Mac or MacBook Pro Won't Turn on, What to Do?

By Katrina | Posted to Mac Data Recovery, updated on March 20th,2020 | User rating:

Summary: It's a comprehensive guide to fix 'Mac or MacBook Pro won't turn on' issue. What's more, you can also get files off the unbootable Mac computer. When Mac won't turn on, you can recover data with Time Machine backups or with the best Mac data recovery software - iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery.

It's frustrating if your Mac won't turn on, or it turns on but doesn't finish starting up. This issue happens to many Mac computers, including Mac mini, MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, and iMac. At this time, will you only watch the black screen or the Apple logo like an eternity?

Now, stop scratching your head and having no idea what to do. Actually, you can try lots of things to make your Mac work again. So, let's walk through the details!

Note: Mac not turning on indicates that you are in the risk of data loss.
How to prevent data loss when Mac can't boot?

Table of contents
1. Why won't your Mac turn on or boot up properly?
2. What to do when Mac won't turn on?
3. 11 feasible solutions to fix unbootable Mac computers
4. How to prevent data loss when Mac won't turn on?

mac wont boot normally

Why won't your Mac turn on or boot up properly?

Normally, you can turn on your Mac computer by pressing the Power button. And soon after that, you'll see the Apple logo followed by a loop or a progress loading bar. It means the processor is loading and reading the Mac operating system. Then, you can type your password and log in to this Mac.

However, Apple computers are not immune to problems. Your Mac may refuse to turn on at times. And when the Mac can't start, it displays different signals in different situations. Fortunately, you can tell why your Mac won't turn on by checking what you see on the screen.

Let's take a closer look at the specific problems.

Problem 1: The Mac displays nothing when it's starting up

If your Mac doesn't give any visual and acoustic response at startup, the Mac may have no power connections. If it's a MacBook that won't turn on, you can check if the battery needs a power charge. Sometimes, you hear a startup chime but see a gray, blank, or black screen on startup. It's known as the black screen of death.

Problem 2: The Mac gets stuck on the loading process

You may see your Mac stuck on a loading bar with Apple logo, sometimes with 100% loading progress. Or, it may boot past the apple logo but gets stuck on login screen with a beach ball on the screen. It happens frequently that Mac computer won't boot after macOS update (e.g. macOS 10.15 Catalina) or install process.

Problem 3: The Mac turns on but shows a prohibitory symbol

Chances are that you can't see any Apple logo but a prohibitory symbol at startup. It means that your startup disk has a Mac operating system. However, this macOS is not compatible with your Mac model. For example, you can't have macOS Mojave on MacBook 2011 normally, and it will crash if you force to.

Problem 4: The Mac won't boot but shows a flashing question mark folder

You could turn on your Mac but see a flashing question mark folder on the display. In this case, your startup disk is not working properly or there is no operating system available in the drive. Many users report this issue, especially those who have both macOS and Windows installed on the computer.

Problem 5: The Mac displays a global with alert symbol

This appears when you attempt to boot into macOS Recovery Mode over the Internet. It indicates that you can't boot into Recovery Mode because the Internet is not available or stable.

Why your Mac will not turn on?

Generally speaking, the reasons why your Mac won't turn on or boot up are various. It could be power outage, malfunctioned display, or other hardware problems. But in most cases, Mac won't turn on because the startup disk crashes. The Macintosh HD is not mounted or not available due to file system corruption, bad sectors, virus attacks, etc. Thus, the operating system on this Mac internal disk could not be loaded.

What to do when Mac won't turn on?

After knowing why your Mac can't boot up, it's time to fix the Mac not turning on issue now. But do you really know what you can do and what you can't do when the Mac won't turn on normally? Therefore, we have conducted a step-by-step guide to help you fix this issue.

  1. 1. Don't operate on this Mac if you don't know what to do
  2. There are two reasons for this. One is that your any attempt to repair the not booting Mac could write new data to the hard drive. It will overwrite the original data on the startup disk and make it irrecoverable. The second reason is that you may crash or damage your Mac device more if you are not an old hand.
  3. 2. Get files off when Mac won't turn on
  4. If you worry about data loss when Mac won't turn on, you can boot into Recovery Mode. You can back up your data by creating a disk image with Disk Utility. This method can get your files off only if your startup disk is not corrupted. Then you can go ahead to repair the unbootable Mac.
  5. 3. Follow the guide in this post to fix the Mac not booting up issue
  6. In case you are at a loss when Mac won't turn on, we conclude over 10 methods to make your Mac work again. You can simply have a check and try.

