A frozen Mac in the middle of work is a clear sign that you’re having a bad day, and as the clock ticks down, you’re left with a Mac that’s all sizzle and no steak. The situation worsens and requires your urgent attention if you often find yourself with a frozen Mac in front of you.

unfreeze frozen mac

Whether the cursor is stuck, the apps have stopped responding, or the Mac is just lame, there are a number of ways to unfreeze a frozen Mac back up and running and prevent it from happening more often. Read on to get your Mac working like it used to.

Ways to Fix a Frozen Mac

Close Unresponsive Apps

If your Mac is stuck because of an unresponsive app, a better solution is to close it and reboot instead. There are several ways to close an application, the most obvious being to close it from the menu bar and the dock. If your cursor doesn’t work, you can close the application by pressing Command(⌘) + Q.

close app from menu bar

close app from dock

Force Quit Unresponsive Apps and Close All Others

If an app cannot be terminated using the above methods, you can try to force terminate it. To do so, type the key combination Command(⌘) + esc + option(⌥). To be safer, close all other apps and let the system free itself. If none of the methods work, check out 5 Easy Ways to Force Quit Mac Apps.

Force Quit Heavy Apps Using Activity Monitor

Not only buggy apps, but also heavy apps, such as browsers with multiple tabs open, can cause your Mac to freeze occasionally. Activity Monitor displays your Mac’s active applications and usage statistics in real time, so you can identify and quit the ones you need to.

activity monitor

Let Your Mac Be Its Own Doctor

Sometimes the best thing to do is to leave your Mac as it is and let it fix itself. If the problem is caused by a buggy app, leaving your Mac idle for a minute or two while you get a coffee should fix it in most cases.

Restart Your Mac

It’s recommended to reboot if the problem persists. You can do this by clicking on the Apple logo() in the upper left corner > Restart. If your cursor stops responding, press the power button for 10 seconds to force shut down your Mac.

Alternatively, you can use the Control(∧) + Option (⌥) + Command(⌘) + Power key combination to properly close apps before shutting down. If you don’t press the Option(⌥) key in the previous key combination, the Mac will shut down without closing the apps properly.

Update Apps to Their Latest Versions

If an app is not behaving properly or is buggy and often causes your Mac to freeze, try updating it to the latest version and see if the problem is fixed. Regardless, it’s a good practice to keep all apps updated to enjoy a stable experience.

update apps

Uninstall Faulty Apps and Extensions

It’s possible that a buggy app caused your Mac to freeze, so you should get rid of that app to solve the problem. If your Mac froze after installing a certain app or browser extension, you should get rid of that app as soon as possible.

Plug in Your Mac

macOS turns on power saving mode to conserve battery power as soon as your Mac’s battery drops below 20%. This also limits background tasks and processing power, which can cause your Mac to freeze. Plugging your Mac into a power outlet should fix the problem.

Disconnect External Accessories

External accessories, such as USB flash drives, hard drives, or portable SSDs, can sometimes contain corrupted files, corrupted applications, or malware that can cause your Mac to freeze and not function properly. Try removing the external accessory and see if the problem persists.

Update macOS

If your Mac is running an older macOS version, you should update it. Newer macOS versions offer bug fixes and stability improvements that may solve your problem.

update macos

Downgrade to a Stable Version of macOS

If your Mac is running on a Developer Preview of a macOS version that hasn’t been released yet, there’s a good chance that the build you’re running isn’t stable. To prevent your Mac from freezing again, you should downgrade to a stable macOS version.

Restart Using Safe Boot

Restarting your Mac in Safe Mode is like driving your car on a test track to look for bugs. Safe mode turns off all unnecessary programs and performs a complete reboot. Before you start, check if your Mac has an Apple silicon SoC (M1/M2) or an Intel-based processor by clicking on the Apple logo () > About This Mac > Chip. How to restart your Mac in safe mode –

For Intel-based Macs

  1. Shut down your Mac and wait for 10 seconds.
  2. Click the power button and immediately hold down the shift key.
  3. Keep holding the key until you see the login screen.
  4. Safe Boot should now appear in the top-right corner of your Mac. (You may have to log in multiple times)
    safe boot

For Apple Silicon (M1/M2) Macs

  1. Shut down your Mac and wait for 10 seconds.
  2. Press and hold the power button until you see the Apple logo() and the message – Loading startup options.
    loading startup options
  3. In the options, locate your Mac’s storage drive.
    choose your mac's ssd
  4. Hold down the Shift key and select your Mac’s SSD.
    continue in safe mode
  5. Click Continue to enter safe mode.
  6. You should now be able to see Safe Boot in the upper right corner.
    safe boot

However, if the problem persists even in Safe Mode, you’ll need to reinstall macOS. Restart your Mac by clicking on the Apple logo () in the upper left corner > Restart to exit Safe Mode.

restart to exit safe mode

Let Your Mac Drain Out

If nothing helps, leave your Mac untouched and let it discharge completely. Then charge your Mac to the brim, perform a fresh start, and hope for the best.

How Not to End Up With a Frozen Mac Frequently

Back Your Mac Up

Before you find yourself with a frozen Mac again, please make sure your Mac is fully backed up. Thanks to Time Machine – an effortless backup mechanism developed by Apple and included with all Macs – it’s a snap to perform a system backup.

Free Up Storage Space

A filled storage drive is prone to several problems, most notably system slowdown and the occasional freeze. Freeing up space not only puts your Mac at risk of freezing again, but it can also improve your system’s overall responsiveness.

