How to Fix Frozen Mac

A frozen or unresponsive Mac is rare, but Macs aren't immune from some of the same weaknesses as other computers. At one time or another, we’ve all had documents disappear, programs crash and faced that spinning beachball of dread during a busy working day.

The best thing you can do is not panic, then follow some simple instructions to get up and running again. If you are finding this is happening more often, maybe it’s time to look at long-term solutions. Maybe you’ve not updated your operating system recently? If that is the case, then a new one comes out soon, with macOS High Sierra, now is the time to give your Mac an update.

At the same time, you may need to declutter the Mac, removing old files and long-forgotten documents to avoid troublesome Mac freezes.

Why Do Macs Freeze Most of the Time?

Macs are fairly powerful, durable devices. It takes a lot to slow them down, or a simple issue of the Mac running too many programs, apps and browser tabs (all of then use processing power). Like any computer, when they've got too much stored and too many apps fighting for CPU processing power, which can ultimately result in a crash or Mac not responding.

Apps crashing are some of the most common reasons behind a Mac freezing. Most of the time, an app freezing won’t crash the whole Mac, but that is a risk when your memory is full, or there are lots of applications running at once. 

Here are some of the main reasons Mac apps crash

Cluttered with too much junk

One of the main problems, especially for Macs that are used every day - or even just every working day - is that they get cluttered. Files, long-forgotten documents, unused apps, images, music and videos slowly start taking up memory, which in turn starts to slow the device down.

Cluttered desktop

A cluttered desktop can seriously slow down your Mac, and can also cause many problems. To clean up your desktop, and organize icons and files, try to use Declutter - this app keeps your desktop from getting cluttered.

Desktop Declutter

Too many processes and apps running at once

How many are too many? Unfortunately, there is no simple answer; but once your Mac seems to struggle running simple tasks, or slows down when you’ve got multiple tabs or apps open, it’s an indication that it is struggling to cope.

Find out which apps are actually running in the background

Apps running in the background, freeze and crash

This is usually when an app has been running without you realise, which can happen when an app launches when starting up the Mac. It’s worth checking your startup items, then uncheck any that you don't want to launch when switching your Mac on, or restarting it.

Manage startup items

One of the best ways to tidy up your Mac is to use CleanMyMac. 

As an app, CleanMyMac comes highly recommended, as the easiest, most efficient way to identify problems, applications and settings that cause Macs to freeze, then clean them. Over 3 million people are using this app to scan, dig up junk cluttering up Macs, delete unused apps the right way, tidy up email folders and attachments and remove plugins you don't need.

CleanMyMac is available from Setapp, a great way to get all of the apps you need on a Mac. There are a few other useful apps that help keep Macs running smoothly and quickly recover from a crash, or greatly reduce the chance they will keep freezing.

How to Handle Crashes: What To Do When A Mac Freezes

Most of the time, when a crash is caused by a single app, you don't need to worry about the whole macOS. An app crashing is easy to fix.

A message will appear, alerting you to the crash. Now you have two options - you can either click to restart the app or dismiss and clear the message. Apple automatically receives a crash report, so you don't need to worry about sending one.

When an app freezes, which becomes obvious when an application is unresponsive in the middle of something, or you are shown the spinning beachball of despair, you can Force Quit (either in the app, from the dock or main menu).

Force Quit keyboard shortcut

In a worst case scenario, when a Mac is unresponsive - either as a result of an app or the computer is struggle to function - you can either click Restart, from the main menu, or press Command-Control-Eject to get it to restart. If neither of those solutions works, then you can hold the power button down which will restart the device. Not an ideal solution, since you can lose anything unsaved, but at least that should restore it to normal.

How to Avoid A Mac Freezing

When a Mac freezes, those solutions are reactive, and while you are going to be up and running again soon, you should think about fixes that will help you avoid crashes in the future.

CleanMyMac, available from Setapp, is one way to cleanup an untidy Mac. Other apps worth installing, also from Setapp include:

  • What happens if my Mac crashed and I lost data? Thankfully, there is an app for that. Disk Drill is the world’s premier data recovery software for macOS. Powerful enough to retrieve long-lost, mistakenly deleted files from Macs, external hard drives and USB drives and camera cards.
  • iStat Menus, a handy app that will quickly identify what is absorbing so much CPU processing power and advise those applications are closed. Unlike Activity Menu, iStat Menus providers users with even more useful data, and is available through Setapp, along with hundreds of other apps for Mac customers, all for one convenient price.

iStat Menus monitoring

Explore Setapp today: Get all the apps you need for your Mac. No ads or in-app purchases. And the collection keeps growing. Find out more.