Mac Stuck on Login Screen, How to Fix?

By Molly | Posted to Mac Data Recovery updated on March 20th, 2020 |

Summary: The Mac screen frozen or stuck on the login screen after entering password? This page is about how to fix this issue, so that you can log into your Mac again.

Admittedly, Mac computers are powerful and reliable. But the Mac is not immune to errors and corruption on the operating system level. Many users have reported the same problem: Mac stuck on a login screen.

In this case, the Mac won't let you log in, even you enter the correct password. And in some worse cases, the Mac computer won't even boot after the latest macOS update.

But in this post, you'll know how to fix the iMac or MacBook stuck on login screen issue. And your Mac would boot past the Mac login screen as usual.

Two situations how your Mac gets stuck on login screen

Before you go further, you should know there are two situations. It depends on if you have enabled FileVault to encrypt your startup drive.

For users who encrypt the system drive, you'll be asked for a password before you see the progress bar. In this case, the password usually would be accepted, but Mac could get stuck on the loading bar. The loading bar may stop somewhere between 50% and 75%, or even 100%.

Mac could get stuck on the loading bar

You can't log in to your Mac in this situation. It could result from a Kernel program incompatibility, file system corruption, or some core data lost.

Another case is that the startup is not encrypted by FileVault or APFS feature. You'll see the loading bar first, then the login screen appears. In this case, Mac computers like MacBook Pro won't log in but stuck at the login screen. It is usually caused by software conflicts, frozen login items or configuration errors.

How to fix the Mac stuck on login screen issue?

Anyhow, these methods would be helpful to fix the Mac stuck on loading or login screen issue.

Solution 1: Bypass Login items at startup

In case some login items stop you from logging in to your Mac, you can try these steps.

  1. Start your MacBook normally.
  2. On the Login page, enter the admin account and password, but DON'T click on Log in immediately.
  3. Press and hold the Shift key to stop frozen apps launching. And then, you can click on the Login button.

Solution 2: Boot your Mac in Safe Mode

Booting Mac into Safe Mode will only launch necessary programs. It's efficient to isolate incompatible software and repair some errors when Mac can't boot.

To boot into Safe Mode:

  1. Press and hold the Shift key while tapping the power button to restart your Mac.
  2. Release the Shift key till you see the Apple logo and loading bar.
  3. If your Mac loads successfully in Safe Mode, try to uncheck login items in Users & Groups.

Sometimes you can't boot into Safe Mode because FileVault is enabled. You could decrypt your startup drive temporarily by booting Password Reset Assistant. This makes Safe Mode be able to check and repair errors before the login window appears.

If you succeed in turning off FileVault, you can restart your Mac normally. Then you can see if it brings up the login window. But if the progress bar is stuck underneath the Apple icon, you can try Safe Mode again after turning off the FileVault.

Solution 3: Reset NVRAM / PRAM

NVRAM, as well as PRAM, is a small amount of memory that your Mac uses to store certain settings and access them quickly. Thus, whenever your Mac won't boot, you can try to reset the NVRAM / PRAM.

Now, restart your Mac and simultaneously press Command + Option + P + R keys for about 20 seconds until your Mac restart automatically.

Solution 4: Boot your Mac into macOS Recovery mode

Mac could freeze on the login screen in a normal boot. But if you can boot into macOS Recovery Mode, you could troubleshoot this issue more easily. Recovery mode, sometimes called sigle-user mode, is a lite built-in macOS utility to check and repair some system issues.

boot into macOS Recovery mode

To boot into macOS Recovery Mode:

  1. Press and hold the power button until the Mac turns off.
  2. Restart the Mac and immediately press and hold the Command and R keys.
  3. Release those keys when you see the loading bar.

If you successfully boot into macOS Recovery Mode, you'll see a macOS Utilities screen. (In some old system, it's called Mac OS X Utilities.) Then, you can do several things to fix the Mac stuck on login screen issue.

1. Repair the startup drive in Disk Utility

Probably, the Mac won't past the Apple logo or login screen because of file system or disk errors. Fortunately, you can check for and repair errors with the built-in tool Disk Utility.

Disk Utility in macOS Recovery mode

  1. From the macOS Utilities menu, select Disk Utility.
  2. Select the startup disk or partition.
  3. Click on First Aid on the top, and then wait until the fixing process finished.
  4. Click Done and restart your Mac.

