Resolving Finder Problems in Mac OS X
Some Mac users may occasionally run into issues with Finder, discovering that Finder will misbehave wildly, sometimes becoming very slow and unresponsive, crashing, or using inordinately high CPU. Given that Finder is a critical component of the Mac and nearly all Mac OS users rely on it for file system navigation, Finder trouble can be pretty frustrating, but fortunately the issues seen with Finder in MacOS and Mac OS X are generally very easy to resolve. This guide will aim to help troubleshoot common Finder problems on the Mac.
Most of the time, ditching the Finder plist file and rebooting the Mac is sufficient to resolve any Finder troubles in MacOS or Mac OS X, especially if the Finder issues appeared after a software update of some sort. We’ll cover two ways to accomplish this, one using the Finder itself (assuming you can use it and the process is not stuck in an unresponsive cycle), and we’ll also how to resolve the Finder issues with Terminal, which is suitable if you’re unable to access the Finder in Mac OS X at all.
Keep in mind that ditching the Finder plist file will cause Finder preferences to be lost, so you would need to re-enable things like file extension visibility, custom icon spacing and text size, and other changes you made to Finder preferences.
Always start and complete a back up of your Mac with Time Machine before modifying any component of Mac OS X, even just a simple regenerable plist file.
How to Fix Finder Problems by Trashing Finder Preferences in Mac OS X
If Finder is working enough that you can use it, you’ll be able to quickly move or trash the Finder plist file:
- From the Finder, hit Command+Shift+G and go to the following path:
- Locate the file named “com.apple.finder.plist” and move it to the Trash, or move it to the Desktop if you want to be extra cautious
- Close the user Preferences folder and go to the Apple menu and select “Restart” to reboot the Mac
Yes, you should reboot the entire Mac, because simply restarting Finder process itself does not always seem to do help to resolve the issues experienced. So restart the Mac, and MacOS / Mac OS X will boot as usual, and the Finder preference file will automatically regenerate itself.
Remember to adjust any customizations you had set to preferences again as they will have been lost.
Can’t Access Finder? Fix it from Terminal in Mac OS X
If Finder is completely unresponsive, inaccessible, or too broken and therefore frustrating to use, turning to the command line of Mac OS X can also get the job done. The following is the same task outlined above, except it’s done through the Terminal application of the Mac.
Launch Terminal app from Spotlight or /Applications/Utilities/, and use the following command exactly:
mv ~/Library/Preferences/com.apple.finder.plist ~/Desktop/
Hit return to execute the command. All this does is move the Finder plist file to the users desktop, you can use the rm command if you want instead, but we’re sticking with mv because it’s safer for general users.
Again, you’ll want to reboot the Mac for changes to take effect. Apple menu > Restart, or reboot from the command line of Mac OS X with the following:
sudo shutdown -r now "Restarting Now"
Once the Mac has finished rebooting, you’ll want to set any Finder customizations again. Finder should be working as usual at this point, so you can trash the com.apple.finder.plist file that is sitting on the desktop if you haven’t done so yet.
If the Finder issues you are or were having still persist, or if they pertain to the Finder window sidebar, you can also move or remove the sidebar preference file labeled “com.apple.sidebarlists.plist” in the same user Library Preferences folder with the following path:
Remember, the tilde is shorthand for the current users home directory, and it is necessary to use to access the proper preference file.
Where is the Finder preference file located?
If you’re simply wanting to know where the location of the Finder preference files are, the general Finder preference file is called “com.apple.finder.plist” and is located at the following destination:
The Finder Sidebar preference file is different, labeled “com.apple.sidebarlists.plist”, and located at the following path:
Perhaps coincidentally, Finder process trouble sometimes coincides with WindowServer process problems, which usually presents as both processes taking up way more CPU and memory than they should be. You can typically troubleshoot both at the same time, though they require different measures to resolve.
If you’ve experienced any issues with Finder in MacOS or Mac OS X, let us know in the comments if the above tricks worked to resolve it for you and your Mac. And of course if you found another solution, share that in the comments below as well!