The spinning beach ball of doom. The dark, lifeless screen. The unresponsive keyboard. Every Mac user fears these signs that their trusted machine won’t turn on.
If your Mac won’t turn on, all is not lost yet. With this comprehensive guide, I will help you diagnose and troubleshoot your Apple computer, bringing it back to life.
Part 1: Basic Diagnostics
If your Mac won’t turn on, start with some basic checks before diving into complex solutions. Here’s what you need to check if your MacBook is stuck at the Apple logo or won’t turn on at all:
- Check the power connection: Ensure your Mac is properly plugged into a power source. If you’re using a laptop, try a different power adapter if one is available.
- Test the battery condition: If your Mac laptop doesn’t respond when plugged in, it might be a battery issue. Try leaving it plugged in for a while to charge before attempting to turn it on.
- Inspect physical damage: A quick physical inspection can reveal if any damage is causing the problem. Look for any obvious signs of damage, such as water damage or broken components.
Part 2: Troubleshooting Startup Issues
If your Mac still doesn’t turn on, let’s try some proven troubleshooting methods:
1. Performing the Power Cycle
The power cycle, also known as a hard reset, means forcing your Mac to restart. If your Mac won’t turn on, performing a power cycle, can sometimes fix it by clearing any errors that have occurred in the power management settings.
Performing a power cycle can clear these errors by completely cutting off power to the system and restarting it. This allows the power management system to start fresh without any errors from previous sessions.
Here’s how to perform a power cycle on Mac:
- Press and hold your Mac’s Power button for about 10 seconds.
- Release the button and wait for a few seconds.
- Then, press the Power button again to start your Mac.
2. Resetting the System Management Controller (SMC)
The System Management Controller (SMC) is a subsystem in Mac computers that controls various functions related to power management, including responding to the press of the power button, battery management, thermal management, and more.
If the SMC encounters an error or conflict, your Mac won’t turn on. Resetting the SMC forces it to revert to its default settings, clearing any errors or conflicts and resolving power-related issues, including a Mac that won’t turn on.
Follow these steps to reset the SMC on your Mac:
- Shut down your Mac.
- Hold down Shift ⇧ + Control ^ + Option ⌥ on the built-in keyboard, and press the Power button at the same time.
- Release all keys, then press the Power button again to turn on your Mac.
3. Resetting the Non-Volatile Random-Access Memory (NVRAM) or Parameter RAM (PRAM)
NVRAM (Non-Volatile Random-Access Memory) and PRAM (Parameter RAM) are small amounts of memory your Mac uses to store certain settings in a location that macOS can access quickly. If there’s an issue with these settings, it could prevent your Mac from starting up properly.
Resetting the NVRAM or PRAM clears these settings and returns them to their default values, potentially allowing your Mac to start up properly again. Here’s how to reset NVRAM or PRAM on your Mac:
- Shut down your Mac.
- Turn on your Mac and immediately press and hold these four keys together: Option ⌥ + Command ⌘ + P + R.
- Release the keys after about 20 seconds.
- This will reset the NVRAM or PRAM, fixing the turning-on issue.
4. Booting in Safe Mode
Booting your Mac in Safe Mode starts it up with a minimal set of system extensions, services, and apps. If your Mac won’t turn on, booting it into Safe Mode can troubleshoot and isolate issues with software or drivers.
To boot your Mac in Safe Mode, follow these steps:
- Turn on or restart your Mac.
- Immediately press and hold the Shift ⇧ key.
- Release the key when you see the login window.
- You’re now in Safe Mode. You’ll see Safe Mode written in the menu bar.
5. Running Apple Diagnostics
Apple Diagnostics is a tool that checks your Mac for hardware issues. If your Mac won’t turn on, running Apple Diagnostics can help identify any potential hardware problems that might be causing the issue.
Here’s how to run Apple Diagnostics to test your Mac for hardware issues:
- Disconnect all external devices except keyboard, mouse, display, Ethernet connection (if applicable), and connection to AC power.
- Shut down your Mac.
- Turn on your Mac, and immediately press and hold the D key on your keyboard.
- Keep holding until you see a screen asking you to choose your language. Apple Diagnostics is now running.
Part 3: Troubleshooting Software Issues
Sometimes the issue isn’t with your hardware but with the software. Here are some steps to diagnose software issues if your Mac won’t turn on:
1. Using macOS Recovery Mode
macOS Recovery is part of the built-in recovery system of your Mac. You can start up from macOS Recovery and use its utilities to recover from certain software issues.
Here’s how to use macOS Recovery Mode on your Mac:
- Turn on your Mac and immediately press and hold Command ⌘ + R.
- Release the keys when you see an Apple logo, spinning globe, or other startup screen.
- You should see the macOS Utilities window. From here, you can restore from a Time Machine Backup, reinstall macOS, get help online, or use Disk Utility.
2. Verifying and Repairing Disks Using Disk Utility
Disk Utility is a built-in tool on macOS that can identify and repair issues with your hard drive. These could include file system corruption, bad sectors, lost clusters, and other problems that can prevent your Mac from starting up properly.
