If your Mac or MacBook screen goes black suddenly or if it goes straight to a blank screen every time you start it up, don’t panic. Often it’s just a temporary problem — one you can fix quite easily. Common issues include faulty monitor cables and flaws in third-party software.
Unfortunately, there may be more serious reasons why your Mac gets stuck on a black screen. For example, your Mac’s power supply could be failing, or you might even have issues with the motherboard that would be too difficult and expensive to fix.
That’s the worst-case scenario, though. Before you give up on your Mac and send it to the trash, you should try to eliminate other possible causes first. And that’s what this guide is about. Whether you have a MacBook Air or Pro, a Mac mini or an iMac — follow these steps to work out why your Mac’s screen is black so you can fix it.
Before we start
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How to fix a black screen on Mac
We’ll start with the most common ways to stop the black screen problem on Macs and look at what you should do if you think you have a more serious hardware issue.
Check your monitor cables
If you’re using an external monitor, check both its power cable and the cable connecting it to your Mac.
Make sure all display and power cables are plugged in fully. A loose cable can cause you to lose power or your display. Also, try different power and display cables for your monitor, as the current ones might be broken.
Look in System Preferences
If you have two displays and only one is working, check your display settings to see if the black one is showing up or not.
1. Open System Preferences and select Displays
2. Check all your displays are listed. Click Display Settings.
3. Check everything is set as you expect, including display resolutions.
Check your brightness
It’s possible your Mac’s screen isn’t actually black but just very, very dark. This can happen if you accidentally lean on the brightness keys on your keyboard. To check this, simply use those keys to try to turn up the brightness on your screen.
Restart your Mac
It might sound obvious, but sometimes all you need to do is restart your Mac. If it’s run into a temporary problem, this could be enough to fix it and get your Mac up and running.
But how do you restart your Mac or MacBook when the screen is black? You have a couple of options:
- Press Ctrl + Cmd + Power button. This will force your Mac to restart, without asking you to save your open documents.
- Press Ctrl + Cmd + Media eject. This will restart your Mac too, but you’ll be asked to save your work first. Obviously, you won’t be able to see it if your screen is black, but you might be able to get away with pressing Enter a few times in response to any save prompts that might be open.
Reset your SMC
Macs with Intel processors have a System Management Controller (SMC). This controls how they manage power, and resetting it can often alleviate all kinds of problems with your Mac, including the dreaded black screen of death. How you do this depends on whether you have a MacBook or a desktop Mac and when it was made.
Here’s how to reset the SMC in a newer Intel MacBook with a T2 chip:
- Shut down your MacBook
- Press and hold Left Ctrl + Left Alt + Shift
- Hold them for seven seconds, then press and hold the power button
- Keep holding them for another seven seconds, then let go
- Wait a few seconds, then power up your MacBook as usual. With any luck, your MacBook’s black screen problem will be gone.
For a desktop Mac with a T2 chip, simply shut it down, remove the power cable and wait for 15 seconds. Plug it back in and wait five more seconds, then power it up.
Check out Apple’s support site for further advice, including resetting the SMC on older Intel Macs.
Reset your NVRAM
Your Mac’s NVRAM is a small amount of memory reserved for certain system functions like volume levels and display resolutions. Resetting it can sometimes fix issues, including if your Mac suddenly went black. This only applies to Intel Macs, though, because NVRAM works differently in those with Apple silicon.
Here’s how to reset your NVRAM:
- Turn off your Mac
- Turn it on and immediately press and hold Opt + Cmd + P + R
- After about 20 seconds, release all the keys
- Wait for your Mac to finish restarting.
Sometimes, external devices can interfere with the normal operation of your Mac, particularly if they’re faulty. For that reason, it's a good idea to try unplugging everything from your Mac to see if it helps with black screen problems. This includes USB mice and keyboards, network cables, Bluetooth devices — everything other than the power and the monitor cables.
