Mysterious iMac 2013 problem

Discussion in 'iMac' started by komatsu, Feb 9, 2017.

  1. komatsu macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2010
    #1
    iMac 21.5 - Late 2013 - running latest version of Sierra

    Continual beach ball for nearly every application and utility. Very annoying.

    Here is what has been tried:

    DriveDX indicates HDD is healthy

    Performed an re-install of OS Sierra - made no difference. (old data and apps were retained)

    Activity monitor - all processes appear to be normal.

    EtreCheck found system performance was "poor" but did not report anything that stuck out.

    Possible Issues

    HDD Fan speed utility reporting fan speed as "RPM -1". But, no evidence of overheating.

    Over 250GB of data stored on various desktop folders - could this be a problem?

    Really mystified as to the root cause. Your help or any suggestions would be much appreciated.
     
  2. DeltaMac macrumors 604

    DeltaMac

    Joined:
    Jul 30, 2003
    Location:
    Delaware
    #2
    Spinning hard drive?
    Then, not too mysterious.
    Your hard drive may be slowly approaching death. Plus, as you move to newer macOS versions, the system is less and less optimized for a spinning hard drive (and much better on an SSD)
    So, bottom line, consider replacing the hard drive with an SSD.
    As a usable solution - you could get a nice USB 3.0 external case, again with an SSD. Transfer your drive to the SSD, and use that external as your normal boot drive. You would then have a nice (quite noticeable) performance boost, without having to perform surgery just to get a better performing boot drive.
     
  3. komatsu thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2010
    #3
    Thanks DM.

    Is Drive DX accurate?

    I would put an SSD in but the user is "paperless office" fan and hence has almost 700GB of 1TB taken up with PDFs

    Any other solutions or workarounds?
     
  4. DeltaMac macrumors 604

    DeltaMac

    Joined:
    Jul 30, 2003
    Location:
    Delaware
    #4
    "Healthy" is not necessarily the same as "good response compared to a new drive".
    Maybe "Healthy" does not test to verify that read/write response is within factory specs - I don't know.

    There really is no work-around for that kind of hardware issue.

    However, if the drive is nearly full, that can cause real speed issues, despite the fact that the drive tests OK.
    You said there are about 700 GB taken with PDFs....
    How much space is left free on the drive? Your goal is more than 10% of total drive space free, so with 1TB, 100 GB might be the minimum free space.

    Why do you need to restrict an SSD to something smaller than the original drive? 1TB is certainly available in SSDs.
    I realize that larger capacity is more expensive, but that's always been true.
     
  5. Brian Y macrumors 68040

    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2012
    #5
    DriveDX just uses smart I think, there are many pre-cursors to a failure that won't be shown up in a smart test.

    What you're describing is classing failing hard drive. Easy way to test:

    - Boot from the recovery partition - are apps (disk utility, etc) slow to launch from there?
    - Boot from internet recovery - are apps slow to launch from there?

    That will give you an easy way to tell if the hdd is at fault.
     
  6. Fishrrman macrumors G4

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2009
    #6
    OP:

    If you want to solve "the beachball problems", install an externally-mounted SSD and use it as your "external booter".

    You can choose one of the following paths:
    1. USB3 pre-packaged SSD, ready-to-go
    2. "Bare" SATA SSD and USB3 enclosure
    3. Thunderbolt (pre-packaged) SSD

    Something like this would do you fine:
    https://www.amazon.com/SanDisk-Extr...d=1486740650&sr=8-8&keywords=sandisk+ssd&th=1

    I'd recommend the 240gb size (best blend of capacity and $$$).

    Set this up to be your external booter with:
    - OS
    - Applications
    - User folder.... BUT...
    ...leave your LARGE LIBRARIES of stuff on the internal hard drive (such as pics, music, and movies).

    Doing it this way will keep the SSD "lean and clean" so it can run its best.
    You DON'T need "SSD speeds" for storage of the large libraries.

    Some will tell you that you should use thunderbolt instead of USB3.
    My answer is that the speeds will be the same, and that the "lack of TRIM" in USB3 will make no discernible difference at all.

    If you take this advice, you'll be back here posting that this was "the best money I've ever spent on a computer"...
     
  7. komatsu thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2010
    #7
    thanks for this stellar advice.

    I really love the suggestions so far.

    BUT, the end-user is a technological clutz, invariably he would have the boot drive disconnected and then issue another support request. Argh...

