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How to Fix Your Mac Shutting Down Randomly: 16 Fixes to Try

Troubleshoot random shutdowns on Mac with effective solutions.

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Last updated: December 26, 2023

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TL;DR

To fix your Mac shutting down randomly, follow one of these methods:

  1. Check the power source and battery condition.
  2. Use Activity Monitor to identify and force quit resource-heavy apps.
  3. Update macOS via System Settings > General > Software Update​.
  4. Turn on your Mac and immediately press Option ⌥ + Command ⌘ + P + R keys for 20 seconds​​ to reset NVRAM/PRAM.
  5. Disable automatic log out settings in System Settings > Privacy & Security > Advanced options​​.
  6. Run Apple Diagnostics to check hardware issues.
  7. Clean install macOS if nothing else works.

It’s really frustrating when your Mac shuts down randomly. This can mess up your work and might even cause data loss or harm your Mac. It’s important to figure out why this is happening. In this guide, I’ll show you some ways to fix the problem of your Mac shutting down on its own.

Before We Begin

Your Mac may shut down due to overheating, software issues, hardware problems, and power issues. Download MacKeeper and use its Mac optimization features to maintain your Mac’s performance, preventing issues like crashing, freezing, and shutting down.

16 Quick Fixes for Your Mac Shutting Down Randomly

Why You Can Trust MacBook Journal verify badge We always conduct first-hand research and verify every method or solution we present, ensuring you receive reliable and effective advice. Learn more about our process.

Below, I have shared some of my tried and tested methods that you can use to fix your Mac shutting down randomly. 

1. Check the Power Cable and Adapter

If your Mac is shutting down unexpectedly, one possible cause can be a damaged power cable or adapter. So, check the power cable and adapter for any signs of damage or wear, like frayed wires or exposed metal.

If you notice any damage to the power cable, stop using it immediately and replace it with a new one. This should fix your Mac shutting down randomly issue.

2. Complete a Proper Shut Down

If your Mac shuts down unexpectedly, it isn’t a proper shutdown. A proper shutdown, done through the Apple menu, ensures all background processes and apps are safely closed. So, after your Mac shuts down, follow these steps:

  1. Turn on your Mac by pressing the Power button.
  2. Use Command ⌘ + Option ⌥ + Esc to force close any unresponsive applications.
macbook pro option command esc
  1. Navigate to the Apple menu and select Restart.
click the apple icon and select restart

While this may not completely resolve the issue, it serves as an initial step in troubleshooting.

3. Disable Visual Effects

Your Mac comes with several visual effects that can make the user interface look more appealing. However, these effects can also consume excessive resources and contribute to your Mac overheating. As a result, your Mac may shut down randomly.

To disable the visual effects, follow these steps:

  1. Click the Apple menu and select System Settings.
click the apple icon and select system settings
  1. Click Accessibility and select Display.
click accessibility and select display
  1. Toggle on the Reduce motion switch.
toggle on the reduce motion switch

4. Disable the Automatic Log Out Feature

If your Mac is set to log out automatically after inactivity or a system crash, it may be difficult to diagnose the root cause. Disabling the automatic log-out feature can help you see any error messages or diagnostic information after a system crash.

Here are the steps to disable the automatic log out feature on macOS:

  1.  Click the Apple menu and select System Settings.
click the apple icon and select system settings
  1. Click the Privacy & Security tab in the System Settings window.
click privacy and security in system settings
  1. In the Security & Privacy window, click the Advanced button at the bottom.
click the advanced button at the bottom
  1.  In the Advanced options, toggle off the Log out automatically after inactivity switch.
toggle off the log out automatically after inactivity switch

5. Check the Power Source

If you’re experiencing issues with your Mac computer’s battery life or power source, check the power source status to see if your laptop is charging or running on battery power.

