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How to Fix macOS Kernel Panic Error: 9 Quick Solutions

Resolve kernel panic error with easy Mac troubleshooting tips.

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Last updated: December 18, 2023

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TL;DR

To fix macOS kernel panic error, try the following solutions:

  1. View crash reports to identify causes
  2. Restart in Safe Mode to check for issues
  3. Remove problematic login items
  4. Update macOS to the latest version
  5. Reset NVRAM/PRAM for system settings
  6. Run Disk Utility to repair disk errors
  7. Use Apple Diagnostics to check the hardware
  8. Reinstall macOS if other steps don’t resolve the error

Seeing a grey screen on your Mac saying, “You need to restart your computer…”? That’s a kernel panic error, and it happens when your Mac runs into a critical system issue. In this guide, I’m going to break down why these errors pop up and show you some practical ways to fix macOS kernel panic error on your Mac.

Before We Begin

Hidden startup processes may cause kernel panics. Download MacKeeper to use its Login Items feature to find and remove hidden startup processes on your Mac and reduce kernel panic errors.

What Is Kernel Panic Mac?

macOS kernel panic error

A kernel panic error on Mac is a critical system error that occurs when the operating system kernel (the core component of an operating system) encounters a situation it cannot recover from.

This error can occur when the kernel receives an unexpected input, encounters a hardware or software issue, or cannot handle a particular system resource.

You’ll receive a warning to restart your Mac or it will automatically shut down and restart when a kernel panic macOS error occurs. After restarting, the system will display a message indicating a kernel panic has occurred. The message will also include a code you can use to identify the cause of the error.

How to Fix macOS Kernel Panic Error

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If you experience kernel panics frequently, your best bet is to take your Mac to an Apple Authorized Service Provider or contact Apple Support for assistance. But before doing that, you can try a few solutions to fix the problem.

Here’s how you can fix macOS kernel panic error.

1. View Crash Reports

When an app or your Mac crashes, it creates a crash report. This detailed log tells you when and why the crash happened and what was running at that time. Checking these reports can be a big help in figuring out and fixing kernel panic errors on your Mac.

To access the Mac kernel panic log and read crash reports, follow these steps:

  1. Open Finder, click Applications in the left sidebar, and navigate to the Utilities folder.
open utilities in applications
  1. Open the Console app.
launch console from utilities
  1. In the left sidebar of the Console app, select Crash Reports.
click crash reports in the left sidebar
  1. If there are any crash reports, click one. Look for terminated due to or reason: failed because to understand the cause of the crash. 

The first part of the report tells you which process made your Mac crash. After that, it’ll give you the crash’s exact date and time, plus what version of the operating system you were using.

The following section contains Exceptions details, specifically:

  • EXC_BAD_ACCESS/KERN_INVALID_ADDRESS, caused by accessing unmapped memory
  • EXC_BAD_ACCESS/KERN_PROTECTION_FAILURE, resulting from writing to read-only memory

The final part of the report provides a backtrace, which pinpoints the specific thread that crashed and what happened right before the crash. Looking at this section can offer useful insights into what caused your Mac’s kernel panic, helping you fix the issue.

2. Restart in Safe Mode

Using Safe Mode can identify if your Mac is experiencing a software issue. When your Mac starts in Safe Mode, it only loads the drivers and necessary applications, making it easier to determine if third-party software is causing the kernel panic.

Here’s how to boot in Safe Mode on your Mac:

For Intel Macs

  1. Turn off your Mac and wait for 10 seconds.
  2. Press and hold the Shift key as you turn on your Mac.
macbook air shift key
  1. Release the Shift key when the login screen appears.
  2. You may be asked to log in again.
  3. You’ll see Safe Boot in the menu bar on your first or second login window.
safe boot mode on mac

For M1 Macs

  1. Shut down your Mac and wait for 10 seconds.
click the apple icon and select shut down
  1. Wait for your Mac to shut down completely, and press the Power/Touch ID button to turn it on.
macbook air touch id
  1. Keep holding the Power button until you see the Loading startup options screen.
loading startup options screen on mac
  1. Select a volume from the options.
select a volume
  1. Press and hold the Shift ⇧ key and click Continue in Safe Mode.
macbook air shift key
  1. Your Mac will restart automatically, and you will see Safe Boot in the menu bar when the login screen appears.
safe boot mode on mac

If the kernel panic error stops when you use Safe Mode, the issue is likely caused by third-party software. You may need to troubleshoot further to identify the problematic software.

3. Remove Login Items

If your Mac experiences kernel panic errors, one possible culprit could be an application set to launch at startup. Removing login items you don’t need can free up system resources and prevent third-party apps from causing kernel panic errors.

Here’s how to remove login items on your Mac:

  1. Click the Apple icon in the top left corner of your screen and select System Settings.
click the apple icon and select system settings
  1. Select General and click Login Items.
click general and select the login items tab
  1. You will see a list of applications that launch during startup. To remove an application, select it and click the minus (–) button at the bottom of the list.
select an item and click the minus icon to delete it
  1. Once you have removed all unwanted login items, restart your Mac to see if the kernel panic error has been resolved.

