How to fix a MacBook that won’t turn on

Written By: Ontrack

Date Published: September 06, 2022

How to fix a MacBook that won’t turn on

In this article, we share some practical advice on how to troubleshoot and fix your Mackbook Air or Macbook Pro when it’s refusing to turn on, and how to recover any data you fear may be lost.

Help! My MacBook won’t turn on!

Technology, apps and the internet feel like they’re always there, exactly when we need them. Apart from that one time they refuse to work. What starts as mild frustration quickly morphs into a full-blown rage if we’re left unable to complete a simple task or are up against a tight deadline.

Before you start banging the mouse or contemplate throwing your Macbook across the room, have you turned it off and on again?

Yes, it sounds patronizing, but it’s common for your device to slip into sleep mode and refuse to wake up. Check your Macbook is plugged in and hold the power button for 10 seconds before releasing. Fingers crossed it boots into life. But if you don’t hear the startup chime or drive noise and can’t see any images or visuals, it’s time to troubleshoot your issue.

Fixing a Macbook that will not turn on

In the following sections, we will cover some common issues that may be preventing your Macbook from turning on and provide fixes you can try at home.

Check the power source

A power cut or power surge can damage your power supply – you might not even be aware that it’s happened. To rule out the fault that lies with your cable rather than your device, try to start your Macbook using a different adapter.

If your power supply proves to be the issue, simply purchase a replacement online or in-store.

Unplug any accessories

Additionally, the fault could lie with connected peripherals, such as a keyboard, mouse, printer, or USB hub. Upon startup, if your Macbook detects a short circuit in an accessory, it has a safety feature to not turn on and protect your device. Remove everything except your power cable and try to switch on your Macbook.

If it’s still not turning on, have you recently installed new RAM or a new hard drive? If there are problems with the configuration or compatibility it could cause your Macbook to not switch on. If possible, reinstall the originals to see if it makes a difference.

Check the display

If your Macbook makes noise when you start it up but fails to display anything on the screen, the fault could lie with your display.

If you own a cat, start by pressing the F2 key to check the screen brightness in case some wandering paws have made their way over your keyboard.

Assuming that doesn’t work, it’s possible your Macbook is having trouble accessing the display, which points to a fault in the display hardware. Unplug any display extenders, switches and connected devices and see if that makes a difference. Then test using a different display, and/or use a different adapter.

Alternatively, it may be that when you power your Macbook on, it presents you with a symbol on the start-up screen, which should help you identify the issue:

  • Prohibitory symbol: the select disk you want to use for startup contains an unavailable Mac OS – try reinstalling from the disk.
  • Question mark: the startup disk isn't available – try deleting the startup disk and reinstalling it.
  • Lock icon: indicates there is a firmware password on your Mac – enter the passcode.
  • System lock PIN code: appears when your Macbook is remotely locked using the ‘Lost Mode’ of ‘Find My Mac’ feature – enter your passcode.

If none of that is working, it’s likely the Macbook itself is at fault.

Power cycle your Macbook

If you’ve not heard this term before, it’s essentially forcing your device to restart after you’ve killed the power to it. Hold down the power key for 10 seconds. Normally, you will hear a noise as the device is forced to switch off. Wait a further 10 seconds, reboot your Macbook and wait to see if it switches on.

Boot up in safe mode

Next on the list of troubleshooting ideas is to limit the functionality of your Macbook upon start up so it can perform diagnostics to identify the fault.

  • To enter Safe Mode, hold the Shift key and press the power button.
  • Hopefully, you will be prompted to click ‘Continue in Safe Mode’, at which point you can release the Shift key.
  • If you can start in Safe Mode the issue probably relates to one of your startup items. To pinpoint the problem, go to: System Preferences > Users & Groups.
  • Remove all items that are interrupting the system and/or undo any changes that were recently made to your device.

Run disk utility

If your Macbook is booting but the Mac OS fails to load, it’s likely you have a corrupted drive.

  • To enter Recovery Mode, hold down the Cmd and R keys, and power your Macbook up again. Keep the keys held until you see the Apple logo.
  • Click the ‘Disk Utility’ option.
  • Click over to the First Aid tab and try repairing your Macbook’s disk.

How to restore your files using Ontrack

Depending on the severity of the fault, it’s possible that you may lose data as well as the ability to turn on your Macbook. If this happens, don’t worry. Our DIY data recovery software - Ontrack EasyRecovery for Mac - can help get all your documents, photos, videos, and other critical files back with minimal effort. And we allow you to recover up to 1GB of data for free.

Find out more about how Ontrack EasyRecovery for Mac works.


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