How To Stop The Spinning Wheel On Mac

macbook pro spinning wheel

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The spinning wheel or “spinning beach ball of death” is a frustrating symbol of a Mac working too hard. It indicates that your Mac is busy processing something and can cause delays in completing tasks. 

Let’s dive into some simple troubleshooting steps to stop the spinning cursor and improve performance.

Key Takeaways:

  • The spinning rainbow wheel indicates your Mac is temporarily busy or struggling to respond. Give it time to catch up before force quitting apps.
  • Force quit unresponsive apps using Command + Option + Escape if the wheel persists for over a minute. This usually fixes the issue.
  • Repair disk permissions and clear storage space if you regularly get the spinning wheel. This maintains optimal performance.
  • For older Macs, the spinning wheel could mean it’s time to upgrade hardware that can’t keep up with demands.
  • Prevent issues by regularly clearing cache, updating software, avoiding overloading RAM, and moving files to external drives.

How To Stop The Spinning Wheel On Mac [Quick Answer]

The best way to stop spinning the wheel on Mac is to wait for a few seconds. If waiting doesn’t help, force quit the unresponsive app. In most cases, this fixes the issue. But if the problem persists, you can also try some advanced solutions that we’ll cover below.

What Is The Mac Spinning Wheel?

The Mac Spinning Wheel, also known as the “beach ball” and technically called a throbber, appears on Mac’s screen when an application or task takes longer than usual to complete. It indicates that the computer is busy processing information, and you should wait until the task is completed.

The wheel typically appears when launching, saving, or during complex operations. It can also appear when the computer performs demanding computing tasks, runs low on RAM or disk space, or when a Mac is frozen altogether.

The spinning wheel can be frustrating because it indicates the computer is not responding to your commands. But it is usually a temporary delay, and the computer will eventually complete the task and return to normal operation.

If the rainbow spinning wheel persists for an extended period, it may be a sign that there is a problem with the computer that needs to be addressed.

How to Stop the Spinning Wheel on Mac – Fix

Although no exact method works every time to stop the spinning wheel because the causes differ, there are different solutions for this issue. So, you can try the following solutions one by one, and it should fix the problem.

1. Wait A While

Well, this may sound like a no-brainer solution. But sometimes, the easiest way to fix a tech problem is to be patient.

The most common cause of a Mac spinning wheel is an application or service overusing system resources. In that case, the best solution is to give it some time and patience, and most likely, the issue will go away.

So, give it a minute, take a break, and come back to see if the spinning wheel has vanished.

2. Force Quit

Sometimes, the spinning wheel appears when an application becomes unresponsive. This can happen when the app demands resources to run, and your computer can’t quite keep up.

In this case, you can usually get rid of the spinning wheel by force quitting the unresponsive app.

Here’s how:

  1. Go to the Apple menu at the top left of your screen and click Force Quit
  1. Select the unresponsive program or app from the list and tap the Force Quit button.

Alternatively, you can also simply hit the Command, Option, and Escape keys simultaneously to access the force quit menu and quit a non-responsive app or program.

3. Repair Disk Errors

If you experience the spinning wheel often and you can’t seem to find an unresponsive program as the cause, you might be able to address the issue by repairing disk permission via Disk Utility.

  1. Open Finder on your Mac.
  1. In the Finder window, select Applications in the left sidebar and open the Utilities folder.
  1. Double-click the Disk Utility icon in the Utilities folder.
  1. Select your main hard drive and click the First Aid button in the top bar.
  1. Tap Run on the prompt.
  1. Tap Continue on the warning prompt.

The disk repair might fix your repeated spinning wheel issue.

4. Single User Reset

Single User Mode boots the Mac into a special troubleshooting mode. It provides command-line access to perform system maintenance and fix issues like the spinning wheel.

Tasks possible in this mode include resetting passwords, repairing disks, and deleting problematic files.

Here’s how to perform a Single User Reset on Mac:

  1. Restart your Mac and hold down the Command and S keys while restarting.
  1. Hold down these keys until the Apple logo appears on your screen.
  2. Release the keys, and your screen will appear black with some lines of data and an old-style computer prompt. This indicates that you have successfully entered Single User Mode.
  3. Once in Single User Mode, run a file system check by entering the following command and pressing Enter:

fsck -fy

  1. After you have completed the scan, enter the command reboot to restart your Mac in normal mode.

Note: Only experienced users familiar with the command line should attempt Single User Reset, as incorrect commands can cause data loss. Carefully follow all instructions and double-check commands before running.

5. Clean Disk Storage

When your Mac’s hard drive is running low on disk space, it can cause the system to slow down and lead to the appearance of the spinning wheel. When the hard drive is nearly full, the system can become fragmented, and it struggles to access files quickly.

When you try to launch an application or perform a task, the system may have to spend time searching for the necessary files, which can cause the spinning wheel to appear.

Also, with limited space, managing temporary app files gets difficult, slowing things down more.

To clean up disk storage on a Mac, you can follow these tips:

  1. Check “About This Mac > More Info > Storage Settings” to see which files and folders are taking up space on your hard drive.
  1. Uninstall unused third-party apps, especially ones that automatically launch on startup. You can disable them or remove them once and for all.
  2. Go through folders and delete unnecessary documents, downloads, etc., by dragging them to the Bin to free up space.
  1. Clean unnecessary system files, duplicates, caches, and old downloads to regain storage space. You can use a Mac cleaner app for efficiency. CleanMyMac X is one that we use to clear out the cache and temporary files, and we highly recommend it.
cleanmymac x monterey
  1. Remove unused large files. You can use the Finder’s search feature to search for files larger than a certain size or sort files by size to identify which ones take up the most space.
  2. Move less-used large files to external drives or cloud storage to free up internal space.

