What to do when your Mac freezes?


When your Mac Freezes, it means you cannot use the mouse or keyboard to interact with the computer. This article will explain how to shut down or restart your Mac so that you can resume working on whatever task was interrupted.

Sometimes powering down your Mac can solve problems, but if your Mac is frozen with a gray screen that won’t go away no matter what you do, then restarting should be your next move. First things first: never force a shut down when you see a gray screen. If none of these steps work, don’t try forcing a shut down any longer—always let it run out on its own. Two common methods of restarting are powering it down with the power button or by holding the alt/option on your Mac keyboard and then selecting the shutdown arrow that appears in the top right corner of your screen. Restarting will not affect any unsaved documents unless you have changed this preference. If you have not changed this preference, then when you log back into OS X Mavericks, all windows and applications will be exactly where you left them before shutting down (including full-screen video apps like Netflix).

Before taking any action, be aware that there are two different possibilities for why your Mac might freeze:

1) A Program is frozen.

2) The “System” has locked up

If a program is frozen, then simply closing the window of that application should allow you to resume working. If the System has locked up, however, it will not matter which applications you have open and your only option is resetting and restoring from an earlier Time Machine backup (Option 1) or force restarting your Mac.

To force restart, hold the power button down until the screen goes dark and then turn it on again. If that doesn’t work you can try holding down “Command + Option/ALT + Power” until the computer restarts. That should definitely restore things back to normal, but if it doesn’t here are some more options for what you can do next:

Option 1) Take a look through /Library/Preferences/ or ~/Library/Preferences for files or folders with names ending in “.plist”. Delete them all if they are not important to you (For example if they are preference settings for third-party applications, configuration files of your own making). Once this is done reboot and check to see if the problem is gone.

Option 2) If you’re comfortable entering a few commands in your computer’s Terminal, type in “fsck -yf” and hit enter. This command tells your system to perform a disk check. You can also choose to run a repair on the file system itself by typing in “/sbin/fsck_hfs -fy /dev/disk0s1”. (Note: you should only need to use these commands if option 1 doesn’t work or if you are sure that nothing important was damaged.)

Option 3) If you can boot into safe mode or single user mode, this is often an indicator that something serious was damaged. In order to run the checks and repair disk permission (and hopefully resolve whatever problem might be there), type in “fsck -fy” into the command line; then reboot. This won’t fix everything but it’s a start, especially if your system can boot into one of these modes.

Option 4) Resetting the PRAM/NVRAM can also help with any problem that causes a freeze or crash, be it software-related or hardware-related. To reset your NVRAM: shut down your Mac and wait 30 seconds; then start it up and immediately press and hold the Command (⌘)-Option-P-R keys altogether until your Mac reboots again and you hear the startup sound twice. You can read more here.

When this is done, go back to “About This Mac” under the Apple menu and notice whether your version of OS X is still listed as the correct one. If it shows a different operating system, or if your computer does not start up correctly, you should shut down your Mac again and start from Step 1.


Resetting PRAM/NVRAM can also fix problems where the screen resolution gets locked at a low resolution after a restart. It can also help with problems involving Bluetooth connectivity, AirPort devices (AirPort Base stations only), and internal speakers not working properly.

Option 5) Finally, if none of these options resolve your issue (even after trying all variations above), it’s likely that there is a hardware issue with your Mac.

Remember: never force a shut down when you see a gray screen. If none of these steps work, don’t try forcing a shut down any longer—always let it run out on its own or risk causing filesystem damage!

If the above tricks do not work for you, try restarting while holding down cmd-opt-shift-Escape to force quit all windows and reboot (this is good for advanced users who want to save their open windows before rebooting, but bad for novice users who may not know how to properly close applications on mac).

If restarting your Mac does not work, either because of an application error (which should always be the first thing you try when your mac freezes) or a system software error (which should be the second thing you attempt if restarting fails), then re-connect to your wireless network and restart in safe mode. Safe mode restarts OS X without loading any 3rd party drivers or pre-opened applications (for more information read: How to reboot in safe mode on a Mac ). If this fails, boot in verbose mode by holding down cmd-v while rebooting. Verbose mode will display all application messages during the boot process. This may help you determine the cause of the problem. If it is a software issue, this will most likely give you information on how to fix it or at least narrow down your troubleshooting.

If rebooting in safe mode and/or in verbose mode fails, try booting without extensions. Extensions are additional kernel extensions that can be added by 3rd party applications (for more information read: What are Kernel Extensions on OS X ). Boot without them to see if they are causing problems. If these fixes fail, attempt to reinstall your operating system (refer to How to install OS X on a Mac for assistance with this process).

If all else fails, make an appointment with a specialist who does Apple mac repair in Melbourne. Be sure to back up your data or ask the technician to do so.

I am a computer engineer holding a bachelor's degree in Computer Science, complemented by a Master's in Business Administration from University of Strathclyde, Scotland. I currently work as a Senior IT Consultant in Melbourne, Australia. With over 15 years of...