iMac, MacBook Pro/Air not turning on, how to fix it and recover data?

Updated by Tim to Mac Data Recovery Tips on April 8th, 2021

On this article, you will learn:

Mac not turning on with white screen

If you've suddenly found yourself in a situation where your Mac or MacBook is not turning on, it can be incredibly frustrating. Suddenly, you find yourself panicking. Tons of worries are going through your mind, such as:

"If my Macbook or Mac won't turn on now, will it ever turn on again?"

"Will I lose a ton of files, such as my work and pictures?"

"What does this black screen even mean? What will happen to my computer?"

This can be an incredibly stressful situation to find yourself in. However, you shouldn't worry.

Usually, once you've tried out a few troubleshooting techniques, you should be able to start your Mac or Macbook again.

Finally, you can relax, knowing that there's a way to fix the problem so that you can turn on your Mac or Macbook again. Read on to learn more.

Mac or Macbook is not turning on? Here's how to prepare for troubleshooting

When your Macbook or Mac won't boot up, you first need to prepare for troubleshooting. To do this, you need to understand how to turn on your Mac. Depending on the model you have, there are different ways to do this. Let's start with newer MacBook models.

With these models, there isn't actually a power button. Instead of looking for it, look for a black square that doesn't have any markings at all that appears at the top right of your keyboard.

In addition to working as a power button, this square is your MacBook's Touch ID sensor.

To turn your new MacBook model on, you need to press this sensor. This should power up your MacBook if it's working properly.

If you have an older MacBook, then you can find the power button easily because it's clearly marked. You can find it at the top right of your keyboard, near the function keys.

For iMac owners, the power button is at the back of the computer, on the left corner on the bottom (this is when you're facing your screen). If you have a Mac Mini, you can find its power button in the back, in the right corner.

1. Check the display

Check if the display is ok. If you are using an external display, make sure the video cable is seated properly at both the display and the Mac ends of the cable. Check the power cable as well. If it is loose, you need to reconnect the cable firmly at both ends.

2. Check the power source

The first thing you need to do is check your Mac's power source. Even though it may seem like an obvious step to take, many people forget to check the power source. To do this, plug your MacBook in. If it turns on, then this means one of two things:

  • The battery was fully depleted, which is why it wouldn't turn on
  • The batter is malfunctioning

If you're okay with doing your work on your laptop while it's plugged in, then you won't have to do anything else and your problem will be solved. However, if you want to use your laptop at a cafe, you'll have to wait for it to charge (or get the battery replaced if it's malfunctioning).

MacBook

However, sometimes plugging your MacBook in still won't solve the problem of your MacBook not turning on.

If your MacBook won't charge, the next step you have to take is to check if the charger isn't damaged and that you've connected it to your computer properly. If you have another power cable around, try out that one.

You should also look at the port. Is it dirty? If so, clean it out. If dust has built up in the port, this can disrupt MagSafe chargers and USB-C ports.

Additionally, see what's going on with your external hardware. If you have any peripherals such as graphics tablets or printers, disconnect them. They might be the reason why your computer isn't charging.

Mac Mini

With Mac Mini, double-check that the monitor is powered and connected properly.

3. Run a power cycle

If you've checked the power source and your Mac or Macbook won't boot, the next step is to run a power cycle. When you do this, all the power is totally cut out of your Mac or MacBook. This means that you can restart it fully, completely powering it back up again.

Running a power cycle works differently on different Mac and MacBook models.

Recent MacBook model

If you have the most recent MacBook model, you first need to disconnect the computer from the power cable. Then, hold down the power button, doing this for 10 seconds.

Older MacBook model

With an older MacBook, you should disconnect the computer from the power cable. Next, remove the battery. Have the battery out of the computer for at least 10 seconds.

Desktop Mac

If you have a desktop Mac, then all you have to do is disconnect it from the power cord. Do this for at least 10 seconds.

Whatever model you have, the next step is the same for all of them. Reconnect your computer to the power cord, and then attempt restarting your Mac. This might be enough to bring the power back.

The reason this is so effective is that it functions like pressing a reset button.

4. Boot your Mac up in safe mode

Sometimes, a Mac suddenly shuts off when you're doing something complicated on it. Maybe, the last time your Mac or MacBook was on, you were tweaking its system or installing apps. Whatever the process, it may have been too much to handle for your Mac.

Now, when you try to start your Mac, it starts for a second before shutting off again. For example, you might be able to see the login screen or the Apple logo before the screen suddenly shuts off.

In this case, it might help to boot your Mac up in safe mode.

To do this, press your Mac's power button. Immediately, press your Shift key, holding it down. Keep your finger on the Shift key until the login screen appears.

Once you've done all this, your computer will be running in safe mode. In this state, the computer runs some diagnostic tests, after which it will boot up your macOS in a stripped-down version.

Only the basics of your computer will load. The Mac won't load any extra hardware features, customs fonts, or startup apps.

If your Mac is able to boot up when it's in safe mode, you can undo some of the recent changes that potentially caused the problem. You might have to remove hardware, disable some startup items, or uninstall any new apps.

Then, if any of these were what caused the issue, you should be able to turn your computer back on the normal way.

