How to Restart a Frozen Mac

By Techwalla Computers Editor

If the cursor won't move, the time stops on the wristwatch cursor, or the keyboard won't talk to your screen, your Mac is "frozen," or has "crashed." Here are several ways to remedy the problem for Mac OS 8.0 or later.

Things You'll Need

  • Mac OS 9.0
  • Norton Utilities For Macintosh

Step 1

To attempt to save work in any applications other than the one you have running, you can force-quit the current application. Press these keys at the same time: Command-Option-Escape. Your unsaved work in the current application will be lost.

Step 2

If you can, save work in all other programs.

Step 3

Restart the computer by pressing the Power key or choosing Shut Down from the Special menu.

Step 4

If that doesn't work, to shut down or restart the entire computer, press these keys: Command-Option-Shift-Power. All unsaved work will be lost.

Step 5

To force the computer to restart, press these keys: Command-Control-Power.

Step 6

If nothing else works, unplug the computer or turn off its power strip.

Tips & Warnings

  • Most system crashes are caused by temporary software problems. Restarting the computer clears the computer's memory and usually solves the problems.
  • Most recurring system freezes are caused by extension conflicts; that is, one of the mini-applications in your System Folder's Extensions folder is at cross purposes with the system itself and virtually shuts down Mac activity. If you've installed any programs recently, they might be the culprits.
  • Check to make sure any peripheral devices, particularly SCSI devices, are connected to your computer correctly. Each SCSI device needs a unique SCSI ID number.
  • You can reset the PRAM, returning certain areas of your Mac's memory to the original (default) settings, by restarting your computer and holding down Option-Command-R-P.
  • When you restart your computer with OS 8.5 or higher, your Mac automatically runs Disk First Aid. You must press Return (or click on the Done button) to complete the start-up.
  • Check the Help menu (in Finder) for more information about troubleshooting a Mac that freezes often.
  • Make sure your computer is shut down and turned off before connecting or disconnecting any peripherals. The only exceptions are devices connected by USB (Universal Serial Bus) cables.