11 feasible solutions to fix unbootable Mac computers

Even though Apple Support offers some basic checks to fix the Mac not booting error, more solutions are provided in this post. It helps you fix the issue efficiently.

Before trying them out one by one, have you tried to force restart your Mac already? If you have tried without success, it doesn't matter. Let's dive right into the solutions now.

Solution 1: Check power connections when Mac won't turn on

Press the power button but no response? The first guess should be your Mac computer is in power outage, especially for laptops that use the battery.

  • For desktop, you need to ensure that your Mac is plugged in correctly and the power is on. Also, you need to check the power cable in case it's broken.
  • For laptops, you need to make sure your MacBook is charging correctly. You can do this simply by finding another power cable or adapter that fits your machine. Then leave them plugged in long enough to provide a usable battery charge.

You can see if it fixes the problem later. If not, you can try the following solutions.

check mac connections

Solution 2: Check the display if Mac boots to a black screen

Sometimes, your Mac may be booting to a black screen of death. The Mac or MacBook Pro won't turn on but is charging. You may think the Mac can't be turned on because you can't see any image, not even the mouse.

In this case, the display of your Mac may be in trouble. Press the Caps Lock to see if it lights on. If it glows, then your monitor is probably off. If it is not responsive, you can check if its cables are connected properly.

Solution 3: Perform power cycling

Power cycling is the act of turning your computer off and then on again. It can reinitialize the Mac's set of configuration parameters and recover it from an unresponsive state. Power cycling is extremely helpful in a computer crash or hang situation. So, if your Mac freezes and won't turn on normally, you can perform power cycling as the following steps.

If you are using a desktop or a MacBook without a removable battery:

  1. Hold down the Power button for about 10 seconds to forcibly cut Mac's power.
  2. Unplug the power cable and wait 10 more seconds.
  3. Hopefully, restart your Mac in a normal way and see if everything will be fine.

If you are using a MacBook Pro or MacBook Air that has a removable battery:

  1. Unplug your Mac from the power supply.
  2. Remove its battery.
  3. Press and hold down the Power button for 5 seconds.
  4. Release the Power button and wait ten seconds around.
  5. Place the battery back in and re-connect the Mac computer to the power supply.
  6. Press the Power button to boot your Mac as usual.

Solution 4: Fix Mac not booting issue in Recovery Mode

Assuming your Mac is turned on but won't boot past the Apple logo, the system drive may be corrupted. Fortunately, you can boot into Recovery Mode to repair the corrupted Mac internal hard disk (usually Macintosh HD).

How to boot Mac into Recovery Mode?

To access the Recovery Mode, make sure your Mac is turned off. If the Mac is stuck on a white or grey screen, just force shut it down by holding down the Power button. Then turn on your Mac again and immediately press and hold Command + R key combinations when you hear Mac's startup sound. Don't release the keys until you see the Apple logo.

Boot Mac into Recovery Mode

You might be asked to enter the administrator's password to continue in this process. Then, you'll see a macOS Utilities (Some older systems called Mac OS X Utilities) list as this picture. It means that you have successfully entered macOS Recovery Mode.

macOS Recovery Mode

What to do when Mac won't boot into Recovery Mode?

Some Mac won't start up into Recovery Mode with Command + R if your built-in recovery system was lost due to disk errors. In this case, some Mac computers will automatically try to start up from macOS Recovery over the Internet. And you will see a spinning globe instead of an Apple logo during startup. So, make sure your Mac is connected with the Internet when your Mac won't boot.

Also, you can also manually start up your Mac from macOS Recovery over the Internet. You can simply reboot your Mac, and immediately press and hold Option + Command + R. If Mac can't enter macOS Recovery Mode still, you also can try Shift + Option + Command + R at startup.

How to repair the corrupted Mac disk with Disk Utility under Recovery Mode?

1. Select Disk Utility from the macOS Utilities menu in Recovery Mode.

repair unbootable Mac in Disk Utiltiy under recovery mode

2. Select the startup disk or the macOS partition ( the Macintosh HD usually) in the left sidebar.

3. Click on First Aid on the top and click Run to repair this disk.

4. When it finishes repairing this disk, click Done and restart your Mac as normal.

Solution 5: Boot your Mac into Safe Mode

Safe Mode (also called safe boot) will perform certain checks and prevent some software from automatically loading or opening at startup. So, it can help you isolate problems that relate to the startup disk. Try this if your Mac is frozen on the startup screen.

To start your Mac in Safe Mode, you need to switch off your Mac and turn it back on again. As you restart this Mac, please press and hold the Shift key, then release the key when the login window appears. If your Mac is stuck on the login window at a normal startp, you can also try a safe boot.