    So I want to make the system as fool proof as possible. I just want this to be a Toyota Camry setup - simple, reliable, user-friendly with good performance. Oh and he is the questioning type who invariably will ask where all his space has gone if and SSD is used.
     
  8. nambuccaheadsau macrumors 6502a

    nambuccaheadsau

    Joined:
    Oct 19, 2007
    Location:
    Nambucca Heads Australia
    #8
    --- Post Merged, Feb 10, 2017 ---
    Ohh well abandoned all hope for a Toyota Camry poor guy!

    What precisely does DriveDx say regarding the state of the drive ~ Overall Health, Overall Performance and SSD Lifetime Rating expressed as a per cent. This informationshould be in the Menu Bar.
     
  9. komatsu thread starter macrumors 6502

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    Sep 19, 2010
    #9
    ok from DriveDX

    Overall Health = 94.5%

    The only thing unusual about result is "Overlimit Shock Events - 45"

    Could this be relevant to the problem?
     
  10. nambuccaheadsau macrumors 6502a

    nambuccaheadsau

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    Location:
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    #10
  11. Fishrrman macrumors G4

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2009
    #11
    OP wrote:
    "BUT, the end-user is a technological clutz, invariably he would have the boot drive disconnected and then issue another support request."

    Get a small, self-contained USB3 SSD and "velcro it" to the back of the iMac's stand.
    The user will get the point.

    Again, if you want to solve "the beachball problems", carefully re-read post 6 above...
     
  12. Clix Pix macrumors demi-goddess

    Clix Pix

    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2005
    Location:
    8 miles from the Apple Store at Tysons (VA)
    #12
    I highly recommend Samsung's T3 external SSD series; they come in various capacities and are very small, would neatly tuck behind the computer without any problem at all and work dependably and speedily.

    I noticed the mention of 250 GB stored on various desktop folders...... Yes, that is usually not recommended because it can impede startup and generally slow things down anyway. A lean, mean desktop is best. Why would it be necessary to have all of those folders on the desktop anyway? Also, take a look at the dock: is it crammed full, too? Once again, not a good idea. Just keep things on the dock which are in regular use and folders/files on the desktop which are needed frequently and are active files. For instance, right now I have just three folders on my desktop: two are currently active and one has material in it which I use to sync with my iPhone and iPads. Other folders and files are in their appropriate places: Documents, Pictures, etc.

    Part of the problem, though, yes, is that this IS a 2013 iMac. A friend has one with a spinner 1 TB drive (no fusion drive) and 8 GB RAM; she, too, deals with beachballs frequently. It's frustrating..... I had a 2012 iMac, 1 TB (no fusion drive) with 8 GB RAM and sold it about a year ago because I was becoming very annoyed by how slow it was and also I had been spoiled by the speed of SSD in my rMBP. Your user might want to consider going with a new machine rather than hanging on to the iMac, unless finances are an issue. In that case, as has been mentioned, using an external SSD as the start-up/boot drive will make a big difference right off the bat for less money than buying an entirely new machine.
     
  13. komatsu thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2010
    #13
    Thanks for all the excellent responses guys.

    To err on the side of caution I put in a brand new HGST HDD (another spinner). This was only suitable disk in stock.

    Then a clean install of Sierra - only data.

    Performance still pathetic. Beachballs all over the place.

    (and before anyone claims the hdd was just being indexed - no indexing processes were seen running)

    As an IT administrator, this this stupid Sierra OS had made me look like a right idiot in front of the end-user!

    Now going to go with the SSD + External disk strategy as recommended by Fisherman.

    Thanks Clix Pix for those excellent tips as well.

    (I really think Apple's desktop and laptop computer divisions have taken fallen off a cliff quality-wise. I cannot believe that a company would release an OS that works so poorly on mechanical drives - when mechanical drives are still in widespread use)
     
  14. Clix Pix macrumors demi-goddess

    Clix Pix

    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2005
    Location:
    8 miles from the Apple Store at Tysons (VA)
    #14
    Unfortunately as Apple moves forward into the future with its OS that is more efficient with SSD drives and the current strategy of bringing out new computers with only USB-C ports, yes, it is leaving behind those who are still using and need to use older machines with older hardware and older ports. Not everyone can afford to or wants to run out and buy a brand-new computer every two or three years, and most people still are very dependent upon legacy ports and legacy peripherals that connect to those ports.

