Every other click and keystroke seems to cause my MacBook to just freeze for minutes at a time.

(I saw How to fix OS X Lion being unresponsive? but I'm not seeing much swap activity nor is my RAM filled up, according to the Activity Monitor.)

At this point I'd just like to salvage my data off the machine so I can do a clean reinstall, which hopefully will address the problem. But it's taking forever to do anything, even bring up a menu/Finder or type in "terminal."

I guess my questions boil down to:

  1. Ideally, is there a service/process/etc. that I should disable/stop/kill? (If I can even get to it....) I don't see any processes consuming much CPU/RAM, so I have no candidates to kill. Is there a service that I should be disabling? I'm new to OS X so I'm not sure how to debug this issue.

  2. Otherwise, is there any way for me to at least get a "bare minimum" system up so that I can copy my files off, and perhaps run a few applications so as to export certain data that aren't neatly available for copying off as files? Should I be rescuing via a live CD (which means I won't be able to run OS X applications to export data but if that's the only option then so be it)? What would be a good live CD for this - Ubuntu?


  • What hardware are you on?
    – user44427
    Commented May 11, 2013 at 22:24
  • @Undo It's fairly old, late 2008 Aluminum MacBook with 2G RAM, but it's officially listed as supported by 10.8 and it should not be this slow - I've seen 10.8 run fine on the same hardware.
    – xyzzyrz
    Commented May 11, 2013 at 22:36
  • 1
    Is it still doing Spotlight indexing? When you first install Mac OS X, it will usually index the whole disk which will slow down the computer for a while. You can check this by clicking in the magnifying glass in the top-right corner of the screen. Commented May 12, 2013 at 9:38
  • @MikeMeyers It may be doing indexing, but even when it was running before and on other systems, it would never be able to cause such dramatic slowdown.
    – xyzzyrz
    Commented May 13, 2013 at 2:43
  • Other than the low (2GB) RAM, the 2008 MacBooks should (from my first hand experience) work perfectly fine with Mountain Lion =/
    – Alexander
    Commented May 13, 2013 at 3:10

1 Answer 1


Ultimately I discovered that there exists a Safe Mode, which you can access by pressing and holding Shift after the gray boot screen appears. In this mode the system was responsive again, and I could actually copy my data off.

There also exists a more restrictive Recovery Mode, which you can access by pressing and holding Command+R, and you can use Disk Utility there to copy entire disks around. However, that wasn't necessary for me (until it came time to wipe out and reinstall the OS).

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