What to Do When MacBook Pro Keeps Freezing

What’s more frustrating than a MacBook that keeps freezing? One that stops working altogether. When a MacBook Pro freezes, you can hit Command + Shift + Option + Escape to kill a frozen app or do a hard restart by holding the power button, but if those freezes keep happening, there’s a bigger underlying issue.

Some problems warrant a trip to an Apple Genius Bar, but there are actually quite a few simple things you can try yourself to fix the frozen MacBook.

From changes in computer habits to updating your macOS, here are five solutions to consider when your MacBook Pro keeps freezing.

1. Close Applications

Often, MacBook Pro freezes aren’t caused by certain applications, but by running too many programs at once. A computer’s RAM (Random Access Memory) is the working memory, and when that fills up, it needs to reach into the hard drive space to operate.

Besides making your MacBook Pro slow, filling up the RAM by multitasking can cause MacBook Pro freezes.

Once you’ve re-started your Mac from that freeze, open Activity Monitor (do a quick Spotlight Search to find it). Click on the Memory tab and take a look at the Memory Pressure graph at the bottom.

Green means you have enough RAM left to open additional programs, but once the graph starts turning yellow, you should close unnecessary programs or take a look at what applications are hogging your memory by looking at the programs listed above that graph.

When you see red on that graph, your MacBook is using hard drive space, not RAM, to run, and a random or permanent freeze is likely coming if you don’t close out some applications.

Upgrading your physical RAM, especially with an older MacBook Pro (prior to 2013 models), would help, but that can get expensive and isn’t always necessary.

You can also try identifying programs that are using the most memory and swapping them for an alternative like replacing Firefox with Safari. Avoid using multiple programs at once when possible, and limit the number of tabs you open when browsing the Internet.

2. Free up Disk Space

Click on the Apple icon in the upper left corner right now, then click About This Mac and go to the Storage tab. How much space do you have?

To keep your MacBook Pro running at its peak, you should keep your disk drive no more than 85 percent full (source: Apple Support Communities).

macbook pro free storage overview

If your disk is full, it’s time to delete unnecessary files and apps you don’t use anymore or use an external drive to store files that you don’t access very often.

Take a look at where your disk space is going with the color-coded graph to know where to start freeing up space. In my case, photos are usually the culprit, so I now store them on an external hard drive. You can also use a third-party Mac cleaner app to find and delete unnecessary files.

3. Check Third-Party Apps and Add-ons

Ask yourself: when does your MacBook Pro keep freezing?

If your Mac only freezes when you are using a certain program or only when you are surfing the Internet via a web browser, the issue might not be your MacBook at all.

Start by checking for updates for the program that’s causing all the issues and re-installing them. If that doesn’t fix the issue, try contacting the support team for that particular program.

You can also consider using a different app instead. Software developed by Apple tends to run much better on a Mac machine than a third-party program. For example, I managed to speed up my MacBook Pro and stopped an occasional freezing issue by swapping out Firefox for Safari.

If you can identify a program that’s always open during the freezes, consider an alternative, like Apple Pages instead of Microsoft Office Word.

4. Update macOS

MacBook Pro running macOS 12.5 Monterey

Running new programs (and even new websites) on an old operating system may cause computer freezes too — and so can bugs within the macOS system itself.

Apple now allows Mac users to download macOS updates for free — accessing the latest Ventura version could fix your freezing issue.

One word of caution on OS updates first though — sometimes, the updates have a few bugs of their own. Make sure you back up your Mac using Time Machine so that in the unlikely event the update makes the issue worse, you can revert back to the old version while Apple fixes any bugs in the new system.

5. Run Apple Diagnostics or Hardware Test

You don’t have to be a computer expert to diagnose just what’s wrong with your MacBook Pro. If closing programs, freeing up drive space, and updating software don’t help, try looking for hardware issues with Apple’s built-in testing.

For newer MacBooks, the program is called Apple Diagnostics, but pre-2013 models will use Apple Hardware Test.

