At my wit's end with my beachballing iMac: Suggestions?

Discussion in 'Mac Basics and Help' started by jdouge, Feb 17, 2016.

  1. jdouge macrumors newbie

    May 18, 2015
    This is me:

    [tl;dr: My iMac (mid-2011, now running El Capitan) runs fine for a while and then, with no consistent/detectable preceding stimulus, beachballs, although my mouse cursor (usually) still moves and the clock in the menubar (usually) continues to run. Everything else locks up.]

    Everything I have already tried, at the suggestion of several helpful MacRumors members, is in that thread. In the nine months since that post, I have:

    Restored my Mac, via Time Machine, to multiple restart points;

    Wiped and reinstalled twice, including (on the second reinstall) downloading every app and manually restoring every preference while restoring from Time Machine/Crashplan only the most idiosyncratic (personal) files.

    Upgraded, one step at a time, to every OS X version from Mountain Lion to El Capitan.

    Gotten really frustrated and, for weeks at a time, lived in Windows 7 on my Boot Camp partition.

    After every reinstallation/upgrade/long period of OS X disuse, I am able to use my Mac for a few days, sometimes even a few weeks . . . until the beachball returns, and after reboot(s) returns at increasingly shorter intervals until I perform another attempt to salvage my system. I am now out of things to try.

    The idea that it is a hardware issue is possible, but seems unlikely, because during those intervals, I use the Boot Camp portion of my HD without error for weeks at a time. (I also did several hardware tests as noted in the previous thread, including the AHT, memtest, and several dozen Disk Utility verifications/permissions repairs, etc.)

    The reason I have not taken my iMac in for service is because of the delays involved: I need a machine daily, and it is likely that any given time anyone would boot my Mac to service it, it would work fine for quite a while before manifesting its affection for beachballs. And any actions taken to fix it would (I fear) result in an apparently successful, but (upon return to me) merely temporary cessation of beachballs, and my Mac would be on a shuttle back and forth to the service shop.

    I am at a point now where I am considering giving up. I would buy a new iMac (it’s coming up to time --five years -- when I would anyway) but I have little confidence that (I am just guessing here) whatever particular constellation of apps/preferences/bad karma I have that is causing this problem won't avoid beachball syndrome on a new system restored with my present data. And I would be $1k-2k further into my problem.

    I am asking for any and all suggestions. They will be greatly appreciated.
  2. T'hain Esh Kelch macrumors 601

    T'hain Esh Kelch

    Aug 5, 2001
    Reinstall and don't roll in a Timemachine backup.
  3. satcomer macrumors 603


    Feb 19, 2008
    The Finger Lakes Region
    You "Upgraded" and a older service or plugin. First check Startup Applications and Activity Viewer and also use the free app EtreCheck and it will just put out a more detailed txt report that will also point you to all services, plugins, etc. that will point where to manually delete this old files. Then after deleting all those out of data files mNually reboot to stop them from autostarting.

    Doing all this will speed up your Mac!
  4. 960design macrumors 68030

    Apr 17, 2012
    Destin, FL
    I just fixed a friends MBP2012 that was beach balling with every click and often with every keystroke.

    I first ran through the typical clean up, solved nothing. Finally, I went old school and decided disk permissions may need to be repaired. The MBP was running El Capitan so disk permissions repair is a Terminal app job:

    sudo /usr/libexec/repair_packages --verify --standard-pkgs

    You may see pages of stuff fly by. If yes, we may be on the right track. To fix everything, back to Terminal:

    sudo /usr/libexec/repair_packages --repair --standard-pkgs --volume

    Full shut down and restart. Everything back in working order.

    To be fair, the beach ball can be caused by many, many things. To diagnose by guessing is practically impossible. We really need hands on to run some tests and look at some logs to actually see what is causing the beachball.

    If all else fails, save the important stuff and restore your mac to factory and then run the update to get El Capitan back on and then start adding your software from the App Store. Do not restore from backup.
  5. Fishrrman macrumors G5


    Feb 20, 2009
    You might consider going to a bootable external SSD.

    You could either get a thunderbolt drive (pricey), or, get a thunderbolt-to-USB adapter (such as the Kanex) and plug a USB3 SSD into it.

