iMac beach ball

Discussion in 'iMac' started by patseguin, Feb 3, 2014.

  1. patseguin macrumors 65816

    patseguin

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2003
    #1
    I forget what year my iMac it but it might be the first 27" i7 they came out withe the aluminum. In any case it has an i7 which is still great, a 2TB hard drive, 8GB RAM, Radeon 4850 512MB. I started experiencing slow performance with beach balls just clicking on a menu or bringing up preferences. I decided to reformat and reinstall and it's still that way. I have annoying times where I just want to click the menu to go to presences or use Finder and I commonly get beach balls and long delays before it does what I wanted it to do. I repaired permissions a few times but it didn't help. Could this performance issue be the hard drive? Is there a good program to test the HD for problems. I don't think an i7 machine should be performing slowly like this. Besides checking the hard drive, should I check anything else? Should I maybe upgrade it to 16GB?
     
  2. yjchua95 macrumors 604

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    #2
    Your hard drive is the limiting factor, because it's a HDD. HDDs are always this slow, so it's perfectly normal.

    I suggest you purchase an SSD.
     
  3. accountforit macrumors 6502a

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    #3
    So because his HDD is now a limiting factor due to the advent of SSD, his computer somehow knew this and started slowing itself down and acting abnormally?

    Super advice.
     
  4. yjchua95 macrumors 604

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    #4
    Nope, it's just that the HDD will age over time and won't be as fast as it was before.

    I tested it with my 7200rpm drive. Back in 2011, it was quite okay-ish at 120 MB/s. Today, after reformatting and clean-installing, it's performing much slower at 80MB/s. It also behaves real slow too, such as 3 minutes to get into a usable state from startup.

    I've since changed to an SSD in my early-2011 MBP. Besides, newer OSes will want more resources (except for Mavericks in RAM management, where it can run better on lower RAM compared to Mountain Lion).
     
  5. JustMartin macrumors 6502a

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    #5
    So what slows down hard disks as they age? Is it the bearings getting dry so that they spin slower? Does the magnetic surface become more stubborn and takes longer to switch state or does the 'writing' get fainter and the blocks get harder to read?

    I can't think of a reason why a hard disk would not perform as well as it did from new when restored to its original state. Hard disks have been around for a long time and the technology is well known. As another poster has said, they have not suddenly decided to go slower because newer technology has arrived.

    For the op, I suggest looking at monitor to see whether anything's hogging CPU, and check swap space usage for a first couple of steps. Then have a look on here for performance improvement tips.
     
  6. patseguin thread starter macrumors 65816

    patseguin

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    Aug 28, 2003
    #6
    I'm fully aware that an SSD would be a monumental upgrade although I'd lose a lot of space. Not to mention I've heard that users installing a drive in an iMac is a nightmare. The machine performed like a dream when I got it and the specs are still respectable so I don't get why I'm having these freezing moments. I suppose I could install a copy of OSX on an external drive and see how performance is...
     
  7. Ak907Freerider macrumors 6502

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    #7
    External thunderbolt ssd. Put the OS on there along with apps etc. problem solved
     
  8. CH12671 macrumors 6502

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    #8
    Yes, apple hardware test will do it for you, and also test all of your hardware components. Hold down the d key while it boots, and follow the prompts. I'd recommend letting it do a full test...this will take some time, but will be worth it in your case.
    Upgrading your RAM is never a bad thing, but if the RAM isn't your problem, then this won't fix your issue. You can open activity monitor and check out your RAM usage and see if this is a problem.
    It could be something as simple as a program you've recently installed, and is eating up your idle resources. Or, how full is your hard drive? they get less efficient as they fill up.

    Actually, hard drives do slow down. Physically they do not. They still spin at the same speed and such, but as the hdd becomes more and more fragmented from writes and deletes, the read head will have to search over more and more area to find/extract the files being called for.

    Having said that, I highly doubt this is an issue with the OP as he stated he reformatted the drive, and the drive is still slow....so there should be no fragmentation whatsoever. His machine should be as fast as the day it arrived, for all intents and purposes. Something is probably wrong.

    I would ask....did the slowing occur after upgrading to Mavericks?
     
