My OS X Freezes

Starting last week, my MacBook is periodically hanging. When it does, I can’t force quit, I can’t gain control of windows, all I can do is to forcibly power down the machine and restart. Of course, I’m 3 months past the one year warranty expiration and I didn’t pony up the $249 for Apple Care. I thought you could buy it retroactively but now it appears that you can’t so either I misremembered or that policy changed.

Just this morning, it started to happen and I had top running in a terminal window so I could see it. The top two processes were nmblookup. Does this have something to do with it? My worst fear was that this was hardware, so I would actually be happy if it was software and something fixable. At least one other dude in history has had problems with nmblookup on an OS X box so maybe I’m not alone. Anyone have any experience with this?

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Dave Slusher is a blogger, podcaster, computer programmer, author, science fiction fan and father. Member of the Podcast Hall of Fame class of 2022.

24 thoughts on “My OS X Freezes”

  1. Yacko says:

    Are you doing Windows networking? That’s what nmblookup is all about. Perhaps the share it is looking for is offline or maybe the Windows machine is not responding appropriately. When querying network disks Macs can become very sluggish if the network does not respond. Have you let it time out, say 5 minutes? The Mac may finally come back to normal operation. I’d look into the Windows machine that is unresponsive and see if there are clues there. You might also use Console and look into the system log and see if there are clues from the last entries before the reboot.

  2. John says:

    To narrow down the problem, try creating a different user account and use that for a while, if the problem doesn’t affect that user account, that means it’s software issue. If it is, then clear all the caches folders from your user account and from the /Library folders.

  3. ffd says:

    What’s your crash log say?

  4. Jim Minnihan says:

    Did you apply the recent Bluetooth Firmware update on your Mac OS X 10.5 MacBook last week? I found that using the new bluetooth firmware with my Kensington bluetooth mouse caused my issues. I turned off bluetooth, went back to using a standard wireless Logitec mouse instead, and these daily hangs went away. I think the bluetooth firmware was the culprit in this case, because prior to applying that update, I did not receive these hangs.

  5. dave says:

    Dang, what’s with the influx of comments? Unusual traction.

    Yacko, I am not doing any Windows networking and I have no windows mounts. There are Windows machines that are also on on internal network but I’m not connecting to them. In one case, logging and system clock were stopped at 2:15 AM and it was dead at 6:30 AM when I went to look at it.

    Nothing of note in anything I can find in anything in /var/log, nor the crash reporter. The only reason I am implicating nmblookup is I happened to notice them spawning right at a hang one time. It could have been coincidence.

    Jim, I’ll have to check. I don’t think I did. I went back and looked at my System Update log and the last one was 6/26 . I can try turning off Bluetooth and see, although since the hang can go days between occurrences it might take a while to see.

    Thanks guys, I’ll keep plugging.

  6. hugh says:

    Can you SSH into it while it’s frozen and have a look around?

  7. kb says:

    I would look at your Ram. That’s usually the the cause of a hang like that. If you have two sticks try removing one to try to isolate which one is bad. More than likely it’s a hardware issue.

  8. Al says:

    I have been having a similar problem on my iMac, and I have 2 weeks left on the extended warranty. I am hoping whatever is the problem, will surface permanently soon. When I phoned Apple, they said to reset the computer (turn it off, unplug everything, wait 30 seconds and plug everything back in and turn it back on). I also ran the disk utility program, which found some problems. I am going to run Tech Tool 5 on it today and see if there is anything else. It seems to be OK now. The freezing happened on some websites with Safari 4. Couldn’t force quit anything.

  9. Joe Anonymous says:

    Open System Preferences, then Accounts. Click on your account and select the Login Items tab.

    Turn off everything. Reboot.

    You seem to be loading a Windows networking function which you don’t need. I’m guessing that you installed some funky third party utility that is messing you up.

    If that fixes it, go back and add login items one at a time to see which one is causing the problem.

  10. Joe Anonymous says:

    Another option – did you by any chance do a system update about the time the problems appeared? If you use the incremental updater provided by Software Update, it can sometimes cause problems. If this appears to be the problem, download the Combo Updater from Apple and use that.

  11. zaphod says:

    Get a utility to run cron scripts, like MainMenu.

    run daily weekly and monthly maintenance scripts.
    Then clean user cache.

    you might also try repairing disk permissions via Disk Utility.

    doing those 3 things will fix 80% of Mac OS X weirdness.

    if none of those work, try booting the computer in safe mode by holding down the shift key while turning it on. keep shift held down until the grey apple and spinning thing come up.
    then reboot normally. safe boot will do a fsck, and remove some other cache files…

    Good luck.

  12. Bob says:

    Something similar happening to me after most recent updates installed — my MacBook freezes when I close screen now — on re-opening, it hangs and won’t reawaken — don’t have bluetooth enabled. Have to do a hard restart to keep going. Figure it is something Apple missed in the most recent updates, and that they’ll fix soon?

  13. Yacko says:

    Here is the man page for nmblookup.

    It’s part of Samba. Are you trying to link to a NAS via Samba? If you are not doing so explicitly, then something on your computer is. As I said, if your computer is trying to link to a nonexistant network device, the OS may very well be slow as molasses until it times out. Then again it may be a bug and never resolve.

