Why Is Mac Hard Drive or External Media Freezing?

Summary: Is your Mac drive freezing or slow to respond? This blog shares several methods to resolve internal or external Mac hard drive freezing problem.

Also, you will come across a powerful software approach to recover data from a freezing Mac hard drive. Download the free trial version of the software and keep it handy as you read further.

Why Is Mac Hard Drive or External Media Freezing?

It is frustrating when a Mac hard drive or USB drive reads or writes data slowly and at times, freezes. Mac hard drives freezing issue inevitably appear with continued drive usage or otherwise, but can be mitigated with proper action.

10 Reasons for Mac Hard Drive & External Drive Freezing

Mac hard drive can freeze due to the following reasons:

  1. Low free space on the start-up disk
  2. Partition map failing
  3. Presence of bad sectors
  4. File system corruption
  5. Hard disk driver issue
  6. An issue with the installed macOS
  7. Problem with drive connector
  8. Inadequate power supply
  9. Malfunctioned actuator arm
  10. Problem with the spindle motor

Clicking or grinding noise from your start-up disk or external hard drive indicates it will often freeze and ultimately fail. Your timely corrective action can prevent impending data loss.

Read More: 8 Ways to Recover or Repair a Mac Hard Drive

What to Do If My Mac Hard Drive Continues to Freeze?

Mac Startup Drive Freezing!

When an internal Mac hard drive (Macintosh HD) freezes or stops functioning, macOS may not boot properly. Force shut down your Mac by pressing the power button for 2 to 3 seconds. Then perform the following steps:

  1. Turn on your Mac then press and hold the Command + R keys together. Release the keys when you see the Apple logo. Your Mac boots in the macOS Recovery mode.
  2. On the macOS Utilities window, click Disk Utility then click Continue. From the left pane of Disk Utility, select the startup disk then click First Aid. Click Run to confirm.
  3. Disk Utility verifies and repairs the startup disk for errors, bad sectors, and other issues. Wait till the process completes. There is no harm in using First Aid multiple times.

Get More Tips on Macintosh HD Repair Here.

Also, perform the following troubleshooting process:

  • Ensure 10% free space for the start-up disk
  • Install software updates provided by macOS

If none of the tips helps, then back up your Mac with Time Machine and reinstall macOS.

External Mac Hard Drive Freezing!

When an external USB Mac hard drive freezes, you can’t access the data present on the drive. If the external drive happens to be your Time Machine backup drive, you lose access to your backup.

Perform the following troubleshooting methods, when your external hard drive freezes:

  • Check the external hard drive connector, as the loose connection may result in freezing
  • Connect the external hard drive to correct USB port
  • If the drive needs an external power source, plug the power cable
  • Use First Aid of Disk Utility to fix logical errors of the external hard drive
  • Upgrade firmware of your external hard drive
  • Set the external hard disk drive not to sleep to speed up system performance
  • Disable Spotlight indexing for the external hard drive (Go to System Preferences > Spotlight > Privacy tab. Then drag the external hard drive or click the + icon to select your external hard drive and click Choose.)

Frequent device freezing suggests that you need to recover vital Mac hard drive’s data before it fails.

Back up or Recover Freezing Mac Hard Drive

If nothing works, you’ve got the following three options left:

  • Call the service center in case the hard drive is in warranty. But ensure you recover inaccessible data from the drive before you send the drive for replacement or repair, as the hardware warranty doesn’t cover data.
  • Back up or recover data by using an undelete tool for Mac. Learn more about one such tool below.
  • Contact a data recovery service provider to salvage data from the hard drive with a critical hardware issue. Situations like physical damage to your Mac hard drive is beyond the purview of data recovery software.

For startup disk’s unresolved freezing issue, remove the hard drive from your Mac and connect it to another working Mac as an external hard drive. Or else, use the Target Disk mode of the affected Mac to make its hard drive accessible as an external medium on another Mac.

But if the freezing hard drive is external, then you won’t need another Mac. Just plug in the freezing hard drive to the same Mac.

Stellar Data Recovery Premium for Mac helps Recover your Drive

Perform data recovery by using the DIY Mac data recovery software, as follows:

Step 1) Download and install the demo* version of Stellar Data Recovery Premium on your Mac machine. 


Note: The demo version allows you to scan the freezing hard drive and preview the recoverable files from the list.

Srellar Data Recovery Premium for Mac

Step 2) After the software is installed, launch it. The software displays the Select What To Recover screen. Here you can specify the type of files you wish to recover. Since you need to recover all the data present on the freezing drive, click Next with the default selection of Recover Everything toggled on.