    Sounds like some process going on is "hitting" your platter-based hard drive with constant in/out activity, and bringing other things "to a halt" ...
  6. nightcap965 macrumors 6502a


    Feb 11, 2004
    Cape Cod
    You could always open your Activity Monitor and see what program is consuming resources.
    You might also check the logs.
  7. tjwilliams25 macrumors 6502

    Aug 10, 2014
    It sounds like you've tried almost everything. I agree with everyone else in trying the wipe the Mac clean and starting from scratch. I would suggest that you try using the vanilla El Cap with all of it's updates for a day or so without installing apps to see if your problem surfaces. If it continues to work flawlessly, install your apps a little at a time to see if any one of them is the culprit.
  8. campyguy macrumors 68040

    Mar 21, 2014
    Portland / Seattle
    I posted this rant a few days ago, but - constructively - the end result really works:

    FWIW, the Mini I alluded to is still running the stock 5400 RPM spinners and driving a 1440p display, runs smooth as silk. It's sporting an updated clean install of El Capitan to eliminate old OS X cruft - with only a few iCloud services running (iCloud Drive, Reminders, Notes, Calendars, Find My Mac). IMHO synching Safari's services is just nuts - all of those cookies, histories, bookmarks, Reading List items - via the slowest connection your Mac uses: The Internet - and sharing Apple's servers with hundreds of millions of users each day? My Macs run smoothly, even the older ones in my company...

    I use a couple of iOS devices, and store items in a Reading List. When I want to sync those bookmarks, I enable Safari's iCloud synching on both my Mac and iOS device, let the sync happen and "merge" the lists, then disable Safari's iCloud synching on both my Mac and iOS device. No lag or beachballing here... :D
  9. Alrescha macrumors 68020

    Jan 1, 2008
    I second the recommendation to start checking for resource usage with Activity Monitor. I just solved (I hope) a problem with Spotlight going randomly nutty and running for hours at a time doing nothing but beating up my hard drive.

  10. JohnDS macrumors 65816

    Oct 25, 2015
    A propos Campyguy's suggestion, do you get beach balling if you turn off wifi and unplug ethernet?

    Perhaps you could download and run EtreCheck: and post the diagnostic report here.
  11. jdouge thread starter macrumors newbie

    May 18, 2015
    Thank you all for the suggestions. I am working through them in reverse order of difficulty.

    Tried the permissions repair via Terminal recommended by 960design. Got pages on the first command, so tried the second command and received very little. Rebooted and waiting for beachball!

    In response to campyguy and JohnDS, deleted Safari from iCloud preferences in order to use iCloud minimally: now have just Contacts/Reminders/Calendars and Find my Mac. Although I don't use Safari, maybe that will help. I will try unplugging the ethernet cable and disabling Wi-Fi overnight tonight or tomorrow night. Usually the beachballs appear when the machine is idle. So maybe it is a run-when-idle service going haywire.

    I have been watching Activity Monitor when starting apps (and when i remember to and the machine is idle). Nothing to report; no CPU or memory spikes. I do have a fair bit of "writes out" on the disk tab. With 16GB RAM and a 7200 RPM 1TB HD, seems like that shouldn't happen?

    More to come!
  12. JohnDS macrumors 65816

    Oct 25, 2015
    Please download the free Etrecheck , run a report and post the result back here.
  13. Fishrrman macrumors G5


    Feb 20, 2009

    I'm going to offer some suggestions to try.
    Most on this forum will DISAGREE VEHEMENTLY with what I suggest.
    But I urge you to try them anyway.
    You can always "reverse" back to where you were if they don't work for you.

    1. Disable Spotlight
    Use this command to turn it off:
    sudo mdutil -a -i off
    (password will be required)

    2. Turn off Time Machine (in the System Prefences panel)
    I recommend that you go to either CarbonCopyCloner or SuperDuper for your backup system.

    3. Turn off VM (disk writes)
    Use this command to disable disk writes:
    sudo launchctl unload -w /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/
    (password and restart required)

    To check if the above has been effective:
    sysctl vm.swapusage
    If VM is off, should get a response line like this:
    vm.swapusage: total = 0.00M used = 0.00M free = 0.00M

    Note: you can re-enable VM with this command:
    sudo launchctl load /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/
    (again, password and restart required)

    Try these commands, then run this way for 3 days.
    Any better?

    Special note:
    Since you have 16gb of RAM installed, I doubt you're going to have many problems with the disabling of VM swap disk writes.
    But if you do, just re-enable them.