    Even as I type, my 2015 15" rMBP is busy with two external drives -- one feeding the other one new material -- both plugged into USB 3 ports on that machine. Later on when I've finished what I'm doing with that, I'll be swapping out cables in order to plug one external drive into my 12" rMB with its lone USB-C port so that I can run a backup on it, remove now-unneeded files and folders from it, and bring it up to date with the files I DO want and need on it. I am not ready for a new rMBP yet, that won't happen for a few more years, and in the meantime I'm also adjusting to the reality and advantages/disadvantages of the one machine in the household which is definitely forward-looking in terms of the kind of port connection it has. I am fortunate that I've been able to afford to participate in both worlds, so to speak, but not everyone can do that and I think that Apple has lost sight of this.
     
  15. komatsu thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2010
    #15
    Do Apple not realise that the opinion formers in the tech market are currently getting extremely peeved
    with Apple and their our-way-or-the-highway innovations like USB-C...All those qualities (such as simplicity, longevity, compatibility) which made the company great are now being degraded.

    A mid-range Dell desktop looks like a very attractive proposition compared to some iMac offerings out there. Easy-to-upgrade - storage and RAM wise, more reliable (if the GPU fails it can be replaced in a few hours) and an OS that works reasonably smoothly with a mechanical drive.
     
  16. nambuccaheadsau macrumors 6502a

    nambuccaheadsau

    Joined:
    Oct 19, 2007
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    Nambucca Heads Australia
    #16
    I believe the day of the platter drives, and even SSDs is rapidly coming to an end.

    The future is Flash Storage and I am surprised you did not go that way komatsu. There are some whispers the anticipated new iMac will not offer Fusion or platter drives as an option.
     
  17. komatsu thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2010
    #17
    I was reluctant because I believe that a storage device should be integrated into a main computing device. Personally, I was not keen on the the idea of a core storage device dangling out of a computer. I just have visions of users pulling them out accidentally and visions of users accidentally letting them fall from their desks...I like the certainty of an internal disk secured to a computer chassis.

    Then you have a user already grumbling about a lack of space telling him that you will put in a new HDD but it will be a quarter of the size of his original!

    But if its the only way to go, its the only way to go!
     
  18. Clix Pix macrumors demi-goddess

    Clix Pix

    Joined:
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    Location:
    8 miles from the Apple Store at Tysons (VA)
    #18
    Can only speak for myself here, but I currently have machines with 512 SSD......and prior to that, I had an iMac with 1 TB capacity in storage. Before I made any decisions about any new purchases (this was over a year ago) I took a good look at what I had on that 1 TB HD and realized that most of it did not need to be at my fingertips, that it could easily and safely be stored somewhere else and just the essential files and folders retained on the computer itself. So I experimented and dumped a lot of stuff off the 1 TB HD on to an external drive and functioned with that for a month or so...... Well, surprise! Did I ever need any of those folders or files? Actually, no. If I did need them, was it a fairly painless process to plug in an external drive and retrieve or look at the folder or file I wanted? Well, interestingly, yes..... So from that bit of testing I decided to go ahead and buy an rMBP with 512 GB SSD and 16 GB RAM. I had already observed how the 2013 rMBP with 250 GB SSD ran circles around my 2012 iMac, so it wasn't a big leap to make the decision to sell the iMac and go with a 15" rMBP with 512 GB SSD and 16 GB RAM...... Did that and I've been more than happy ever since! I think I'm using about 275 GB of the SSD on my 15" rMBP right now; the rest is readily available to me on external SSD drives that I refer to as supplementary drives and also the same stuff is through backups as well. If I have the urge to pull up a folder of photos that I shot in 2014 and process them now, no problem -- just plug in the supplementary SSD, retrieve that file and put it on the computer and stick it into Aperture so that I can work on it. When I'm finished with the images, they'll go to my online gallery and also back to the supplemental drive. There's no real need to take up space on my computer.

    Nothing is "dangling" from my computer right now except the power supply cable; I am using BT mouse and BT external keyboard and BT external trackpad. The printer is wireless, too. The only time I plug anything in is when I'm ready to either do a backup or when I need to retrieve or look at a folder or file that is on the supplementary or backup drives. Backups don't take that long (I do everything manually, I do not use Time Machine) and there is no need to keep any external HD or SSD plugged into the machine full-time. Earlier today I ran two external drives transferring information between themselves and when they were done I unplugged them from the computer and stored them away, as always.

    No idea of how spacious or what kind of desktop or work surface your user(s) might have, but I think many people (especially in an office environment) are pretty careful about what they've got on their desk, and that they're not going to be knocking things around to the point where either the computer or an external drive goes crashing to the floor. I have two external drives which require power sources and which sit on the desktop all of the time. Other, portable, bus-driven external drives I stash in a cabinet until I need to use them. I bring them out, plug them into the computer, do what is needed, then unplug them and return them to the cabinet. If I'm traveling, a couple of them go with me on the trip, too.