  9. RickRack macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Dec 31, 2013
    #9
    I actually had the same exact kind of problem with my 2009 24" iMac. It just started getting slow... more than you might expect and quicker than I certainly thought it should. I too figured it was the drive and did all the maintenance things you did. I also upgraded the operating system twice. I did solve the problem... but I had to buy a new machine to do it. ;)

    If it's not the drive... or the system... then? Maybe Apple is putting in a throttle that kicks in at around 3-4 years! LOL
     
  10. n8mac macrumors 6502

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    #10
    Your iMac should be performing like a champ with little to no beach balls if all is well. I have a 2007 C2D 2.4 iMac with the original 320gb HD and it runs great. Did you verify your disk under disk utilities? Did you install any thing new like Mavericks, a new external HD, or RAM just before the slow down or did it slow down gradually?

    I would suspect something on the HDD, possibly a bad sector. Just a guess though.
     
  11. patseguin thread starter macrumors 65816

    patseguin

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    Aug 28, 2003
    #11
    Only problem is my iMac doesn't have Thunderbolt.

    ----------

    A couple people mentioned Mavericks. I did install it. Is that a problem, like I should have more RAM or something? I find it nearly impossible to believe I need to buy a new computer when I have a Core i7 system. I'll try testing with that hold down d thing and see what I get. Maybe RAM is hurting me? It has 8GB
     
  12. joema2 macrumors 65816

    joema2

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    Sep 3, 2013
    #12
    It would help knowing the year. Can you could do Apple menu->About this Mac->More Info ?

    I think the first unibody 27" aluminum iMac was 2009. If so your hard drive is about 5 years old. While hard drives do not get slower as they age (except for fragmentation which is *unrelated*), they do fail. A progressive drive failure often appears as slow performance, causing symptoms like periodic OS and app hangs, semi-lock ups, etc.

    There are several good disk diagnostic and test utilities: Tech Tool Pro, DiskWarrior, Drive Genius. However they'd likely indicate your drive was failing, in which case it would require replacing anyway.

    Five years is very old for a HDD. Even if the problem is elsewhere, you're living on borrowed time from a HDD standpoint.

    Your options include trying one of the above programs, trying to replace the HDD yourself, taking the iMac to a Genius Bar for diagnostics and repair, taking it to a 3rd party technician, or plugging in an external HDD and booting from that. I assume it must be FireWire due to the age of your iMac, so that limits your choices.
     
  13. patseguin, Feb 8, 2014
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2014

    patseguin thread starter macrumors 65816

    patseguin

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    Aug 28, 2003
    #13
    Just checked and it says 27", Late 2009. 8 GB DDR3, Radeon 4850.

    EDIT: I held down d during boot up and nothing happened. I verified disk in disk utility and it checks out. One thing I forgot to mention is that it seems like the hard drive is constantly working. The computer can be idle for an hour but if I listen carefully, I can hear the drive accessing non stop - almost like it's loading some monster program.
     
  14. kazmac macrumors 601

    kazmac

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    #14
    Hi patseguin

    here's the Apple Support link on how to do the Apple Hardware Test.

    I have a 2010 21.5" iMac which became much slower since installing Mavericks (even did a clean install after much agida) and I have very little on the HDD and 12gb of RAM installed. Seeing beach balls too (Mavericks related.) I am just holding out until I can get a new machine now,

    but in your case, I wonder if it's Spotlight reading your index? I do not know for sure, but I've read a lot of posts here saying Spotlight slows down the system considerably.
     
  15. patseguin, Feb 8, 2014
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2014

    patseguin thread starter macrumors 65816

    patseguin

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    Aug 28, 2003
    #15
    So am I getting the feeling from you guys that I should have skipped Mavericks? I'm pretty sure I had this problem before Mavericks now that I think about it. Are you saying to try disabling Spotlight altogether? The computer has long since indexed. I just can't figure out why the drive keeps accessing all the time. It kind of makes sense that the computer would go really slow when you try to do stuff while the HD keeps accessing. Now that I think about it, my MBP has the same problem. I mainly use that machine for music but get long beach ball delays on that too. It has almost the same specs as my iMac. i7, 8GB of RAM, etc. I wonder if I should have stayed on Lion or Snow Lion. I don't think Mavericks brings that much more that I need new hardware for it.

    EDIT: I can't get AHT to run at all. I've held down d at various times during boot up including while turning on the machine and I just boot to desktop.
     
  16. CH12671 macrumors 6502

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    #16
    Are you using a wired keyboard? This has to happen pretty early in the boot process, so it may not pick up a wireless keyboard that early (depending on the keyboard). If it's an apple wireless keyboard, then it "should" pick it up early enough, but you might try a wired keyboard just in case. If you are already using a wired keyboard, then I'm out of suggestions...sorry:(

    Mavericks *could* be causing you the issue. Did you check your memory pressure? If that is always high, then maybe it's hitting the hdd all the time as a swap file. If that's the case, then more ram would be beneficial...
     
