I very frequently get the beachball and occasionally the wristwatch (as in every minute or so if I'm using the machine multi app) as I use my Mac. This appears in all apps, especially Apple core apps. This most often happens in Safari, but can happen unpredictably in anything. It's not reliably reproducible, though doing almost anything in Safari will soon create it.

Usually, it happens when either I or an app do something (vs it just sitting there). Neither cpu nor memory appear overloaded in Activity monitor when this happens, (though just occasionally cpu goes to 100%, and fan goes full.)

System is MacBook Pro 2.7GHz Core i7, 4GB 1333 MHz DDR3 (factory spec) running OS X 10.7.4. One probably totally unrelated oddity is that the s/n of the machine never comes up on the Apple database, always apparently missing a digit in the middle. And yes, I bought it from Apple!

Solution attempts: Extensive. Machine has been back to Apple, who replaced system board and hard drive. Repeated visits to Genii (Genius's?) who have spent much time deleting, and reinstalling individual apps, fiddling with plists, general fiddling, reinstalling the OS (Clean reinstalls - as in reformat HD).

But the problem comes back, every time.

I'm not reinstalling any of my 3rd party software, as I can't bear the repeated process, but also so as to eliminate that possible source.

I'm at the end of my tether, almost can't bear to use the machine (which is NOT how I want to feel about my Mac), and can't afford to replace this still very new machine.

Diagnostic questions will be gratefully received. I would be delighted for any possible solutions.

  • Does it also re-occur after a clean reinstall, with just one user and no data migration?
    – nohillside
    Jul 1, 2012 at 20:56
  • 2
    The problems is so obviously hardware-related there is probably nothing anyone can do remotely in a forum like this. It sounds like Apple didn't really diagnose the problem & they should replace it for you ASAP, especially since they did such major part swaps. If they are really Genii, they should be able to wave their magic wands and give one to you. I would take it back and insist on a replacement, especially if it is still under warrantee.
    – IconDaemon
    Jul 2, 2012 at 12:28

4 Answers 4


Once I got something similar after a Snow Leopard upgrade: spinning bechball when starting Safari and making Safari inoperable. Turned out it was an incomaptible SIMBL plugin from before the OS upgrade.

If you already replaced the motherboard and hard drive, there's really not much "hardware" left that can be eliminated.

If you already have done a clean install as well, there is really no other "software" eliminated either. Make sure you've done a total clean install though: format HDD, install the base OS without iLife, etc, DO NOT restore anything from you backup afterwards, DO NOT use your regular username and DO NOT enter your Apple ID at first boot. Do not restore and data from your backup, especially not /Library and /Users//Library

I guess I'd also try to install a different version of OSX (downgrade or upgrade, doesn't matter) and see if the problem persists. Also try booting a different OS (Windows, Linux, boot from a Linux live CD/usb would be the easiest option). Booting in a different OS is the best way to find out if it's a hardware issue or software.

Generally a spinning beachball are caused by CPU/memory/disk access spikes, but it can also be some other kind of blocking I/O (e.g. network, USB). Maybe it's compatibility issues with your home network? Use it on a different network, try connecting to the network with an external USB ethernet adapter.

Hope that helps.


You forgot to mention the HDD drive you're using.

If it's a non-factory SSD, it is likely to have some issue with your configuration.

It it's an HDD, it has pretty sure some hardware defects.

Please try booting your Mac from an external hard drive via USB (better: FireWire, as it is faster than USB-2):

  • The external hard drive must have OSX installed on it, best way to create a bootable media is to clone your internal hard drive with Carbon Copy Cloner (free for 15 days) or SuperDuper (free for simple cloning)
  • Simply connect the external drive to your Mac and hold ALT before the grey apple appears.

Also let us know which type of HDD you're using.


One easy and powerful way to test if your software setup is making trouble:

Create a new user. Log out from your normal account, then use some of the "Apple core apps" you mentioned for a while from the new account ... maybe ten to 30 minutes. You’ll know what to do to reproduce the rotating beach ball.

  • If no beachballs: It’s a software / configuration problem within your (normal) user account.
  • If beachballs: Probably a hardware problem.

I have used this technique several times to resolve head scratching Mac situations. Good luck!


It has already been stated in the comments by @IconDaemon, this is probably a hardware-related case. You can reinstall OS X from the original media, login and start using your computer. If it starts failing, then it's not your fault, something is not functioning properly.

Also if the Serial Number doesn't come up, there's clearly another issue.

I can recommend you one simple test, create a new user account, and use the machine a few hours from there. Surf the web, use FaceTime, etc.

If the problem persists, then you need to take it back to Apple as soon as possible and explain to them all you've done.

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