    I quite agree that probably the next iMacs will come with just SSD -- in fact, I was very surprised and disappointed last year when that was not the case and when Apple again trotted out the tired old 5400rpm spinner drives and 8 GB RAM as the default. I thought, "HUH?" That's one reason in December I went with the 2015 rMBP, which offered exactly what I wanted while the new iMac Apple was flaunting still seemed to be stuck back in 2012 even though it was now sporting a shiny new retina screen. I've never been sorry for the decision I made a year ago.

    Seriously either you or your client(s) take a look at what exactly IS being stashed away on the current HD and see if a lot of it couldn't just as well be moved to an external drive.....I'll bet more than half of it could be!
     
  19. komatsu thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2010
    #19
    I know where you're coming from!


    my dialogue with user went a little bit like this:

    me: ok, we need to cut down the amount of files that are choking your Mac, so what files do you access most frequently?
    user: all of them
    me: well we need to categorize your files
    user: well, I can't because I don't know what is in half of them folders.

    Get the idea....

    BTW, they are super-size PDF files.
     
  20. Clix Pix macrumors demi-goddess

    Clix Pix

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    8 miles from the Apple Store at Tysons (VA)
  21. komatsu thread starter macrumors 6502

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    Sep 19, 2010
    #21
    Case Status: SOLVED!

    New mechanical drive did not work.

    Clean install did not work.

    Only thing that worked was an SSD. (installed a 500GB Samsung Evo)

    System now running like a new machine.

    Conclusion:

    Apple have brought out an operating system that is not fit for purpose when used with a spinning hard disk. Future forward thinking - maybe but Sierra should come some sort of a warning before install.

    Comment:

    Irresponsible of Apple to push out an OS that is so incompatible with a spinning disk. Imagine Goodyear or Continental bringing out a tyre that only worked well only on certain type of "new" motorway but would be slipping all over the place on "older roads". They would never get away with it. But Apple are now such a state of hubris, I don't think they really care.

    Acknowledgements:

    DeltaMac
    Brian
    Fisherrman
    nambuccaheadsau
    ClixPix

    Thanks for the concise and accurate advice that worked!
     
  22. cynics macrumors G4

    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2012
    #22
    It still would be a good idea to watch activity monitor even with an SSD.

    Beachball is indicating the process events are getting backed up and/or not responding (usually occurs a couple seconds after you try doing something), this doesn't just represent a slow storage device but can also indicate a CPU, RAM, lack of storage for swap, etc bottleneck.

    Forcing through the processes can be considered a band-aid solution, meaning the problem still exist but you just can't notice it anymore. Although if the problem appears gone it does seem the bottleneck was storage (not sure if you checked but a HDD entering standby can do this, which wouldn't be represented with an SSD).

    Slow storage alone is represented by an app bouncing for an obnoxiously long time before opening in the dock. I don't get beachballs on my 2013 iMac with HDD, however my 2015 with 512gb SSD is beachball city, SMC reset helps temporarily. I haven't investigated too much into because I plan on wiping it when I get time.

    Anyway I'm glad your problem is fixed, just a suggestion to see if you can get even more performance out of system.
     
  23. nambuccaheadsau macrumors 6502a

    nambuccaheadsau

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    Oct 19, 2007
    Location:
    Nambucca Heads Australia
    #23
    Flash storage does not dangle outside. Fits neatly into the PCI-E slots and blade drives are pretty readily available, if a little dear.
     
  24. komatsu thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2010
    #24
    User now reports that the 250GB of data which was previously on his desktop has come back.

    This is proving to be the iMac from Hell.

    How did this data come back? Is this iCloud at work?
     
  25. DeltaMac macrumors 604

    DeltaMac

    Joined:
    Jul 30, 2003
    Location:
    Delaware
    #25
    I imagine that 250GB of data on the desktop is all the ginormous PDFs that you mentioned a few posts back?
    That would be part of your customers stuff.

    Obviously you replaced the hard drive. The data (with that big folder of stuff on the desktop) would be restored from backup. If the customer was using iCloud, then that's pretty much it.
    And, Sierra allows all those files to be kept on iCloud (and not actually taking up space on the local storage) through the use of storage management.
    The result (I think) is that you (and the all-important user) sees the files, and can use them when needed. But, they are all on iCloud, and not taking up space on the local drive at all.
     

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