Starting your Mac in safe mode can often get you out of a jam. If your Mac won’t start up, is getting slow or freezing up, then safe mode could be just what you need to get back on track.
In this guide, we’ll cover:
- What safe mode is
- When to use safe mode
- How to boot into safe mode
- What to do if problems continue in safe mode
Before we start
If you’re having problems with your Mac, they could be caused by malware. Trying to find and remove it manually is difficult, but with MacKeeper it’s easy.
- In MacKeeper, select Antivirus in the sidebar
- Click Start scan
- If MacKeeper finds anything, select it, and click Move to quarantine
MacKeeper can also help with removing apps and plugins, as well as clearing out junk files – all of which could create problems. Try it out now, with one free fix for each function.
What is safe mode?
Like many computers, Macs have a safe mode. Starting your Mac in safe mode gets macOS to load with only the files and apps it needs to run. That means any login items, extensions, or apps that aren’t necessary or which you’ve installed yourself won’t run.
Safe mode also carries out a basic check of your system disk, similar to the First Aid function in Disk Utility. And it deletes some of your Mac’s system caches, which could potentially be causing your issues. But don’t worry: macOS will build up those caches again when they’re needed.
When to use safe mode
Booting your Mac into safe mode can help in a lot of situations. If you’re having any kind of problems with your Mac, safe mode can help you find the cause.
Common reasons to use safe mode on a Mac:
- Your internet connection doesn’t work when you boot normally
- Your Mac is freezing up or running slowly
- You can’t boot into macOS normally
- macOS is crashing or restarting by itself
- You can delete a file or app from your Mac
If your problem disappears when you boot into safe mode, then you know it’s caused by something you’ve added. That could be a new app or plug-in, or it could be a piece of new hardware you’ve connected. In safe mode, you can access your data, and you might even be able to fix the issue.
How to boot into safe mode on your Mac
It doesn’t matter whether you're starting a MacBook Pro into safe mode or an iMac. The process is the same. What matters is whether you have an Intel Mac or one with Apple silicon in it.
This is how to open safe mode on an M1 Mac:
- Turn off your Mac
- Press and hold the power button until you see the startup options
- Choose your system disk
- Hold down the Shift key, and click Continue in Safe Mode
- Log into your Mac
How to start an Intel Mac into safe mode:
- Power up or restart your Mac
- As soon as it starts, press and hold Shift
- Release Shift when you see the login window
- Log into your Mac
What to do if the issue continues in safe mode
Hopefully, when you reboot your Mac in safe mode, you’ll find whatever problem you had will disappear. From there, you can try uninstalling recently installed apps and extensions, scanning for malware, making sure macOS is up to date, and so on. And then you can reboot normally to see if the issue persists.
If, however, you log into safe mode and your Mac still has the same problems while it’s in safe mode, that points to a more serious and harder issue to fix.
In such cases, you should back up all your important data and perform a complete factory reset. By wiping your system disk and reinstalling macOS, you should be able to also remove whatever is causing your Mac not to work properly.
There is, unfortunately, another possible problem – one that even a factory reset can’t fix. Your Mac’s hardware could be failing. That could be the disk drive, the RAM or something else, and in many cases, you can’t replace these. Your only real option is to go either Apple or an authorized repair shop.
How do I exit safe mode on my Mac?
Leaving safe mode on your Mac is easy. While in safe mode, restart or turn off your Mac as normal. When it starts up again, it won’t be in safe mode anymore.
How do I know if my Mac is in safe mode?
When in safe mode, you’ll see 'Safe Boot' in your Mac’s login screen menu. Another way to check is to click the Apple icon in the top left of your screen. Select About This Mac section. In the Overview tab, select System Report. Click Software and look for Boot Mode.
Why does my Mac keep booting into safe mode?
It could be as simple as a stuck Shift key. Check your keyboard and unplug it, if necessary. Then reboot your Mac to see if it works normally. If not, with your Mac in safe mode, try this command in Terminal: sudo nvram boot-args = " "