Mac White Screen? Fix White Screen on Boot

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It’s rare for a Mac to fail to boot and get stuck on a white screen or else it won’t turn on as expected. While a Mac may randomly get stuck on a white screen, users will usually discover the problem after updating system software, where the Mac boots up but quickly stops on a completely white screen.

If you find that your Mac is stuck on a white screen during startup and does not boot up as expected, read on for troubleshooting and learn how to potentially fix this problem.

To be clear, what we’re describing here is a Mac stuck on an all-white screen with no logos, no progress bar, nothing, it’s just a blank white screen. There are several possible causes for a white screen to appear on a Mac during startup so we are going to discuss a wide variety of troubleshooting tips that may solve the problem. Not all steps may be required to fix the problem, but for example, you can simply reboot in safe mode and reset NVRAM and fix the white screen issue.

Reboot in Safe Mode

This is quite easy; just reboot in safe mode on the Mac with a correctly timed shift key.

  • Restart the Mac as usual, then immediately hold down the SHIFT key and release the SHIFT key when you see the  Apple logo and progress bar

Making a safe boot attempt is easy, and it can fix some simple issues where a Mac gets stuck on a white screen during startup. If the Mac works fine in safe mode, try rebooting as usual (without holding down Shift) and see if it works as usual, maybe it does.

You can check about safe boot mode on Mac here if you are interested.

Reset NVRAM

Often times, resetting NVRAM / PRAM is enough to fix Mac white screen issue:

  • Restart the Mac, the moment you hear the startup chime, hold down Command + Option + P + R keys at the same time, when you hear a second startup chime, you can release the keys, the NVRAM is reset

After NVRAM has been successfully reset, go ahead and let the Mac boot as usual. At this point it should no longer get stuck on a white screen.

Reset SMC

Since the white screen issue seems to be mostly on portable Macs, we’ll focus on how to reset SMC on modern MacBook Pro, MacBook, MacBook Air models:

  • Shut down the computer and connect it to your MagSafe adapter and a power outlet as usual
  • Hold down Shift + Control + Option + Power button simultaneously for a few seconds, then release all keys simultaneously
  • Start the Mac as usual

For other hardware you can learn how to reset SMC here on Macs.

Reboot and repair the drive

If possible, try to repair the startup disk via Disk Utility by entering recovery mode:

  • Restart the Mac and hold down Command + R to boot into recovery mode
  • Choose “Disk Utility” from the list of options on the Utilities screen
  • Select the hard drive and then go to the “First Aid” tab and choose to run First Aid and repair the drive

If the disk has many errors, especially those that cannot be repaired, there may be an underlying problem or impending disk failure. If so, make a backupup of your data on the Mac, then consider using Apple Hardware Test to diagnose any issues. Often times, replacing a hard drive is okay, some users prefer to do it themselves otherwise you can contact an Apple Support center for official help on replacing the drive or diagnosing some other system problem.

Boot into extended mode

This doesn’t make much sense, but it works sometimes: boot in extended mode. Please note that Verbose mode is only detailed what happens during system boot, similar to watching a linux machine start up up, it’s not entirely sure why this works, but there are multiple reports on Apple Discussion Forums that it does.

  • Restart the Mac as usual and immediately hold down the COMMAND + V keys

Again, it’s not completely clear why this works, maybe it’s just the general act of rebooting as the extended mode shouldn’t really do anything other than the appearance, but still it sometimes seems to work to get a stuck white screen on some Macs.

Reinstall Mac OS

If the other approaches don’t work, you may need to reinstall the Mac OS system software. You should always have a back-up of your Mac before doing this. Aside from having a good backupup, reinstalling Mac OS or Mac OS X is fairly easy:

You can read how to install macOS Sierra or again how to reinstall OS X, including El Capitan, Yosemite, and Mavericks, depending on the system software on the Mac.

Sometimes the standard reinstallation method may fail due to disk or recovery partition problems, in which case you should use Internet Recovery to reinstall Mac OS X as described here.

White screen with flashing question mark folder?

If you see a white screen with a blinking folder with a question mark, your Mac cannot find the startup disk to boot.

This can sometimes be remedied by choosing the startup disk during system startup (hold the OPTION key during startup and choose Macintosh HD from the list), but if that doesn’t work, it is often an indication that the hard drive is faulty, and you should try to replace it as soon as possible. Back up your details ASAP.

A failing hard drive isn’t terribly uncommon in the computing world, and I’ve personally seen some weird errors when a MacBook Air SSD failed, including booting to a white screen, freezing on a black screen, the question mark on boot, the folder icon on startup, mixed with occasional successful booting, all of which was remedied by replacing the SSD in MacBook Air, but the same idea could also apply to a MacBook, MacBook Pro, iMac, Mac Pro or Mac Mini. Replacing a drive is a technical process, but it is usually not that difficult. Nonetheless, far less technical users prefer an official support or repair center to do the job for them.

Has your Mac ever been stuck on a white screen during startup? Did you solve it with the tips above or with another solution? What worked specifically for you? Let us know in the comments.

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