Ask Different is a question and answer site for power users of Apple hardware and software. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Time was, Macs crashed a lot. (Maybe PCs did too, but I've only ever used Macs). And over time, I became wary of doing two things at once.

Today I wouldn't interrupt a back-up but I'm wondering -- is it okay to touch the keyboard during other long-running stuff like a big delete or download? Are there times when one should just leave an activity alone?

share|improve this question

Well, first of all, touching the keyboard will not crash you computer, even if you're doing heavy process.

So if you're deleting a big number of files or downloading a big file, you can still go ahead and browse the web or write on a text editor, or whatever. And even if Safari or Pages would crash, the OS is robust enough not to let this crash affect the download.

To sum it up, go ahead multi-task! Mac OS X is a really strong OS and you shouldn't worry about asking him to do multiple things, he's great at it.

share|improve this answer
Thanks, LW, kind of you to tell me what I should but didn't know. (My first time here -- Apple Discussions didn't do me much good, guess the question was too dumb!) – user4151 Mar 5 '11 at 22:02
Thanks, LW, kind of you to tell me what I should but didn't know. (My first time here -- Apple Discussions didn't do me much good, guess the question was too dumb!) So I'll certainly change my habits. – user4151 Mar 5 '11 at 22:25

Software still crashes a lot, but moderns OSes (Windows too!), are much better at Sandboxing, a OS software technique which prevents a piece of software which crashes from affecting other running software, or the system stability.

Realistically, the only processes which absolutely cannot be interrupted is hardware interfacing, which is almost invariably confined to drivers.

It's worth being aware that it was never Macs or Windows Hardware that crashed a lot, it has always been mac or windows applications that are more or less buggy. Indeed, the era of windows 98 BSODs was largely due to the popularity of windows spawning many thousands of poorly written, buggy pieces of software, together with Win98's poor ability to prevent software crashing from affecting overall system stability.

However, both OS X and Windows have come very far since then, so ther really isn't any task during which multitasking is likely to cause crashes, unless the task itself is composed of poorly written/buggy software.

There are certainly processes which are slowed down by multitasking (sometimes more dramatically then one would expect, hard drive intensive tasks come to mind), but there are no tasks which would be damaged or broken by multitasking, only delayed.

share|improve this answer
Thanks, FN, really helpful -- I'm about to change my ways! – user4151 Mar 5 '11 at 22:22

There are a few things that should be done more-or-less alone. A backup is a reasonable example (although Time Machine tolerates it well), and an even better example would be verifying the structure of the boot volume (this'll abort if there's too much disk activity), or live repartitioning of the boot disk (similar). There are also some combinations that should be avoided, like switching network connections or settings during a download. For the most part, though, OS X is set up to multi-task cleanly and safely, so don't worry about it too much.

share|improve this answer
Thanks, GD, clearly I've been worrying way too much -- I look forward to not! To me, it's surprising that folk would even think of doing the unwise things you mention, but then I've been way too timid. – user4151 Mar 5 '11 at 22:23

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.