How to Stop the Spinning Wheel on Mac

macbook pro spinning wheel

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Oh, the spinning wheel.

Everyone who has ever owned a Mac computer knows about this and I’m sure you have let out a few curse words or been tempted to throw your Mac across the room upon the sight of it. I personally refer to this symbol not-so-fondly as the “spinning beachball of doom.”

That is probably too dire of a description of the thing but it reflects my mood when it appears as it’s usually synonymous with some sort of problem.

If you have experience with the spinning wheel, you know that you want to get rid of it as quickly as possible. It’s a sign that things aren’t functioning quite right on your computer.

This could be a small issue or a really large one, the spinning wheel doesn’t always reveal its secrets right away. This article will show you a number of things you can do to get rid of the spinning wheel on your Mac computer.

But for those of you who don’t want to take the time to read the entire article, here’s your quick answer:

The best way to stop the Mac spinning color wheel is to wait. If waiting doesn’t help, force quit the responsive app. There are also a few other working ways to get rid of this issue which we’ll cover below.

Getting to Know the Mac Spinning Wheel

The spinning wheel may be known by many different names but it actually is a system indicator that is technically called a throbber.

Mac Spinning Wheel

Yes, that’s right, a throbber. It sounds comical but if you have experience with one, you know that it means an issue might be lurking inside your computer. This is not a symbol unique to Mac computers, though their multi-colored wheel is well known among Apple users.

The spinning wheel indicates common issues such as when an application is performing some sort of action that is in progress, when demanding computing tasks are taking place, or when a Mac is frozen altogether.

The wheel can appear when you are downloading something, trying to operate a program that is CPU intensive, or when your computer is working through an operation.

The spinning wheel is a broad indicator and you most likely won’t know the exact reason why it has popped up on your computer screen.

Many times, the wheel is only up briefly while your computer figures things out on its own but sometimes the wheel can appear and cause your entire system to freeze up.

How to Stop the Spinning Wheel on Mac

Unfortunately, there is no exact method of getting rid of the spinning wheel that works every time. The cause of the wheel can be a number of different things affecting your computer and therefore require a different solution to fix the problem. Try the solutions below one by one.

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. We know that the most common cause of Mac spinning wheel is an application or service is over-using system resources.

And the best solution is to give it a bit of time and patience, most likely the issue will go away. I’m sure you can resonate with me on this. So give it a minute, take a break and then come back to see if the spinning wheel has gone.

2. Force Quit

Oftentimes, the spinning wheel appears when an application becomes unresponsive. This can happen when the app is demanding resources to run and your computer can’t quite keep up. By force quitting the app, you can usually get rid of the spinning wheel.

Here’s how:

Step 1: Go to the Apple menu at the top left of your screen. Click Force Quit.

Force Quit

Step 2: Select the unresponsive program or app from the list. Click Force Quit.

Alternatively, you can also simply hit the Command, Option, and Escape keys at the same time 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 the Finder on your computer.
  2. Select Applications.
  3. Click on the Disk Utility icon.
  4. Select your main hard drive.
  5. Click on the Repair Permissions (or First Aid) button, and Run.
Repair Disk Errors

This small disk repair might fix your repeated spinning wheel issue.

4. Single User Reset

Another option you can try to use to fix repeated spinning wheel issues is to enter Single User mode on your computer upon reset to attempt to fix any small file errors that might be the cause of the problem.

  1. Restart your computer.
  2. Hold down the Command and S keys while restarting.
  3. Hold down these keys until you see the Apple logo appear on your screen.
  4. Release the keys and your screen will now appear black with some lines of data and an old-style computer prompt.
  5. Type fsck -y and be sure to include a space in between the k and the -y.
  6. Press Enter.

5. Clean Disk Storage

Low disk storage available for memory means more frequent swapping and will result in more lags in performance, when that happens, it’s very likely you’ll see more spinning wheels on your Mac.

In addition, lack of storage space might contribute to application crashes because available disk is required for Mac apps to store temporary files.

There are mainly two ways to free up more disk space on your Mac.

First of all, you can uninstall third-party apps that you don’t need any more. Pay attention to those apps that automatically startup when you start the computer. You can either disable them or remove them once for all.

Another strategy you can use to regain more storage quickly is by cleaning unnecessary files that are taking huge amount of space on your Mac, for example, system junks, duplicated backups, old downloads, etc. We suggest using a Mac cleaner app for efficiency. CleanMyMac X is one that we use and highly recommend.

cleanmymac x monterey
Main dashboard of CleanMyMac X, running on macOS Monterey

6. Other Fixes

If you have an older MacBook, your spinning wheel problems may be the result of bigger issues that don’t have an easy fix. The wheel can appear due to an overworked CPU or insufficient RAM.

If the cause of the spinning wheel is either one of these issues, there is no easy fix and you might have to upgrade hardware to keep up with the demands of modern apps and programs that are overworking your system and resulting in the wheel appearing.

To check your CPU usage:

  1. Open your Finder.
  2. Go to Applications.
  3. Click on Utilities.
  4. Click on Activity Monitor.
  5. You can now see your CPU usage.

You will see a display here that will give 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 is most likely not able to keep up with your system and it might be time for a new computer altogether.

Final Thoughts

If you happen to see the spinning wheel on your Mac, take a breath and reread this article. Usually, the wheel can be fixed by a simple force quit of an application that is unresponsive. If that doesn’t work, follow the other steps listed here to address the issue and get your computer working again.

Nobody likes to see the spinning wheel but now you have the ability to address the problem and try to remedy the issue on your own.

Do you have a nickname for the spinning wheel? Does it happen on your MacBook often?

About Eric
Avatar photo
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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  • Avatar

    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.

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    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?

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    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.

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      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.

  • Avatar

    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?

  • Avatar

    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??

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