What to do if your MacBook is frozen

Let us give you a scene from a nightmare for every Mac user: you’re doing an urgent task on your Mac, and suddenly… your Mac is completely frozen, and you can’t click anything! Bone-chilling, right?

Yes, it doesn’t happen often and doesn’t happen to everyone, but it can happen with every Mac. In this article, we’ll lay out the reasons why your Mac can end up frozen and give you super quick fixes you can try to restore its functionality.

Why Macbook can be frozen?

There are several reasons why your MacBook can become frozen and many ways the problem presents itself (like you being unable to click anything). For example, you may see the dreaded spinning beachball. If you do, you’ll likely be able to move the cursor around the screen but not click anything. A more rare case scenario is when you can’t even move the cursor because the entire system is completely frozen.

Let us outline the reasons why your Mac could be frozen:

A hung applicationSometimes when an error occurs, an app will consume large amounts of memory or CPU cycles, meaning everything else on your Mac grinds to a halt.
A newly installed extension or driverThird-party drivers and extensions have access to deeper parts of macOS than most regular applications, so a buggy one or that incompatible with the version of macOS you’re using could cause your Mac to freeze.
Faulty keyboard or mouseIf you use an external keyboard, mouse, or trackpad, there could be a connectivity problem causing your Mac to be unable to move the pointer or control it with the keyboard. Or batteries may be out of charge if you use a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse.
MalwareOne of the symptoms of a malware infection is a significantly increased load on the CPU and memory, and the load is heavy enough to cause your Mac to freeze.

How to fix a frozen screen on Mac

1. Force Quit Applications

If an application has hung, it may only be temporary. So, wait a minute or two to see if your Mac unfreezes. If not, you will need to force quit the application. There are a few ways to do this:

  • Press Command-Option-Esc, select the application in the Force Quit window, and click Force Quit.
  • Right-click on the app’s icon in the Dock and choose Force Quit (if it only has a Quit option, hold down the Option key).
  • Click on the Apple menu, select Force Quit, choose the app in the Force Quit window, and click Force Quit.

If force-quitting the application doesn’t solve the problem, try force-quitting other applications.

2. Restart your Mac

If force-quitting applications doesn’t solve the problem, the next step is to restart your Mac. If you can move the pointer and click, click on the Apple menu and select Restart.

If you can’t control the pointer, there are a couple of other things you can try, depending on the model of your Mac:

  • On a Mac that has a DVD drive, press Command-Control-Eject.
  • If you have a newer Mac with the Touch ID, press Command-Control-Option and the power button.

In both these cases, your Mac should offer to save your work, quit all apps, and restart.

If you have a Mac that does have Touch ID or the options above don’t work, you will need to force restart it. Press and hold the power button, wait for it to power off, then wait a few seconds more before releasing the power button. Your Mac should restart normally.

3. Free up RAM

Another reason why your Mac freezes and you can’t click anything is that an application lacks memory. When that happens, it consumes more and more RAM until there is none left for other apps. We use CleanMyMac X. It has the Menu app that shows you which apps consume lots of RAM and displays the current status of things like CPU and network usage. What’s more, the app will notify you when your Mac is running short of RAM and offer to free it up for you. 

To open CleanMyMac X Menu, click little iMac icon in the menu bar and check the Memory tab. 


At the same time, CleanMyMac X comes with Maintenance module that can Free Up RAM without opening the Menu app. Here’s how:

  1. Open CleanMyMac X — you can download it for free here.
  2. From the sidebar, click Maintenance. 
  3. Select Free Up RAM and click Run.
Free up Mac RAM with CleanMyMacX

Freeing up RAM is just one of CleanMyMac X’s Maintenance module tools. It also repairs disk permissions, runs maintenance scripts, and thins out Time Machine snapshots. If you use it regularly, it reduces the chances of your Mac freezing in the future.

4. Disconnect peripheral devices

As mentioned, sometimes, these are peripherals that cause your Mac to freeze. To check if that is the case, shut down your Mac and disconnect all peripheral devices: mouse, keyboard, second screen, printer, etc. Now, press the power button to restart your Mac and wait to see if it freezes again. 

If it works as it should, try reconnecting peripheral devices one by one to see if you can spot one that is at fault for Mac freezing.

5. Uninstall unresponsive apps

If it is an app that is making your Mac freeze, we suggest uninstalling it. After all, you can always install it later by downloading it from either the App Store or the developer’s website. 

To do it, go to the Applications folder and drag the app to the Trash. Remember, though, that trashing an application binary file doesn’t uninstall the application. It leaves behind fragments that can cause issues later on. So, you will also have to hunt down leftover files to ensure that an app has been removed completely. It is done from the Library folder and requires extra caution. To learn more on how to correctly remove apps, check out this handy guide.

6. Update your software (apps and macOS)

In some cases, a Mac may freeze because of a software bug. It can be either a macOS flaw or an issue with a particular app. So, updating your software is a good idea. 

First, check for macOS updates:

  1. Click on the Apple menu and choose System Settings > General.
  2. Then click Software Update. If there is an update available, install it. While you’re there, make sure automatic update is turned on.
System Preferences - Software Update

Now, update your apps. Open the App Store app and check for updates. Install if any are available. For apps you didn’t download from the App Store, click on the application name in the menu bar and select Check for Updates.

AppStore Updates tab

7. Restart in safe mode

If Mac freezes because of a faulty app or extensions, you can spot it by booting into safe mode. It is a special boot that loads only those files that are essential to macOS and performs some troubleshooting. If Mac does not freeze when in safe boot, it may mean that the problem is with an app or extension. 

The steps for booting into safe mode vary for Macs with different processors. 

Intel-based Mac:

  1. Shut down your Mac and wait 10 seconds.
  2. Restart your Mac and press the Shift key.
  3. Release the Shift key after the login window shows up.

Mac with Apple silicon:

  1. Shut down your Mac and wait 10 seconds.
  2. Press and hold the power button until the startup options window shows up.
  3. Select a startup disk.
  4. Press the Shift key and click Continue in Safe Mode.
  5. Release the Shift key.

8. Repair disk with Disk Utility

If Mac freezes because of the issues with the startup disk, repair it. Fortunately, there is a built-in tool that can help you out. Here’s how to use it:

  1. Go to Applications > Utilities and open Disk Utility. 
  2. Select your boot disk in the sidebar and click First Aid in the toolbar.
Disk Utility window

If your MacBook is frozen and you can’t click anything, don’t worry. Follow the steps above to fix the issue. The key is to keep your Mac well-maintained and free from apps or extensions you don’t use. So, no more Mac freezing! Stay tuned for more Mac tips and tricks.

Laptop with CleanMyMac
CleanMyMac X

Your Mac. As good as new.