The Spinning Color Wheel: Speeding Up your Mac

You see that spinning color wheel? People call it the Spinning Beach Ball of Death, or the Rainbow Wheel. Wikipedia calls it the Spinning Pinwheel, and the official name for it is the Spinning Wait Cursor. Either way, if you’ve got a slow Mac, you’ll be seeing that beach ball quite a bit — and you don’t even get a suntan to go with it.

The Spinning Beach Ball of Death: Speeding Up your Mac
The Spinning Beach Ball of Death.

There are a lot of easy ways to speed up your Mac so that you see that spinning wheel less often, and you can get to where you need to go on your Mac faster.

Reduce Login Items

Login Items are called Startup Items on PCs, and they mean the same thing: apps that launch when your computer starts up, and stay in memory the entire time. Odds are you don’t need that many login items. Here’s how to reduce that number.

  1. Click the Apple icon
  2. Click System Preferences…
    Click Users and Groups
    Click the Login Items tab for the current user
    Click the Lock icon to make changes, enter your password, and click Unlock

  3. Under the Hide column, select an item to remove from startup.
  4. If you’d like, click the Lock icon again to prevent any further changes without a password.

The Spinning Beach Ball of Death: Speeding Up your Mac
Select an item to exclude from startup.

Repair your Drive

Sometimes a hard drive or solid state drive will become damaged on your Mac, and cause a lot of slowdown issues as a result. While there’s little to be done if a drive crashes completely, if there are just a few errors, then verifying the drive is a good idea.

To verify a hard drive or solid state drive:

  1. Click the Launchpad
  2. Click Other
  3. Click Disk Utility
  4. Select your current hard drive. It will usually be named Macintosh HD.
  5. Click Verify Disk. If any errors are found, you’ll be able to click Repair Disk to fix them.

The Spinning Beach Ball of Death: Speeding Up your Mac
Click Verify Disk to scan your drive for errors.

Click Verify Disk to scan your drive for errors.

Repair Disk Permissions

When many apps are installed, permissions can get out of order, causing a lot of slowdown and operating system delay. It’s a good idea to repair disk permissions on an infrequent basis, which clears up this issue.

To repair disk permissions:

  1. Click the Launchpad
  2. Click Other
  3. Click Disk Utility
  4. Select your current hard drive. It will usually be named Macintosh HD.
  5. Click Verify Disk Permissions.
  6. If any errors are found, click Repair Disk Permissions.

Close Open Apps

Some apps take up more memory and CPU than others. It’s a good idea to close apps when you’re not using them. Instead of the yellow (minimize) icon, click the red (close) icon in the upper left corner to remove it. Web browsers and iTunes are often culprits for memory hogs. Too many tabs open in a web browser can also cause this issue.

Update your OS

Newer versions of OS X are designed to use less memory and CPU, and to use both more efficiently. Newer Macs especially benefit from the very latest version.

To check and see if a newer OS is available on Snow Leopard (OS X 10.6.6) or newer:

  1. Click the Apple button
  2. Click Software Update…
  3. This will taken you into the Mac App Store.
  4. Update to the latest OS from here.

If you don’t have the App Store installed, you’re several versions behind. You’ll need to first upgrade to Snow Leopard via CD, then Mountain Lion from the App Store.

Even if the OS is up to date, it’s a good idea to update the software you have installed, as this can often clear up memory issues.

The Spinning Beach Ball of Death: Speeding Up your Mac
Update all Mac software to the latest version.

Perform these steps one by one, and you’ll definitely have a speedier Mac without having to upgrade. Good thing, too — Macs are a real pain to upgrade yourself. Good luck!


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  • Al

    This approach to fixing the spinning pinwheel is a bunch of baloney!!!

  • Liesl Obrecht

    Why? I have a new macbook pro retina with eight gb, have had it a week, and experienced the spinning wheel yesterday. I was editing photos at the time.

  • Kathie McCloskey Decker

    didn’t do anything

  • mac is rubbish

    my mac crap has 16gb 500gb ssd and has beachball of death unlocking the thing. mac is horrible

  • jinx

    I did everything it said, and for a while I still had the wait icon. S0, I did what any former PC user would’ve done. I just forced quit, and then reopen the application and that got rid of the wait icon.

  • WTF?

    This is a stupid website that created this postr in order for you to click that stupid MacReviver link so they can make money..

  • shilohsboots

    I love my mac, and would never go back to windows. I had quite a few permissions probs. Mine is kind of old…..send me yours, if you don’t want it!

  • Jason Chester

    None of these worked.

  • ED Justice

    Did all of these and still got SBD on 2015 MBA…finally clicked off under security WebGL…seems to work for now…5 days and counting no more SBD.

  • chinagirl7

    I only see that beach ball when I come to a slow web site online, or one that is running a script, however after leaving the sight it remains. I get rid of it by emptying my Internet cache, then restarting my Mac.

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