How to Fix a Mac that Won’t Start?

It is quite frustrating when your Mac- be it desktop (iMac, iMac Pro, or Mac mini) or laptop (MacBook Air or MacBook Pro) won't start up. All your treasured photos, videos, music collection, documents, and other data present on your Mac can't be accessed anymore.

Don't worry, startup issues on Macintosh HD can be resolved. And you can regain all your inaccessible data from your Mac. But, before you learn various troubleshooting methods to fix your Mac, you should know why your Mac isn't booting.

Common Reasons for Non-Starting of Mac

  • Laptop's battery is dead
  • Desktop isn't getting the power
  • Incorrect firmware settings
  • Recent applications
  • Bad peripherals
  • Bad sectors on hard drive
  • Corrupt hard drive
  • Corrupt macOS
  • Hard drive is dead

The next sections describe various methods to fix non-booting issues and recover data on Mac.

Use Preliminary Troubleshooting Methods

When your Mac won't start, the first thing you should do is connect the charger of your laptop or reconnect the power cable to your desktop, then switch on your Mac. If the battery isn't charging, replace the battery. If the power cable is damaged, replace the cable.

When power isn't at fault, then reset firmware settings. To reset SMC, detach power cable or remove the battery, then press-hold the Power Button for 5 seconds; for non-removable battery, press-hold (for T2 chip, press right, else left) Shift + (left) Option + (left) Control + Power Button for 10 seconds. To reset NVRAM & PRAM, press-hold Option + Command + P + R keys until you see the Apple logo to appear and disappear for the second time.

If your Mac doesn't startup even after resetting firmware, then power on your Mac and press-hold Shift key to enter Safe Mode (which checks and repairs startup drive issues). If required, remove the recent applications that may be causing the startup problem. 

When your Mac is stuck in a gray screen during startup, force shut down the Mac by pressing the Power button for few seconds, remove all external peripherals (headset, Ethernet cable, printer, etc.), and then power on the Mac. When your Mac is stuck in flashing question mark, force shut down the Mac, then press-hold Command + R keys to enter macOS Recovery mode. Select the startup disk from the Apple menu and restart Mac.

For a corrupt hard drive, enter macOS Recovery mode, select Disk Utility from the macOS Utilities window, then click Continue. Select your startup disk from the left pane of Disk Utility, click First Aid tab, then click Run to fix startup issues. Or else, power on your Mac and press-hold Command + S keys until white text appears to boot your Mac into Single User mode. On the prompt, type fsck_hfs –fy, then press Return. Rerun the command till you get the OK message. Restart Mac.

If you have another working Mac, you can recover data present on the non-booting Mac by using Target Disk Mode. Connect the two Macs by using Thunderbolt or FireWire cable. Power on both the Macs and press-hold T key on the troubled Mac. Release the key when Thunderbolt or FireWire icon appears. Access the affected Mac by using the Finder of the working Mac.

Alternatively, if your troubled Mac isn't in the warranty period, you can remove its internal hard drive and connect it to a working Mac as an external drive to access its stored data.

Use Bootable Data Recovery Software for Mac

Note: Create Recovery Drive feature is only available in Stellar Data Recovery Version 10 & earlier! The latest version has eliminated the need of any other Mac or external device. User can directly use Stellar Data Recovery through an activated link.

The best and safest way to recover data from your non-working Mac is to use a bootable media drive. Stellar Data Recovery Professional for Mac allows you to create a recovery drive and access your inaccessible data from the non-booting Mac with the help of the bootable drive.

Watch the following video to know more.

After recovering data from the non-booting Mac, fix the macOS corruption issue. Power on your troubled Mac and press-hold Command + R keys to enter macOS Recovery mode. In macOS Utilities, click Reinstall macOS, then click Continue. Perform the on-screen instructions to erase and install fresh macOS.

Seek Out the Best Data Recovery Service

In case your Mac hard drive has physical damage that results in the non-booting of your Mac, you can obtain Stellar Data Recovery Service to salvage your inaccessible data from the storage device. Once data is recovered on an external storage medium from the provider, replace the dead hard drive with a new one, preferably an SSD. Next, install macOS on the drive with an active Internet connection. Finally, restore the recovered data from the storage medium. 


To fix a Mac that won't start, use the preliminary troubleshooting steps. Start from checking the power connectivity, resetting firmware settings, or booting your Mac in Safe Mode. Fix hard drive corruption by running First Aid in Disk Utility on macOS Recovery mode. Or use FSCK command in Single User mode. To recover data from the non-booting Mac, use Target Disk mode or remove the ailing drive and connect it to the working Mac as an external device.

But the safest method to recover data from the non-booting Mac is to use the activated version of Stellar Data Recovery Professional for Mac that features create recovery drive. Use the tool to make a USB flash drive bootable and recover data from the unbootable Mac by using the drive. Once the data is recovered, fix the macOS corruption issue by reinstalling macOS and restoring the recovered data. When your Mac drive suffers physical failure, get the best data recovery service.

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About The Author
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Santosh Kumar Gupta linkdin Icon

Data recovery expert on Mac & Windows platforms, with 10-year experience in writing

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