstall option is not available for an app, then select “Reset” option from dropdown and click “Reset” button. This will fix all app errors and reset the selected app to its initial state. This is also a good option to fix the spinning wheel problem without deleting an app. However, all associated documents of an app will be deleted in both uninstall and reset cases.
4. Update App and macOS
Sometimes, there are incompatibilities or bugs that affect an app showing spinning wheel. Before uninstalling the app, make sure the app and macOS are updated to latest versions.
- App update – go to “App Store > Updates” section. Check if there are any pending updates available and install the updates.
- OS update – Go to “Apple menu > System Preferences > Software Update” section. If there is an update available, download and update your system. Click on the “Advanced” button to enable auto-update for both apps and macOS to keep the apps and OS up to date.
5. Low Amount of Disk Space
Low disk space could also cause problems like slow processes, performance lags and leads to spinning wheel. You can free disk space by deleting unnecessary files like old downloads, unused apps, useless files and clearing the cache. Follow these steps to do so.
- Click the Apple icon from the top menu bar and go to “About This Mac”.
- From the resulting dialog box, select “Storage” tab and click on “Manage” button.
- You will see multiple options to clean up your Mac, click on the “Review Files” button against “Reduce Clutter” section.
- Now, browse through the different tabs to find large files. Select the unnecessary files and click on “Delete” button to get rid of the files from your Mac.
When you have sufficient storage space, larger and resource intensive programs can run freely. This can avoid showing frequent spinning wheel or freezing the apps.
6. Fixing Disk Errors
If you can’t find any program being the reason for the spinning wheel, then the next step is to check your hard disk. Repairing disk errors can also help to solve the spinning wheel problem. Follow the below steps to check and repair the disk errors in Mac.
- From the Dock, open Finder app and go to “Applications” folder.
- From there, find “Utilities” folderand open“Disk Utility” application.
- Select your drive’s volume and click on “First Aid” option from the tool bar.
- On the pop-up that appears, click “Run” to fix your hard disk errors.
7. Overloaded Processor
Old Mac models come with Intel based processor while the latest models come with Apple M1 or M2 chip. It could create problems when you try to run the apps developed for different processor on your machine (for example, Intel based apps on M1 or M2 machine). Though Apple supports compatibility, not all app developers support this. This type of issue can easily overload the processor and lead to spinning wheel in Mac or crash your apps. In addition, playing HD games or using heavy apps on Mac with low processor capacity can also lead to slowness and spinning wheels. Follow these steps to evaluate whether CPU usage is the problem.
- From the Dock, open Finder and go to the “Applications” folder.
- Find “Utilities” folder and open “Activity Monitor” app.
Check current usage statistics under “CPU” tab. Your concern should be the graph and percentages mentioned at the bottom of the window. The “System” and “User” together represents the amount of CPU being used and “Idle” percentage shows the amount not being used by the CPU. If used percentage is too high or close to the idle percentage, then it is an indication that your processor is overloaded.
As a temporary solution, you can select the process name which causes the overload and click on the X button from the toolbar. Either select “Quit” or “Force Quit” to terminate the process by closing the app.
However, for fixing the issue permanently, you may need to change the Mac or find an alternate app that works on your Mac model.
8. MacBook is Experiencing Insufficient RAM
Similar to CPU usage, you can also find the memory usage under “Memory” tab of “Activity Monitor” app. If the apps you use need more memory than total physical memory of your Mac, then you may need to purchase a new Mac or upgrade the RAM.
For RAM upgrade, you can check the number of available slots in System Information app. Go to “Hardware > Memory” and expand “Memory Slots”. This will show you the slots with currently using memory cards capacity. We strongly recommend, contacting Apple service center for RAM replacement instead of doing it yourself to avoid physical damage to hardware components.
Frequently seeing the spinning wheel on your Mac can be annoying. It is easy to fix the issue if it happens with a specific app by force quitting or deleting. Otherwise, you need to explore numerous factors like lack of RAM, limited storage capacity, etc. If none of the above mentioned suggestions work, then you can