Mac won't turn on: What to do?

When your Mac won’t load or hangs on startup, it’s not the end of the world. You still have pretty good chances of fixing it, even without a technician’s help. Before you read next, check if your Mac is plugged in. Your first guess should be your Mac has run out of battery. If it’s not the case, you are welcome to try some of the following easy tips.

Mac won’t turn on? Try these tips

Here are six simple tips to try if your MacBook doesn’t turn on.  

1. Check your charger’s cable

Mac doesn't start

Carefully examine the cable along its full length to see if the charger is intact and all connections are in place. Also, ensure that the AC power socket is working. To isolate the source of the problem, look into the following:

  • Does your Mac make any noise? If the fans are working, but you can’t hear any other sounds, this might indicate logic board failure.
  • Could it be the display? Press the Caps Lock to see if it lights on. If it glows, then your display is probably off.

Sometimes, your Macbook won’t start because of a broken application that affects the startup. Quite possibly, it could be antivirus software. To solve the issue, uninstall the unwanted app with CleanMyMac X (or a similar app) while in safe mode.

2. MacBook won’t boot? Start it in safe mode

The safe mode limits the macOS to its most basic functions while allowing you to recover your Mac. Sometimes it’s the single most effective solution when your Mac won’t turn on or continuously crashes.

To start up your Intel-based Mac in safe mode:

  1. Shut down your Mac and wait 10 seconds.
  2. Restart your Mac and press the Shift key.
  3. Release the Shift key after the login window shows up.

To start up your Mac with Apple silicon in safe mode:

  1. Shut down your Mac and wait 10 seconds.
  2. Press and hold the power button until the startup options window shows up.
  3. Select a startup disk.
  4. Press the Shift key and click Continue in Safe Mode.
  5. Release the Shift key.

Did your Mac wake up? Congrats, you’re in safe mode. At this point, you at least have some freedom of action to investigate and troubleshoot the issue. While in safe mode, you might try running a couple of maintenance utilities. I’ve been using CleanMyMac X for some years now because of its Maintenance module, which can help fix performance issues on your Mac. 

  1. Open CleanMyMac (you can get its free version here).
  2. Go to Maintenance.
  3. Select “Run Maintenance Scripts” and “Repair Disk Permissions.”
  4. Click Run.
Maintenance Scripts in CleanMyMac X

3. Reset NVRAM

NVRAM is a small amount of memory on your Mac that contains certain settings, such as sound volume, display resolution, kernel panic information, and your startup disk selection. If you experience issues with booting your Mac, try resetting NVRAM.

For Intel-based Mac:

  1. Shut down your Mac.
  2. Start up your Mac and press and hold Option, Command, P, and R keys.
  3. Release the keys after the second startup sound or when the Apple logo shows up. 

If you own a Mac with Apple silicon, no intervention on your side is needed. It is because your machine will reset NVRAM automatically should any issues with it occur.

Macbook Pro won't load

4. Fixing a Mac booting to a black screen

The common issue reported on many Apple forums is Mac’s screen going black on startup. This is typically followed by a recurring “Reset Password” message. The problem appears to be somehow concerned with the battery power circuit with Mac failing to light up the screen. There is a fairly simple solution to it, though, quite an odd one — involving a flashlight or a lamp. The trick works because your login screen is still there, but you can’t see it.

fix macbook booting to black screen
Image source: Reddit

Shine the flashlight through the Apple logo on the back of your screen. Bringing this extra light should help you see the login icon, and you’ll be able to put the cursor in the right spot and log in. The screen should light up normally right after that. A variant of this solution is to shine a flashlight across the screen from left to right (on the front side of the screen). Try this in a dark room for greater effect.

How to fix a Mac that won't start

5. Reset System Management Controller (SMC)

System Management Controller is responsible for many ground-level functions of your Mac. Among those are battery settings, display reactions, and specifically the Power button functions. Use the following technique to reset SMC if your MacBook won’t load.

Laptop with the T2 chip

  1. Shut down your Mac.
  2. Press and hold the Control-Option-Shift keys together.
  3. Hold the three keys for 7 seconds, then press and hold the power button. Your Mac will turn off.
  4. Keep holding all four keys for another 7 seconds.
  5. Start up your Mac after a few seconds.

To find out if your Mac has a T2 chip, go to the Apple menu > press Option key > System Information. Select either Controller or Bridge. If you see “Apple T2 chip,” your Mac has it.

Desktop Mac with the T2 chip

  1. Shut down your Mac, then unplug the power cord.
  2. Wait for 15 seconds, and plug the power cord back in.
  3. Wait for 5 seconds, then turn on your Mac.

Laptop with a removable battery

  1. Shut down your Mac.
  2. Remove the battery.
  3. Press and hold the power button for five seconds.
  4. Put the battery back in.
  5. Start up the Mac.

Laptop with a non-removable battery

  1. Shut down the Mac.
  2. Press Shift-Control-Alt (Options), and while holding them down, press the power button.
  3. Hold all those buttons down for 10 seconds, then release them.
  4. Press the power button to start up the Mac.

Desktop computer

  1. Shut down your Mac.
  2. Pull out the power cord and wait for 15 seconds.
  3. Put the power cord back in.
  4. Wait five seconds, and then press the power button to start up your Mac.

Mac with Apple silicon

  1. Go to Apple menu. 
  2. Hit Restart... 

6. Try recovery mode when the Mac won’t load

If the issue repeats and your Mac won’t turn on again, you can try some of these:

  • Set your Mac back using Time Machine
  • Reinstall the operating system
  • Use Disk Utility to recover your drive
  • Run some dedicated Mac maintenance app

All these options are available via recovery mode — not to confuse with the safe mode — and to enter it, you’ll need to press a few spell-invoking special buttons once again. Needless to say, they are of no use if your MacBook won’t load in the first place.

How to enter recovery mode

For Intel-based Mac:

  1. Go to Apple menu > Restart.
  2. Immediately press and hold Command+R.
  3. Don’t release the keys until you hear Mac’s startup sound or until the Apple logo appears.

For Mac with Apple silicon:

  1. When turning on your Mac, press and hold the Power button.
  2. Keep it pressed until you see startup options.
  3. Click the Gears icon (Options) and hit Continue.
  4. You may be asked to select a user and enter their administrator password. Follow on-screen instructions and press Next after any action you take.

Give your Mac a bit of time to load, and you’ll be taken to Utilities. From there on, you’ll see several options.

A few more reasons your Mac won’t turn on

Putting hardware-related issues aside, there would still be many explanations for your Mac’s misbehavior. But to give you a perspective, here are a few more ideas to check:

  • Corrupted caches: critical system files from the boot sector are corrupted.
  • Incompatible login items: some apps may affect the boot process.
  • Broken hard disk permissions: conflicting user accounts.

Luckily, all these problems can be fixed using just software solutions. To get a health check for your Mac, start with a simple maintenance tool for Mac — a program of CleanMyMac X type will do. It could help you locate hidden junk files and detect various hard drive errors which prevent your Mac from booting up. Most often than not, a quick digital garbage cleanup will do the job.

CleanMyMac X - Smart Scan complete

CleanMyMac X is available for a free download here.

OK, that’s all there is to it. Feel free to share this article if you find it helpful.

Laptop with CleanMyMac
CleanMyMac X

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