Mac Stuck on Login Screen, How to Fix?

By Molly | Posted to Mac Data Recovery Tips updated on January 19th, 2021 | User rating:

Summary: This page helps you login to your MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, iMac, Mac mini when it hangs on login. It fixes 'Mac stuck on the login screen' issue after (or before) entering the right password on the locked window.

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

Don't mention that the Mac password is forgotten, sometimes Mac won't accept your password and you can't log in because:

  • You can't type in your password at all
  • The mouse won't move and you can't click on anything
  • Mac freezes at login screen with a spinning wheel
  • Mac won't let you log in even with the right password

Most of the time a force and hard reboot might fix the problem, but it might be worse if the Mac computer won't boot after the latest macOS update.

So, let's confirm your situations of stuck Mac login screen and try these solutions:

  • Shift login to disabling Login items at startup
  • Booting into Safe and Verbose Mode
  • Resetting NVRAM/PRAM
  • Troubleshooting Mac in macOS Recovery mode
  • Reinstalling macOS

Two situations your Mac gets stuck on login screen

Before you go further, you should know there are two kinds of Mac OS X signin problems. 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%. 

You can't login to your Mac in this situation 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 the loading bar 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.

This MacBook login problem is usually caused by software conflicts, frozen software, or configuration errors.

What to do when Mac stuck on login screen?

Anyhow, these methods would help Mac boot past frozen login screen.

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.
  • 3. If your Mac loads successfully in Safe Mode, try to uncheck login items in Users & Groups.

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.

Sometimes Apple computer won't let you login to 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:

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 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, if you know the name and password of another admin account, you can change to that account name to log in and reset the password.

If you can't change another name to log in, 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.

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 >>

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

Probably, you have tried out all the solutions above, but the Mac keeps getting stuck on 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 Data Recovery for Mac (Compatible with Apple Silicon M1 Mac and macOS Big Sur). It would be helpful to recover lost data from the unbootable Mac.

To recover data from unbootable Mac, you need to run iBoysoft Data Recovery in macOS recovery mode.

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Niläts Hieronanonymous

Thanks, very helpful, unlike Apple Tech Support, which now employees folks who know F-All Nothing about the 3 year old refurbished iMac Pro nor Sierra - Mojave - Big Sur, dual Os startups on diff APSF containers, et al and are continually agreeing with my hunches - after drawing a blank and spinning my wheels for an hour or more, over and over again - and know less than me - this despite that I just switched from the old Mac Pro Avid editing desktop to this iMac Pro and its new Os's and plethora of Cluster Effs that appear to ship as not 'bugs', but 'features'. This would've saved me about a week of bs work arounds that I was told to do by a Tech agent and unfortunately went along with deepite my gut feeling -now realised - that it seemed to be something else and less complicated -- and all the nnecessary stress and busy work resulting from this goat hump chase... Features a la the *"vision(s)" of the *"visionary" (euphemisms) --He Him It-- Tim -no dead naming allowed comrades! - "you and your wrongthinkthoughtcrimes not welcome on our new Big Brother Globalist platform" p.o.s. Cook....I used to love Apple and have been a customer and pro editor on Avid Media Composer since the early/mid nineties, but I've been wanting to send Madonna the witch that doesnt yet realise shes a hag, on her "Flying V" (grandmas name for it, not mine) to Cupertino and tell her its the White House, about since they had the arrogance to create the shyte FCP and then to make FCP X and unilaterally axe sync locking picture and timecode tracks within their video codices... Effing narcissistic fwitts. Keep hoping they'll spin the wheel buy a vowel and get a freaking clue, but when I have to find answers to their Os failures entirely on my own or via hit and miss searches like this one, two things become readily apparent: 1. That ain't happening they've gone full Globalist reset on us and consider us peasants not worthy of being considered as in the past loyal hardcore customers/pros/and fan geeks that MADE THEM, and 2. Thank God for you and your efforts my friend! Greatly appreciative, cheers and best!

2020-12-22 12:19:50