What to Do When Mac Finder Is Slow or Not Working Properly?

Are you experiencing this kind of issue with Finder on your Mac? For instance, it's slow to open folders, sometimes not responding, even worse, it crashes randomly.

The Mac Finder problem can be very frustrating. Lots of Mac users have reported such trouble on OS X Yosemite, El Capitan, and latest macOS Sierra.

Fortunately, the issues are generally easy to fix as long as you pinpoint the culprits. However, the process isn't as easy as it sounds. Sometimes it takes far more time identifying the reason than actually resolving the issue.

In this article, I'm going to show you a few common reasons and fixes to help you tackle the Finder problem. Note: to make it easier for you, I'm here to break down the solutions into two situations (see below).

Situation 1: If Finder is slow, but you can still use it...

This scenario applies when you can use Finder to open folders or access files, but the process is much slower.

#1: Your Mac is running out of storage space

In general, it's a good practice to make sure your Mac hard drive has at least 20% storage available to use. Otherwise, your Mac will suffer performance issues more often than usual. To check storage usage, go to Apple logo > About This Mac, then click Storage tab. Here you'll get a clear overview of your hard drive storage via the colorful bar.

If your Mac does have a lack of free space, the easiest way to make more is by using an app called CleanMyMac to get rid of system junk and unnecessary files. You may also use Gemini to quickly locate large duplicates and remove them. Bottom line — clean as much as you can, get more free disk space, this helps improve overall Mac performance, and the Finder slowness issue could be gone as well.

#2: Spotlight is indexing

It usually happens when your Mac is updated to a newer OS X (now macOS). Other times when you just transfer many files from an external drive to your Mac. Spotlight needs to index all new files for you to search. However, the process might take quite a while to complete. During the Spotlight indexing procedure, your Mac is likely to run slowly and heat up. And the Finder app would perform sluggishly as well.

How to know if Spotlight is indexing files on a Mac? Just click the search icon on top right corner, type any file name and see if there is a "indexing..." status message showing up. If you don't want to wait, you can prevent Spotlight from indexing items on your Mac with one of the three ways TekRevue introduced.

#3: Problematic Finder preference file

In some cases, the preferences files associated with the Finder app could be corrupted or broken — thus causing Mac Finder to misbehave. To fix that, the best way is to remove Finder Preferences.

How to do? Follow these steps...

Step 1: Search "~/Library/Preferences/" in Spotlight bar, and hit Return to open the Preferences folder.

Step 2: In the new window, locate this file called "com.apple.finder.plist", right click and select "Move to Trash."

Step 3: Now close the folder and restart your Mac.

Note: It's harmless to delete a .plist file because after reboot your Mac will regenerate the Finder preference file itself.

Situation 2: If Finder is completely unresponsive...

This scenario is best for when the Finder app on your Mac becomes totally inaccessible. You'll have to rely on Terminal command to perform the operation.

Similarly, you need to delete the Finder Preferences file. See this article (read the "Delete Finder preferences using Terminal" section) for detailed step by step instructions.

In general, we don't recommend you to do so on your own if you are not comfortable using command line. It's best to have a geek friend assist you during the process. Any misoperation could cause unexpected issues and damage your Mac.


The Finder not responding issue can be pretty annoying as we all are used to rely on the app to access files and folders. But the issue does happen, especially after you upgrade your Mac to a newer macOS version. I hope the above guide has helped you resolve the problem. If you have any questions regarding the issue, leave a comment below to let us know.

By the way, if you are new to Mac, learning about the Finder will help you better organize and manage your Mac files. Check out this Apple support article for more information.

Chris Hwang

Chris is a certified computer technician since 2008. He writes everything related to computer issues and loves helping people solve problems. Currently, he's extending his interests into cloud computing.

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