Here are the steps to check the power source on a Mac:

  1. Look for the battery icon on the menu bar in the screen’s upper-right corner. Click Battery Settings to open the battery status menu.
click the battery icon and select battery settings
  1. In the battery status menu, you’ll see your Mac’s current power source status. If it’s plugged into an AC power source, it will show Power Adapter. If your Mac runs on battery power, it will show Battery Level.
if your mac runs on battery power it will show battery
  1. If the battery level is zero or battery health is not normal, you may need to replace the battery or contact Apple Support to fix your Mac shutting down randomly.

6. Check for Software Issues

Software-related issues could be a possible cause for random shutdowns on your Mac. You can check for such issues using Activity Monitor. It’s a built-in tool that lets you monitor your Mac’s performance and identify any programs that may be causing issues.

Here’s how to check for software issues using Activity Monitor to fix your Mac shutting down randomly:

  1.  To open Activity Monitor, go to Applications > Utilities > Activity Monitor.
open activity monitor in utilities
  1. Click the CPU, Memory, or Disk tab in Activity Monitor to see which processes or applications use the most CPU resources.
all tabs in activity monitor top toolbar
  1. If you notice any process using a high percentage of system resources, it could be causing unexpected shutdowns. Force quit the process by selecting it and clicking the x button in the top toolbar.
select a program and click the small cross in the top menu

7. Run a Virus Scan

Running a virus scan on your Mac is a good precautionary step if you suspect malware might be causing your Mac to shut down randomly. I use MacKeeper’s Antivirus to check Mac for malware. It’s quick, safe, and easy to use.

Here’s how to use MacKeeper to run a virus scan on your Mac:

  1. Download and install MacKeeper.
  2. Launch MacKeeper and navigate to the Antivirus tab in the left sidebar.
click antivirus under the security section
  1. Initiate an instant virus scan by clicking the Start Scan button.
click start scan in mackeeper antivirus
  1. If any viruses are detected during the scan, click the Fix Items button to resolve the issues.
  2. If your system is threat-free, you’ll see a No threats found message. You can tap the Restart button to run the scan again.
no threats found in mackeeper antivirus
  1. Enable real-time antivirus protection to safeguard your Mac from future threats by clicking the Enable button.
click enable to allow real time protection

After configuring security settings, MacKeeper will continue to run in the background, scanning for threats and actively blocking any malicious activity.

8. Update Your macOS

Updating your macOS is a critical Mac maintenance task that keeps your system running smoothly and securely. It also prevents your Mac from randomly shutting down if software glitches are the cause.

Before installing updates, it’s always a good idea to back up your Mac data to avoid losing important files.

Here are the steps to update your macOS:

  1. Make sure you have a reliable internet connection and enough storage space on your Mac. Check how much space you need to install a particular macOS version.
  2. Click the Apple icon and select System Settings.
click the apple icon and select system settings
  1. Click General and select Software Update.
click general and select software update
  1. If an update is available, click Update Now.
click the update now button
  1. Enter your Mac’s password and click OK.
enter your mac password to install software update
  1. Wait for the download to complete. The download time depends on the update size and internet connection speed.
  2. After the installation, it’ll prompt you to restart your computer. Click the Restart button to complete the process.

9. Uninstall Unused Apps

Uninstalling apps you don’t use can help stop your Mac from shutting down randomly. These apps take up space and can run in the background, using memory and processing power. Removing them lightens the load on your Mac by freeing up space and resources.

The easiest method to uninstall an app on your Mac is by using MacKeeper. Here are simple steps to do it:

  1. Download and install MacKeeper on your Mac.
  2. Open MacKeeper and click the Smart Uninstaller option from the list of features on the left side.
click smart uninstaller in the left sidebar
  1. Click Start Scan.
click start scan in smart uninstaller
  1. Select the application(s) you want to uninstall once the scan is complete and tap the Remove Selected button.
select the applications you want to remove and click remove selected
  1. Click Remove on the pop-up to confirm the deletion.
click remove on the pop up window in smart uninstaller
  1. Wait for the uninstallation process to complete. Click Rescan to run the scan again or close the program.
click rescan in smart uninstaller

What Else Can MacKeeper Do?