6. Upgrade Your Hardware

The spinning wheel problems on older MacBooks may result due to more serious underlying causes that don’t have an easy fix. For instance, the wheel can appear due to an overworked CPU or insufficient RAM.

If this is the case, you may have to upgrade hardware to keep up with the demands of modern apps and programs overworking your system.

To check your CPU usage:

  1. Open your Finder.
  1. Go to Applications and select Utilities.
  1. Double-click Activity Monitor to launch it.
  1. You can check your CPU usage in the %CPU column.
  2. You can also see the CPU Load at the bottom, giving you a graph and some data points on your CPU usage.

If the number here is above 50 percent and you are not currently running any apps or programs, your processor cannot keep up with your system, and it may be time for a new computer.

Frequently Asked Questions

What causes the spinning wheel on a Mac?

The spinning wheel on a Mac is usually caused by an unresponsive application or a slow system. It means your Mac is waiting for a process to complete or for an application to respond. It can also occur when you are running too many applications at the same time, or there is not enough free disk space available.

How do I force quit an application that’s causing the spinning wheel on Mac?

You can force quit an application by pressing the Command + Option + Escape keys simultaneously, then select the application causing the issue and click the Force Quit button.

What if force quitting an application doesn’t work?

If force quitting an application doesn’t work, try restarting your Mac. To restart your Mac, hold down the power button until the computer shuts down. Then, press the power button again to turn it on.

Can a spinning wheel on a Mac be a sign of a more serious problem?

Yes, a spinning wheel on a Mac could be a sign of a more serious problem, such as a failing hard drive or a virus. If the spinning wheel persists after trying the common solutions, like restarting your Mac or force quitting the unresponsive apps, you may need to contact Apple Support for further assistance.

How can I prevent the spinning wheel from happening on my Mac in the first place?

You can prevent the spinning wheel from happening on your Mac in the first place by regularly performing maintenance tasks such as clearing your cache, freeing up disk space, and updating your operating system and applications. Additionally, avoid running too many applications at once, especially if your Mac has limited memory or processing power.

Final Thoughts

If you happen to see the spinning wheel on your Mac, you can usually fix it by simply force quitting the unresponsive application. If that doesn’t work, follow the other steps we have listed in this guide to address the issue and get your computer working again.

Nobody likes to see the spinning wheel, but now you know how to address the problem and remedy the issue on your own.

About Eric
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Eric currently uses a 15-inch MacBook Pro for both work and personal errands. He did all the research and testing to make sure all the fixes and optimization tips shared on the blog are relevant to Apple’s latest macOS updates as well as fact-checking.

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  • Darlene Demarest

    Well, than you for such a comprehensive article to help users trouble shoot a computer that is litterly crashing and shutting down, yeah I know serious. I call tech support and she was thorough even had me do the Repair Dr too. But apparently I had to Disks display so after reading your article I went back and did the other disk repair and that one took all night guess that’s where everything was. Anyway just wanted to report performance is better not perfect as I need to increae my Ram. Just at the cross road of whether to buy a new machine or invest in the upgrade and maybe give me a few more years even without update support as I can’t upgrade the OS any further. I came to realize I bought a new 3 year old IMac and it wasn’t cheap either. The one thing I learned is be leary of sales it’s usually old inventory so be sure check the manufacturer date of the machine and not buy it unless it has a good manufacturer date like in the last year so the hardware can update OS and buy plenty of Ram will give you many more years of good service…

    After I emptied the trash, the ball no longer appears and I had 7,000 files to clear out.

  • bill frankeberger

    I’ve tried every method above except the “fsck -y”, which I don’t understand. I bought a 2TB SSD and use it for my boot-up. I also have a SSD I use with Final Cut. But I still get the spinning wait cursor with almost everything I do. All I have to do is NOT use an application (like Final Cut) for a while—just have it open and waiting, and then when I go to it… the Beachball.

    SAVE AS = beachball
    Open a folder = beachball
    Search (command>f) = beachball
    Exporting a movie from Final Cut… hit “Next” = beachball

    I’ve spent about 6 hours on the phone with Apple Support. NOTHING they have recommended helps. The last resort is to nuke the computer. But why should I think that will help?

  • Joe

    Spinning wheel on my MacBook was a real pia. I replaced the HDD with a SSD and went from 2gb ram to 4gb. Spinning wheel got, haven’t seen it in over a month and don’t miss it. Spent $100.00, did the work myself, (very easy), aggravation gone. MacBook is also at least 100% faster.

    • Toby

      What is HDD & SSD. How did you replace and know how to instal it?
      My computer is only maybe 2years old but was told I need to ask how old the operating system is when you buy it? My wheel stayed all day.

  • jeff shempert

    The only thing even allowed me to enter or begin the reset process was the “fsck -y” method. But the computer stopped and says “the volume Macintosh HD could not be repaired” And ***** FILE SYSTEM WAS MODIFIED ***** what else canI do?

  • Beth Kelly

    What would you consider an “older Mac computer”? I am running First Aid on my HD. It warned me that everything would freeze for awhile…um how long do I wait before I conclude it’s hung up and I should force quit or reset or… unplug??

  • Kanika

    I call it a ‘bad rainbow’ …I simply hate this spinning wheel..