[FIXED] Mac Won’t Start in Safe Mode – Comprehensive Guide to Troubleshoot and Resolve the Issue in 2023

by Sachin


  • Understanding why your Mac won’t start in Safe Mode
  • Steps to perform basic troubleshooting
  • Detailed, practical solutions to resolve the issue
  • Preventive measures to avoid facing this problem in the future
  • FAQs related to the issue “Mac won’t start in Safe Mode”.

Mac Won't Start in Safe Mode

What’s the Ideal Scenario Without the “Mac Won’t Start in Safe Mode” Issue?

Ideally, when you try to boot your Mac in Safe Mode, your device should start with only the necessary system software. It checks your startup disk, repairs directory issues, and deletes system cache files, which could be causing the problem. Therefore, if your Mac won’t start in Safe Mode, it’s indicative of a deeper issue that needs immediate attention.

When Does “Mac Won’t Start in Safe Mode” Error Occur?

The “Mac won’t start in Safe Mode” error usually occurs when you’re trying to diagnose other issues with your Mac. You may encounter this problem while attempting to restart your Mac and hold down the Shift key to enter Safe Mode. Instead of booting into Safe Mode, your Mac either boots normally or doesn’t boot up at all.

When Does "Mac Won't Start in Safe Mode" Error Occur

Basic Troubleshooting: Have You Tried These Steps?

Before diving into complex solutions, it’s essential to perform some basic troubleshooting steps. This includes:

  • Restart your Mac: Simply restarting your device can sometimes fix many minor issues.
  • Check for peripheral devices: Ensure no peripheral devices are connected to your Mac, as they may interfere with booting in Safe Mode.
  • Update your macOS: Make sure your device runs the latest macOS version. An outdated system can cause various issues, including the inability to start in Safe Mode.

Why It’s Important to Resolve “Mac Won’t Start in Safe Mode”

Resolving the “Mac won’t start in Safe Mode” issue is crucial as it prevents you from diagnosing other potential problems with your Mac.

This can lead to more severe issues if left unattended. In addition, it can interfere with your productivity and workflow, especially if you rely on your Mac for work or other important tasks.

Practical Solutions to Fix “Mac Won’t Start in Safe Mode”

SOLUTION 1: Check Your Keyboard

Sometimes, the issue could be as simple as a faulty keyboard preventing you from entering Safe Mode. It’s worth checking if the keyboard is functioning correctly or trying a different keyboard.

To confirm this, follow the steps below:

  • Open any text editor on your Mac.
  • Press the Shift key.
  • If the text editor registers the Shift key, your keyboard is likely working fine.

Mac text editor Shift key test


Resetting NVRAM (Non-Volatile Random Access Memory) or PRAM (Parameter RAM) on your Mac can sometimes fix the “Mac won’t start in Safe Mode” issue.

These memory spaces store certain settings in a location that macOS can access quickly. The exact settings stored in these locations can vary, depending on your type of Mac and the types of devices connected to it.

To reset NVRAM/PRAM:

  • Shut down your Mac.
  • Turn it on and immediately press and hold these four keys together: Option, Command, P, and R.
  • Release the keys after about 20 seconds, during which your Mac might appear to restart.
  • If your Mac plays a startup sound, release the keys after the second startup sound.


SOLUTION 3: Disconnect All Peripherals

Peripheral devices can sometimes interfere with your Mac booting in Safe Mode. Disconnect all peripheral devices like USB drives, external hard drives, printers, additional monitors, etc., and try booting into Safe Mode again.

Disconnect All Peripherals

SOLUTION 4: Check Your Startup Disk

A corrupted startup disk can also prevent your Mac from booting in Safe Mode. You can verify and repair your startup disk using Disk Utility in Recovery Mode.

  • Restart your Mac and immediately press and hold the Command and R keys until you see the Apple logo.
  • In the macOS Utilities window, select Disk Utility and click Continue.
  • Choose your startup disk from the sidebar and click the First Aid button.
  • Click Run to begin checking the disk for errors and repairing them.

Mac Disk Utility First Aid

SOLUTION 5: Repair Your Startup Disk

If checking the startup disk doesn’t resolve the issue, you might need to repair it. This process is more complex and may require you to back up any important data on your Mac, as the repair process could potentially erase all data on the disk.

Mac repair startup disk

SOLUTION 6: Reinstall macOS

If all else fails, reinstalling macOS might be the only option left. This should be your last resort, as it will delete all data on your startup disk. Therefore, ensure you back up any important data before proceeding.

Reinstall macOS

When All Else Fails, Reach Out for Support

If you’ve tried all the above solutions and your Mac still won’t start in Safe Mode, it might be time to reach out to Apple Support for further assistance. You can contact them via the official website or social media platforms like Twitter.

Reach Out to Apple Support

How to Prevent “Mac Won’t Start in Safe Mode” Error in the Future

To prevent this issue in the future, always ensure that your Mac is updated with the latest macOS version. Regularly check for any hardware issues, especially with your keyboard and startup disk.

Maintain a routine backup of your important data, so you don’t risk losing it in case you need to repair your startup disk or reinstall macOS.


The “Mac won’t start in Safe Mode” issue can be frustrating, but with patience and the right troubleshooting steps, it can be resolved. If you’ve tried all the steps above and the problem persists, don’t hesitate to reach out to Apple Support for further help.


What does it mean when my Mac won’t start in Safe Mode?

When your Mac won’t start in Safe Mode, it means that there’s an issue preventing your Mac from booting with minimal drivers and software. This could be due to a variety of reasons, such as faulty software, hardware issues, or corrupt system settings.

How do I get my Mac to boot in Safe Mode?

You can boot your Mac in Safe Mode by holding down the Shift key immediately after your Mac begins to restart. Release the Shift key when you see the Apple logo.

What should I do if my Mac won’t start in Safe Mode?

If your Mac won’t start in Safe Mode, you can try several solutions like checking your keyboard, resetting NVRAM/PRAM, disconnecting all peripherals, checking your startup disk, repairing your startup disk, or reinstalling macOS.

What does Safe Mode do on a Mac?

Safe Mode on Mac is a way to start up your Mac with a minimal amount of system resources. It’s a way to troubleshoot issues and prevent third-party software from automatically loading or opening.

How do I know if my Mac is in Safe Mode?

When your Mac is in Safe Mode, you’ll see “Safe Boot” in red in the upper right corner of your login screen.

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