Mac Stuck on Login Screen, How to Fix?

By Molly | Posted to Home > Mac Data Recovery Tips updated on March 31st, 2021 | User rating:

On this page, you'll get:

Many Mac users have reported the same problem: Mac stuck on the login screen, even for the macOS Big Sur.

Commonly, Mac like MacBook Pro stuck on the login screen may because:

  1. The mouse won't move and you can't type in your login password
  2. Mac freezes at login screen with a spinning wheel
  3. Mac doesn't accept the right login password
  4. You forget the login password and type the wrong one

Usually, a force and hard reboot might fix the problem. If not, the solutions are usually more complicated.

And there's a high risk of data loss when Mac stuck on the login screen. So, you'd better recover your data from your Mac first.

Then, confirm your situation and try the solutions in this post to fix your Mac that can't load past the login screen.

How to prevent data loss when Mac stuck on login screen?

You can watch this video to learn how to recover files from a Mac or MacBook that stuck on the login screen and won't boot up.

To recover data from Mac that won't load past the login screen, using data recovery software is the only way if you have no backups.

iBoysoft Data Recovery for Mac (Support Apple Silicon M1 Mac and macOS Big Sur) is highly recommended.

This data recovery software would be helpful to recover data from the Mac that can't log in. And for safe and quick data recovery, it's required to run iBoysoft Data Recovery in macOS recovery mode.

Don't want to read the detailed data recovery steps? Please watch the above video.

Two situations your Mac/MacBook gets stuck on login screen

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

1 Mac won't load past login screen after entering password

It happens to users who encrypt the system drive. You'll be asked for a password before you see the progress bar. Then, the loading bar may stop somewhere between 50% and 75%, or even 100%.

Your Mac won't let you log in with the right password because of a Kernel program incompatibility, file system corruption, or some core data lost.

In this case, the password is usually accepted, and you need to check this post: Mac is stuck on loading screen for a solution.

Mac stuck on login screen when typing password

2 Mac won't accept password or you can't enter password in sign in screen

Another case is that the startup is not encrypted by FileVault or APFS feature.

Assuming that you use a MacBook Pro, you'll see the loading bar first. But the MacBook Pro's login screen may not appear or gets stuck. MacBook Pro won't accept password but freezes with a spinning wheel or you are unable to type in password. Even in the macOS Recovery, Mac also won't accept your password.

This MacBook Pro stuck on login screen issue is usually caused by software conflicts, frozen software, or configuration errors. It happens especially after you update to macOS Big Sur.

What to do when Mac won't load past login screen?

Anyhow, no matter what situation you've run into, these methods would help you fix the Mac (like MacBook Pro) stuck on login screen issue.

Solution 1: Bypass Login items at startup

In some cases, it's software that stops you from getting to your Mac. Then, you can try these steps to sign in your iMac or MacBook.

  • 1. Start your MacBook normally.
  • 2. On the sign in page, enter the admin account and password if you can, but DON'T click on Log in immediately (in case of a login loop).
  • 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 login window not responding.

To boot an Intel-based Mac 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.

To boot an Apple Silicon M1 Mac into Safe Mode:

  • 1. Completely shut down your Mac and wait 10 seconds around.
  • 2. Press and hold the power button until you see the startup disk icon and gear icon with Options.
  • 3. Press and hold the Shift to continue booting M1 Mac to Safe Mode, then try to uncheck login items.

If your Mac loads successfully in Safe Mode, try to uncheck login items in Users & Groups. Click the Apple icon > System Preferences... > Login Items.

Sometimes Apple computer won't let you login to Safe Mode because FileVault is enabled. You could decrypt your startup drive temporarily by booting Reset Password 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 is not booting up, 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.

NVRAM is available on M1 Mac, but it automatically runs during startup and automatically reset the NVRAM if needed.

Solution 4: Boot your Mac into macOS Recovery mode

Mac could stuck on the login progress bar in a normal startup. 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:

boot into macOS Recovery mode

Booting M1 Mac to macOS Recovery Mode is different from the following steps for Intel Macs.

  • 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.
external hard drive

Mac Recovery Mode Not Working, How to Fix?

Occasionally, macOS Recovery mode may not work on your MacBook Pro, Mac mini, MacBook Air, and iMac. Read this post to check what you can do. Read more >>

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 First Aid.

2. Reset password

Mac could be stuck on the login screen after you forget 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 should reset your password first. Apart from other ways, resetting your login password via Terminal is a common way.

  • 1. In macOS Recovery mode, open the Terminal by clicking Utilities > Terminal in the top menu bar.
  • 2. At the Terminal prompt, type resetpassword, and then hit Return / Enter.
  • resetpassword
  • 3. Follow its onscreen wizard to reset the password.
  • 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 the following command, and then hit Return / 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 see a folder with question mark on the Mac, or get stuck at "Create a computer account" on your M1 MacBook Air or M1 MacBook Pro, you can simply reinstall macOS to reset your Mac that can't log in.

But reinstall macOS may make your important data loss, you'd better recover data from your Mac before reinstalling macOS.

How to reinstall macOS on your Mac

How to reinstall macOS Big Sur on M1 Mac

This will be helpful especially if you need to downgrade from a recent macOS Big Sur update to macOS Catalina.

external hard drive

How to Reset your M1 Mac when it stuck on login screen?

Ways to factory reset your M1 Mac mini, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro and reinstall macOS Big Sur when the Mac frozen at login screen. Read more >>

Whether your Mac won't let you in with the right password or you even can't enter a password, this post will give you solutions. By the way, don't neglect data recovery when your Mac stuck on the login screen. Or, you'll face permanent data loss.

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K Hurworth

All of these suggestions overlook the fact that NOTHING functions if a correct password is rejected.WHY has Apple foisted Big Sur on users when the OS reportedly has built-in weaknesses

2021-03-20 07:36:42

Bernard Yeates

My keyboard (Imac catalina) does not have a vertical line key.

2021-03-06 05:12:04

tim reply to Bernard Yeates:

no, i think it's above the enter key.

2021-03-07 18:33:23

Nishant Patel

Thank you very much. This article is awesome and solves all the problem

2021-02-17 12:14:49