Kill a Frozen Program to Stop the Spinning Beachball in OS X

May 3, 2007 - 23 Comments

Spinning beachball of death in Mac OS X Frozen apps happen to the best of us for reasons we don’t always understand, and a Mac application can just suddenly become unresponsive and we see the spinning beachball of death (sometimes called SBOD for short). For those new to the Mac platform, getting around the spinning wait cursor might be confusing, so here’s two ways to do just that. The first method is through the GUI using a trick called Force Quit, and the second method is using the command line kill utility, which should be familiar to Mac users coming from a unix background. Both work, so it’s just a matter of choosing what you’re comfortable with the next time you discover the spinning color ball cursor taking over your Mac when a program freezes up.

For the most part, you’ll see the Spinning Beachball in OS X when an app is frozen, stuck, or crashing. Since it’s going to crash anyway, you can go ahead and kill the frozen app to stop the SPOD beachball spinning around endlessly and speed things up.

Average users should probably not do this, but advanced Mac users often kill apps they know are crashing anyway. OS X has gotten much better at handling app crashes, which makes this less a necessity than it once was in the early ages of OS X releases.

From the GUI Finder using the Force Quit menu:

  • Hit Command-Option-Escape to bring up the Force Quit menu
  • Select the troubled application, and hit the ‘Force Quit’ button

From the Command Line with the kill command:

  • At the command prompt type:
    killall [Application Name]
  • for example: killall Transmit

You can use whichever method you want to exit the application, and there are actually many ways to force quit Mac apps if for some reason those two approaches aren’t working for you or you’d just prefer to learn a few additional methods in OS X.

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Posted by: Bill Ellis in How to, Mac OS X, Tips & Tricks, Troubleshooting

23 Comments

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  1. deck2 says:

    well i had few times finder hangup and those combinations just didnt worked :( hot to prevent this? (it was while connecting to win network, with different ip’s)

  2. Alain says:

    Right-clicking on the icon in the Dock

  3. Weaver says:

    I believe the proper term is SPOD for Spinning PINWHEEL of Death, but beachball sounds better.

    You can also find and kill processes through the Activity Monitor

  4. deck2 says:

    well i had few (very rare exeptions, really) when finder hangs up. nothing possible the. cant run programs and so on…

  5. Jasper says:

    Problem with doing it from Activity Monitor is that if you haven’t already got it open, and Finder starts playing up [in my experience] it’s quite hard to start activity monitor. I find killall Finder works very well (capitalisation important) in these instances.

  6. Jim says:

    A last resort to kill a prog may be to use Visor, http://docs.blacktree.com/visor/visor (i start it with ctrl-F1; however, an already launched Terminal.app is required to use it; for a way to launch Terminal.app at login see http://www.unix.com/showthread.php?t=30735 ).

  7. Van says:

    No, the common term isn’t Spinning “Pinwheel” Of Death. It’s been Spinning “Pizza” Of Death, ever since the NeXTSTEP days in the 1990s. When the NeXT machines went from the greyscale display used with the Cube to the color displays with the 68030 “pizza box” NeXTstations, the spinning-disk cursor became colorized and reminded developers of a pizza pie. However, the OSX-reincarnated cursor is a bit of a morph between the MacOS beachball and the NeXTSTEP pizza, and now resembles a pinwheel somewhat.

  8. cat says:

    Thanks! I didn’t think this would happen on a mac.. damn! one of the reasons i left the world of plastic computers in favor of aluminum… oh well, its still the better choice!

  9. Beymen Business says:

    Yeah, Some times when dev’ing my mac gets stuck it’s because of the flash technique.

    the force kill key combination Command+Option+Escape doesn’t work….

    What can i press then at that moment??
    Sometimes it reacts only at my hotcorners expose… caps lock is reacting, mouse is reacting only you can’t click nothing and the combo doesn’t work…

    what to do then???

  10. Linda says:

    I did have high hopes that Mac would never have an app freeze up but, alas it did happen. Not knowing what the prompts were like ctrl+alt+del for a PC, I unplugged it and went to bed hoping the battery life would kill it (like on a PC laptop). LOL Mac batteries are awesome! Thanks for the info on how to kill frozen apps!

    Once you go Mac, you’ll never go back!

  11. Harry says:

    How do I just stop a program from running without killing it entirely? I want to just have the program stop what it’s doing without force quitting.

  12. lilly says:

    there is an easier way than THAT! :)
    on the TOP LEFT corner u will see an APPLE symbol, click on it scroll down until u see FORCE QUIT. than click on that and there u go :)

  13. CJ says:

    How do you get to the Command Line on a Mac so that you can type killall?

    • MHD says:

      Yes, could someone explain how to do that. Is command line the same as the URL line?

      I also have data on several Firefox pages, but cant save them now because the BBOD is spinning and the browser is just hung up. I would like to stop the script or whatever is the problem, without force quitting the whole thing, therefore losing all the data on my open web pages. This happens a lot with Firefox, and seems to happen more often if the app and your tabs have been open for several days, or with lots of tabs open.

  14. CJ says:

    I recorded a very important meeting using Garage Band and forgot to save it. The spinning beach ball has been rotating for two days. Is there any way to save that file? Does GarageBand auto save as you’re recording? Thanks.

  15. BAJJ says:

    The thing that sucks is that every single time I open Activity Monitor it freezes up like this, it’s kind of the opposite of what it does….

  16. Krish says:

    Thanks, this is very useful tip to me, as I’m new to MAC

  17. Maddog says:

    Alright…PC tech here, trying to appease the appeal of my users who think they need a MAC to get ahead in technology.

    Out of the box, I’ve had Safari lock up on MacBook Pros and maybe I skim-read, but there is no information above on how to ‘fix’ this problem except to kill the beachball. Rebooting doesn’t help. I suppose it’s never expected to crash, so there is no error message that tells you what is wrong — but it’s crashed here.

    At least with the BSOD, you know WHAT driver has caused the problem(s).

    Does anyone know how I can get another browser on this fresh laptop?

  18. Chris says:

    Thanks mate – CMD+Option+Esc phew! Glad I know that now!

  19. Aurelio says:

    i guys, after 1 month of going mad, I’ve found a new pist : clearly 10.8., but also LITTLE SNITCH, even if it warns that it’s not working with 10.8.2 it could be him that regularly offers a beach ball for looong seconds, then gives you your mac back.
    please check if you have little snitch installed and delete every file linked to it and let me know !

    Aurelio

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