Try turning on your Mac like this and see if you still get a black screen. If you don’t, plug each thing back in one at a time to see which one is causing the problem.
Make sure your Mac is well ventilated
Macs, like other computers, can withstand a fair amount of heat, but if they get too hot, they will often behave in unpredictable ways. They may simply shut themselves down. They might run more slowly. Or they might give you a black screen — especially if the graphics processor starts to struggle with the heat. A safe operating temperature range is between 50ºC and 95ºC.
Do the following make sure your Mac isn’t overheating:
- Check the outside temperature. Simply put your hand on the body of the Mac or MacBook and see if it feels overly hot. Use a thermometer if you’re unsure. This isn’t particularly accurate, but it can be useful starting point.
- Install a Mac temperature monitoring app. There are plenty of these around, and they’ll let you get an accurate picture of your Mac’s temperature. Note, though, that many don’t work with Apple silicon Mac yet. TG Pro is one that does, but it’s not free.
- Check your Mac’s vents for dust and other blockages. Remove it if you can.
- Make sure your Mac ventilation isn’t obstructed by nearby objects.
- Move your Mac away from any nearby heat sources like radiators or direct sunlight.
Check for malware
If your Mac’s screen goes black intermittently or after a few minutes of being on, it could be caused by malware. Running a virus scan may be able to help you, if you can get a scan to run.
Here’s how to run a scan for Malware in MacKeeper:
1. Download MacKeeper and set up your account
2. In MacKeeper, select Antivirus from the sidebar
3. Click Start scan
4. Wait for the scan to complete
5. If it finds anything, select what you want to remove and click Move to quarantine
Start in safe mode
When you start your Mac in safe mode, it starts up only with the software and drivers that macOS came with. If it starts up in safe mode, then it’s likely your black screen issue is caused by third-party software, rather than a hardware problem.
Here’s how to start a Mac with Apple silicon in safe mode:
- Turn off your Mac
- Press and hold the power button until you see Loading startup options on the screen
- Select a disk to boot into
- Press and hold Shift, then click Continue in Safe Mode.
To get an Intel Mac in safe mode, follow these steps:
- As your Mac is turning on or restarting, press and hold Shift
- Log into your Mac
- You might be asked to log in again. Either way, you should see Safe Boot in the menu bar.
Boot into Recovery mode
macOS Recovery mode lets you restore your Mac to factory settings. If there’s a serious problem with macOS and you can’t fix it, this might be your last option. It’s a drastic move, but if your Mac is having intermittent black screen issues or doesn’t display a black screen in safe mode, it might be worth it.
To boot an Apple silicon Mac into Recovery, press and hold the power button to start it up. Let go when you see the startup options screen. From there, you can choose Recovery mode
For Intel Macs, press and hold Cmd + R as it boots up. Release the keys when you see the startup screen
Check out our full guide to using Mac Recovery mode to learn more.
Try your monitor on a different computer
If your monitor is the cause of your Mac’s black screen problems, no amount of toying with your Mac will fix it. If possible, try your monitor on a different computer. If it works, then it’s most likely your Mac which is at fault.
Of course, if your monitor doesn’t work elsewhere, you’ll probably need to work out why. It’s also worth checking a different monitor with your Mac, just to be sure.
Try a different power supply.
Dealing with serious hardware issues
No computer lasts forever. Macs usually last for many, many years, but if you’ve had yours for a long time, it’s possible it’s displaying a black screen because a piece of its hardware is broken. That could include the motherboard, the hard drive, the RAM, the graphics card or the power supply.
With some Macs, you can remove these parts and swap in new components. If that’s the case with your Mac, you could try changing some of these components to see if they fix your problem.
However, particularly with newer Macs and MacBooks, you may not be able to change any components at all. If you’ve tried all the tips in this guide and none of them work, your best bet is probably to send your Mac to Apple or take it to an Apple store for repair. Then it’s a matter of deciding whether it’s worth the cost of fixing it or not.