Follow the instructions from Apple based on the year of your computer (you can check the year by clicking the Apple icon then About This Mac).

Since the process involves shutting down your MacBook, you may want to print out the instructions or access them for another device. Once the process is complete, you’ll have an error code that you can use to determine where the issue is and exactly how to fix it.

Write that code down before restarting your computer, you’ll use that code with Apple Support to determine the best solution.

Final Words​

MacBook Pro freezes are frustrating, and while sometimes paying for an extra RAM or SSD upgrade, or replacing an old MacBook altogether is the best plan of action, there are often a few things you can do to fix the issue without spending anything.

Check to see if you are simply multitasking beyond your computer’s abilities or if your hard drive is full. Pay attention to when the freezes happen — an application may be to blame, and not your MacBook.

You can also run diagnostics to identify hardware issues or update your software for the latest bug fixes from Apple.

Any other tips that you’ve tried and worked to fix the MacBook Pro freezing issue? Kindly share with us in the comment below.

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  • Anthony Hinds

    August 30, 2020

    Recently, I purchased a new MacBook Pro 16′, 16GB memory, i9 CPU, and 1TB SSD. The MacBook Pro froze and the fan got loud after installing and running CLeanMyMac X latest program. Oh and it got HOT under the MacBook Pro. I did a force close and the fan still made a loud noise. I had to hold the power button down until the MacBook turned off completely. I don’t know about you guys, but when a person pays over $2,500 for a computer it should pur like a kitten. any suggestions, tips, advice, or should I return it t my money back before it’s too late?

  • Bianca

    I advice that you don’t download Catalina if you have an “old” Mac, I have a MacBook Air, and what the update just did was add fake storage, mess up my camera, and it laggs even more. So Please be careful with updates

  • Ash

    I advice that you don’t download Catalina if you have an “old” Mac, I have a MacBook Air, and what the update just did was add fake storage, mess up my camera, and it laggs even more.

  • aaliyan javaid

    my mac book air keeps on freezing i had run the diagnostics but its says no issues still it freezes mot of the time what to do now ? kindly help

  • Sri

    my MacBook still keeps freezing and I tried all of that. And it keeps redirecting my page when I have something open. How do I fix it?

  • Ilonka Guenther

    Thanks for the tips. Despite the fact that I freed up space (16% free now) my new MacBook Pro keeps hanging up. Always when going in / waking up from sleep mode. There must be something else what can be done. Any idea?

  • Ilonka

    I have a new MacBook Pro and it keeps freezing often specifically when waking up from sleep mode or locked screen. Anything specific what could cause freezing in conjunction with wakeing up? If I lock the screen when away from the Mac outlook also gives error messages that it can’t synchronise my mail account (funnily only 1 account out of the 2 I am monitoring).

  • Neeraj Agnihotri

    I will be following the methods step by step. I hope something will surely work.

  • Gerry Attric

    Hi Hillary,
    Can you help please. My wife has just purchased an Amazon Alexa (Gen 2).
    I am unable to download an app to our desktop Apple iMac to communicate with this smart speaker.
    Our Apple is described as Late 2012. I have kept it updated and we are now running it on Mojave 10.14.6
    We are both quite old but have not totally lost it (yet) we do not have a smart phone or any pads/tablets, is there any way we can download an app for this smart speaker please.
    10th August 2019.

  • Fiorella

    Life savior ??

    • Avatar photo
      AnySoftwareTools Team


  • Tom

    Tried a lot of steps already. Been working since 9:30 this morning to get this computer faster (it’s now a little past 3:00 PM), but nothing has helped.

    I have a perfectly fine working Windows 10 computer that I’m using to type this comment right now, but I absolutely *need* my MacBook to work, because I have an iPhone game on the App Store which needs its certificate to be renewed in order for it to not get taken down.