Besides uninstalling apps and checking for malware, MacKeeper can clean junk files on your Mac, remove duplicate files, and free up RAM on Mac. Check out my detailed MacKeeper review to learn more about its features.

10. Run Apple Diagnostics 

Apple Diagnostics is a built-in tool that can diagnose hardware issues on your Mac, causing your Mac to shut down randomly. The diagnostics test the major components of your Mac, like the RAM, hard drive, and logic board, and can detect any issues with these components.

Here are the steps to use Apple Diagnostics on Mac to check for hardware issues:

  1. Before running Apple Diagnostics, disconnect all external devices except the keyboard, mouse, and display.
  2. Click the Apple menu and select Shut Down to turn off your Mac.
click the apple icon and select shut down
  1. Hold the Power button until the Apple logo appears on the screen.
macbook air touch id
  1. After the Apple logo appears, release the Power button and immediately press and hold the D key on your keyboard.
macbook air power d keys
  1. Apple Diagnostics will start automatically and prompt you to select your language. Use the arrow keys to select your preferred language and press the Return key.
  2. After selecting your language, Apple Diagnostics will run a series of tests on your Mac’s hardware. It may take several minutes to complete.
  3. Once the hardware test is complete, Apple Diagnostics will display the results on the screen. If any issues are detected, it will provide recommendations for resolving them.
apple diagnostics result
  1. If you cannot resolve the issue independently, or if the hardware test indicates a hardware failure, contact Apple Support for assistance.
  2. To exit Apple Diagnostics, click the Restart or Shut Down button, depending on your next action.

11. Reset the SMC (System Management Controller)

The System Management Controller (SMC) is a chip on your Mac’s logic board that controls hardware functions like power, battery, and thermal management. If your Mac is randomly shutting down due to an issue with these functions, resetting the SMC may help.

Here are the steps to reset the SMC on macOS:

  1. Click the Apple menu and select Shut Down to turn off your Mac.
click the apple icon and select shut down
  1.  Unplug the power cable from your Mac computer.
  2. Press and hold the Power button on your Mac for at least 10 seconds.
macbook air touch id
  1. After holding it for 10 seconds, release it.
  2. Reconnect the power cable to your Mac computer.
  3. Press the Power button on your Mac to turn it back on.

12. Reset NVRAM or PRAM

NVRAM and PRAM on your Mac save settings like startup disk, volume, and hardware settings. If these settings become corrupt, your Mac may behave erratically and shut down unexpectedly. Resetting the NVRAM/PRAM can fix power issues and stop random shutdowns by clearing changes.

Here are the steps to reset the NVRAM/PRAM on Mac:

  1. Click the Apple menu and select Shut Down to turn off your Mac.
click the apple icon and select shut down
  1. Press the Power button on your Mac to turn it back on.
macbook air touch id
  1. Immediately after pressing the power button, press and hold the Option + Command + P + R keys on your keyboard.
macbook air option command p r keys
  1. Continue holding the keys for at least 20 seconds until you hear the startup sound twice (if your Mac plays a startup sound) or until the Apple logo appears and disappears twice.
  2. After hearing the startup sound or seeing the Apple logo appear and disappear twice, release the keys.

13. Boot Your Mac Into Safe Mode

Booting your Mac into Safe Mode is a useful troubleshooting step that can diagnose various issues. If your MacBook unexpectedly shuts down while you’re using it, the issue is frequently due to problematic third-party software. Starting your Mac in Safe Mode stops third-party apps from automatically launching at startup. It can help determine if this is the root cause.

