How to stop the spinning wheel on your Mac

A man typing on a MacBook with a large
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Your Mac hacking your pointer and asking you to wait is never welcome. People call it different things, including the spinning wheel, beach ball or the pinwheel of death.

The good news is that a spinning wheel means that macOS has not completely crashed yet. You may be able to wrestle control.

What’s the spinning wheel of death on a Mac?

That rainbow spinning wheel (whatever you can call it) is a common wait pointer for MacOS. It is activated when an application does not respond for a few seconds and indicates that you have to wait before giving the app more instructions.

Apple's spinning wheel of death

It should not be confused with the blue spinning wheel, which is sometimes also called the “JavaScript pinwheel”. A blue wheel usually appears in web content when using Java applications. This usually happens when a website sends a watch command. It often appears in web applications, such as Google Pages.

How to solve the spinning wheel of death

A spinning wheel (or beach ball) is a sign of the operating system that an app is not behaving as it should. This is one of the better problems to experience because it means your system is probably working well. This is probably just one app causing the problem. If you find the app and fix the problem, you should be quick.

Let us, with that in mind, figure out how to find the app in question and how to get rid of the spinning wheel.

Find the app that is causing the problem

A scroll wheel usually means that macOS has detected a problem in a specific app. The good news is that it also means that your entire system (including the OS) has not crashed. In fact, a spinning wheel does not necessarily mean anything it crashed (still).

If it is not already obvious, you can find the app that is causing the problem by scrolling through the active. To do this, press Command + Tab or just click on the screen (your mouse should still work even if the cursor has changed).

An overview of the CPU tab in Activity Monitor on Mac.

If you do not know which app is causing the problem, Activity Monitor may be able to help. You can start it by going to Applications> Utilities or searching for it in Spotlight. Click the “% CPU” column below the CPU tab to organize the list according to current system usage.

This puts the most thirsty programs at the top of the list. See if anyone uses more than their fair share of CPU resources. You can also see “(does not respond)” behind the program name in the list. Resist leaving the app and proceed to the next step.

Wait a while

Many times the spinning wheel of death appears when an app tries to do something. This might happen, for example, when you try to play a video in an editor or perform group editing in a photo editing app. It can even appear when you connect to a server in an online game.

In these cases, waiting is the best option. If you have already told an app to do something, you might as well give it time to complete the task. Sometimes it’s not something you explicitly requested. For example, the macOS Photos app can perform image analysis on a set of photos you recently imported.

Other programs should function normally during this period, provided you do not obstruct the system too much (such as the version of video or 3D models, for example). Walk away from your computer for a few minutes and let your Mac work out the problem.

Force the Problem app

If you have been waiting for a while for any tasks to complete but your computer still does not respond, it may be a good idea to force you to reload the app. If you have undisturbed data or work, you may lose it if you do so, so make sure you have given the app long enough to recover.

You can first stop the program normally. To do this, right-click (or double-click or Control-Click) the icon in the Dock, and then select Stop. The app may take a second to respond. However, if you turn it off normally, you can avoid losing your unsaved job.

Unfortunately, this does not always work. You can also force to exit an app by right-clicking the icon in the Dock, holding down the Option key on your keyboard, and then selecting “Force Quit”.

Alternatively, you can start Activity Monitor, find the app and stop the process from there.

Force to exit application in macOS

If the problem app is closed, the spinning wheel should disappear from the dead. You should now be able to reopen the app and try again.

Do you have a persistent pen wheel? Restart your Mac

If the pen wheel refuses to disappear or reappears, it is a good idea to restart your machine. Just click on the Apple logo, select “Restart” and then wait. After restarting your machine, it should be fast and responsive with no waiting points in sight.

Sometimes your Mac may crash to the point that it cannot be restarted via the Apple logo. If this happens (and you feel like you’ve waited long enough to respond), hold and hold the on / off button of your Mac (or the Touch ID button on some MacBooks) until it turns off.


This is the last resort for any major system crash and you will lose all undisturbed work in the applications still running. Save and, if possible, close any unresponsive applications before taking this step.

A frequent spinning wheel indicates other problems

It is reasonable to expect to see the spinning wheel from time to time, especially if you are dealing with resource-intensive applications. However, if you start seeing it regularly and in different applications, it can be a bigger problem.

In this case, the state of your system may be contributing to software instability. One common cause is the lack of available storage. Your Mac needs free space to function. Both the operating system and third-party applications swell and use their storage usage over time

Managing storage in macOS

So first make sure your Mac has enough space. Apple does not specify what the “right” amount of space is. However, we recommend that you leave about 10% of your primary disk space (about 20 GB on a 256 GB MacBook). That should be enough to make the gears turn.

Lack of RAM can also cause the spinning wheel to appear frequently in memory-hungry programs. You can not do much about it unless you use an iMac, Mac mini or Mac Pro to upgrade your memory.

RELATED: 10 Ways to Free Up Disk Space on Your Mac Hard Drive

Yosemite or earlier management? Restore Permissions

If you are sitting on an older version of macOS, such as 10.10 (OS X Yosemite) or earlier, you can try to restore disk permissions if you see the scroll wheel a lot.

To find out which version of macOS you are using, click on the Apple logo at the top left and select About This Mac. If it is version 10.11 or later, you can skip this section.

Click on the Apple logo and select

If you are working with version 10.10 or earlier, start Disk Utility by going to the Applications> Utilities folder or just searching in Spotlight. Select the main loader (usually called “Macintosh HD”) in the sidebar and then click “First Aid”. Let your Mac scan and repair any errors you find.

This is not necessary on 10.11 (El Capitan) or later, as Apple has made changes to the way the permissions system works.

Beach ball is gone!

Hopefully these tips will give you a good idea of ​​how you can solve future problems with the spinning wheel (or beach ball) of death.

However, keep in mind that the one good thing about seeing the spinning wheel is the problem is probably one app. However, if you have system-wide instability, you may want to learn how to fix a frozen Mac afterwards.

RELATED: How to fix a frozen Mac