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How to fix MacBook startup issues

It’s an unlucky day when you turn your MacBook back on after an update or a blissful sleep – and something goes wrong. Maybe nothing happens. Your Mac may try to turn on but can’t get to the login screen without shutting it down again.

In this case, you no doubt want to fix the problem as soon as possible. Taking your Mac to an Apple Store is always an option, but a repair appointment can be time and money. We recommend trying these common solutions first. These tips work for any MacBook, MacBook Air, or MacBook Pro.

Make sure it’s not a screen problem

Macbook Air (2018) review
Riley Young / Digital Trends

Does your MacBook make a noise when you turn it on? That said, can you hear it buzzing, ringing when it starts, or turning on the fan while it’s working? Are the lights on the keyboard lit? These are all signs that your Mac is starting up as expected, but something is wrong with your screen.

The good news is that a screen problem is obvious and likely didn’t affect your data at all. The bad news is, you really can’t fix a MacBook screen yourself. You can try connecting your Mac to an external display if you need it urgently. In the meantime, however, you should call an Apple Store and make an appointment to see if the display can be repaired or replaced.

Check for electrical problems

MacBook charging cable

If there is something wrong with your MacBook’s power supply, it may not have enough charge to turn on after its battery drains. These problems are relatively easy to diagnose. First, try switching to different outlets to see if your current outlet is faulty.

Second, check your power cord and adapter for any signs of damage. Try to find a compatible MacBook charger and turn off the charger for that model to see if it works. If this solves the problem, your charging cable has failed and you will need to replace it.

You can also check to see if other hardware connections are causing problems. Sometimes peripherals (especially those not made by Apple) can cause power issues that prevent MacBooks from starting up completely. Remove all third-party mice, drives, and other accessories. Then connect your MacBook to the charging cable and see if it turns on properly. If it works, one of your accessories may not be compatible with the current version of macOS.

Restart your Mac by turning it off and then on again

Macbook Air (2018) review
Riley Young / Digital Trends

You can also turn your Mac off and on again to clear up internal inconsistencies that may be preventing it from starting properly. This works when your Mac is at least trying to turn on but might not be effective on a completely dead MacBook.

Before you begin, unplug your MacBook from the electrical outlet. Then just hold down the MacBook power button and count for ten seconds. Then, release and press the power button as normal to turn on the Mac. This may fix your problem, or at least allow you to explore the additional options below.

Start in Safe Boot

If your MacBook is able to begin booting before shutting down, chances are that you can get it working by going into Safe Boot. This will only start your Mac with basic features that will get your Mac up and running frequently and allow you to perform simple tasks. To start Safe Boot, start your Mac and hold the key shift Key when switching on.

If this works, try shutting down and starting your Mac normally: a Safe Boot can sometimes reset things enough to get everything working properly again.

If Safe Boot doesn’t work, try an alternative: press the button D. Enter the key when you turn it on to run a diagnostic test that will give you valuable information about what exactly is happening to your MacBook.

Reset SMC and PRAM / NVRAM

Restore a Mac to factory settings

SMC stands for System Management Controller, which manages many important hardware settings on your Mac. PRAM / NVRAM stands for Parameter / Non-Volatile Random Access Memory and stores setting data for many Mac start-ups.

Resetting these two options can fix issues related to the battery, fans, and power of your Macbook, among other things. Doing this frequently can help troubleshoot MacBooks that are difficult to start. We have a guide here This can walk you through each step, but don’t worry: the process is fairly simple and should only take a few minutes.

Restore macOS in recovery mode

MacOS utilities

Mac’s recovery mode is helpful in many ways. You can use macOS Recovery Mode to troubleshoot Time Machine problems, erase or repair a hard drive, and get online help from Apple, among other things. You can also overwrite your macOS with a new version while your data is preserved. Essentially, they are deleted and restarted. Often times, this can help fix issues that are preventing macOS from fully loading.

Our guide on how to reset MacOS should help. In our comprehensive guide, we cover everything from completely erasing things on your Mac, to reinstalling the operating system, to restoring your computer to its original factory settings. It also includes options for an overwrite installation. In a nutshell, you want to restart your Mac and hold down the Command and R keys until a menu appears. Then select Reinstall MacOS to get started.

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