How to get rid of the spinning beach ball of death on a Mac and what causes it

You’re in the middle of using your Mac whether it’s to type up an important document or using an application and the dreaded beach ball of death decides to make an appearance!

Mac users can relate to how you feel as we’ve all been there and experienced the frustration at some point.

Officially it’s called the ‘spinning wait cursor’ but here’s a list of other names given:

  • Wheel of death
  • Beach ball of death
  • Spinning beach ball of death (SBBOD)
  • Spinning pinwheel
  • Spinning pizza of death (SPOD)
  • Spinning wheel of doom
  • Marble of doom
  • Colourful wheel
  • Rainbow ball

Wait cursors are triggered by applications performing extensive processes.

Listed below are some useful tips to try when the spinning wait cursor appears, plus how to avoid it returning:

1. Shut down and restart

Sometimes simply turning things off and back on again can fix those pesky problems (please note not all of the time!) so it’s definitely worth a shot as an initial first stage of action. Some of us are guilty of leaving our machines powered on for days on end. Imagine how you’d feel if you were a Mac and hadn’t been given a chance to rest? When using your Mac there can be multiple things running behind the scenes which can slow you down, so doing a complete power off each night or giving the machine a restart every few days can certainly help.

2. Close internet browser tabs & applications

Avoid having lots of tabs open. Just keep open the ones you really need and close anything unnecessary. You may find that you frequently have multiple browsers open if you’re looking at lots of different things which on one hand is great for multitasking but not good if it’s contributing towards the spinning beach ball of death.

There’s some useful Mac shortcuts worth learning alongside ones for quitting applications quickly.

3. Launch Activity Monitor

Opening up Activity Monitor is a good way to get an overview and insight into something which may be the cause to the problem.

Here’s how to access Activity Monitor:

  • Open Spotlight. You can do this by clicking on the magnifying glass in the top right corner of your Mac or by holding down the command and spacebar buttons
  • Type ‘activity’ in spotlight and then press the enter button
  • Select CPU and take a look for anything which is using more than 20% and quit if not needed

Also whilst you’re in Activity Monitor select ‘memory’ and see how much memory is being used vs how much you have installed.

check memory in CPU

4. Upgrade to an SSD or increase the RAM

As a long-term solution you should look at upgrading the drive in your machine from a standard hard drive to an SSD (Solid State Drive). These types of drives contain no moving components and are much faster than regular hard drives.

Increasing the RAM (memory) can also help to speed up and improve the performance of the computer.

Mac users find a noticeable improvement after upgrading the hardware in their machine.

5. Software updates

Ensure all of your software is updated and check this on a regular basis.

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