I'm having a problem with the new tagging feature in Mavericks and I have a feeling it might go deeper than just the tagging.

The problem is this: When tagging anything on Mavericks the Finder becomes unresponsive for anything up to 15 seconds and beach-balls. I am using a Mac Pro Mid 2010 with 16GB RAM so power is not the issue.

At first I thought the problem might have been due to having done an upgrade install of Mavericks, but after seeing tagging working fine on an upgraded Air and iMac I decided to try a clean install. Alas, the problem persisted.

Since I was installing on a DIY Fusion Drive I had created back in the early days of Mountain Lion, that became my next suspect. To "quickly" test my theory I installed Mavericks on an external slow & tiny USB drive. Zero problems. Tagging was instantaneous and no beach balls in sight.

So, it seemed likely to be one of the drives. First I tried installing Mavericks on a newly created Fusion Drive (using the same component drives; an OCR Vertex 3 and a regular WD HDD) from the Mavericks recovery partition terminal in the hope that a newer CoreStorage would fix things. Same problem.

Next I tried the drives individually, but after having installed a fresh Mavericks on both (I know, tedious) and still having the problem I feel I am running out of options. Is it my SATA controller? And why just on the tagging?

I have made a few Activity Monitor Spindumps which I'm hoping anyone with the knowledge & inclination could glean some information from.

Any help is greatly appreciated. :/ Teo

Spindumps: https://www.dropbox.com/s/d86hdy2xcq8jryy/Mavs%20Finder%20Tagging%20Spindump.txt


UPDATE 17 May 2014

I have now identified the source of the bug (on my system at least).

I noticed that on a completely fresh user account everything works as it should, new tags are added without hangs or even delays.

The moment I enable the "iCloud->Documents & Data" option the problem manifests: hangs occur on adding any new tags. Even more unfortunately, disabling it again does not make the issue disappear. Once enabled the system isn't working properly anymore.

My guess is that there's something buggy in the way the system is trying to check for tags across iCloud but strange that the problem remains after removing it.

Any new info/suggestions are welcome.

UPDATE 1 October 2014 This problem persists in Yosemite 10.10 GM

  • This is now an acknowledged bug (dupe of 15354423) on Apple's bug reporter site. Hopefully that means it'll be fixed soon. Jan 27, 2014 at 16:33
  • 1
    Absolutely incredibly 10.9.2 still hasn't fixed the buggy Finder. Feb 25, 2014 at 20:50
  • 1
    Aaand still broken in 10.9.3. I give up. At this rate we'll probably still have the bug in OS XI "Dude, chillax". Apr 22, 2014 at 21:02
  • 1
    Ok, this is getting ridiculous. The problem persists in Yosemite 10.10(beta3). Jul 11, 2014 at 9:27
  • 1
    Nope, no sync clients. This is thoroughly tested, as detailed above, on a variety of clean installs. I am getting to the point where I'm suspecting it's some kind of corruption of my iCloud tag data. I have no idea what to do about it, short of getting someone at Apple to reset it for me. Jul 11, 2014 at 14:37

4 Answers 4


This problem has been bugging me for months. I've kept a weather eye on the Google results, poked around trying to find my own solution, upgraded to Yosemite to see if the issue was resolved there, but nothing turned up. So, during the Thanksgiving break I decided to sit down and fix this once and for all.

Looooong story short, every time you add a new tag (and possibly when you add a tag to a file) it gets popped into the Finder sidebar for easy access. Handy. Thing is, if you get crazy and add a metric ton of tags, none of them are ever removed from the Finder sidebar. They roll off the edge where you can't see them, and are flagged as "visible if newer items are removed" but they are all retained in the sidebar items plist. This plist gets massive, and takes a long time to parse any time it must be modified.

To make things worse, when you have "documents and data" turned on under System Preferences > iCloud the tag list is synced. This means the hang follows you to every machine where you are signed into iCloud, even on a fresh reload of OS X. Funfunfun.

Thankfully, there is an easy fix. I'll keep the explanation simple for Joe Internet who may be having this problem stumble across this post.

When the Finder is running properly (not beach-balled), right-click on the icon in the Dock and select "Go to Folder". In the dialog that appears type "~/Library/Preferences/". That funny little squiggle at the front is just a nice little shortcut that tells the dialog to start in your home folder for the path, rather than the root of the internal drive.

You will be presented with a cornucopia of scary looking plists. The one we are after is titled "com.apple.sidebarlists.plist". Copy that plist somewhere you can find it later (just in case something goes awry and you have to put it back.) Now, delete the the original plist in the Library folder and reboot your machine. After the reboot Finder will have an empty tag sidebar and you can create, delete, and rearrange tags to your hearts content. No hangs. As long as you have iCloud "Documents and Data" enabled, this new clean sidebar will also be uploaded to iCloud and clear out the old gigantic one on all your machines.

