Need Mac repair? A trip to the Apple Store means high costs and a long drive. When your Mac won’t start, things can get a bit… frustrating. Apple products are some of the most well built in the industry, and Steve Jobs demanded nothing less, raising the bar in hardware, performance, security and stability.
Pricier up front, but over time these low-maintenance beasts keep purring without the regular maintenance required by most windows systems. However, problems can occur.
There are many things that can go wrong so that a Mac won’t start, but before taking it to your local computer repair technician here are 5 things you can try.
5 Things to Try When Your Mac Won’t Start
1. Run Disk Utility | First, you want to run the disk utility. One way to do it is from the recovery partition (if you are running Mountain Lion 10.8 or later) by holding down both the Command and R keys while booting. The other method will require OS X installation media (disk or USB). Once you have accessed the OS X Utilities Menu, select Disk Utility.
Next, select your Mac’s built-in hard drive from the left-hand column. You will probably see two items: the first includes the drive’s size (i.e. 500GB) in its name. Nested underneath is a second reference to the same drive. You want that second one.
On the lower right of the Disk Utility window, click Verify Disk, and then wait while Disk Utility does its thing. Reboot and see if your Mac won’t start. If it does, please tell everyone you know how awesome we are. If not, move on to step 2.
2. Try a Safe Boot | Safe Boot minimizes startup processes and tasks and performs certain diagnostics. It doesn’t happen very often, but if a Mac won’t start up successfully in normal mode, sometimes it will using Safe Boot. If it does, you may restart your machine in normal mode and see if the issue is resolved.
Start it up while holding down Shift, and be patient. Safe Boot can take a while. You can also use Verbose Mode to output some information about what is going on throughout the process. Simply hold down the Shift, Command and V keys while powering on your Mac.
If it starts up, you’re good to go. But if your Mac won’t start, please continue.
3. File System Consistency Check | This one is a little nerdy, but simple, nonetheless. Start up while holding Command and S to enter Single User Mode. Release the keys when the screen goes black and starts spitting messages in white text. Once the messages stop, type “fsck -fy” (without the quotes- don’t forget the space after the k) and hit Return. Now you wait.
Eventually, one of two messages should appear: “The volume [your Mac’s name] appears to be OK” or “FILE SYSTEM WAS MODIFIED.” If you encounter the first message, type reboot and press Return; if the second, run the scan again by tapping the Up arrow once and then Return.
Hopefully the “…appears to be OK” message will eventually appear, you will type reboot, and share this post all over social media for saving the day. If your Mac won’t start, it’s on to #4.
4. Reset NVRAM and SMC | These two are combined into one step because they are both last-ditch attempts that rarely work; however, at this point, your Mac won’t start anyway. What have you got to lose? NVRAM refers to special memory that stores persistent data that remains after the system is shut down, including settings like volume level and screen resolution.
Holding down all of these keys may be a bit tricky: Command, Option, P and R, then turn it on. Keep holding the keys until you hear the system dong three times. If it boots, get in your car and go buy a lottery ticket. If your Mac won’t start, please proceed.
Resetting the System Management Controller (SMC) is basically a hail Mary pass before moving to the “recover and re-install” method in step 5.
5. Reinstall OS X | One of the many great things about OS X is simplicity of (re)installation. You will have to access the OS X Utilities menu using either of the two methods mentioned in step 3. Once you get there, choose Reinstall Mac OS X. You may have to choose the drive you want OS X installed on, but usually the default is correct.
All your files and settings are saved by default, making the installation practically idiot-proof.
*Note: Best-practice is to always back up all your data before reinstalling or upgrading OS X. Errors can occur, and data can be lost.