5 Simple Solutions When MacBook Pro Keeps Freezing

a silver macbook pro on office desk

What’s more frustrating than a frozen Mac? 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 a 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 freezes aren’t caused by certain applications, but from 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 on 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.

Updating 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. 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 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 app like CleanMyMac to find and delete unnecessary files. It’s a fantastic app made by MacPaw that can help you reclaim tons of free disk space quickly.

Click on the image to learn more about CleanMyMac X.

An alternative app worth trying is CCleaner for Mac, it’s less powerful than CleanMyMac but offers more free cleaning features. You can find more Mac optimizers here.

3. Check Third-Party Software and Add-Ons

When does your MacBook Pro keep freezing? If your Mac is only freezing 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 program 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

See how to get ready for macOS Mojave in just 3 steps

Running new programs (and even new websites) on an old operating system may cause computer freezes too — and so can bugs within the system itself. Apple now allows Mac users to download macOS updates for free — accessing the latest Mojave version could fix your freezing issue, provided your MacBook model is newer than 2012. Here are a few things to check before updating your MacBook to the latest macOS Mojave (version 10.14)

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. If closing programs, freeing up drive space and updating software doesn’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 computer, 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 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 the Mac. You can also run diagnostics to identify hardware issues or update your software for the latest bug fixes from Apple.

20 thoughts on “5 Simple Solutions When MacBook Pro Keeps Freezing”

  1. 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.

    Reply
  2. 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.

    Reply
  3. 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

    Reply
    • 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”.

      Reply
  4. 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?

    Reply
  5. 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.

    Reply
  6. 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.

    Reply
  7. 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.

    Reply
  8. 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).

    Reply
  9. 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?

    Reply

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