Mac Stuck on Login Screen, How to Fix?

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

Summary: The Mac 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 is 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 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, 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 | grep csstore, and then hit Enter.
  4. find /private/var/folders | grep | 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.

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 Data Recovery for Mac. 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.