    I’m pretty peeved at Apple. I don’t even use their products anyway, but as an app developer I want to make my games available to as big an audience as possible. However in order to do that you need to compile everything in Xcode, and that’s *only available* on Mac. On top of that, I recently got an email saying I need to enable two-factor authentication on my account, *which requires a Mac, iPhone, iPod touch or iPad*. See the pattern here?

    If only Apple designed its OS’s better, my MacBook wouldn’t be running so slow right now. It’s from 2009, and it’s running High Sierra, but I have laptops from the 90’s that still run eons faster. I don’t get it…

    If only Apple designed its computers the same way as other non-Apple computers (instead of using strange components like NVRAM and SMC, or whatever it is), it would be way easier for an IT person to diagnose these systems. They really don’t want you manipulating their hardware or software I guess…

    If only Apple didn’t require you to own a MacBook to enable two-factor authentication or compile Xcode projects, developing for iOS would be way less tedious. Not everybody wants to use a Mac, Apple.

    Anyway, that’s my rant. It felt damn good to type.

  • Alex

    When you said “if your Mac is newer than 2012 is this because there is an issue with Mac’s this old? Mine is this old and in the past week it has just started freezing up a lot!
    Up untill now it’s been perfect! A daily driver for 7 years, now she is failing me.

  • Kevin Miller

    My granddaughter macbook pro 2012 model locked up and beep three times then pause repeating. Opened up computer and pulled the ram and put back in to see if this would resolve problem and it did not. When pushing the command and key r then powering up, the moment you release the command r it locks up and black square blocks appear across screen. Then I noticed that if you push anywhere on the computer you get the same result. any ideas?

  • simon mwalungo

    my mac book its hanging when I’m watchin a movie and it goes off,what could be the problem?

    • Venkata

      My Mac got hanged and again I can’t able to on

  • Debbie

    Thank you. I will proceed with your suggestions on fixing the freezing issue. Very helpful.

    • Avatar photo
      AnySoftwareTools Team

      No problem, let us know how it works out!

  • Rhoda Scherman

    Thank you drawing my attention to these background analytics and tips. I’m on a MacBook (not Pro) and it is less than 1 month old. So none of the points you made came up as the cause. One thing I’m noticing that you did not speak to, is that my beautiful new MacBook is often VERY HOT. THAT is the feature that I’m starting to notice around the time of the freezes. Any thoughts? I do a lot of multi-tasking with Word, Preview, Outlook and Firefox often open simultaneously. My older MacBookPro didn’t have this heat problem and I ran it the same way. Any additional thoughts welcomed as I continue to explore problems. Tenā koe …. Rhoda

    • Avatar photo
      AnySoftwareTools Team

      Hey, not sure what’s the technical specification for your new MacBook. Since you deal with a lot of apps at once, the RAM might be inadequate to process multiple application requests. It’s easy for your Mac (even if it’s new) to run out loud while several large applications are running simultaneously. Also, the surrounding environment of your machine also matter, e.g. are you using a laptop stand? what’s the typical temperature of your office/apartment? Another place to check is Activity Monitor > CPU, you’ll likely find the “culprits”.

  • Helen Desinger

    My granddaughter may have been using too many apps. Problem is that I cannot even force quit. Safari.
    I was hoping I could pull the battery but there doesn’ seem to be a way to do that. My old PowerBook we could unscrew the cover on the underside and pop it out. That really rebooted the machine quickly.

    • Avatar photo
      AnySoftwareTools Team

      Really, you are still using an old PowerBook (NOT MacBook?)

    • Christopher Downing

      You’re right you can’t pull out the battery but pushing and holding the power button for 5 seconds will force your Macbook to shut down. Then when you boot up you should find Safari is no longer hanging. Does this work…?

  • iamback

    This helped me. I think there was a problem with some extension that i was using. I booted my mac in safe mode and it doesn’t freeze anymore.

    • Avatar photo
      AnySoftwareTools Team

      Good to know. Glad that you fixed it 🙂

  • Rhonda Cannon

    Thank you. I am an apple newbie.

    • Avatar photo
      AnySoftwareTools Team

      You’re welcome.