Weird OS X crash – everything freezes, music from iTunes keeps playing

Photo 86


OS X crashed on me again. This has happened before, and I think the manner of the crash is weird enough to warrant a blog post. This is what happens.

1) I’m working on something, usually my thesis, using NeoOffice, Word, remote desktop, Firefox, Opera, tons of stuff.

2) Suddenly OS X freezes – meaning that my keyboard input doesn’t register, and although I can move the mouse cursor around, nothing happens when I click.

3) The music continues. If I am playing an MP3 in iTunes, it keeps playing, like nothing has happened. No stuttering, nothing.

4) I can close the lid on the Macbook, and it will eventually go to sleep. When I wake it up, I don’t get the logon screen, but am sent directly into the desktop again and the music resumes.

5) Eventually my patience runs out, and I do a hard shutdown on the Macbook using the power button.

In a word: Weird. As previously, nothing special in the logs. I’ll google this later, for now I have to do some work.


25 Responses to “Weird OS X crash – everything freezes, music from iTunes keeps playing”

  1. Denise Robasciotti Says:

    Thank for making this valuable information available to the public.

  2. Dan Says:

    This happens to me fairly often. It seems to be tied to macromedia flash player in a browser.

  3. Are Wold Says:

    Thanks for the tip. That makes me concerned that it could be my favourite browser Opera in combination with Flash – are you using Opera? I think I’ve been running Opera and Firefox simultaneously the times I have experienced the freeze, so it would require some testing to figure out.

  4. Dan Says:

    I’ve had it happen with firefox, and I believe with Safari. It only seems to happen when my kid plays a game that uses flash.

    It’s driving me crazy, and I haven’t found many others who have seen it.

  5. Johan Ström Says:

    I’ve seen this problem too… Way to many times… On my Macbook C2D, OSX 10.4.9 (it has been there since 10.4.7 or something…. i dont think it started to happen until my first update after I bought it in August.).
    This is most likely not a HW problem since I bought a new MB and still got same problem..

    There are some post on the apple forum in, altough i dont know if there are any other threads about it, this was a while ago..

  6. Are Wold Says:

    Thanks for posting!

    For the last week or so, I have disabled Flash in my primary web browser (Opera). So far, I haven’t had any more crashes. I do run Flash when I absolutely have to use YouTube for instance, but then I just open that page in Firefox and close it afterwards. Many pages that I regularly visit, such as Gamespot, use Flash as an integral part of the UI. Maybe this could be the problem?

  7. Brian Barbutti Says:

    Same problem here.

    Sometimes Flash crashes only Safari and other times it crashes in this weird way you described.

    Very frustrating…

  8. mike Says:

    Firefox has an extension that blocks flash. I use that and that covers the crashing problem. Unfortunately I am not having a problem starting firefox. All this stuff is way too buggy.

  9. bikeham Says:

    Are you sure that transmission is not causing it? I happens to me only when running transmission and I have to hold down the power switch to shutdown and restart. I often lose torrents that are being downloaded too.

  10. Are Wold Says:

    I haven’t had this problem for quite some time – but I have upgraded to Leopard, and I’m not running Transmission much either. If I recall correctly, Transmission wasn’t always running when I experienced the freeze earlier – but I can’t really say for certain, it’s been too long.

  11. Erik van der Neut Says:

    I have this happen a lot to me as well — it’s driving me mad, especially since I recently converted to the Mac from 15 years on PC.

    To me it seems like it’s something related to iTunes, not Flash. I develop in Flash and run Flash applications all the time and I don’t get this freezing issue.

    For me, this freeze happens every time I pause music playback in iTunes. Every time. Everything’s working fine, but as soon as I pause the music playback in iTunes: spinning beach ball of death, nothing responds, I can’t click on anything, my time display freezes, etc, but I can still move the mouse. The only thing I can do to get out of this, is keep holding the power button to reboot the machine.

    I’m on a MacBook Pro, running Leopard and the latest iTunes.

    Would loooove to know what’s causing this and how to solve it. I’ve ran DiskWarrior several times, reinstalled iTunes, nothing seems to help.

    – Erik

  12. gary archer Says:

    I’m wondering if you’ve seen any update on this. I’ve seen it happen to me when I have been running dual displays (with the external one ROTATED) AND iTunes is running and I have several other applications open.

    iTunes will play, and the song will go to the next song BUT the iTunes display will not update.

    This is with 10.5.2

  13. Are Wold Says:

    Hi Gary, I haven’t had any more crashes like this for a while, then again I haven’t used my Mac very much. I’m also at 10.5.2.

  14. Francesco Says:

    Very interesting. You describe exactly the problem I am having. I just switched from PC and I don’t understand if this means something is wrong with my hardware… I cannot find a solution online and the only alternative I have is to not listen music when I have something important to do so I don’t risk for a crash…
    Anyone has a solution?

  15. Deodorat Says:


    I’ve had the same problem for few months now, but for me the freezing happens only when I’m scrolling Cover Flow in iTunes. I’ve tried to find a solution, but there just doesn’t seem to be one.

  16. Byron Says:

    Diffrent apps but the same problem!!

  17. Byron Says:

    Different apps but the same problem!!

  18. Bain Says:

    I get this while FTPing large (>300mb) files, viewing Flash in any browser and sometimes while running VMWare Fusion.

    The linked thread above ended without resolution; any other pointers to info about this?

  19. Padan Says:

    I get the SBBOD consistently when trying to transfer corrupted media files (MP3, MPEG, AVI) through streaming or FTP. Including cached FLV files which got corrupted due to SBBOD crashes.

    I used single-user mode and applejack to fix permissions and do repair, but be cautious with media files that may be corrupt.

  20. Padan Says:

    The problem in my case was a hard drive with bad sectors, too many to remap to the reserve area. Verify disk in Disk Utility and a DiskWarrior hardware scan didn’t reveal this. I used Disk Utility’s zero-out erase to discover it (it beach-balls during the erase) and a utility called “badblocks” to confirm.

  21. Caarol Says:

    Transmission crashes my G5 OSX 10.5.6 every day. I did NOT used to have this problem so I assume it is a conflict or bandwidth issue?

    Cursor spins and I cannot even force quit I have to shut down.

  22. Lucas Says:

    I have the same problem Caarol has when I’m running iTunes and Transmission at the same time. After a while, both these applications appear as ‘unresponsive’, and force quitting them doesn’t work (they disappear from Activity Monitor, but stay in the dock and Force Quit window). This sometimes causes the Dock and other normal applications to crash. Only way out is the power button.

  23. Thomas Says:

    Great, everyone has the same problem, but no one has an answer…*sigh*…I guess I’ll keep looking.

  24. deez Says:

    “could” be logic-board issue.

    this may or may not help.. but i was having freezing issues for a while. more graphic related though i.e. – webcam/ichat/photobooth, plants vs zombies, world of goo and youtube/hulu as well. often everything would freeze and audio would continue. had to do a hard shut down. videos would also leave my screen with a bunch of horizontal lines as well.

    this persisted off and on for 5 months. i put in a fresh new hard drive and went back to original mac ram. runs great, however issue was still present. finally brought it in and it was a graphic card issue. they replaced logic board and everything seems great! i didn’t have applecare so it was $310 before tax and it comes with a 90-day warranty. super quick turn around too.

  25. Philippe Scott Says:

    Apple had a very operating system, but lately, freezes are the word of the day. Success may have made Apple a company that produces a mediocre operating system (comparable to Vista now). I honestly can not recommend Macs anymore to my clients and has been lately closely looking at Windows 7, freezes a lot less than OS X 10.xx and a lot less updates.

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