Step 3) The tool then presents the Select Location screen. Here the inbuilt Mac hard drive as well as the connected freezing drive is displayed. When you do not find the freezing hard drive icon, then try reconnecting it to your Mac. In case the drive is corrupt, click the ‘Can’t Find Volume’ icon. Next, toggle on Deep Scan and click the Scan button.

Select Location - Premium

Step 4) The data recovery software will initiate the scanning process with dynamic file preview. You may even turn off the preview to speed up the scanning process. Once the tool finishes scanning, it displays ‘Scanning Completed Successfully’ dialog box. Click OK.

Step 5) From Classic List, File List, or Deleted List, select a view of your choice from the left pane. The software lists the files on the right pane. Preview the recoverable files, and when satisfied, select the necessary files.

Preview - Premium

Step 6) The demo software needs activation to recover and save the recovered files.

Read More: How to Activate Stellar Data Recovery Premium on Your Mac.

Step 7) Once the tool is activated, click Recover.  The software displays a Recover dialog box. Click Browse to specify the save location then click Save. When the software completes the recovery task, navigate to the specified save destination to view recovered files.

Stellar Drive Monitor to Map Bad Sectors of the Freezing Hard Drive

Drive Monitor also determines the number of bad sectors on your freezing hard disk. Steps to know the bad-sectors in the color-coded map are as follows:

  1. Launch the software and click Monitor Drive.
  2. From the left pane of Drive Monitor module, click Scan Disk.
  3. From the top-right list box, select the freezing drive to scan.
  4. Click Scan. And allows the scanning process to complete.

The Scan Disk interface displays Disk Size, Total Sectors, and Block Size. It also provides runtime data in color code, viz. Processed in blue, Bad Sectors in red, and Processing in gray. The tool even displays Time Elapsed and Time Remaining. The map of bad-sectors help you take informed decision when to clone your drive to prevent data loss due.

Read More: Premium Storage Drive Monitoring Software for Mac

Stellar Drive Monitor to Clone the Freezing Hard Drive

Stellar Data Recovery Premium variant also comes bundled with Drive Monitor that helps you clone the freezing hard drive for backup as well as for secure data recovery. Steps are as follows:

  1. Connect an external storage drive on Mac, with the same or more space than the affected hard drive.
  2. Launch Stellar Data Recovery Premium for Mac.
  3. On the software’s main window, click Monitor Drive.
  4. From the left pane of Stellar Drive Monitor, click Clone Disk.
  5. On the right pane, select the freezing drive as a Source Disk and the good external drive as Target Disk.
  6. Click Clone. Let the cloning process to complete.
  7. Once the tool creates the clone of the external drive, use the clone disk to recover data.

Erase Freezing Mac Hard Drive for Proper Use in Future

If your Mac hard drive freezing problem is due to logical corruption, then you can safely erase the freezing hard drive after the data is retrieved. Follow the undermentioned steps to erase your drive with Disk Utility.

  1. Launch Disk Utility
  2. Select the external drive (in case the drive in question is the startup disk then boot the Mac via macOS Recovery mode and erase the Macintosh HD)
  3. Press Erase and provide drive name, size, and partition scheme
  4. Click Apply to save your settings

The drive will be formatted to the newly assigned partition scheme, thus eradicating the freezing problem.

Caution: Do not attempt to erase the freezing macOS hard drive without recovering the data.

Bonus Tips

  • Perform all critical troubleshooting with complete backup
  • Use Time Machine to back-up data from the startup disk
  • Keep 3 copies of critical data, 2 on different media, and 1 offsite
  • Scan your Mac drive for malware infection to prevent freezing


This blog shared several methods to recover Mac from hard drive freezing problem both in case of startup disk and external hard drive. The external hard drive can be your Time Machine backup drive. It also outlined a software-based process to salvage data from freezing Mac hard drives. This software, Stellar Data Recovery Premium for Mac, is an advanced utility that can recover inaccessible data from a freezing, corrupt, or unmounted hard drives.

The Premium edition is designed to safeguard your Macintosh HD from bad blocks and more. With the Premium Edition, you can also repair corrupt photos & videos. The software supports data recovery from LaCie, Seagate, Western Digital, Toshiba, Maxtor, and other popular hard drive brands. It also lets you recover data from a Fusion Drive.

  1. Dana Rice September 13, 2019
    • Vishal September 13, 2019
  2. Mathew Walker August 23, 2019
    • Vishal August 27, 2019
  3. Phillip J. Bruno June 25, 2019
    • Vishal June 26, 2019

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