I’m sure this has happened to you before: You’re checking mail on Microsoft Outlook or reading the news on Apple’s Safari browser when all of a sudden, your cursor turns into an hourglass (on a Windows PC) or a spinning beach ball (on the Mac).
That usually means something (hopefully minor) is amiss on your system. Maybe your computer is running low on memory because it’s doing a few too many things at once; or, perhaps, the program you’re using wandered into a situation it can’t get itself out of.
The best way to deal with either the Windows hourglass (or a blue spinning circle on a Windows 7 PC) or the Mac’s spinning beach ball is, typically, to do nothing. With any luck, your system or application will settle down after a few seconds or so.
But if several minutes have passed and you’re still staring at a frozen program, it might be time to take matters into your own hands and force the stalled program to quit.
Doing so may, of course, lead to losing any unsaved data; then again, you may not have much choice.
Ready to unstick a stuck program? Here’s how.
- Still seeing the hourglass or spinny circle after waiting a few minutes? Time to call up the Windows Task Manager, a tool that details all the programs and other system “processes” that are currently running on your PC. To do so, press and hold the CONTROL, ALT, and DELETE keys all at the same time.
- Once Windows Task Manager is running, make sure the Applications tab is selected, then check out the list of running programs; you should see the misbehaving program flagged with a status of “Not Responding.” Click the program, then click the “End Task” button at the bottom of the Task Manager window.
- Next, you’ll be prompted to either a) wait a little longer for the program to right itself, or b) go ahead and quit the program. Waited long enough? Then click “quit.”
- Open the Apple menu (just click the Apple icon in the top-left corner of the screen) and select “Force Quit”—or, if you like, press the COMMAND, OPTION, and ESCAPE buttons all at the same time.
- You should now see a list of all the running programs on your Mac, including the application that’s frozen (probably labeled “Not Responding”). Click the name of the program, then click the “Force Quit” keys in the bottom corner of the Force Quit menu.
- A prompt will appear warning that you may lose any unsaved changes if you force the program to quit. Ready to put your program out of its misery? Click the Force Quit button once more, or Cancel if you’re rather wait it out.