Q One of my 27” iMacs with 4 GB of memory keeps stalling with the ‘spinning beach ball’ cursor. I have worked through recommended first aid measures from various articles, but only starting in Safe mode seems to help. Does this mean there is a memory problem?
A This is very unlikely to be a problem with installed memory, which tends to result in kernel panics or complete freezes. It could result from a hard disk problem, and this is worth eliminating early on by checking and repairing the startup drive and its permissions.
The next time that you see the spinning beach ball for a long time, switch to the Finder and start up the Console app. The entries in there should point the finger at an old third-party startup item, extension, or similar, which is causing the trouble. You can then update, remove, or disable that item.
Further information about interpreting log files is here.
Updated from the original, which was first published in MacUser volume 27 issue 9, 2011.