Alternatively, you can use MacKeeper to remove login items by following these steps:

  1. Download and install MacKeeper on your Mac.
  2. Open MacKeeper and select Login Items.
tap login items under performance
  1. Click Start Scan.
tap start scan
  1. Select the files you want to remove and tap Remove Selected Items.
select the login items you want to delete and tap remove selected items
  1. Click Remove to confirm the deletion.
tap remove on the pop up
  1. This will remove your selected items, and you’ll see a notification saying Completed. Click Rescan if you want to run the scan again.
tap rescan

What Else Can MacKeeper Do?

Besides changing startup programs on your Mac, MacKeeper can perform many Mac optimization tasks. You can use it to clear the cache on your Mac, update apps on your Mac, and remove duplicate files on your Mac. Learn more about its amazing features in my detailed MacKeeper review.

4. Check for Software Updates

One of the most common causes of kernel panic errors is outdated software. Checking for software updates on Mac ensures the operating system and its software are up-to-date and running with the latest bug fixes and security updates.

Updating your macOS to the latest version can fix macOS kernel panic errors. Here’s how to check for updates on Mac:

  1. Click the Apple icon in the top left corner of your screen and select System Settings.
click the apple icon and select system settings
  1. Click General and select Software Update to check for any available updates.
click general and select software update
  1. If there are updates available, click Update Now to install them.
click the update now button
  1. Tap Agree on the Software License Agreement after reading it.
click agree on the apple software license agreement
  1. Enter your MacBook password and tap OK.
  2. Now, wait for the update to download and install. You’ll see the size and duration of the update under the progress bar.
  3. If your Mac is up to date, you’ll see the following screen:
    your mac is up to date

    5. Reset NVRAM or PRAM

    Resetting the NVRAM (non-volatile random-access memory) or PRAM (parameter random-access memory) on a Mac can fix macOS kernel panic errors by resetting certain settings that can affect the system’s performance. These settings include display resolution, startup disk selection, and speaker volume.

    Here’s how to reset PRAM and NVRAM on Mac:

    On Intel-Based Macs

    1. Turn off your Mac.
    2. Press the Power button to turn on your Mac.
    macbook air touch id
    1. Press and hold the Option ⌥ + Command ⌘ + P + R keys simultaneously on your Mac’s keyboard before the gray screen appears.
    macbook air option command p r keys
    1. Keep holding the keys until your Mac restarts, and you hear the startup chime twice. If you have a Mac with the T2 Security Chip, keep holding the keys until the Apple logo appears and disappears twice.
    2. Release the keys and let your Mac start up normally.

    Apple Silicon Macs

    Both M1 and M2 Macs have NVRAM, but it automatically resets when you restart your Mac. Unlike other Mac models, there is no key combination to start NVRAM reset on an M1 Mac during startup. To check the NVRAM on an M1 Mac, just power it off for a few seconds before powering it back on.

    6. Run Disk Utility

    Faulty hardware, such as a failing hard drive, can cause kernel panic errors. Running Disk Utility on your Mac can fix macOS kernel panic error by identifying and repairing issues with your system’s hard drive.

    Here’s how to repair your Mac startup disk with Disk Utility:

    1. Open Disk Utility from the Utilities window.
    launch disk utility from utilities
    1. Click your system disk from the left sidebar and tap the First Aid button in the top bar.
    select your startup disk and click first aid
    1. Click Run to start the scan.
    click run on the first aid prompt
    1. Click Continue to confirm.
    click continue on the first aid prompt
    1. Wait for the scan to complete.

    If any errors are found, the Disk Utility will attempt to fix them. Once the scan is complete, restart your computer, and it should fix macOS kernel panic error.

    7. Check Your Disk Space

    When your hard drive is low on space, it can cause performance issues and instability problems, leading to kernel panic errors. Checking your disk space can fix macOS kernel panic errors by ensuring your system has enough free space to operate efficiently.

    Here’s how to check storage space on your Mac:

    1. Click the Apple icon in the menu bar and select About This Mac.
    click apple icon and select about this mac
    1. Click More Info.
    click more info
    1. Choose Storage Settings.
    click the storage settings button
    1. Check the amount of free storage space available on your Mac.
    mac storage consumption

    8. Run Apple Diagnostics

    Apple Diagnostics is a built-in diagnostic tool. Running Apple Diagnostics can help fix macOS kernel panic error by identifying hardware issues causing the error. At the end of the test, it generates a report that can help diagnose the cause of the problem.

