How to solve Mac not booting up issue

When a Mac is not booting up, it means the operating system can’t be loaded up and the interface is not displayed for a user to operate the computer. You can not browse the Internet nor manage the files on the Mac.

The most symptoms of a non-booting Mac includes:

  • The Mac refuses to turn on after you hit the power button.
  • The Mac shows a white/grey/blank screen after it chimes.
  • The Mac is stuck on the login screen.
  • The Mac can’t finish starting up and hangs on the loading bar.
  • A folder with a question mark shows up on the screen.
  • A prohibitory symbol shows up on the screen.

The reasons for a bootable Mac with different symptoms may vary, but there are common solutions to those specific issues.

Solution 1: Force restart the Mac

Unlike a normal restart, a force restart needs you to hold down the power key for around 10 seconds to completely turn off the computer. Then you can hit the power button to turn on the Mac. This will give your Mac a fresh restart to load up the macOS.

If you are using a MacBook, you can also remove the battery to perform a more thorough power cycling. Because the battery is built in the laptop, be careful when you are taking it out.

Solution 2: Repair the startup volume

The software errors in the startup volume which contains the Mac OS might stop the Apple computer from booting up correctly. To repair the startup volume, you need to boot the Mac into Recovery Mode first.

  1. Restart the Mac and immediately press down Command + R.
  2. Release the keys until you see any startup screen.
  3. Enter the password if asked and click on Continue.
  4. Select Disk Utility in the macOS Utilities (or OS Utilities) window.
  5. Select the Mac hard drive (usually named Macintosh HD) in the left column.
  6. Click First Aid and Click Run.

Note: if you can’t boot into Recovery Mode through Command + R keys, try to reboot the Mac using Command + Option + R keys or Command + Option + Shift + R keys.

The First Aid utility will check and repair the software errors on the startup drive. If it tells you that the First Aid has successfully repaired the corruption, you can restart the Mac again. But if it fails to fix the problem, you might need to reinstall the macOS.

Solution 3: Reinstall the macOS

The reinstallation of macOS will format the startup volume automatically and might cause permanent data loss. Therefore, it is recommended that you use a Mac data recovery application to back up the important files from Mac’s HD first.

There are three ways to finish the reinstallation.

Method 1: Use APFS snapshots (for Macs running macOS 10.13 and later)

When your Mac is upgrading to macOS 10.13/1014/10.15, the macOS will save a snapshot of the previous system automatically, in case you want to roll the Mac back to its previous state.

  1. Restart the Mac and boot into Recovery Mode.
  2. Choose Restore From Time Machine Backup from the macOS Utilities and click Continue.
  3. Select the startup disk and click Continue.
  4. Select a snapshot in the list and click Continue.
  5. Wait for the recovery process to be over and the Mac will be self-boot.

Method 2: Restore the Mac using Time Machine backups

If you use Time Machine to back your Mac regularly, it will be very easy to restore your Mac to the state which is very close to when the Mac became unbootable.

  1. Restart the Mac and boot into Recovery Mode.
  2. Connect the Time Machine backup drive to the Mac.
  3. Choose Restore From Time Machine Backup from the macOS Utilities and click Continue.
  4. Select the backup disk and click Continue.
  5. Select an item in the list and click Restore.

Method 3: Format the hard drive and reinstall Mac OS

In order to avoid potential failure in the reinstallation of the Mac OS, you had better format the Mac’s HD first in Disk Utility in Recovery Mode.

  1. Restart the Mac and boot into Recovery Mode.
  2. Select Disk Utility in the macOS Utility (or OS Utility) window.
  3. Select the Mac’s HD and choose Erase.
  4. Choose APFS as the Format for macOS 10.13 and later while Mac OS Extended for other versions.

Note: If you are not sure what system version you are going to reinstall on your Mac, go back to the macOS Utility (or OS Utility) window. There is a thumbnail of the system in front of “Reinstall macOS (or OS X)” and it will be the system you will reinstall. For example, if you see a thumbnail of a dessert, you will reinstall macOS 10.14 Mojave.

  1. Go back to the macOS Utility (or OS Utility) menu and choose Reinstall macOS (or OS X).
  2. Follow the wizard to finish the reinstallation.

Conclusion

Hopefully, those solutions have made your Mac boot now. As you can see, it is not very complicated to troubleshoot the unbootable Mac issue on your own. But if you don’t believe you can handle it, you can also go to a local Apple Store for repair. Don’t forget to tell them to rescue your important files first.

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