iMac troubles

I bought an iMac 27 late last year. Wow, cool colors, etc. I’ve let it update the OS as needed along the way. Over the past month the damn thing has been hanging up. I get the spinning wheel thingy that never goes away and there is zero functionality when it’s happening. I was using Safari and switched to Firefox, but I suspect my wife still uses Safari out of habit. Whenever this problem happens, I have to unplug (crash) the computer and restart it. This can’t be good for it.

Any ideas as to what is causing this or how to cure it?

You need to to look in the Console for entries with timestamps just before the hang occurs.
It’s exceedingly unlikely that it’s Safari causing this - if Safari was hanging, it would only affect that application. If this is a system-wide hang, it’s either some corrupt system library, or a hardware failure. Most of the times I’ve seen this, it’s caused by a failing hard drive - this system tries to page in or out of disk, and gets stuck. It could also be bad RAM.

Agreed it sounds like a failing hard drive. Bad sectors and corrupted data don’t cause much trouble until something tries to read that data. Windows fails in a similar manner when that happens, and it can happen with SSDs too.

Crap, the thing’s less than a year old!

Just lucky, I guess…

Actually, hard drives can fail at any age, and if it’s less than a year old, it’s still under warranty. If it is a hardware problem, Apple will fix it for free. Is there an Apple store near you? If so, make an appointment, and have them do a hardware stress test on it.
Make sure you have a current backup!. They have been known to wipe data when repairing machines…

There’s a whole lot of troubleshooting you can do before concluding it’s a bad hard drive.

Apple Disk Utilityshould be run first. Tell it to repair permissions and let it roll, noting any errors it reports.

You can also run Apple Diagnostics and see if it finds any problems.

If you can’t get through either of those programs without experiencing the problem, I’d try creating a new empty user account and logging in with that for a while to see if the problem still happens there. If not it could just be some software conflict.

You can also try starting the computer with all system extensions turned off by holding down the Shift key as the machine boots up. This will limit the functionality of the machine while testing but if at that point the problem no longer happens it’s a quick way to rule out a hardware problem.

If none of those solutions offer any new insights about what is causing the problem then as a second-to-last resort you could also do a clean install of the OS to completely eliminate corrupted OS files from the equation.

And the final last resort, format the drive and reinstall the system and everything else.

Failing all of the above, you’ve got a hardware problem.

So it should be a warranty job yeah?

Repair permissions hasn’t been a legitimate troubleshooting/maintenance tool for many years now, but verifying/repairing the drive should be tried. Booting into safe mode (with the shift key) can be surprisingly helpful, but if it is a hardware problem, that may just delay the problem making you think it was actually fixed (this happened to my parents when their video card started to fail).

What ever’s wrong, it should be covered under warranty … Crazyhorse has a lot of great ideas, but don’t spend so much time tinkering with it so that the warranty expires. These symptoms should not be happening with a machine less than a year old. I’m no expert but I honestly can’t see this as a anything but a hardware problem. I’ve has software hangs before but I was always able to get back to Finder and Force Quit the offending application.

First thing is back up all your data and stuff … more than likely there will be a clean install at some point and that will wipe your disks.

Probably. I ran the diagnostic program, which found no issues.

The Console is your friend.
Do what I suggested, and look in it the next time the problem happens.

I think El Capitan was the first OS release with protected permissions (about a year ago) but you’re right - what I really meant was run disk utility and click something - repair, verify - anything. If there is a hardware problem with the drive it will likely be evident with any disk utility operation.

One thing I wondered but forgot to ask is how long you are waiting before concluding the machine is hung and unplugging it. I get impatient when something takes more than a few seconds. If you haven’t let sit with the spinning beach ball for 10 or 20 minutes it might be worth a try just in case it finishes some unknown task it’s trying to do.

If you’re close to warranty expiring and have an Apple store nearby it won’t hurt to bring it in to them and let them hassle with isolating the problem, but as others have said be sure you have a full backup since one of the things they might try is formatting the disk.

If Apple Diagnostics doesn’t find a problem, the issue is likely to be software or file system related and that’s the quickest way for them to rule it out.

And where might that be, if I may be so bold?

Click the little magnifying glass at the top right of your screen to launch a spotlight search, and type in “console.” The app should open right up.

Otherwise, it lives in Applications/Utilities.

What application(s) are you in when this happens? Have you tried to force quit instead of unplugging?

I really like Safari but lots of sites aren’t supporting it anymore, so now I’m sometimes browsing in Firefox. Do you ever reset Safari? That would frequently speed up and solve Safari issues.

A visit to the Apple Store has always taken care of any issues I’ve ever had, and never a charge unless it was hardware out of warranty, and sometimes they would even dispense with that. There are two by me, each less than a half hour away, and I would just make an online reservation and show up. Are you near any?

Thanks for the suggestions. Yes, there are three in the area, but the mother ship downtown is a bitch to get to because of parking, and I don’t want to have to lug this big bastard any distance.

Because I never learned to use Console, I monitor my Apple computers with Activity Monitor, located in Applications > Utilities folder.
Activity Monitor displays the Process/Program, the % of CPU used, the amount of real and virtual memory used.

From Activity Monitor one can Quit a Process/Program if it is not responding/hung and Force Quit it if it truly hung. The majority of times I need to Quit/Force Quit are browser-related, often caused by Flash Player or Javascript.

I like Activity Monitor so much I keep it in the Dock and have it set to launch at startup.