    Here are the steps to run Apple Diagnostics on your Mac:

    On Intel Mac

    1. Turn off your Mac after disconnecting all external devices except the keyboard, mouse, Ethernet, display, and power cable.
    2. Turn on your Mac and immediately press and hold the D key along with the Power button.
    macbook air power d keys
    1. Release the D key when you see a progress bar or are prompted to select a language.
    select a language from the list
    1. When the checking process completes, you’ll see a report listing any issues detected. If you see an error message or reference code, note it and contact Apple Support or an authorized Apple service provider for further assistance.
    apple diagnostics result
    1. To re-run the test, click Run the Test Again or press Command ⌘ + R.
    macbook air command r keys
    1. If you don’t want to repeat the test, click Restart or Shut Down.
    click Restart or Shut Down

    On M1 Mac

    1. Disconnect all peripheral devices except the keyboard, mouse, Ethernet, display, and power cable. Then, power off your Mac.
    2. Press and hold the Power button on your Mac.
    macbook air touch id
    1. Release the Power button when the startup options appear.
    startup options screen
    1. Press Command + D on your keyboard.
    macbook air command d keys

    Apple Diagnostics will perform hardware checks on your Mac, and you’ll see a progress bar during this time. Once complete, you’ll receive a report with reference codes. To understand these codes, refer to the Apple Diagnostics reference codes.

    9. Reinstall macOS

    If none of the above steps have resolved the kernel panic error, you may need to reinstall macOS as a last resort. Reinstalling the operating system can fix macOS kernel panic error by replacing the OS files with a fresh copy. This can resolve issues caused by corrupt or damaged system files, which can cause kernel panic errors.

    Here’s how to reinstall macOS using Recovery Mode:

    It’s essential to back up your Mac data before reinstalling macOS to avoid losing important files or documents.

    1. Turn off your Mac and turn it back on while holding down the Command ⌘ + R keys on your keyboard. Keep holding the keys until the Apple logo appears.
    macbook air command r keys
    1. This will boot your Mac into Recovery Mode. Once it loads, select Reinstall macOS and click Continue.
    click reinstall macos in macos utilities
    1. Follow the on-screen instructions to select your startup disk and begin the reinstallation process.
    2. After the installation, your Mac will restart and display the Setup Assistant. Follow the on-screen instructions to set up your Mac, including selecting your language, creating a user account, and configuring settings.
    3. Once you’ve completed the setup process, you should have a fresh macOS installation.

    What Causes the macOS Kernel Panic Error?

    Dealing with a kernel panic on a Mac can be a lot like facing the blue screen of death on Windows, but with the right know-how, it’s fixable. From my experience, these are some usual suspects:

    1. 🔧 Faulty Hardware: Faulty hardware, like a failing hard drive or a bad RAM module, can cause a kernel panic error. It happens when the faulty hardware sends incorrect data to the kernel or disrupts the hardware’s normal functioning.
    2. 💻 Outdated or Incompatible Software: When software isn’t up to date or doesn’t match your macOS version, it can confuse the operating system. This mismatch can lead to unexpected errors and cause your Mac to have a kernel panic.
    3. 🦠 Malware: Yes, your Mac can get viruses. Malware can take over system resources, modify system settings, disrupt the normal functioning of the operating system, and create instability in the system, leading to kernel panic.
    4. 🔄 Driver Conflicts: A kernel panic can occur due to conflicts between drivers or when a driver is incompatible with the hardware. In my case, two drivers were trying to control the same hardware device, causing a kernel panic error.
    5. 🌡️ Overheating: If your Mac gets too hot, it can cause the CPU or GPU to stop working properly, leading to a kernel panic. Things like poor ventilation, blocked air vents, and running the system at high temperatures for extended periods can overheat your Mac, causing kernel panic.

    Fix Kernel Panic on Mac

    Kernel panic error is just one of the many errors you might see on your Mac. It’s important to take steps to prevent or fix other errors, too. Here are some tips to help you fix common errors on your Mac:

    Frequently Asked Questions

    1. What is the difference between kernel panic and blue screen of death?

      There is no difference between kernel panic and blue screen of death (BSOD) except that kernel panic occurs on macOS devices, while BSOD occurs on Windows devices. Apart from that, they are both similar and indicate an error in the operating system.

    2. What causes kernel panic on Mac?

      The causes of kernel panic on Mac include software issues, such as faulty drivers or corrupted system files. Sometimes, hardware problems, such as failing components or incompatible upgrades, also lead to kernel panics on Mac.

    3. Can kernel panic damage my Mac?

      No, kernel panic cannot damage your Mac. It is a safety measure that the operating system takes to prevent data loss and protect your computer from further harm. However, the underlying reasons for the error, such as faulty hardware or software, can potentially damage your computer if left unaddressed.

    Pawan Singh

    Author

    Pawan is your go-to tech buddy with over 4 years diving deep into the world of Macbooks and cool gadgets. He's written a ton of articles, blending his tech-savvy expertise with a dash of friendly banter. When it comes to the latest in tech, Pawan's got the scoop and isn't shy to share it. Trust him, he's been around the block a few times!

    Ojash

    Reviewer

    Hi there! I'm Ojash, a tech journalist with over a decade of experience in the industry. I've had the privilege of contributing to some of the world's largest tech publications, making my mark as a respected Mac expert. My passion lies in exploring, using, and writing about MacBooks, and I enjoy sharing my expertise to help others make informed decisions and get the most out of their MacBook experience. Join me as we delve into the fascinating world of MacBooks together!

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