  14. KenC says:

    Hard restarts are going to frag something, so that you will soon not be able to restart.

    You need to spring for DiskWarrior and rebuild your catalog index. That’s the only way I’ve solved problems requiring hard restarts.

  15. Yacko says:

    Are there any other Macs on the network? And do any of them have Windows Sharing turned on?

  16. DaveD says:

    Can’t help much with our problem, but I can shed some light on why so many comments. Your post made Macsurfer.

    I visit the site twice a day and usually check out a couple of links – tonite one of them was yours. Hope you find out what’s causing the freeze ups!

  17. dave says:

    OK, thanks for the heads up about Macsurfer. That makes sense.

    I have not installed any funky third part apps, I am not trying to do any Windows networking. I went into Login Items and took out a few things that I don’t need anymore but none of them seemed related. I did repair permissions which also fixed some things but nothing that jumped out at me as being relevant. I have previously purchased Disk Warrior and can use it if need be.

    At the times these hangs occurred, I’m pretty sure this MacBook was the only active computer on the internal network. All the other Macs were powered down and the other Windows machines were sleeping.

    If it hangs again, I will try to ssh in. I’ll also try to disable Samba. I’m not going to shut down Bluetooth because I do use it, and I haven’t done any updates to the firmware on there. Last software updates were Safari and Java on 6/19. First hang was observed 7/3.

    It’s almost certainly not RAM. This first occurred on the original OEM RAM and I put in my 4 GB upgrade from Otherworld Computing on 7/6 and it has since hung. That was just dumb luck that it was already on the way when I first got the hang.

  18. NMB is definitely a part of Samba, so disabling SMB should fix it (the options button in the File Sharing panel).

    And for the record, you’ve never been able to buy AppleCare retroactively after the original warranty expires. Was really annoying when my Mum’s iBook screen died after two years and I only then realised I had forgotten to buy AppleCare for it.

  19. zahadum says:

    i also recall seeing safari getting jammed by synchronous calls to nmblookup —

    for MANY YEARS.

    it’s not new.

    and it’s not hardware.

    it /is/ apple’s dogged refusal to adopt modern engineering methods: UML, SDL, unit-testing, AOP, pattern languages, etc – you name it, apple RELIGIOUSLY refuses to do it …

    and we all pay the price.

    network calls like these should never be synchronous! … they should be asynchronous (in fact, cocoa WANTS to Do The Right Thing – it has delegates, proxies, facades – but apple’s own iApps often blatantly ignore Apple’s own tool guidelines –

    (eg: the iphone management console in itunes has a (brutally misleadingly named) “information” tab (aka SYNC!) which does NOT use gui disclosure controls to cue the reader that there is a long list of ‘containers’ which may be accessed to get/set prefs (eg sync bookmarks) … even though the HIG would pretty much make any other design choice impossible).

  20. Nate says:

    I would start by using Disk Utility to repair permissions on your boot drive/partition. When permissions get fouled up (and they always do) it can make your system very unstable.

    If you have a lot of data on your drive it can take a long time to repair (overnight). Also it may appear that nothing is happening during the repair (spinning progress bar) but eventually it will finish.

  21. david says:

    “I have previously purchased Disk Warrior and can use it if need be”

    If you’ve got it, use it. Use it now–before things get worse. With your issues I can almost guarantee it will find directory issues and will very likely be able to cure them. After you have your directory structure healthy again, run DiskWarrior every couple of months. It will surprise you and catch an error every now and again. You will notice your boot times speed up dramatically after a DiskWarrior tuneup.

    In the future if you have a system anomaly, especially a recurring one, use DiskWarrior as your first, and primary, line of defense.

    I’ve been running Mac’s back to the 68030 days and have used DW since OS 10.0. 3 Macs in the household currently, including a 8-core Mac Pro and a couple of MacBooks. The only reason not to use it is if you can’t afford it. If it makes you feel more secure, and you have a spare external drive, use Carbon Copy Cloner (freeware, donation accepted) to make a clone of your system before. If you’ve already got Time Machine running, you’re already backed up.

  22. huxley says:

    I’ve been getting those freezes too. October 2008 unibody Macbook. I’ve been driving myself crazy trying to figure that out.

  23. dave says:

    I did the Disk Utility -> Repair Permissions last night. I am current on Time Machine backups and am not too worried about losing data.

    I found my Disk Warrior CD and will boot from it and use it on the laptop HD tonight. The problem I bought it for was on an external HD and the download was sufficient for that task. I found the CD in the unopened mailer box in my office.

    I did also go into my file sharing options and while the overall Windows sharing option was unchecked, there was a checked option on my user account for sharing windows. I unchecked that as well.

    I haven’t seen a hang since doing all of this, but then I have seen it 3 times in the last week so 24 hours without a hang doesn’t tell me that much. When I go 2 weeks without one then I’ll start to feel more comfortable.

    Thanks for all of the advice.

  24. yannb says:

    I just got rid of the same very annoying problem by rebuilding the spotlight index.

    You can erase spotlight index using Onyx

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