Here’s how to boot your Mac into Safe Mode:

For Intel-Based Macs

  1. Shut down your Mac.
  2. Turn on your Mac and immediately press and hold the Shift ⇧ key. Do this as soon as the Mac starts up.
macbook air shift key
  1. When the login window appears (this may take longer than usual), release the Shift ⇧ key. If you’re asked to log in, you might need to log in a second time.
  2. You can confirm you’re in Safe Mode if you see Safe Boot in the menu bar.
safe boot mode on mac
  1. To exit Safe Mode, restart your Mac without holding any keys.

For Apple Silicon Macs

  1. Make sure your Mac is completely turned off.
  2. Press and hold the Power button until you see the startup options window, which shows your bootable volumes and a gear icon labeled Options.
click options on startup options
  1. Press and hold the Shift ⇧ key, then click the gear icon labeled Options.
  2. Continue holding the Shift key and select Continue in Safe Mode.
  3. You might be asked to log in more than once.
  4. Check for Safe Boot in the menu bar to confirm you’re in Safe Mode.
  5. Restart your Mac normally (without holding any keys) to exit Safe Mode.

Remember, in Safe Mode, your Mac performs certain checks and prevents some software from automatically loading or opening. If your Mac runs differently in Safe Mode, it might help you isolate the cause of the issue.

14. Remove Dust and Debris

cleaning mac with a lint free cloth

Your Mac might shut down randomly if it gets too hot. This can happen when dust builds up inside. The dust makes the fans work harder and the Mac overheats, leading to shutdowns.

To clean your Mac, you’ll need a can of compressed air, a microfiber cloth, and a soft brush. Then, follow these steps:

  1. Shut down your Mac and unplug it.
  2. Then, gently brush the outside of your Mac to remove dust.
  3. Holding the compressed air can upright, spray short bursts into the vents and openings, keeping it about six inches away.
  4. After cleaning, plug your Mac back in and turn it on to see if it still shuts down randomly.

15. Use a Cooling Pad

If your Mac shuts down randomly due to overheating, a cooling pad might help. It cools your system and prevents your Mac from overheating. The pad pulls heat from your Mac and releases it through fans or vents. Just place the pad on a flat surface, put your Mac on top, and line up the pad’s fans with your Mac’s vents for effective cooling.

16. Clean Install macOS

If you’ve tried all the other methods and your Mac still shuts down randomly, a clean install of macOS may be necessary. It involves erasing everything on your Mac’s hard drive and installing macOS from scratch.

Here are the steps to perform a clean install of macOS:

  1. Back up your essential data before you begin, as a clean install will erase everything on your hard drive.
  2. Download the macOS installer from the App Store and create a bootable USB drive for macOS.
  3. Once you have created the bootable installer, shut down your Mac.
  4.  Insert the USB drive into your Mac and power it on while holding down the Option ⌥ key. It will bring up the Startup Manager, where you can select the USB drive as the startup disk.
  5. After booting from the USB drive, open Disk Utility and select your Mac’s hard drive. Click the Erase button and choose the format you want to use (usually Mac OS Extended (Journaled)). Give your hard drive a name, and click Erase.
  6. Once your hard drive is erased, exit Disk Utility and select Install macOS from the bootable installer. Follow the on-screen instructions to install macOS on your newly erased hard drive.
  7.  After the installation, you can restore your data from the backup you created in Step 1. 

How to Prevent Your Mac From Randomly Shutting Down

Now that you know why a Mac might shut down by itself, let’s take steps to stop it from happening again.

1. Check Your Mac’s Battery Health

You should keep an eye on your MacBook’s battery health regularly to make sure it’s in good condition. If a replacement is needed, your Mac will notify you when you review the battery health in the System Report.

To check the health of your MacBook’s battery, follow these steps:

  1. Click the Apple menu and select System Settings.
click the apple icon and select system settings
  1. Click General and select About.
click general and select about
  1. Click the System Report button at the bottom of the About window.
click the system report button
  1. Click Power in the left sidebar and look under Health Information to see the status of your battery.
click power and check health information

2. Review Your Mac’s Logs Reports

The logs on your Mac provide a comprehensive overview of any problems your Mac might be experiencing. By examining them, you can pinpoint and address these issues.