    Personal experience:
    I've been running this way for more than a year now.
    Things run just fine!
  14. Alrescha macrumors 68020

    Jan 1, 2008
    As disagreeable as I am, I think these are all good ideas to help identify the problem. :)

  15. tjwilliams25 macrumors 6502

    Aug 10, 2014
    Since the write to disk and large paging files are happening after you reinstall the OS, have you checked to see if there are any hardware issues? I know you said that Windows was working fine, but this behavior is pretty strange for how much RAM you have. Your computer shouldn't be using paging at all, or if it does, very sparingly. You should check to see if the computer is registering the right amount of RAM. After that, check to see if the blades are seated correctly.
  16. Alrescha macrumors 68020

    Jan 1, 2008
    I do not see anything that indicates paging. Did I miss it?

    nb: "writes out" in Activity Monitor/Disk are just disk writes. Lots of unexplained writes smells like Spotlight to me.

  17. tjwilliams25 macrumors 6502

    Aug 10, 2014
    It definitely could be, especially with how the new Spotlight Assistant works. The only reason I thought of it could be paging is because @Fishrrman mentioned turning it off to see if that was the issue.
  18. Weaselboy Moderator


    Staff Member

    Jan 23, 2005
    This jumps out at me from your previous thread. Just to clarify, if you hold the shift key at startup to boot to safe mode, you have no issues? If that is the case, it is some launch or startup items causing this. There can be launch or startup items in places other than those login items you mentioned.

    I notice in the other thread and now twice in this thread, you have been asked to post an Etrecheck report. That would be very helpful for us to see.
  19. Alrescha macrumors 68020

    Jan 1, 2008
    I have to admit I missed the nature of this failure. Everything locks up except for clock and mouse - and Command-TAB does not work (nor Option-Command-ESC )?

  20. jdouge thread starter macrumors newbie

    May 18, 2015
    Sorry not to update this yesterday, minor medical emergency (all is well). I do appreciate the feedback.

    Mac did start beachballing again after the disk permissions repair recommended by 960design.

    So last night disabled wi-fi, unplugged ethernet (as suggested by JohnDS), and turned off Time Machine. For the first time in two weeks it did not crash overnight when left on! Turned on wi-fi today and it crashed while idle, although without beachballing: it went to sleep (I have it set to computer and display sleep after 20 minutes) and would not wake up! Bluetooth mouse and keyboard flashed green but could not connect and the power button, lightly, would not wake it up either. It has crashed like that, rarely, in th past, not sure if that is distinct from just beachballing. So rebooted, running now with wi-fi on but Time Machine off.

    Regarding the "writes out" issue, i think that just my misunderstanding the new (to me) El Cap Activity Monitor. I was reporting writes out (on the Disk tab), which (I think) should be no big deal (but I could be wrong). In the past, Page outs on the Memory tab were a big deal, but there is no info on them in the current Activity monitor. On that tab, it currently shows no Swaps on the memory tab. Let me know if there is something I should monitor closely here.

    So I am at:

    Repair Disk permissions (DONE). Minimize -- but not eliminate -- iCloud (DONE)

    It is probably not a Time Machine or an ethernet issue? They were inactive with the last crash. In addition, before upgrading to El Cap, my machine would crash even with all peripherals unplugged.

    To answer Alrescha's question, in detail: when the beachball hits while I am using the machine (since upgrading to El Cap that is rare) or when I return to an idle system, I am usually able to move the pointer down to the dock and switch an app or two, but in the app screens I get a beachball. If I mouse over the dock, for quite a while I still get a pointer, but clicking on apps has no effect. Usually system clock (and other timers such as Pomodoros) continue to run, but eventually stop. Haven't tried the keyboard-forced reboots or process kills in a while but I will again next time!

    To answer weaselboy's post, in the past (but not since the OS X upgrade) my system would crash even in safe mode. It has been long enough that I don't remember if full safe boot prevented crashes, but it looks like back in May it was. Once I get the machine to a point at which it is crashing regularly, I will try the full safe boot again. Thanks for checking that old post.

    There have been several requests to post an etrecheck log. Not sure why I haven't don that, but I will get on it right now. I will run it with Time Machine on.

    After that i will try weaselboy's suggestion to go full safe boot once there have been comments on the etrecheck log.

    Next up is fishrrman's three ideas seconded by Alrescha:

    1. Disable Spotlight (I use Alfred anyway)

    2. Turn off Time Machine (in the System Prefences panel)

    3. Turn off VM (disk writes)

    Then tjwilliams' suggestion to physically check the seating of the RAM (both "About my Mac" and Activity Monitor report that i am using 16GB of RAM -- is that a sufficient confirmation or should I use another utility app?)

    Then a wipe and reinstall without using Time Machine -- although my present installation is nearly that: only my Firefox profile, Mail archives, Documents/Data and one or two apps were restored from time Machine

    --- Post Merged, Feb 20, 2016 ---
    Here is the log. I ran it with "Beachballing" selected as the problem; let me know if it is worth running on another setting (like "Crashing?")

