How to Fix Safari Not Responding on macOS Big Sur

An illustrated guide showing a frustrated user troubleshooting a frozen Safari browser on a macOS Big Sur desktop environment.

How to Fix Safari Not Responding on macOS Big Sur

With the introduction of macOS Big Sur, Apple has delivered a host of upgrades to its operating system, enhancing performance, security, and the overall user experience. However, as with any major update, certain issues have surfaced, interfering with the seamless use of applications and services. A notable case in point is Safari, Apple’s signature web browser, which some users have found to be unresponsive after updating to Big Sur. This problem can range from minor inconveniences, such as slow webpage loading, to more severe disruptions, including frequent crashes or the browser failing to open altogether. Fortunately, there are several troubleshooting steps you can take to resolve Safari’s lack of response and restore its functionality on your Mac.

Basic Troubleshooting Steps

Before diving into more advanced solutions, there are a few basic troubleshooting steps you should try:

  • Restart your Mac: Sometimes, a simple restart can clear up any minor glitches that might be causing Safari to hang or crash.
  • Check your Internet connection: An unstable or slow Internet connection could be the reason behind Safari’s sluggish performance or lack of responsiveness.
  • Update macOS and Safari: Ensure that both your macOS system and Safari browser are updated to the latest versions. Apple frequently releases updates to fix bugs and improve performance.

Clear Safari’s Cache and Website Data

Cleaning up Safari’s cache and website data can often resolve problems related to webpage loading and overall browser performance. To do this:

  1. Open Safari and choose Safari > Preferences from the menu bar.
  2. Click on the Privacy tab, then press the Manage Website Data… button.
  3. Click Remove All to clear data stored by websites in Safari. You can also select individual sites and remove data for those specifically if you prefer.

Disable Safari Extensions

Extensions can enhance your browsing experience but can also cause issues like browser unresponsiveness or crashes if they’re not compatible with the current version of Safari or are malfunctioning. Disabling extensions to diagnose the issue involves:

  1. Opening Safari and going to Safari > Preferences.
  2. Clicking on the Extensions tab.
  3. Unchecking the checkbox next to each extension to disable them. If this improves Safari’s performance, re-enable each extension one by one to identify the culprit.

Use Safe Mode

Booting your Mac in Safe Mode can help determine if the issue is caused by non-essential system extensions or startup items. To enter Safe Mode:

  1. Restart your Mac and immediately press and hold the Shift key.
  2. Release the key when you see the login window. This might take longer than usual because macOS runs diagnostics in the background during Safe Mode.
  3. Try using Safari in Safe Mode to see if the problem persists. If it doesn’t, the cause might be related to third-party software or login items.

Create a New User Profile

If the issue is isolated to your user profile, creating a new one can be a good workaround:

  1. Go to System Preferences > Users & Groups.
  2. Click the lock to make changes, and then press the + button to add a new user. Choose “Administrator” for the new account type.
  3. Log out from your current account and log in with the new user account. Try using Safari to see if the issue persists.


Resetting the Non-Volatile Random-Access Memory (NVRAM) or Parameter RAM (PRAM) on your Mac can resolve issues related to settings stored in these memory components, such as screen resolution, time zone, and, potentially, some Safari behaviors. To reset:

  1. Shut down your Mac.
  2. Press the Power button, and then immediately press and hold Option + Command + P + R.
  3. Hold these keys for about 20 seconds. Your Mac might appear to restart.
  4. Release the keys, and allow your Mac to continue starting normally.

Reinstall macOS Big Sur

If all else fails, reinstalling macOS Big Sur can be a last resort. Reinstalling the OS can fix deep-seated system issues without affecting your personal data. To reinstall macOS:

  1. Restart your Mac and immediately press and hold Command + R to enter Recovery Mode.
  2. Choose Reinstall macOS from the utilities window and follow the on-screen instructions.


Why is Safari not responding on my Mac?

Safari might not respond on your Mac due to various reasons, including outdated macOS or Safari versions, corrupted cache or website data, incompatible or malfunctioning Safari extensions, or underlying issues with your Mac’s hardware or software. Identifying the specific cause requires systematic troubleshooting.

How do I force quit Safari if it’s not responding?

If Safari is not responding, you can force quit the application by pressing Command + Option + Esc, selecting Safari from the list of applications, and then clicking on the Force Quit button. Alternatively, you can right-click on the Safari icon in the dock, press and hold the Option key, and choose Force Quit from the menu.

Will clearing Safari’s cache and website data remove my bookmarks and saved passwords?

Clearing Safari’s cache and website data will not remove your bookmarks or saved passwords. This action only clears temporary files and data stored by websites, such as cookies and cached content, which can help resolve loading or performance issues.

Can incompatible Safari extensions permanently damage my browser?

Incompatible Safari extensions can lead to performance issues or crashes, but they don’t usually cause permanent damage to the browser. Disabling or uninstalling the problematic extension and ensuring that you only install extensions from reputable sources can help avoid these issues.

What happens when I create a new user profile to solve Safari issues?

Creating a new user profile on your Mac provides a fresh set of preferences and system settings, which can help determine whether the Safari issues are related to your primary user profile. If Safari works normally under the new profile, the problem might lie in the settings, files, or applications specific to your original profile.

Is reinstalling macOS Big Sur a safe process? Will I lose my data?

Reinstalling macOS Big Sur is generally a safe process designed to repair the operating system without affecting your personal data. However, it’s always a good practice to back up your Mac using Time Machine or another backup method before attempting an OS reinstallation, just in case you encounter unexpected issues.

How can I avoid Safari problems in the future?

To avoid Safari problems in the future, keep your macOS and Safari browser updated to the latest versions, regularly clear your cache and website data, manage your extensions by only keeping those that are necessary and from trusted developers, and consider running periodic diagnostics on your Mac to identify and resolve any underlying issues.

By following these steps and maintenance tips, you should be able to resolve Safari’s responsiveness issues on macOS Big Sur and enjoy a smoother, more reliable browsing experience.


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