It should be noted that this DOES NOT delete the tags from your files. That information is actually appended to an extended attribute (xattr) of the file itself, rather than being stored in a single plist or database somewhere. Thankfully the tags on the files themselves aren't what's causing the hang issue, so we can leave them untouched.

Of course, what you will lose are the list of tags and custom folders you want in the Finder sidebar. Add the folders back the normal way (drag them into the sidebar) and you can select which tags you want by going to the Finder menu > Preferences > Tags and checking the boxes. I've got about a dozen and things are snappy.

One other unfortunate loss are the tags' assigned colors. That's strictly stored in the Finder's plist. The tags may appear to retain their color until you add them back to the sidebar, or try to apply a tag to an item, at which point the color vanishes.

After you've added a tag or two back to the sidebar the "all tags" item will reappear at the bottom of the list. Click on that and scroll through the list of tags to re-assign their colors. Make sure to re-apply color even to the tags that appear to have retained it, because when that tag is next added to a file or otherwise modified there's a good chance the color will disappear.

Something to note if you have a lot of colors applied: adding them all back may cause the hang issue to re-manifest. All those color assignments are stored in the plist, and too many may drag things down. I've only got a few color assignments so I haven't been able to verify this theory.

That's it! Congratulations! Tags are now usable on your machine(s) again. Just remember to go into Finder > Preferences > Tags every now and again and clear the checkbox or minus sign from the tags you don't want displayed in the sidebar and things should remain snappy.

  • Great detective work. I have tried this and, although my plist is called com.apple.sidebarlists.plist, removing it seems to work. Whilst not a satisfactory solution, I will take it and I will update my radar with Apple to point them at this and hopefully help them fix the actual issue. Nov 28, 2014 at 9:41
  • Ah, yes, you are correct about the plist name. I've corrected it in the post. Nov 29, 2014 at 19:52
  • Hm, sometime between Mountain Lion and Catalina this sidebarlists plist seems to have disappeared. Any idea where the data is stored now?
    – c roald
    Mar 8, 2020 at 15:50

6 months or more of this problem...

my 2013 Mac was hanging when saving files, making outlook 2011 hang often! and slowing down workflows... and after reading this post it dawned on me...

before Mavericks I used 2 different tagging appx, TAGS and Leap. When installing mavericks, tags were quite well, though they became increasingly slow.

I I deleted both programs and amazingly and thankfully, For now at least, the hangs in Outlook and find have stopped, it feels like a new Machine. I can only hope its permanent.

Whilst on this topic I had a similar problem with my Mavericks finder a tad's. The centre of the Finder screen used to become transparent and you could not see the files. Drove me insane. Rebooting reinstalling wasting time. I do realise I had an older program called total Finder, Which is really good, installed before I use no bricks. After months of having this problem, then deleting that program, The problem is fixed.

Moral of the story, if you have installed an app to add functionality and apple then adds the functionality into osx, chances are the app will slow down a your mac.

Mental motor self and all reading ... uninstall apps of such nature.


Tagging files with Ironic Software's Leap app avoids this issue in my case. Leap keeps OpenMeta and Finder tags in sync.


Thank you so much for the background on this issue, EightQUarterBit. On the other hand I didn't really want to lose all my sidebar shortcuts and folders (of which I have many) so I opted to dig a little deeper into the plist file and opted to edit out the problem instead of deleting the entire plist file. I deleted all the plist settings covering tags for everything except the default color tags (turned out to be like 7,000 lines) and saved it and rebooted and it worked like a charm AND I got to keep my other sidebar settings. Here's how to do what I did:

First I made a backup copy of the com.apple.sidebarlists.plist file on my desktop. Second, open up the original plist file in a free editor like TextWrangler, search for "x-apple-findertag:" The first hits will be the default (colored) tags. I left those alone. Skip down to your custom tags. Note that each tag's section starts with <dict> and ends with </dict> (although there is one other <dict></dict> entry inside that section), for example, see the set of code for a single tag below (where MyCustomTagName is where the tag's name will be, in 2 places):


Take note of the pattern because we are going to want to delete the complete section for each entry of all the tags we don't want to be listed in the sidebar, which in my case was all of them except for the default color tags. Each entry starts with <dict> followed by <key>CustomItemProperties</key> and is 15 lines long (which includes the first <dict> tag). Click and drag down to select them all and delete them. Save the plist file and then reboot your Mac. The issue was completely gone for me after rebooting and I got to keep my sidebar shortcuts. You'll need to repeat these steps after creating more tags though. I contacted apple and reported the issue and have now followed up and given them the solution.

I've detailed all the steps above, with screenshots, on my blog (which I used to originally reported this problem almost a year ago and then heard about your response today from a commenter on my blog). You can see my alternative solution in great detail on my blog at: http://www.shareyourrepair.com/2013/12/finder-hangs-when-tagging-files-mavericks.html

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