Please get this ball out of my court.
August 2, 2008 1:55 PM   Subscribe

I've tried several things to get rid of the spinning beach ball, willing to try, oh, several more.

I have a Macbook 2.16 GHz, 2 GB of ram, etc., that I bought almost a year ago. Bad hard drive problems back in December, but things had been fine since I had it replaced. Then a month ago I started getting the spinning ball with intermittent freezes that last from 10-30 seconds. After the ball goes away there's a rush of activity (all the clicks and mouse moves I tried to do while the ball was spinning happen at once). They've been getting worse. I took it back to Tekserv, who said they couldn't find a thing wrong with the drive. They suggested I do a fresh OS install and suggested it was all the run-at-startup programs I had causing the slowdown.

So, now I've got Leopard installed (a fresh install), and I've moved over just my docs, music, and movies (no programs) from my external drive, but I'm still getting the spinning ball. Other things that I've tried:

--verified and repaired disk/disk permissions
--tried resetting PRAM, but it never dings more than once

What's my next move? Has anyone had a similar problem? Is there anything I can do to prove that there's a problem to Tekserv? I should also mention, I can sometimes goes hours, or a whole day, without a freeze, then other days it happens every 5-10 minutes.

Thanks for your help.
posted by miniminimarket to Computers & Internet (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Overheating? Try blowing out the fan.
posted by gjc at 2:05 PM on August 2, 2008

I get this when I have too many programs open... could it be that the RAM became unseated, or dodgy somehow?
posted by twistedonion at 2:30 PM on August 2, 2008

Response by poster: @twistedonion I just took out the ram to see if it had gotten loose, somehow, and there was a thin layer of white residue on the connectors. Is that a bad sign? Otherwise they seemed firmly in place.
posted by miniminimarket at 3:21 PM on August 2, 2008

This is a tough thing to debug remotely. In general, spinning balls on OS X are on a per-application basis and represent the OS thinking it's lost touch with the application because it's busy doing something or other. I can't really think of a time that I've gotten a system-wide beachball. Some things to try to identify which application or service is causing problems:
  • Keep the Activity Monitor application up at all times. Setup the CPU monitor displays so you can see them on top of all apps. Also explore the memory, disk activity, and network tabs. See if there are processes in there that you don't think should be working as hard as they are.
  • Pop a terminal and run fs_usage. You'll probably need to type 'sudo fs_usage' to get it to run, followed by your account password. This gives you a live view of all disk access on your computer. Watching it is a very zen experience, but try it with no apps running to get a sense of what the base OS disk access patterns look like, and then boot apps and see what they're up to. See if you can notice any patterns related to beachballs in the low-level disk accesses. You should focus mostly on which applications are hitting the disk and how often. You can mostly ignore the left side of the display.
  • Trying force-quitting when you're in beachball mode. Sometimes this will still get through, and will mark in red the applications that the OS thinks are dead.
  • Load the Console application and system.log. Something might jump out at you there.
I dunno that any of this will help, though. If you literally didn't move any applications and you're on a fresh install of the OS, it's likely to be a hardware problem. I'm not really sure what kind of hardware problems would cause beachballs.

Another extreme option is to setup a video camera to watch your computer and then bring it down to the tech support people to convince them something is wrong. This might also might help you notice a behavior pattern pre-beachballing.

Good luck!
posted by heresiarch at 3:25 PM on August 2, 2008

Seconding heresiarch in general, but also: Did you copy over your ~/Library? Does this happen most often while Safari is loading a page? Try resetting Safari (select "Reset Safari" from the "Safari" menu); in particular, remove the website icons, saved names and passwords, and AutoFill form text.
posted by nicwolff at 5:11 PM on August 2, 2008

I just took out the ram to see if it had gotten loose, somehow, and there was a thin layer of white residue on the connectors. Is that a bad sign?

Yes. RAM edge connectors should be bright gold.

You can clean yours by rubbing them over with a white pencil eraser (don't use the ink kind as they're too abrasive). Don't wear synthetic clothing while doing this, and ground yourself and as many of the eraser's surfaces as you can to exposed chassis metal before you pull the RAM. Do the rubbing away from the computer so that little rubber crumbs don't fall in it, and blow all the crumbs off the edge connector without spitting on it before putting it back. Don't touch the connector with your fingers at any time.
posted by flabdablet at 10:44 PM on August 2, 2008

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