    EtreCheck version: 2.9.6 (256)
    Report generated 2016-02-20 13:30:11
    Download EtreCheck from
    Runtime 1:57
    Performance: Excellent

    Click the [Support] links for help with non-Apple products.
    Click the [Details] links for more information about that line.
    Click the [Remove] links to remove adware.

    Problem: Beachballing

    Hardware Information: ⓘ
    iMac (21.5-inch, Mid 2011)
    [Technical Specifications] - [User Guide] - [Warranty & Service]
    iMac - model: iMac12,1
    1 2.7 GHz Intel Core i5 CPU: 4-core
    16 GB RAM Upgradeable - [Instructions]
    BANK 0/DIMM0
    4 GB DDR3 1333 MHz ok
    BANK 1/DIMM0
    4 GB DDR3 1333 MHz ok
    BANK 0/DIMM1
    4 GB DDR3 1333 MHz ok
    BANK 1/DIMM1
    4 GB DDR3 1333 MHz ok
    Bluetooth: Old - Handoff/Airdrop2 not supported
    Wireless: en1: 802.11 a/b/g/n

    Video Information: ⓘ
    AMD Radeon HD 6770M - VRAM: 512 MB
    iMac 1920 x 1080

    System Software: ⓘ
    OS X El Capitan 10.11.3 (15D21) - Time since boot: less than an hour

    Disk Information: ⓘ
    WDC WD10EZEX-00BN5A0 disk0 : (1 TB) (Rotational)
    EFI (disk0s1) <not mounted> : 210 MB
    Macintosh HD (disk0s2) / : 848.48 GB (675.54 GB free)
    Recovery HD (disk0s3) <not mounted> [Recovery]: 650 MB
    BOOTCAMP (disk0s4) /Volumes/BOOTCAMP : 150.73 GB (45.87 GB free)

    OPTIARC DVD RW AD-5690H ()

    USB Information: ⓘ
    Apple Inc. FaceTime HD Camera (Built-in)
    2010 REV 1.7 Audioengine D1
    LaCie Porsche Desktop for Mac 4 TB
    EFI (disk1s1) <not mounted> : 315 MB
    Time Machine Target (disk1s2) /Volumes/Time Machine Target : 3.65 TB (2.95 TB free)
    BC Data Dep (disk1s3) /Volumes/BC Data Dep : 50.79 GB (33.18 GB free)
    Bootcamp Backup (disk1s4) /Volumes/Bootcamp Backup : 299.28 GB (248.38 GB free)
    Apple Inc. BRCM2046 Hub
    Apple Inc. Bluetooth USB Host Controller
    Brother MFC-J825DW
    Apple Computer, Inc. IR Receiver
    Apple Card Reader

    Thunderbolt Information: ⓘ
    Apple Inc. thunderbolt_bus

    Gatekeeper: ⓘ

    Adware: ⓘ
    ~/Library/Application Support/Spigot
    ~/Library/Safari/Extensions/Ebay Shopping Assistant.safariextz
    3 adware files found. [Remove]

    System Launch Agents: ⓘ
    [loaded] 166 Apple tasks
    [running] 70 Apple tasks

    System Launch Daemons: ⓘ
    [loaded] 202 Apple tasks
    [running] 85 Apple tasks

    Launch Agents: ⓘ
    [running] (2015-11-13) [Support]
    [running] (2015-03-12) [Support]
    [loaded] (2016-01-24) [Support]

    Launch Daemons: ⓘ
    [loaded] com.adobe.fpsaud.plist (2016-01-28) [Support]
    [loaded] (2016-01-24) [Support]

    User Launch Agents: ⓘ
    [loaded] com.bittorrent.uTorrent.plist (2016-01-23) [Support]
    [loaded] (2016-01-12) [Support]
    [running] com.spigot.ApplicationManager.plist (2016-01-23) Adware! [Remove]
    ~/Library/Application Support/Spigot/ApplicationManager
    [loaded] One Apple task

    User Login Items: ⓘ
    iTunesHelper Application (/Applications/
    Flux Application (/Applications/
    DashExpander Application (/Applications/
    Dropbox Application (/Applications/
    Alfred 2 Application (/Applications/Alfred
    MiddleClick Application (/Applications/
    Day-O Application (/Applications/

