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I've had this problem for many versions of OS X and iTunes, though I'm currently running OS X 10.6.5 and iTunes 10.1 (54).

Sometimes, when downloading lots of Podcasts or iTunes U media, particularly when multiple downloads are enabled, I get:

  1. The spinning beach ball over the iTunes window, but if iTunes is playing a video or music, it continues to play.
  2. Other apps (like VLC) continue to run.
  3. But I am unable to interact with the system or with any running apps and have to force restart with the power button.

However

  1. No application is able send traffic over the network (Adium fails to receive new messages, pages in Firefox stop downloading).
  2. I can't start any new apps, like the Terminal to look at what's going on — they pulse in the dock for some amount of time and then simply fail to start.
  3. I can't invoke the force quit dialogue (nothing happens).
  4. The mouse remains responsive, though after a time, I'm unable to focus on new windows.
  5. Apple Menu > Restart/Shut Down/Logout do nothing.
  6. The sleep button doesn't put the computer to sleep (it does nothing). Holding it shuts the machine down, which is my only recourse.

So, any ideas? I repair permissions daily (cron task), repaired the disk from the Snow Leopard DVD, checked out DiskWarrior, all to no avail.

An AKB article suggested moving my iTunes Library to an external volume, but I'm not interested in doing that.

What would be causing iTunes to crash my entire system? There doesn't, sadly, seem to be any helpful output from syslogd that correlates to the time of the crash. Could it be a corrupted iTunes Music Library?

EDIT — ADDITIONAL NOTES: I have discovered a line in system.log that I thought was inserted right after I booted, but it looks like it might be crash related

iTunes[239]: INSERT-HANG-DETECTED: Tx time:5.596774, # of Inserts: 157, # of bytes written: 931894, Did shrink: NO

EDIT — FURTHER NOTES: I have attempted to reproduce the crash with SpinControl running. Interestingly, I've seen iTunesHelper hang for the maximum sampling time, as well as iTunes, but not Finder. Even more interestingly (and infuriatingly) SpinControl crashes when I attempt to open logs flagged as "Very Unpleasant" or "App never recovered".

Following from some more research into people with vaguely similar problems, I have:

  1. Rebuilt the iTunes Library (by trashing iTunesLibrary.xml and letting iTunes rebuild one); and
  2. Re-installed the Mac OS X 10.6.5 Updater (Combo) as well as iTunes and repaired permissions.

We'll see if either of those fix the problem.

EDIT - AFTER CLEAN OS X INSTALL

I was so fed up with the problem persisting and bringing my system down, being unable to track down the problem (which could be anything from some random kext required by one of my numerous attached hardware devices to simply poor error handling).

Continued in a new question: iTunes OS X full system crash cont'd: is a bad media file the culprit? How do I isolate it?

THE ANSWER — NO SOLUTION

It seems that this is a (hardware?) bug with the Intel iMacs and Mac Minis, as I discovered in this thread on Apple Support (which admittedly wasn't easy to find with that title, but it fits my problem to a tee).

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Have you uninstalled iTunes completely? Have you deleted your library and recreated it? Have you checked the physical disk surface? –  user3463 Nov 17 '10 at 18:18
    
Hi Randolph, as I said, I've had this problem for many versions of iTunes and OS X. I've always done clean installs, so essentially, yes to your first question. As for re-creating my library, I have done so from Time Machine backups, but I can't feasibly re-create it from scratch. Disk surface is fine. –  msanford Nov 17 '10 at 19:06
    
Also, when I do clean installs, I never restore podcasts or iTunes U media from backups: I re-download them anew. –  msanford Nov 17 '10 at 19:10
2  
Have you tried using Spin Control (an Apple Developer Tool)? This may help identify the failure if you start it up, than cause your failure with iTunes. –  Everett Nov 17 '10 at 20:51
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SpinControl crashes when I try to view the logs. What a disaster... Great suggestion though. –  msanford Nov 30 '10 at 21:40

4 Answers 4

It sounds like it's not iTunes, might be the Finder freezing up, probably due to a momentary drop in your network connection. In my experience, when the Mac loses connection to a network, Finder craps the bed and it takes, sometimes, a few before Finder and the system's network connection get themselves back together. I'v experienced what you are, just not as frequently. Loss of network connectivity is typically the culprit.

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With this problem, do you see the AirPort menu item grey out as the connection is lost and recovered? –  msanford Nov 23 '10 at 21:58
    
I typically don't notice the Airport menu go grey, as I can still browser the internet or whatever while Finder and iTunes are having a spat. I believe, that even with the Cocoa 'rewrite' of Finder, that it's still wrought with network performance problems, exhibited by its frequent freezing when performing tasks over any network connection. –  Aaron Dec 6 '10 at 4:21
    
Thanks for your response. I +1ed it for "not iTunes", though it actually is. Sort of. I've updated my question with the (as of yet solution-less) cause. Thanks for taking the time to respond! –  msanford Dec 13 '10 at 16:38

I've got a very similar issue (2008 24'' iMac with Snow Leopard + all the latest patches). A freeze can be triggered by trying to download a few 1.5G podcasts using iTunes (TV shows). Also, installing Starcraft II required several reboots because of freezes :(

The only good thing so far is that on safe mode there were no freezes, at least based on one test.

An open shell during a freeze is interesting: Every command (including 'ls' for example) gives Permission denied. Also, the top menu items lose their marbles, Airport menu reverts to resource IDs (stuff like txtAirportTogglePower) or empty strings. Syslogd takes 10-30% of the CPU time. Very infuriatingly nothing at all shows up on console or any of the logs during a freeze. Spin Control noted that Firefox and Skype become unresponsive, and after that Spin Control itself went unresponsive.

Now unistalled vmware, EyeTV and every other unneeded app. iTunes is now syncing 110G of stuff to my AppleTV while Time Machine is doing a backup, no freezes so at least so far so good.

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up vote 0 down vote accepted

The fix is to disable Podcasts in iTunes, completely.

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I have exactly the same problem, had it with leopard and snow leopard. It seems to happen particularly when downloading multiple HD video files from itunes.

The only way I have managed to get round this problem is to turn off "multiple downloads" on the download page in itunes - not great when downloading an HD TV-series.

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1  
Even that hasn't fixed the problem in subsequent releases. I had to disable podcasts, which was actually the reason I got an iPod to begin with. Stupid… –  msanford Jun 17 '11 at 3:30
    
While definitely not ideal, I can confirm that disabling simultaneous downloads resolved this issue for me. –  user219350 Apr 24 '13 at 3:43

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