Here’s how to use Disk Utility to repair disks and fix your Mac won’t turn on issue:
- In macOS Recovery, choose Disk Utility from the macOS Utilities window, and click Continue.
- Click the View icon in the top left corner and select Show All Devices from the drop-down menu.
- In the left-hand sidebar, this will display all connected disks, containers, and volumes on your Mac. You can see containers and volumes appear nested inside each disk. The order is Disk > Container > Volume, with each level nested inside the previous one.
- Select the volume, container, or disk you want to repair from the sidebar. It’s important to start with the bottom volume and work your way up before moving to the containers and the disk.
- Click the First Aid button at the top of Disk Utility.
- Click Run on the pop-up window. You may be asked to enter your administrator password.
- Wait for First Aid to complete, and then click Done. Repeat these steps for the next volume, container, or disk.
- If Disk Utility tells you the disk is about to fail, back up your data and replace the disk.
3. Reinstalling macOS
Reinstalling macOS can help when nothing else works and doesn’t delete your files. If your Mac won’t turn on, boot it into macOS Recovery, choose Reinstall macOS from the macOS Utilities window, click Continue and follow the onscreen instructions.
For a detailed explanation, check out my guide to reinstall macOS on your MacBook.
Part 4: Advanced Troubleshooting
If basic troubleshooting didn’t work, here are some advanced steps:
1. Target Disk Mode
Target Disk Mode is a feature that allows one Mac’s hard drive to be accessible as an external hard drive when connected to another Mac. This can be very useful for troubleshooting or data recovery when a Mac isn’t booting up properly.
To use Target Disk Mode, you’ll need two Mac computers and a FireWire or Thunderbolt cable to connect them. Here’s how to use the Target Disk Mode on your Mac:
- Start by shutting down the Mac that isn’t turning on properly.
- Connect the two Macs using your FireWire or Thunderbolt cable.
- Turn on the problematic Mac and immediately hold down the T key.
- Keep holding it until you see the FireWire or Thunderbolt icon displayed on the screen.
- On the second Mac, the hard drive of the problematic Mac should appear as an external hard drive. You can access its files and folders as if it were a regular external drive.
2. Single User Mode and File System Check
Single User Mode is a special startup method that boots your Mac into a minimal environment, running only essential system services.
This mode gives you access to several command-line utilities you can use to diagnose and repair issues with your Mac, including a tool called fsck (File System Check), which can identify and fix issues with your Mac’s file system.
Here’s how to use Single User Mode on your Mac:
- Start your Mac, and immediately press and hold Command ⌘ + S.
- Release the keys when you see white text on the screen.
- At the command-line prompt, you can enter Unix commands to diagnose and repair your issues.
Part 5: When to Seek Professional Help
If you have exhausted all troubleshooting options and your Mac still refuses to turn on, it may be necessary to contact Apple Support or seek assistance from an Apple Authorized Service Provider.
Here’s what you can do in such a situation:
- 📞 Contact Apple Support: Reach out to Apple Support via phone, chat, or email to explain the problem you’re experiencing with your Mac. They can provide further troubleshooting steps and advice specific to your situation.
- 🏢 Apple Authorized Service Provider: If you prefer an in-person assessment, you can locate an Apple Authorized Service Provider in your area. These authorized providers have the expertise and authorization to diagnose and repair Apple products. They can examine your Mac, determine the cause of the startup issue, and provide the necessary repairs.
If your Mac is under warranty or you have AppleCare, the repair might be covered, saving you from additional costs.
Remember to have your Mac’s serial number and any relevant purchase information on hand when contacting Apple Support or visiting an Apple Authorized Service Provider. This will help expedite the troubleshooting and repair process.
Preventive Measures and Regular Maintenance
Now that you know how to fix the Mac won’t turn on issue, you may be looking for some other maintenance tips for your Mac. Here are some tips to prevent issues in the future:
- Regularly update your macOS as software updates can prevent many problems.
- Back up your data on Mac using Time Machine or a similar service, saving your data if your Mac ever has issues.
- Take care of your hardware to prevent issues like the trackpad not working or keyboard issues on Mac.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the role of NVRAM/PRAM in a Mac?
NVRAM and PRAM are small amounts of memory your Mac uses to store certain settings and access them quickly. These settings include sound volume, display resolution, startup-disk selection, and recent kernel panic information, among others.
How can I use Disk Utility to repair my Mac’s startup disk?
To use Disk Utility from macOS Recovery, start from macOS Recovery by holding Command ⌘ + R during startup. In the macOS Utilities window, choose Disk Utility and click Continue. Select your startup disk from the sidebar, and click the First Aid button. Click Run to check the disk for errors and repair them.
How does reinstalling macOS help if my Mac won’t start?
Reinstalling macOS can resolve software issues that prevent your Mac from starting up. It reinstalls the system files and configurations that macOS needs to run, while generally preserving your files and user settings.