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As the title describes, I keep getting a random spinning wheel, but there is no crash/hanging of the system of any sort. I've been getting these for the last two or so years, but only recently it has started occuring much more frequently, prompting me to ask it here.

I have a 4GB early 2015 MacBook Air on MacOS Sierra. The wheel appears randomly and is not application specific. I can still move the wheel using my trackpad, so the system is definitely not hanging. However, once I click the trackpad, it disappears, with no other effect. I probably must mention that when the wheel appears, it appears "on top" of all applications, in the sense, that once I click the trackpad to make it disappear, I'll have to click once again on the application window I was previously working with to interact with it.

I am just curious about this strange behaviour as I haven't found any similar issue discussed anywhere else.

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  • No the system is hanging - the cursor id just at a lower level and thus can be moved – mmmmmm May 24 at 22:51
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The spinning beachball doesn't indicate a truly 'hung' app, it indicates a pending transaction that the app is still waiting for time to process. It ought to only occur when the cursor is hovering directly over the app responsible. If you click anywhere except inside your currently-frontmost app, it will bring another to the front & then you will have to switch back.

Having said all that, my prime suspect on a 4GB RAM Mac would be it is paging to virtual memory & having to wait for the swap to finish. Clicking another app will make it have to swap out & then back again, doubling the time it takes.
This may explain a beach ball that doesn't appear directly related to one given app, but the overall machine is struggling to keep up.

You could test this by keeping Activity Monitor visible on-screen, set to the Memory tab, & see what apps seem to be using the most [browsers get complicated because each tab has its own memory, not just the browser itself] & see what colour the Memory Pressure graph at the bottom of the window shows. Green is fine, orange is starting to become an issue & red will surely start to show problems.
The value for Swap Used may also be indicative of the issue.

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  • Thanks for the reply. About the application part, I can move the spinning wheel outside the application window I was working with and it still spins. I've waited once or twice to see how long it keeps spinning, but have given up after a minute or two since clicking the wheel apparently solves the problem and it is not bugging me too much. Having said this, I'll definitely try keeping the activity monitor on the background, but not sure how much it'll help given the wheel appears randomly. – AlphaBaal May 24 at 16:20

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