  17. kazmac macrumors 601

    kazmac

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    #17
    I really could not say about skipping Mavericks or not. Many folks with older machines have no issues, but some do. I do not have any other suggestions, unless you can add more RAM as others have offered.

    Sorry.
     
  18. marzer macrumors 65816

    marzer

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    #18
    I have a 2009 i7 iMac and used-to have a 2008 iMac. Both suffered hard drive failures. The failure was not immediately nor did the hardware tests or SMART status show any problem with the hard drives prior to them failing completely. However, prior to total failure I experienced system issues similar to yours. Long boot times, lengthy beach ball moments during regular operations, unusual hard drive noises. Its possible your hard drive is on the verge of failure.

    Something to check regarding the sound of constant hard drive operation, bring up Activity Monitor and look for processes that are unexpectedly burdening the system. And before wasting money on more RAM, check Activity Monitor to see if you are even pushing the limits of the 8GB you already have.
     
  19. patseguin thread starter macrumors 65816

    patseguin

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    #19
    I would't want to disable journaling would I?
     
  20. Brian33 macrumors 6502a

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    #20
    No, I don't think you should disable journaling. It's specifically designed to help recover the file system after power outages or hardware failure.

    Also, I believe Time Machine relies on it, if you're using TM to back up. BTW, this is a *real good* time to make sure you have a good backup, preferably of everything, but at least your important files.

    You definitely don't need to buy a higher-spec computer. There's something wrong causing this behavior.

    Given the behavior and especially the sound, my guess is that it's the HDD starting to fail. (Did I already mention backing up?) It could be a runaway process using CPU or memory, but it seems unlikely that it would reoccur so consistently after a reboot.

    Just to be sure, start Activity Monitor.app (in /Applications/Utilities). Click on the CPU heading to sort the processes by CPU usage. If nothing's really running at the time you'll probably see activitymonitord as the top user with some low percentage. That's fine. If you see something using 80% 90% then let us know. At the bottom of the window click on the "System Memory" tab; with 8 GB of memory you should have plenty free -- if the Free number is less than a GB let us know.

    Unfortunately I don't know of a way to diagnose or test the HDD. Maybe run BlackMagic's Disk Speed Test on it -- it should get 80 - 100 MB/sec, I think, if it's working OK.

    What I would do (first) is clone your HDD to an external with Carbon Copy Cloner, and boot from that external drive. My bet is that while in general it runs consistently a little slower (because of the external interface), it won't show the same beachballing/hanging behavior and noise.
     
  21. yjchua95 macrumors 604

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    #21
    The 90MB/s range sounds just about right for a HDD.

    I attached a screenshot showing SSD speeds from my iMac.
     

    Attached Files:

  22. patseguin thread starter macrumors 65816

    patseguin

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    Aug 28, 2003
    #22
    I ran activity monitor and there are no processes taking up any abnormal amount of CPU or disk usage. I'd love to get in there and replace the drive with an SSD and then use an external drive for data. It sounds like a big pain in the butt though. I do have a backup in case anything happens.
     
  23. Brian33 macrumors 6502a

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    #23
    If you want to replace the HDD, I've got some info for you (below). It's really not too difficult -- I did my Early 2008 24" iMac using a guide from ifixit.com and had no problems. I had no experience with electronics repairs, although I'm generally good with tools and I'm a kind of a slow and methodical person, which helps.

    I think I've identified your Mac. From what you've said it should be this one at everymac.com . From there I got the EMC number 2374, and used that to find the available guides at ifixit.com.

    Read through the HDD replacement; it'll tell you what tools you need. Oh, regarding the suction cups: in my experience you don't need "heavy duty" ones. I used a couple of small ones (maybe 1.5" dia.) meant to hang things on windows. The cover glass is thin and quite light and comes off easily.

    I put an SSD in mine and it's great. The only problem I had was the SSD was 2.5" of course, but the 3.5" adapter I had wouldn't work in the iMac (I don't remember why). I ended up just using double-sided foam tape and just stuck the SSD onto the case that way!
     
  24. mhbr macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2015
    #24
    Problem Solved

    Thanks to suggestions here, I was able to fix the problems as posted by OP.

    I am on Yosemite 10.10.2, and was having beach balls every time I scrolled in Finder. Also constantly in Safari, though I haven't been able to fix Safari yet.

    My fix for Finder was to remove everything from Notification Center, including everything in the Today menu. I also removed all Spotlight search locations.

    Now no more beach balls in Finder!
     

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