I have been making an iMovie on OS X El Capitan for the past few days. Unfortunately, I have not saved even once, I just left it open and it would always be there when I clicked on the icon. Now, I deleted many pictures from the movie, and I saw the spinning wheel of death. I thought it would go away soon as it always does, but twenty minutes later it was still spinning. I can't click on anything in the app.

I don't want to force quit, because I will lose all of my work, right? What can I do to save my work?


Sadly, you've passed the point where you get to save your work.

Luckily, iMovie periodically saves the application database / library so you are unlikely to lose everything if you decide to shut down the Mac or force quit the application. Once you regain control of the application (you already know you can't do anything with it stuck in a state where it's no longer responding to messages, input - a.k.a spinning wheel of death) you can see if the changes you made are missing.

If they are, a call to apple support might be needed to restore the backup copies of the library it has made internally since Apple doesn't document how to restore a previous iMovie library publicly.

Going forward, you can set a timer and periodically save/quit iMovie and then back up the files. Time Machine allows you to make local snapshots if you don't have your backup volume connected.

sudo tmutil enablelocal

Then to make a point in time snapshot of all the files, quit iMovie and then run in terminal:

tmutil snap

That saves a neat point in time version of all your files that you can then recover later using the Time Machine interface.

  • Thank you! I'm not a big terminal user, but thanks for the info about autosaving! – OldBunny2800 Jan 10 '16 at 19:02
  • The local snapshots can be enabled automatically on portable Macs when you have a Time Machine drive, but I like to "force it on" when it's helpful for me. I agree terminal isn't so friendly so don't use it unless you have to or have a nice backup in place. – bmike Jan 10 '16 at 19:07

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