2. Reset password

Mac could be stuck on the login screen after you forget the Mac's password. If you've entered the wrong password too many times, the system could be locked. Then the Mac won't accept the password even it's the right one.

In this case, you may want to reset your Mac's login password by:

  1. 1. entering your Apple ID
  2. 2. providing recovery key if you have created on before.
  3. reset mac password

You can also do this via Terminal.

  1. 1. in macOS Recovery mode, open the Terminal by clicking Utilities > Terminal in the top menu bar.
  2. 2. At the Terminal prompt, type resetpassword, and then hit Enter.
  3. resetpassword
  4. 3. Follow its onscreen wizard to reset the password.
  5. change mac password in macOS Recovery mode

With the password hint, you can change the password of a non-encrypted account. Then you can restart your Mac and log in to your Mac again.

3. Check and fix user preference settings

Sometimes, the .plist files related to user preferences could be changed. Then, your login information would not be accepted.

In this case, you can use the mv command in Terminal to rename the preference folder. And you can troubleshoot and nuke the problematic .plist file easily.

Check and fix user preference settings with Terminal

The other times you can't log in to the Mac just because the access to the user directory was changed. You can run chmod to change the access permission.

change the access permission with Terminal

4. Reset launch services database

If the Mac gets stuck on the login screen and won't accept the password, you can remove the .csstore file ( a launch services database) in Terminal and fix the problem.

  1. 1. Open Terminal in macOS Recovery mode.
  2. Open Terminal in macOS Recovery mode
  3. 2. At the Terminal prompt, type find /private/var/folders | grep com.apple.LaunchServices | grep csstore, and then hit Enter.
  4. find /private/var/folders | grep com.apple.LaunchServices | grep csstore
  5. 3. Remove every .csstore file you can find by rm command.
  6. Reset launch services database

Hopefully, you can log in to your Mac after a rebooting.

5. Reinstall macOS in macOS Recovery mode

If you are not one of the situations above but see a folder with question mark on the Mac, you can simply reinstall the macOS to reset your Mac.

Tips: Reinstallation could cause data loss. So make sure you have backed up your Mac, or you have rescued your data from the unbootable Mac.

  1. 1. in macOS Recovery mode, go back to the macOS Utilities.
  2. 2. From the macOS Utilities menu, select Reinstall macOS.
  3. Open Terminal in macOS Recovery mode
  4. 3. Click Continue, then follow the instructions to choose your disk and start installation. If you can't reinstall the macOS directly, you may want to erase the Mac hard drive in Disk Utility before reinstallation.

How to prevent data loss when you can't log into the Mac?

Probably, you have tried out all the solutions above, but your Mac kept stuck on loading or login screen. Then, you might want to erase your disk to reinstall macOS.

Before heading to erase the Mac hard drive, please make sure you have backed up your data. If you don't have backups, you can use Mac data recovery software like iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery. It would be helpful to recover lost data from the unbootable Mac.

Way to rescue files under Recovery Mode

If you can access macOS Recovery Mode, you can get your data back with iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery server. In the case that you only have one Mac but it is unbootable, this method is highly recommended.

Note: Before you follow the steps below, you have to make sure your Mac has an Internet connection.

1. Restart your Mac computer and press Command +Option +R key combinations instantly.

2. Choose a network for your Mac. You need to make your Mac connected to the Internet all the time.

3. Select Terminal in the Utilities drop-down menu.

terminal in macOS Recovery mode

4. Run the following command:

sh <(curl http://boot.iboysoft.com/boot.sh)

This will launch iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery through iBoysoft Server.

5. When iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery is launched, you can select the macOS drive and get down to data recovery with the wizard.

select the unbootable APFS drive

Way to rescue files from unbootable Mac with an external bootable drive

Also, you can try to find another healthy Mac and a USB hard drive. Then, by creating an external bootable drive, you can get files off the unbootable Mac. This methods works well when you can't boot into macOS Recovery Mode, even though the Internet is connected.

Step so far, hope your Mac won't be stuck on the login in screen at startup. And you don't lose important files when fixing this problem.

What's more, if you upgraded to macOS Catalina and have sufferred other macOS Catalina problems, this article will surely help you out.

Molly

Molly is an editor @iBoysoft who frequently shares useful tutorials about data recovery for Windows and Mac.