    Other Apps: ⓘ
    [running] (2016-02-10)
    [running] (2016-02-20)
    [running] (2016-01-22)
    [running] (2016-01-22)
    [running] (2016-01-22)
    [running] com.crashplan.engine
    [running] com.evernote.Evernote.48352 (2016-02-10)
    [running] com.getdropbox.dropbox.48032 (2016-02-17)
    [running] com.kapeli.dashExpander.47712 (2016-01-19)
    [running] com.rouge41.middleClick.54752 (2012-08-19)
    [running] com.runningwithcrayons.Alfred-2.45792 (2016-01-12)
    [running] com.shauninman.Day-O.4512 (2013-11-08)
    [running] org.herf.Flux.48992 (2016-01-18)
    [running] org.mozilla.firefox.48672 (2016-02-20)

    Internet Plug-ins: ⓘ
    FlashPlayer-10.6: - SDK 10.6 (2016-02-10) [Support]
    QuickTime Plugin: 7.7.3 (2016-01-13)
    AdobePDFViewerNPAPI: 11.0.10 - SDK 10.6 (2014-12-02) [Support]
    AdobePDFViewer: 11.0.10 - SDK 10.6 (2014-12-02) [Support]
    Flash Player: - SDK 10.6 (2016-02-10) [Support]
    Default Browser: 601 - SDK 10.11 (2016-01-13)
    JavaAppletPlugin: Java 8 Update 71 build 15 (2016-01-24) Check version

    Safari Extensions: ⓘ
    eBay Shopping Assistant (2016-01-10) Adware! [Remove]
    Slick Savings (2016-01-10)

    3rd Party Preference Panes: ⓘ
    Flash Player (2016-01-28) [Support]
    Java (2015-12-22) [Support]

    Time Machine: ⓘ
    Mobile backups: OFF
    Auto backup: NO - Auto backup turned off
    Volumes being backed up:
    Macintosh HD: Disk size: 848.48 GB Disk used: 172.94 GB
    Time Machine Target [Local]
    Total size: 3.65 TB
    Total number of backups: 47
    Oldest backup: 5/9/15, 10:18 PM
    Last backup: 2/20/16, 1:28 PM
    Size of backup disk: Excellent
    Backup size 3.65 TB > (Disk size 848.48 GB X 3)

    Top Processes by CPU: ⓘ
    3% mdworker(5)
    2% WindowServer
    1% kernel_task
    1% fontd
    0% CrashPlanService

    Top Processes by Memory: ⓘ
    1.11 GB kernel_task
    541 MB firefox
    508 MB CrashPlanService
    246 MB mds_stores
    180 MB Evernote

    Virtual Memory Information: ⓘ
    10.00 GB Free RAM
    5.55 GB Used RAM (3.23 GB Cached)
    0 B Swap Used

    Diagnostics Information: ⓘ
    Feb 20, 2016, 12:51:09 PM Self test - passed
    Feb 18, 2016, 09:08:18 PM /Library/Logs/DiagnosticReports/System Preferences_2016-02-18-210818_[redacted].hang
    /Applications/System Preferences
    Feb 18, 2016, 07:13:57 PM /Library/Logs/DiagnosticReports/firefox_2016-02-18-191357_[redacted].hang
    Feb 18, 2016, 07:13:51 PM ~/Library/Logs/DiagnosticReports/plugin-container_2016-02-18-191351_[redacted].crash
    org.mozilla.plugincontainer - /Applications/
  21. Weaselboy Moderator


    Staff Member

    Jan 23, 2005
    You have some adware running on there. Install and run the app Malwarebytes to remove it.

    You have quite a few third party launch items and utilities running there. Any if those could cause problems like this. Try the safe mode boot which will stop all those from running then we will know if that is the issue.
  22. jdouge thread starter macrumors newbie

    May 18, 2015
    I will run Malwarebytes right now and reboot into safe mode and see how it goes.
  23. jdouge thread starter macrumors newbie

    May 18, 2015
    Cleaned out the Adware with Malwarebytes, rebooted, scanned again with no Adware found, now running in Safe Boot mode successfully.

    So far!
  24. jdouge thread starter macrumors newbie

    May 18, 2015
    Running 48 hours in Safe Mode. Mostly clean, although there are some occasional slow loads of apps, screen tiling and curtaining when changing windows. Even some temporary beachballs (usually when opening Firefox tabs).

    Over the last 24 hours, I have turned on a few startup items: Alfred, flux, and Middeclick, whose absences were driving me crazy. No detrimental effect.

    Is the next step to gradually continue to turn on the rest of my startup items?
  25. JohnDS macrumors 65816

    Oct 25, 2015
    Yes, but you have to reboot each time, or at least log out and back in.

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