To view log reports on your Mac, follow these steps:

  1. Open Finder on your Mac and go to Applications.
  2. Navigate to the Utilities folder and open it.
open utilities in applications
  1. Double-click the Console app to launch it.
launch console from utilities
  1. Select Log Reports and browse through the list to find any system errors.
select log reports in console

3. Minimize Your Mac’s Energy Use

Lowering energy usage is key to optimizing your Mac’s performance. Here’s how you can do it:

  • 🌙 Activate Sleep Mode: When you’re not using your Mac for a while, click the Apple menu and select Sleep.
click the apple icon and select sleep
  • 💤 Turn Off the Display: For MacBooks, simply close the lid. For Macs with external displays, press the display’s power button.
  • ☀️ Adjust Screen Brightness: Lower the brightness in display settings using the Brightness slider.
drag the brightness slider in displays
  • 📶 Disable Bluetooth and Wi-Fi: Click the Bluetooth and Wi-Fi icons in the Control Center and toggle them off.
turn off wifi and bluetooth from control center
  • 🔌 Unplug Unnecessary Devices and Close Unused Apps: Disconnect any non-essential USB devices and quit apps you’re not using, as they consume significant energy.

4. Calibrating Your MacBook Battery

Battery calibration helps your MacBook’s battery achieve its maximum capacity, which is especially useful in preventing sudden shutdowns. This process is more relevant for older MacBook models that don’t calibrate automatically.

Here’s how to do it for both new and old models:

For Newer MacBook Models (Post-2012)

Completely drain your battery to 0%, then recharge it to 100%. This simple step effectively calibrates your battery.

For Older MacBook Models (2006-2012)

  1. First, charge your battery to 100%.
  2. Keep it charging for an additional two hours.
  3. Then, unplug your MacBook and use it until the battery drops to 5%.
  4. Allow the battery to drain fully and your device to shut down.
  5. Leave your MacBook untouched for about five hours or overnight to ensure the battery is completely drained. After this, charge it back to 100%.

Stop Your Mac From Shutting Down Randomly

For fixing Mac shutting down randomly, start with the simplest solution and move on to more complex ones if necessary. Here are some more troubleshooting tips for you:

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Why is my Mac shutting down randomly?

    Your Mac may be shutting down randomly due to several reasons. It could be due to a software issue, such as a corrupted file or outdated operating system, or a hardware problem, such as a failing battery or overheating.

  2. How do I check if my Mac is overheating?

    You can check if your Mac is overheating using the Activity Monitor app. It can check your Mac’s CPU usage and temperature. If your CPU usage is high or your temperature exceeds 80 degrees Celsius, your Mac may be overheating.

  3. How do I fix a software issue causing my Mac to shut down randomly?

    To fix a software issue causing your Mac to shut down randomly, you can update your operating system, reset the SMC (System Management Controller), or reset the NVRAM/PRAM. You can also run an Apple Diagnostics test to check for any software issues.

  4. How do I fix a hardware issue causing my Mac to shut down randomly?

    You can fix a hardware issue causing your Mac to shut down randomly by taking your Mac to an Apple store or an authorized service provider. They can run a hardware diagnostic test and replace faulty components, such as the battery or power supply.

  5. Can a virus cause my Mac to shut down randomly?

    Yes, a virus can cause your Mac to shut down randomly. You should use reputable antivirus software to scan your system and remove viruses or malware.

Hashir Ibrahim

Author

I'm Hashir, a tech journalist with a decade of experience. My work has been featured in some of the top tech publications like MakeUseOf and MakeTechEasier. I have a bachelor's degree in IT, a master's in cybersecurity, and extensive knowledge of Apple hardware, specifically MacBooks. As the senior writer at MacBook Journal, I write in depth guides that help you solve any issues you have with your mac and unbiased reviews that help you make the right buying decisions.

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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