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What could be the reasons for my MacBook (early 2009) not shutting down. When issued the shutdown command it won't go pass the hiding of the icons on the desktop. It doesn't freeze (as I can still press the power button to invoke the shutdown dialog and press the button again). It just won't do anything at all. Fixing permissions didn't help as well as resetting system management controller.

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An app is preventing Finder or the Desktop from closing in the given timeout period. When you press the power button, that application has then ended and it shuts down normally. I would suggest checking what's open using the Activity Monitor, one by one. Arduous, but the most practical solution. –  user479 Sep 20 '11 at 5:54
    
When I press the power button that application probably does not terminate as the macbook still won't shut down. –  Eimantas Sep 20 '11 at 6:13
    
What happens if you use sudo shutdown now in the Terminal window? Does it shut down then? –  user479 Sep 20 '11 at 6:14
    
Haven't tried that yet, but will do. Thanks for the tip! –  Eimantas Sep 20 '11 at 6:16

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I can't guess what is hanging up, but I can show you how to determine where the shutdown process is hanging.

You will need to boot your mac verbosely by holding Command-V when you hear the post chime. Then open a terminal and type this command to force a shutdown.

  • sudo shutdown -h now

This will let you see step by step how the operating system is closing things off. Once the loginwindow closes and your normal mac graphics window disappears, you will see the verbose commands and can tell us exactly where this is hanging so it's not a guess what step is failing.

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My macbook sometimes hangs during shutdown. Can't get pass that gray screen with spinning indicator. I'm not sure if that verbose shutdown command will help me, but I'll try. –  Sergio Tulentsev Apr 11 '12 at 17:15
    
This is a great way to track shutdown slowness since the machine will dump logs once the normal GUI is closed. Even if your hang is before the verbose part - that will narrow down the process that is preventing a timely shutdown. You might try logging into that mac with ssh to see what is happening as it shuts down. You can even force kill suspect user processes until you find the one responsible for the slowness. –  bmike Apr 11 '12 at 18:34
    
Hm, didn't think about that! Okay, I'm logged in remotely. What to look for? What log file to tail? –  Sergio Tulentsev Apr 11 '12 at 18:47
    
/private/var/log/system.log for starters. Also useful will be top and ps and killall –  bmike Apr 11 '12 at 21:15
    
Well, I tried to tail /var/log/system.log, but I see only a couple of lines like "system is going to shutdown NOW" and then connection is dropped. No luck here :) –  Sergio Tulentsev Apr 11 '12 at 22:18

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