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I have an old Mac, where if an App take some time to load (slow HD), the spindump kicks in, completely disabling the machine for close to 10 minutes.

There is one post on the web warning that killing spindump can cause some corruption, so, better safe then sorry.

Would be great if there was a way to not run spindump on specific Apps, or give them more time before declaring them as 'unresponsive', but I doubt there is.

Is it safe to just kill the process? Is there a safer way (like asking its parent to to so)?


Minor update: Seems that the same App that triggered the spindump, no longer does so. It still takes the same time to load, but that no longer triggers spindump.
If you're in a similar situation, it does quiet down eventually (as apposed to launch on every stall). It has happened about 3-4 times (one for each spinning ball), each time it took around 3-8 minutes to calm down and release the RAM.

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If you have a backup of the Mac and know you can restore / reinstall and not lose data - sure kill spindump and see if it helps. Killing apps usually just corrupts the files it writes to and spindump just writes diagnostic logs, so it's about one of the safest things you could choose to kill abruptly on the Mac.

Since spindump is there to report on badly performing programs, perhaps looking at the logs or just not using the app that triggers it would be the way to go. Patrix has explained how both the tailspin and spindump processes need to be removed and that this removal may only lasts until the next macOS update gets applied. This covers the "I know my Mac is slow - can I disable spindump entirely or cause it to run and exit in 10 seconds." scenario since I can see an app that performs so badly, that it forever will queue up a new spindump process or have spindump never reach the point where it thinks your Mac is healthy enough to stop collecting signs of a temporary problem.

In almost all cases - I use spindump excessive presence to hunt down these slow processes for our work Macs and look for long term solutions and be sure that the hardware isn't underpowered for the apps it needs to run. Slow HD is a sure sign that it's relocating blocks and about to fail, so I would make plans to be sure your data is protected - when the spinning drive fails it could be costly (several hundreds to tens of hundreds of dollars to recover).

  1. Be sure you have a backup
  2. Be sure your volume is journaled to minimize and repair or rebuild time if killing an app causes file loss or interrupts a write
  3. Start killing bad apps and take notes and names.
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    The App that is triggering the spindump is one I actually want to use and it's only happens on launch. I know spindump is mostly collecting report data, but I can see a scenario where after killing the process, there could be an issue where it fails to write again? (guessing really). Sure I can restore data, but would much prefer to know more about it. I'm guessing that this process ends, or terminated by its parent/system at some point safely. – bauerMusic Dec 9 '17 at 17:36
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    You're safe @bauerMusic - the HFS+ filesystem protects itself by journaling, so unless you have disabled that you won't have a corrupt filesystem and spindump won't cause damage to any files. You can also sample it in activity monitor to inspect every file it has open if you want. – bmike Dec 9 '17 at 17:47
  • @bmike Right, rectified. – bauerMusic Dec 10 '17 at 3:46
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It's probably safe to even disable them if you are not interested in the generated system analytics. Full procedure to do so is documented on Disable tailspind and spindump to Speed Up your Mac. In a nutshell:

  • Disable SIP
  • Unload/rename LaunchDaemon for spindump

    sudo launchctl unload -w /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/com.apple.spindump.plist
    sudo mv /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/com.apple.spindump.plist{,.bak} 
    
  • Do the same for com.apple.tailspind.plist

  • Enable SIP

You probably need to redo this with each macOS update.

  • Nicely done - I forgot about tailspind as well and have edited a couple sentences out of my answer now that this is known here. – bmike Jan 20 '18 at 15:23

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