Perform a System Scan

Essential Mac Cleaner Apps like MacKeeper, CleanMyMac X, and Cleaner One Pro have system scanners that thoroughly examine everything on your Mac and create a detailed analysis. Most cleaner apps also identify the buggy apps so you can quickly kill or delete them.

mackeeper and cleanmymac x - unfreeze frozen mac

Scan For Viruses and Malware

Don’t quit the cleaner apps just yet, because the built-in virus and malware scanners are sometimes very useful to determine exactly whether it’s a malware program or a computer virus.

Check Your Mac’s Disk Health

To make sure that a hard drive is not the cause of your frozen Mac, check the state of your Mac’s hard drive with the following steps.

  1. Open Disk Utility.
    disk utility
  2. Click View and select Show All Devices if available.
    view all devices in disk utlity
  3. On the left, you will see your Mac’s hard drives and their respective containers and volumes.
  4. Select the disk you want to check.
  5. Click the About button () in the upper right corner.
    info button

If you get a message that the disk has a serious hardware error, the disk cannot be saved any further. The only way out is to format the disk or replace it completely.

disk info

Reset System Management Controller (Intel-based Macs Only)

Intel-based Macs have a special circuit called SMC (System Management Controller) that is responsible for setting fan speed, power management, and more. If the SMC is causing the problem, resetting it should help resolve the issue. To reset your SMC –

  1. Shut down your Mac and disconnect all external accessories.
  2. Plug in your Mac.
  3. Hold down the power button along with the Shift + Control(∧) + (Option(⌥) keys for 10 seconds.
  4. Release the keys as soon as your Mac turns on.

Reset Non-Volatile RAM (NVRAM)

Resetting NVRAM can prevent your Mac from freezing, so it can’t hurt to try it. M1/M2 Macs reset NVRAM automatically on a regular basis, so you don’t have to do anything to fix that.

For Intel-based Macs:

  1. Restart your Mac.
  2. While it’s turning on, press and hold the command(⌘) + option (⌥) + P + R keys for about 20 seconds.
  3. Release the keys after you hear the startup chime twice or see the Apple bootup logo () for the second time.

Run Apple Diagnostics

Mac Disk Utility has another ace up its sleeve: the First Aid Tool. Follow the steps below to launch the First Aid Tool.

For M1/M2 Macs

  1. Shut down your Mac.
  2. Press and Hold the power button until you see “Loading startup options.”
    loading startup options
  3. Select Options and then Continue.
    select options

For Intel-based Macs

  1. Shut down your Mac.
  2. Turn on your Mac and press Command (⌘) + R keys until you see the Apple logo () or an image.

Moving forward, you may be prompted to sign in with your administrator account.
login using administrator account

  1. Once logged in, select Utilities > Disk Utility and click on Continue.
    select disk utility
  2. Select your disk from the Disk Utility window.
    open your disk from disk utility
  3. Click on View and select Show All Devices (if available) from the dropdown menu.
    show all files in disk utility
  4. On the left, you’ll see your Mac’s hard drives and their respective containers and volumes.
  5. Select the disks you want to clean up and click First Aid at the top of the menu. Click Run.
    run first aid on affected volume

Remember that you can only use the First Aid tool to repair in the following ways: Volumes > Containers > Disks. For more information, see Apple’s guide on How to repair a Mac disk with Disk Utility.

Reset Your Mac

The last resort is to reset your Mac to fix any software-related issues, but that comes at the high price of losing your data because the system will be completely wiped. Again, it’s essential to back up your Mac before proceeding.

Take Your Mac to the Service Center

Don’t lose hope; take your Mac to an Apple Service Center near you and let the genius bar experts diagnose the problem. If your Mac is beyond repair, you can also get a brand new unit as a free replacement, provided your Mac is under warranty or covered by Apple Care+.

Unfreeze Your Frozen Mac Effortlessly

Frozen Macs can be tackled easily, and the most simple yet straightforward methods are the obvious ones – clearing system storage, quitting resource-heavy apps, and running a few scans. Advanced solutions, like Disk Utility software and running Apple diagnostics, are for rare scenarios, but we have you covered either way.

FAQs about Unfreezing Frozen Mac

1. Why does my Mac freeze frequently?

There can be many reasons for this, but the main one is a crammed memory. If you’re using an older Mac with little memory, that could be the reason your Mac freezes more often than usual. But not only that, running large apps in the background, using outdated apps with bugs and errors, and connecting faulty external storage devices can also contribute to the problem.

2. How do I identify and quit demanding apps?

Activity Monitor has you covered. You can quickly identify the apps that are draining your CPU or battery and stop them immediately. See this article for more ways to quit Mac apps.

3. Can external devices cause my Mac to freeze?

Yes, external devices can cause Mac to freeze. If the external device is corrupted or contains malware, it may very well cause your Mac to freeze. Formatting will erase everything that is there, and after that the external devices are safe to use. Don’t forget to transfer the files to a safe place before formatting.

4. What does Disk Utility software do?

Disk Utility is present by default on all Macs and helps you check your Mac’s hard drives for malfunctions. With Disk Utility, you can format disks, create partitions, perform detailed analysis of disk contents, and even repair faulty disks with the First Aid tool.

5. How to restart my Mac in safe mode?

If you have an Intel-based Mac, you can enter Safe Mode by turning on your Mac and long-pressing the Shift key. For Apple silicon-based Macs, turn on your Mac by holding down the power button until you see “Load Startup Options” Restart your Mac in Safe Mode to exit.

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