HomeTechnologyNewsHow to Start a Mac in Safe Mode

How to Start a Mac in Safe Mode

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Marcus Mears III / Geek Instructors
On an Apple Silicon Mac, turn off your computer, and then press and hold the Power (or Touch ID) button. When your volumes appear, click the one you want to start. Then hold down the Shift key and choose “Continue in Safe Mode” to start your Mac.

On an Intel-based Mac, hold down the Shift key as the Mac starts up.

Knowing how to start your Mac in Safe Mode can help fix a host of problems with your Mac. At worst, you can use Safe Mode to recover data and apply updates. Here is how to do it.

How to Start an Apple Silicon Mac M1/M2 in Safe Mode

The instructions for starting your Mac in safe mode differ depending on whether you have an Apple Silicon or an Intel Mac. You can find this information by clicking Apple > About This Mac while macOS is running and looking at what appears next to the “tabs” entry. ”.

If you can’t start your Mac (hence safe mode), then you can take a guess. If you have a 13-inch MacBook Air or MacBook Pro made after 2020, a 14-inch or 16-inch MacBook Pro, a Mac mini made after 2020, a new-style (colorful) 24-inch iMac, or a Mac Studio desktop , you probably have an M1 or later chip.

information screen "About this Mac" on macOS 13 Ventura

The instructions for booting into safe mode are pretty simple. First, shut down your Mac using Apple > Shut Down or by holding the Power button (or Touch ID) if you can’t shut down normally. Wait a few seconds for your machine to turn off.

Now press and hold the Power (or Touch ID) button and wait for the machine to start booting up. You should see the message “Continue pressing to view boot options…” on the screen. Still holding. After a few seconds, your Mac will begin booting to the start menu, at which point you can release the Power button.

Continue holding for Boot Options

Next, you’ll see a list of volumes you can start your Mac from and an icon labeled “Options” with the macOS Settings icon.

Mac startup options and volumes

Click on your startup volume (probably “Macintosh HD”) and then hold Shift and click “Continue in Safe Mode” to boot.

Continue in safe mode to start your Mac

Your Mac will reboot and then automatically boot into safe mode.

How to Start an Intel Mac in Safe Mode

If you have an older Intel Mac, the instructions are a bit simpler. All you need to do is restart or shut down your Mac using the Apple menu > Restart or Apple > Shut Down. You can also press and hold the power button (Touch ID) to cut power and interrupt your Mac, useful if you can’t access your macOS desktop.

Hold down the Shift key on an Intel Mac to start in Safe Mode
Tim Brookes / Instruction Geek

Now that your Mac starts up, hold down the Shift key. Hold it down until you see the login window, at which point you can release Shift. Sign in normally (you may need to do this twice), after which your Mac should be in safe mode.

How do I know my Mac is in safe mode?

Whether you have an Apple Silicon or Intel-based Mac, the telltale signs of Safe Mode are the same. You should see “Secure Boot” in the upper right corner of the login (or lock) screen. This will not be visible once you have logged in or unlocked your Mac.

look for the label "secure boot" on the login (or lock) screen

There is another way to check this while connected. Click on the Apple logo, then press and hold the Option button on your keyboard and click on the “System Information” option that appears.

Press and hold the option to view the system information entry in the Apple menu

Now click on the “Software” heading to access the system software overview screen. Next to “Boot Mode” you should see “Safe” mode. If you are not in safe mode, it will read “Normal” instead.

Check your current boot mode in System Information

What is safe mode on a Mac and what does it do?

Safe mode is a safe mode that is designed to check and fix problems while disabling items that might prevent your Mac from starting normally.

When you start up in Safe Mode, you may notice that your Mac loads a bit slower than normal (although this is less noticeable on newer Apple Silicon models). This slowness is because safe mode performs a file repair not unlike Disk Utility’s first aid mode.

In addition to this, safe mode disables all login items, so apps that are causing trouble at startup won’t load. Only the macOS built-in fonts are loaded when you start in safe mode, since fonts can be a vehicle for malware. In addition to this, caches including kernel cache, system cache, and font caches are also cleared when booting into safe mode.

On earlier versions of macOS and non-Apple Silicon Macs, Safe Mode also disables all third-party kernel extensions. Unless you have specifically allowed them, Apple Silicon-based Mac models will not use third-party kernel extensions, as Apple sees them as a risk to “operating system integrity and reliability” and requires you to switch to “Security reduced”. in recovery mode.

On a modern Apple Silicon Mac, just about everything else will work normally in safe mode, including networking via Wi-Fi, USB, and Thunderbolt devices, and standard apps. Apple claims that some features such as DVD video playback, Wi-Fi, sharing, and some external devices may not work, including accelerated graphics on some machines.

Expect that any applications that depend on things that Safe Mode forbids (such as third-party fonts, helper applications that launch when your Mac starts, etc.) will be affected regardless of what system you have.

How do I get out of safe mode on a Mac?

To get out of safe mode, simply restart your Mac as usual. Click the Apple logo in the upper left corner of the screen, then select Restart and wait. Unless you specifically enable Safe Mode again (either by using the Startup Options menu or by holding down the Shift key), your Mac will start normally.


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How to troubleshoot in safe mode

Safe mode can be something of a silver bullet when it comes to troubleshooting macOS. If you’re having trouble getting your Mac to boot normally, Safe Mode is a great place to start. macOS will check your computer for problems, remove potentially problematic caches, and disable any login items (or kernel extensions) that might be interfering with normal operation.

Sometimes booting into safe mode and then restarting normally is all it takes to fix a problem with your Mac. This is especially true if your Mac is stuck in a startup loop and you simply can’t access the operating system like you would. usually. . Other times, it can point you in the right direction to fix a problem.

MacBook Air booting into macOS
Tim Brookes / Instruction Geek

If safe mode is the only way you can currently use your Mac, you can use it to fix the problem. Removing login items to prevent software from starting automatically and updating macOS are good starting points. You can also create a new macOS user account to see if the problem is limited to your profile or not.

At worst, you can use Safe Mode to access your data and back it up with Time Machine before doing a fresh install of macOS (or a simple factory reset).

More ways to fix your Mac

Are software problems getting you down? Learn how to fix crashing apps on your Mac and solve common Mac App Store problems. Do you notice that your MacBook battery does not last as long as it should? Learn how to make your MacBook battery last longer and identify the causes of battery drain.

RELATED: 8 Ways to Make Your Mac Boot Faster


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