Tips: If you have FileVault turned on, you need to log in twice.

If your Mac works fine in Safe Mode, then you need to reboot the Mac into Verbose mode (hold Command + V at startup). It can identify exactly which part of the Kernel goes wrong. In a Verbose Mode startup, you can see the output of what's happening every second when the system boots up. Once you find the problematic kernel extension in the report, you can simply remove it in Safe Mode.

Solution 6: Reset the PRAM / NVRAM

NVRAM or PRAM stores information about system settings, including system date and time, screen resolution, etc. If it gets corrupted, your Mac won't turn on as usual. To reset the PRAM/NVRAM, you can follow these steps.

  1. Press the Power (Eject) button to reboot your Mac
  2. Immediately press and hold down the Option (Alt) + Command + R +P keys together for 20 seconds.
  3. Release keys until your Mac is booting up. The screen will go all black and comes back to grey again, or you'll hear the startup sound (in some old models).
  4. Get to System Preferences and re-configure the settings as you need.

Solution 7: Reset System Management Controller (SMC)

If none of these steps resolve the problem, resetting SMC is the last solution before you reinstall macOS. System Management Controller (SMC) is responsible for the power-operated components such as CPU fans and LED. Resetting SMC can fix the current version of macOS and set the configurations by default.

If your Mac computer that won't turn on is a laptop

  1. Shut down the computer completely.
  2. Plug in your AC adapter to make sure it has adequate power.
  3. Using the built-in keyboard, press and hold the Shift +Command +Option(Alt) +Power Button keys for about ten seconds.
  4. Release all the keys together and press the power button to start up your computer.

If you've got a Mac desktop

You can just unplug the power cord for 15 seconds and plug it in later. Then you can press the power button to boot your Mac up after five seconds.

Solution 8: Roll back the Mac to a previous state with APFS snapshot

If your Mac is running macOS High Sierra, Mojave, and Catalina, you can try this solution. The startup disk of these systems would be APFS formatted. Then, you'll be able to use macOS Recovery to restore files from an APFS snapshot taken just before the macOS installation. It is risk-free and would be very helpful especially when your Mac won't turn on after a recent macOS update.

Note: Rolling the unbootable Mac to a previous state may cause data loss. So, you'd better get files off the unbootable Mac with iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery first if you have important files on the Mac.

Step 1: Restart your Mac, and immediately hold down Command + R keys to boot into Recovery Mode.

Step 2: Release these keys when you see the Apple logo.

Step 3: Select Restore From Time Machine Backup and then click the Continue button.

Step 4: Disks connected to your Mac will be listed. Select the Mac startup disk and click Continue.

Step 5: A list of snapshots will be displayed sorted by date and the macOS version they were created with. Select the snapshot you wish to restore from, then click Continue.

Roll back the unbootable Mac to a previous state with APFS snapshot

Step 6: You will see a process bar and your Mac will reboot automatically when the recovery is over.

Solution 9: Downgrade to a previous macOS

If you upgraded the Mac operating system to a newer version, it could refuse to boot up normally, too. For example, if you just installed the latest macOS Catalina on your MacBook Pro/Air or iMac, you may have met various issues. In that case, you can try to downgrade from Catalina to Mojave or any other earlier operating system.

Solution 10: Reinstall the macOS

Sometimes, you have exhausted all the solutions above, but the Mac just won't turn on. Then, you may want to reinstall macOS in Recovery Mode. Or you can factory reset your Mac to fix this issue.

Note: You might lose data during macOS reinstallation. To prevent unnecessary data loss, you are advised to get files off the unbootable Mac with iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery first. Then, you can feel free to reformat the hard drive and reinstall macOS.

  1. Completely shut down your Mac computer. If it is not responsive, just hold the Power button of your laptop or unplug the power cord of your desktop.
  2. Power the Mac back again and immediately hold Command +R keys to get into Recovery Mode. You can release them as you see the Apple logo.
  3. In Recovery Mode where you will see the macOS Utilities, choose Reinstall macOS. Then you will be able to reinstall the macOS in Recovery Mode with the onscreen instructions.

If you fail to reinstall the macOS because space is not enough, you might need to erase the startup disk in Recovery Mode. And then you can try to reinstall macOS again.

Solution 11: Ask Apple repair store for help

Nevertheless, your Mac computer could not start up after all these solutions. And what's worse, the startup disk could not even show up in Disk Utility under Recovery Mode. Then, it could be a serious hardware issue that makes your Mac unbootable. In this case, you'd better send this dead Mac to the Apple store to repair it.

If you upgraded to the latest macOS Catalina and have encountered some macOS Catalina problems, this article will be helpful.

