Spinning Beachball - software/hardware issue?

Discussion in 'OS X Mavericks (10.9)' started by hod, Sep 2, 2014.

  1. hod, Sep 2, 2014
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2014

    hod macrumors newbie

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    #1
    I have a 2012 MBP non retina. Approx 18 months old.
    4GB RAM, 500 GB hard disk.
    OS 10.9.4

    It is mainly used for email, web browsing and holding iphoto/itunes libraries, and occasional Skype/facetime. So no unusual applications or heavy use.

    For reasons unknown, it has all of a sudden started running very slowly, taking forever to be able to carry out the smallest task (opening an application, an email, web page, any file, even to select a drop down menu in the finder). This results in the spinning beach ball every time while I wait an eternity.

    I have restored the entire disk from a backup from approx 2 weeks prior, when everything was running well. I've cleared caches, reset PRAM etc etc. Is there something I'm missing here or is it a hardware problem?

    I think the memory usage is excessive, over 3 GB in use with no applications launched.
     
  2. Weaselboy Moderator

    Weaselboy

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    #2
    What you are describing is exactly the symptoms of a hard drive dying.

    Try a command-r boot to recovery and do a repair disk on the drive. Does that show any errors?
     
  3. iBook_Clamshell, Sep 2, 2014
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2014

    iBook_Clamshell macrumors member

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    #3
    3/4 of your RAM in use without running any applications? You need to upgrade to at least 8gb of RAM! (I was going to ask if your hard drive is constantly clicking/reading(that would mean your RAM is full and it has to go all the way to the HD to get stuff), but then I remembered you probably have an SSD, which doesn't make any noise!)

    EDIT: system requirements for OS X 10.9 say at least 2GB of RAM.
     
  4. Weaselboy Moderator

    Weaselboy

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    #4
    OP is on Mavericks and there is nothing wrong with it using 3GB out of 4GB of installed RAM. Adding more RAM is not going to fix this.
     
  5. Fishrrman macrumors G4

    Fishrrman

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    #5
    I am posting to counter Weaselboy's assertion above that the spinning beach ball in Mavericks automatically means that "the hard drive is dying".

    This IS NOT the case.

    In my experience (which I will openly admit is relatively limited, insofar as Mavericks is concerned), Mavericks can be excruciatingly slow when booting and running from a platter/based hard drive.

    Even opening something as simple as System Preferences from the dock will result in the beachball, taking numerous seconds before the app is ready to go in front of you.

    Let me give an example -- my own.
    My Mavericks "test bed" is an external firewire400-based drive -- actually, a pretty OLD one. Granted, it may not be "fast", but it would boot and run previous OS's without the problems I see -after- installing Mavericks.

    When Mavericks came out, I was eager to try it out. But I always "test the new OS" on an external drive before I leap into it. Thus, the install on the drive I use as a test bed.

    From the beginning, Mavericks has been dog-slow. Boots slow (probably a lot of that is after the kernel loads, just getting to the Finder), and while apps may run well enough AFTER they are launched and running, it's GETTING THEM RUNNING that makes the beachballs spin. You could almost go out for coffee waiting.

    At first I thought I could be having memory problems (as in, "not enough"). But checking the activity monitor didn't seem to indicate that. In any case, I "upped" the RAM in the late-2012 i7 Mac Mini I use from 4gb to 10gb.

    This didn't change things hardly at all. The beachballs keep rolling on.

    I'm far from the only user who has reported this here. I've seen numerous posts here, and posts on other forums as well -- notably Ric Ford's great site, "macintouch.com" (even Ric was complaining about the issue).

    This is not something that can be explained away by simply saying, "you're drive is dying".

    What I'm thinking -- and I'm NOT a programmer or technical engineer -- is that with Mavericks, Apple has completely changed how the Mac OS -handles- memory.

    Previously, wasn't RAM "loaded [by the OS] as needed", and then "freed" when no longer needed?
    If I'm not mistaken (others please correct me), Mavericks "loads up ALL RAM" at bootup, and then somehow juggles it around all the time, compressing/decompressing when the OS thinks its necessary. Once Mavericks is up, the RAM is never "released".

    Apparently, this entirely new memory management paradigm works great on machines having SSD's, but doesn't work so smoothly on older machines that still use platter-based hard drives (unless they happen to be very fast ones).

    That's understandable. I sense that the Mavericks OS was "brewed up" by Apple's software designers using high-end Macs, all with SSDs. I doubt they ever saw any drive-related slowdowns because they didn't have any slow drives in the developmental process in the first place.

    Well, ok -- guess we'll have to live with that.
    Looks like the reality is, if you want Mavericks and want it to run well, you need an SSD.

    Don't have an SSD?
    You can still use Mavericks, of course -- but don't expect it to run anywhere near where it's capable of running. Instead, expect a lot of delays, beachballs, etc.
    But -- it will still run...

    With Mavericks, a slow HDD doesn't necessarily mean a "dying drive".
    With Mavericks, it's probably the OS...
     
  6. Weaselboy Moderator

    Weaselboy

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    #6
    You have no idea what you are talking about. OP's machine was working fine and now all of a sudden it is not. So you are asking us to believe Mavericks worked fine all these months on his machine then just spontaneously decided not to work any longer?

    I get that you did not like Mavericks (on an external hard drive over FW400), but polluting these threads with your baseless speculation is not helping folks troubleshoot their broken Macs.

