The Finder stopped working because of items placed onto the desktop

Last Modified: Feb 22, 2011 5:26 PM
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Q. I accidentally dropped one or more items on the Finder's desktop, and the Finder now crashes whenever it tries to display the items on the desktop, or it displays a spinning beachball which never disappears. How do I get the Finder to start working again?

A. This issue can take two forms: a single item with a name the Finder can't handle, or more than approximately 150 items which causes the Finder to hang when it attempts to display them. In either case, copy and paste the following into the address bar of your web browser if you are using Mac OS X 10.3 or newer:

applescript:// shell script "mkdir -p ~/Desktop/DesktopItems; mv ~/Desktop/*.jpg ~/Desktop/DesktopItems"

In older versions of Mac OS X, or if the first method doesn't work, restart with the Command and S keys held down, and enter the following:

mount -uw /
cd /Users/username/
mkdir -m 777 -p Desktop/DesktopItems
mv Desktop/*.jpg Desktop/DesktopItems

Replace .jpg in the commands with the filename extension of the item or items which were placed onto the desktop; this can be done before or after pressing Enter in the address bar with the first method, but must be done before pressing Enter after the fourth line in the second case. In the second case, replace username in the second line with the name of the home folder; if this is outside of /Users/, the whole path needs to be changed. The command considers case when it is run, so you will need to ensure that spacing and capitalization is correct. If files with different extensions were dropped onto the desktop, multiple runs of the command will be needed. After performing the first set of instructions if applicable, hold down the Option key while control-clicking the Finder's icon on the Dock and choose Relaunch from the menu which appears, or choose Force Quit from the Apple menu, select the Finder in the list, click Relaunch, and confirm your action.

If you're not sure what the extension for a specific item is, run 'do shell script "ls ~/Desktop"' in the Script Editor, or ls /Users/username/Desktop/ from Single User mode, and look through the list of results; the extension will be the text after the last period of that entry in the list. If the item has no extension, delete the text after the * up to but not including the following space.

When done, go through the folder named DesktopItems on the desktop for items you want to keep, drag those back to the desktop or another location inside your home folder, and then throw the DesktopItems folder away.


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