OSX: Troubleshooting Tips: Computer Crisis

Please note: This support document is intended for all-staff use to provide troubleshooting tips that may help resolve computer issues experienced during general usage (i.e., issue is not a startup-, software- or device-related issue). Tips require administrative login.

I have a colored spinning disc that won't go away

When your arrow turns into a colorful spinning disc, Mac is hard at work on a processor-intensive task. This is generally normal behavior—your Mac may be rendering or calculating something, or even spinning up the hard drive after being awakened from sleep. Depending on what task is taking place and how many applications you currently have open, you should see your normal arrow return in a few seconds.

However, if the disc continues to spin and won't go away for several minutes, try the following:

  1. Force Quit a particular application (or relaunch the Finder) by simultaneously pressing the Apple-Option-Escape (Esc) keys. Please note that you will lose any unsaved changes in the affected application.
  2. In the resulting Force Quit window, select the affected application (or relaunch the Finder, if that's where the spinning disc occurs). Click Force Quit.

If your Mac constantly displays the spinning disc cursor, try restarting the computer to see if that helps. If not, try using the application Disk Utility to repair disk permissions as follows:

  1. Navigate to the application Disk Utility located in the Applications/Utilities folder, and double-click the icon to launch the application
  2. Select your computer's hard disk volume from the left pane, and then click the First Aid tab.  Click Repair Disk Permissions.
  3. When the repair is complete, restart your Mac from the Apple menu.

My Mac stopped responding (a.k.a., "crashed" or is "frozen")

If your Mac does not respond to clicking, typing, or mouse movements, try these steps to get back on track. Please note that you will lose any unsaved changes in all open applications.

  1. Try quitting applications by pressing Apple-Q to see if that jump-starts your Mac.
  2. If that doesn't work, see if you can Force Quit applications by pressing Apple-Option-Escape (Esc) keys, selecting an application in the resulting window, and clicking Force Quit.
  3. If your Mac still isn't responding or won't allow you to do steps 1 or 2, try restarting the computer. If Mac doesn't respond to your restart request, press and hold the power button until the computer shuts down. Wait 10 seconds and then restart the computer.
  4. If your Mac is still unresponsive, shutdown Mac as instructed in the previous step, then unplug your computer from its power source. Wait about 30 seconds and then plug the power cord back in and start up your Mac.

I can't open, move, or trash a file or folder

 Sometimes when you try to open, duplicate, move, or trash a file or folder, you may get a message that says you’ don't have permission to do so. When this happens, try the following:

  1. Highlight the file or folder you’re working with, and from the Finder’s menu bar select File > Get Info (or press Apple-I keys) to open the Get Info window.
  2. In the Get Info window, click the Ownership & Permissions disclosure triangle to reveal its information.
  3. To fully access the item, make sure that Read & Write is chosen from the ‘You can’ pop-up menu. If you used to be able to access the item but now can't, continue to the next step.
  4. Click the General disclosure triangle and make sure that the file or folder is not locked. If the Locked checkbox is selected, deselect it and then try accessing the file or folder as planned.
  5. If that doesn't work, access the Disk Utility (in /Applications/Utilities), select your computer's hard disk volume, click the First Aid tab, and click Repair Disk Permissions. When it's finished, you should have access.
  6. If this is the first time accessing the particular file or folder, click the lock icon in the Details section of the Get Info window. From the Owner pop-up menu, choose your computer username, enter your login password when prompted, and then select Read & Write from the Access pop-up menu directly below it. If changing access to a folder, be sure to click the ‘Apply to enclosed items’ button to change permissions for all enclosed items.

I can't empty the Trash 

If you try to empty the Trash but get a message that says that you can't, try these steps.

  1. Open the Trash folder by clicking its icon in the Dock.
  2. If any file displays a tiny lock graphic on its icon, you'll need to unlock the file to trash it. Select the file, press Apple-I, click the General disclosure triangle in the Get Info window, and deselect the Locked checkbox. Then empty the trash.
  3. If none of the items in the Trash have a lock icon, most likely an application is preventing you from dumping the file. Quit the application that the file is associated with (for example, if it's a partially downloaded file, try quitting Safari), and then try emptying the Trash again.
  4. If that doesn't work, a system process could be holding a file hostage. Try restarting your omputer, and then empty the Trash.

Note: When emptying the Trash and to disable the warning message ‘Are you sure you want to remove the items in the Trash permanently?’ press the Option key when you choose ‘Empty Trash.’ This warning can also be turned-off in the ‘Advanced’ pane of ‘Finder/Preferences.’

I can't eject my CD or DVD

If a disc in your computer's optical drive refuses to eject, try one these steps:

If that doesn't work, try the following:

  1. Restart your computer: From the Apple menu, choose Restart.
  2. When you hear the startup sound,