    Myself and many other here have installed Mavericks on 5400RPM hard drive machine much older than the OPs and it works fine.
     
  7. hod thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #7
    Weaselboy, thanks for your (and others) very prompt reply. Repair disk showed no errors. It was my intention to run it again after reinstalling the os, however the install appears to have stalled right at the end. As in for hours it has been saying there is 7, 8 or 9 minutes left.

    If I'd installed mavericks last week and the problem had just occurred then I wouldn't have had to resort to the knowledge base here, that would clearly have been the problem, in whatever form. It's the lack of any link to new software or anything being done different that has me confused. I'm no expert here, just following logical steps and guidance.

    Is there any further info I could provide that would assist any possible diagnosis? Will powering off with the re install of osx stalled cause even more problems?

    The machine is still under john lewis 3 year warranty, I only purchased it from them for the warranty.
     
  8. Weaselboy Moderator

    Weaselboy

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    #8
    You can have a bad disk and still not show anything in Disk Util. It really does sound exactly like a dying drive. Much less common, but a bad drive cable can also cause this.

    Unfortunately, the only way to tell for sure is to either replace the drive or boot to an external drive to eliminate the existing drive from the equation.

    You might also try running the Apple Hardware Test to see if that shows anything.
     
  9. hod thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #9
    Disk utility again showed nothing amiss, as did a full check with apple hardware test. Osx reinstalled eventually but has had no effect.

    I have a time machine back up on a sea gate hdd, I booted (I think - would this work, it let me select it as the start up volume) from that but all just as slow.
     
  10. iBook_Clamshell macrumors member

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    #10
    Obviously, if it is using 3gb of RAM when no programs are running, if he tries to run an application that needs more than 1gb of RAM, it's going to be very slow, as the computer has to go all the way to the hard drive to get the data it needs(which takes seconds) instead of going to the RAM(which takes milliseconds).
    He could be right. The hard drive is the other bottleneck of speed on a computer.
     
  11. Weaselboy Moderator

    Weaselboy

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    #11
    I meant a disk with an OS X install on it. A TM backup disk isn't really going to show you anything.

    I understand how RAM works, but 4GB of RAM does not result in the symptoms OP is describing. The part everybody seems to be missing here is OP's Mac worked perfectly fine with Mavericks and 4GB RAM and a hard drive for months, and now it is not. So this to me makes it obvious either some app/utility was installed causing a conflict or there is a hardware failure here.

    Explain why OP's Mac worked fine for months on a hard drive with Mavericks and now it does not?
     
  12. yjchua95 macrumors 604

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    #12
    500GB hard disk.

    That's your problem.

    Go get yourself an SSD.
     
  13. hod thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #13

    Doesn't really explain why my mbp has gone from an acceptable speed to un-useable literally over night.

    I would happily buy a ssd but I think I'm going to have to return the mbp (still under shop guarentee) first for their opinion - I don't want to shell out for a ssd then find out the problem is something else, and I'm stuck with a ssd for a laptop that doesn't work.
     
  14. Fishrrman macrumors G4

    Fishrrman

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    #14
    Interesting comment over at Macintouch.com today:
    =====
    David Dvore

    Mavericks does seem to be optimized for SSD's. The slow performance (especially booting) after upgrading a machine with an HD seems to be due to latency overhead for much more extensive caching or accessing of small system files. A previous contributor on June 16 pointed out that using Chameleon to enable "NOATIME" cuts that overhead down by telling the drive to not log when each file was last accessed. This seems to cut down boot time and app launch times by quite a bit. Give it a try. The only downside is that you can't see or sort files by last access time. This improved performance on a mid-2007 iMac to an acceptable level. Upgrading to an SSD would be difficult on that machine.

    For those of you who have MacBook Pros or other machines that you can reasonably change the hard drive, if you don't need large capacity and don't want to spring for an SSD, Seagate SSHD hybrid drives approach the speed of SSD's while allowing lots of storage at a reasonable price.
    =====
    http://www.macintouch.com/readerreports/mavericks/index.html#d05sep2014
     
  15. hod thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #15

    Whilst interesting, it's not particularly relevant. Booting is slow, as is app launch, but it's the really long delays with almost every mouse click that make the machine almost unusable.
     
  16. Fishrrman macrumors G4

    Fishrrman

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    #16
  17. hod thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #17

    I'm not disagreeing that there are issues as you describe, but the slow speeds I am currently experiencing on a model that is still current are beyond that. I erased the hard disk and did a fresh install of osx. Still excruciatingly slow and the hard disk icon has vanished... It's going back under store warranty tomorrow.
     
  18. Weaselboy Moderator

    Weaselboy

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    #18
    Good luck. Let us know how you make out. :)
     
  19. hod thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #19
    Weaselboy, you were bang on the cash with the hard disk failure. Hard disk was replaced by john lewis under their free extended warranty, mbp now running a dream. So much faster than previously that I've postponed any ssd upgrade for now.

    Thanks again for you help.
     
  20. Weaselboy Moderator

    Weaselboy

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    #20
    Very good. Glad you are all fixed up. :)
     
  21. Hankmac macrumors member

    Hankmac

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    #21
    This sounds like a serious flaw in the disk utility or whatever diagnostic was used. Has the gov't taken over computer diagnostics?
     

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