How to prevent data loss when Mac won't turn on?

When Mac can't turn on, the data on the Mac is a great concern. You can't access your documents, photos, emails, audio files, etc. in this case. Then, is there any way to recover valuable files before you fixing this unbootable Mac computer?

Yes! You got feasible ways to get your files off the unbootable Mac.

Solution 1: Get files off the Mac that won't turn on with Mac data recovery software

As it was pointed out previously, you can't back up your Mac if your Mac won't turn on. In this situation, you need to get the lost data with third-party Mac data recovery software, like iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery.

Best Mac Hard Drive Data Recovery Software - iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery

  • Recover deleted/lost data from unmounted Macintosh HD
  • Recover lost data from formatted/crashed/unreadable/inaccessible Mac hard drives
  • Recover lost data from APFS/encrypted APFS boot volumes
  • Recover lost data after macOS update
  • Support videos, documents, emails, music and photos recovery
  • Support macOS Catalina 10.15/Mojave 10.14/High Sierra 10.13, and earlier

Read-only & risk-free. macOS 10.14 supported.

1. Recover lost data in Recovery Mode if you only have the unbootable Mac

This method is extremely helpful if you have only one Mac computer that refuses to start up right now. It is highly recommended because of its ease and convenience. Through this method, you will be able to run iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery in Recovery Mode and recover lost data from the unbootable Mac.

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

1. Press Command +Option +R keys when you reboot this unbootable Mac. This will boot your Mac into Internet Recovery Mode.

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

3. Click Utilities in the top menu and select Terminal from the drop-down menu.

4. Run the following command:

sh <(curl

This will launch iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery through iBoysoft Server.

5. After launching iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery, please select the drive you want to recover lost data from and click the Next button.

recover lost data from macOS drive

Note: If you can't find the partition that you want, you can choose Find Lost Partitions at the top right. It can find the lost partitions to get files off.

6. Preview and choose the files you want to get back. And then click Recover button to save your files to an external hard drive.

preview and recover lost data from Mac with iBoysoft Data Recovery bootable media

2. Recover files by creating a bootable drive if you have another Mac

If you have another Mac computer or you can borrow one from your friends, then you can follow this method to create an external bootable drive. And then, you can recover lost data from the unbootable one.

Solution 2: Restore files from Time Machine backup

Probably, your Mac is not turning on but the system disk is working fine. If you have backed up with Time Machine, you can get your files off the unbootable Mac. After you fix the Mac not booting up issue, you will be able to restore your data from Time Machine backup with ease. Here's how to restore files from Time Machine.

1. Press Command + R to boot your Mac into Recovery Mode

boot into recovery mode

2. From macOS Utilities menu, click Restore From Time Machine Backup.

3. From Time Machine window, select the file that needs to be restored.

4. Once the file is selected, you can click on Restore to get them back.

Also, it's nice if you have developed a good habit to backup files on external hard drives regularly. After you fix the unbootable Mac, you can choose copy and paste the files back.

Solution 3: Get files off the Mac through Target Disk Mode

By using Target Disk Mode, you can migrate your data on the unbootable Mac to a new Mac. But you will need two compatible Mac computers, each with a FireWire or Thunderbolt interface. Besides, you'll also need a cable and any necessary adapters, such as Thunderbolt to FireWire, or Thunderbolt 2 to Thunderbolt 3.

Note: Target Disk Mode can only work if the target Mac hard drive is operational. If the Mac internal hard drive is damaged/broken/failed, you need to try other solutions mentioned above.

  1. Step 1: Connect both Macs with a cable.
  2. Step 2: Restart your target Mac, hit the Power button, then press T and hold it while your Mac boots. Release it when the Thunderbolt or FireWire icon appears on screen.
  3. Step 3: Wait for the host Mac to detect your unbootable Mac's drive.
  4. Step 4: Now you can copy the files that you want to recover to the host Mac.


Just like any other computer, Apple Macs can also stop working now and then. Apple computers could refuse to turn on. Mac could be stuck on the loading screen. Or Mac could fail to mount the macOS partition. However, it's not the end of the world. There are still a lot of things we can do to troubleshoot the Mac startup issue.

What's more, you can still retrieve your data from the unbootable Mac through your backup copy. Without backups? iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery can also help you recover photos, videos, and more files.

However, our final suggestion is to BACK UP YOUR FILES regularly.


Katrina is a data recovery expert @iBoysoft who loves to help readers solve various data recovery problems.

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Finally get why I see the flashing question mark folder at startup. Maybe I should try to boot from an external hard drive instead. THX :)

2020-03-04 03:01:51