How to start a Mac in safe mode and when to use it

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Written By techgiga

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If you’re having trouble with your Mac, you can easily fix it by restarting it. I know it’s weird, but sometimes it helps. However, if this does not fix the problem, there are common ways to fix it. One of the ways you can resolve them is by starting the Mac in safe mode.

Not only does this help prove where the problem is, but it’s also one of the most common maintenance methods you can use on your computer.

We’ll explain what Safe Mode is, how you can start your Mac in this state, and when you need to use it.

What is Safe Mode?

Safe Mode or Secure Boot is a macOS diagnostic mode designed to fix various problems with your Mac.

Enabling safe mode allows you to fix any issues that prevent the operating system from functioning normally. It helps you resolve the issue based on how the computer responds in the safe mode environment.

While in this mode, your Mac will start without loading additional third-party programs. So you can test whether the whole system or a specific program is causing the problems.

Boot into mac safe mode when using safe mode

That means only a small number of preferences, system extensions, and fonts that need to run start up on your computer so you can isolate problems and fix them accordingly.

Safe mode can get your computer running again when problems arise from corrupted data or applications, corrupted fonts and preference files, or software installation issues.

You can use it to solve any issues that prevent your Mac from starting or problems related to the startup disk, including applications that won’t start or those that cause it to crash, freeze, or shut down your computer.

What happens when your Mac is in safe mode

Boot mac safe mode when to use safe mode what happens

Several things happen when you start your Mac in safe mode. Specifically, it does the following:

  • Your Mac loads the kernel extensions needed to run macOS.
  • It checks your startup drive by performing a directory check and tries to fix any problems.
  • Prevents startup and login items from opening automatically at startup.
  • Disables user-installed (third-party) fonts in addition to those found in System/Library/Apple-supplied fonts.
  • Deletes all font caches and moves them to the trash, including the kernel cache and other system cache files.
  • It also removes the dynamic loader cache which is known to cause blue screen freezes during startup.
  • Disables or limits features such as DVD player, iMovie (does not capture video), internal and/or external modems, AirPort card (depending on version and version of macOS being used), Quartz Extreme, and network files sharing.

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How to start your Mac in safe mode

To boot into safe mode, follow the steps below:

Step 1: Start or restart your Mac.

Boot into mac safe mode when using safe mode startup

Step 2: Press the Shift key immediately when you hear the chime. You will see the Apple logo appear on your screen.

Boot into mac safe mode when using the safe mode toggle key

Step 3: Release the Shift key as soon as the login window appears. If your Mac’s startup disk is encrypted with FileVault, you log in twice: the first login opens the startup disk, while the second login launches you into the Finder.

Remember: Once you’ve established the problem, you can exit safe mode by restarting your Mac without pressing any startup keys.

How to tell if your Mac is in safe mode

You can tell if your Mac is in Safe Mode by using the System Information app. The System Information app (also known as System Profiler in some versions of OS X) displays summary information about your Mac’s software, hardware, network, and other information.

To go to the System Information app, click Apple menu > About This Mac to open an overview of your Mac computer, including its model, memory, processor, serial number, and macOS version.

Boot into mac safe mode when using the safe mode menu on this mac

You can view more information by clicking the System Report button.

Boot into mac safe mode when using the safe mode menu in this mac system overview report

In the Software section under System Information, you’ll see the text “Safe” instead of “Normal” next to Boot Mode.

Boot mac safe mode when using safe mode menu in this mac safe boot mode

The login window will also display the secure boot label at the top right of the screen when in safe mode.

What to do when your Mac won’t turn on or start in safe mode

How to start mac in unsafe mode

Here are some things to check if your Mac won’t turn on, or turns on but won’t complete the startup process:

  • Check for power-related issues such as fan sounds, hard drive sounds, and other startup sounds. Also check lights such as the sleep indicator light, the Caps Lock key, or the backlit keyboard, if you have one.
  • You can also verify that it is receiving power by making sure that the power cord is not damaged and is securely plugged into a working electrical outlet.
  • Make sure you’re using the correct power cord and adapter, and if you’re using an external display, turn it on and make sure you don’t have any other display issues. Boost your screen brightness from the integrated keyboard.
  • Check for other startup issues if it doesn’t finish booting, such as a recently installed HDD/SSD or memory, and make sure it’s compatible and properly installed. You can also remove and try with the original disk or memory.

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If you still need more help, contact Apple Support or visit an Apple Store or Authorized Service Provider.

If you don’t have a keyboard or can’t use the Shift key on your keyboard to start in safe mode, you can set your Mac to start in safe mode if you have remote access to your Mac. To do this:

Step 1: Open Terminal remotely to access the command line or log into your Mac using SSH. Use this Terminal command: sudo nvram boot-args=”-x”

Boot into mac safe mode when using terminal command in safe mode

Alternatively, start in verbose mode with the command:

sudo nvram boot-args=”-x –v”

Step 2: When you’re done using safe mode, go back to normal startup with this Terminal command:

sudo nvram boot-args=””

Restart your Mac

If you’re having trouble with your Mac, now you know how to start it in safe mode and get everything back to normal.

Next: If you have an Android device and want to boot into safe mode to fix any underlying issue, learn the steps to do so in our next article.

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