5. Reset the SMC

Sometimes, resetting your Mac or Macbook's SMC (System Management Controller) can make it possible to start your computer back up again. This part of your computer manages many of your Mac's basic functions, including your battery and keyboard.

Most importantly, it manages the functioning of your power button when you press it.

Keep in mind that resetting your Mac's SMC can be used to solve many problems you may be having with your computer, not only the issue of your Mac or MacBook not turning on.

For example, if your MacBook doesn't wake up when you open it up, you could use the resetting the SMC strategy.

Resetting the SMC on your computer varies depending on what type of Mac or Macbook you have.

Desktop Mac

If you have a desktop Mac, you first have to unplug the power source from the computer. Wait 15 seconds. Then, plug the power source back into the computer. Next, Wait at least 5 seconds. Finally, restart your Mac to see if the SMC reset worked.

MacBooks with T2 security chip

If you have a MacBook with a T2 security chip, then you need to hold three different keys at the same time for seven seconds. These keys are the right Shift key, left Control key, and left Option key (or Alt key).

While you're pressing these three keys, you also need to press the power button, keeping it held down for an additional seven seconds.

Once you've done this, release the keys you've been pressing. Wait for a few seconds. Then, restart your MacBook or MacBook Pro.

MacBooks that don't have removable batteries

If you have a MacBook that doesn't have removable batteries, then you need to hold three keys at once for ten seconds. These are the Control, Option (Alt), and Shift keys. While doing this, you also have to press the Touch ID/ power button.

After the ten seconds have passed, release the keys you've been pressing. Then, restart the MacBook.

Older MacBooks that have removable batteries

Finally, if you have an older MacBook that has a removable battery, you first need to take out the battery. Then hold down the power button. Do this for five seconds. Next, put the battery back into your MacBook. Finally, restart your MacBook and see if it turns on.

6. Reset the NVRAM (or the PRAM)

Sometimes, resetting your computer's non-volatile random access memory (NVRAM) can help you get your Mac or MacBook to turn back on. This part of your computer is part of its memory. It stores certain settings that your Mac needs quick access to.

If you have an older Mac, you'll be resetting the perimeter RAM (PRAM). However, the way of doing this is the same. Here's what you do.

Press down your Mac or Macbook's power button. Then, immediately hold down four keys: the R, P, Command, and Option (Alt) keys.

Keep these keys pressed down for about 20 seconds. Your Mac may appear to be restarting, but this isn't a reason to lift your fingers up. Keep them where they are even if this happens.

If you hear the startup sound, don't release the keys. Only do this after you've heard the sound a second time.

Keep this in mind: if your Mac has a T2 chip, don't release the keys until the Apple logo has disappeared the second time.

If your Mac or MacBook restarts, you might notice that some of its basic settings like volume level or time zone need to be adjusted.

7. Run Apple Diagnostics

Hopefully, your Mac is turning on by now. However, if it isn't, then you should use the Apple Diagnostics tool. With it, you can find out if there are any hardware issues going on with your computer. Apple Diagnostics will help you identify problems and find solutions.

These solutions will be either fixes or support options available to you.

To use Apple Diagnostics, there are several steps you need to take. First, disconnect any external devices that aren't necessary (your printer, for example).

However, you can keep your monitor, mouse, and keyboard plugged in if you need to.

Next, press your computer's power button. Then, press and hold down the D key. Don't take your finger off it until a screen comes up asking you to choose a language.

Choose a language. Then, Apple Diagnostics will run. After a few minutes, you'll get the results. They will help you know what fixes to use or what type of support you need.

8. Disable the 3rd party drivers

If you are running macOS Big Sur, disabling the 3rd party drivers may solve your Mac or MacBook not booting up problem.

9. Run First Aid in macOS Recovery mode

If the only way that you can start up is from macOS Recovery mode, the operating system on your startup disk is not usable again. In this situation, Disk Utility built-in macOS Recovery mode is a chance to repair the boot issue.

Step 1: Turn on your Mac computer by pressing Power button.

Step 2: Press and hold Command+R keys immediately upon hearing the startup chime. Hold the keys until you see the Apple logo or a spinning globe.

Step 3: Select Disk Utility from macOS Utilities in macOS Recovery mode.

macOS Recovery mode

Step 4: Select the corrupted Macintosh HD from the left panel of Disk Utility.

Step 5: Click "First Aid" button on the top of Disk Utility window.

Run First Aid in disk utility

First Aid is a utility built-in the Macintosh operating system for checking and repairing file system errors on Mactintosh HD, external hard drive, flash drive, SD card, memory card, USB drive, etc,.

Step 6: Click "Run" button to start the repair on the Macintosh HD.

If macOS Disk Utility fails to repair the corrupted Macintosh HD, you need to recover data from Macintosh HD and then reinstall macOS or restore it from a Time Machine backup.

10. Roll back Mac system to a previous state with APFS snapshot

If your Mac is running macOS High Sierra and later version, you can try this solution. However, restoring your Mac to a previous state may cause data loss, so data recovery is necessary before that.

Steps to restore your Mac system to a previous state with APFS snapshot:

Step 1: Turn on your Mac computer by pressing Power button.

Step 2: Press and hold Command+R keys immediately upon hearing the startup chime. Hold the keys until you see the Apple logo or a spinning globe.

Step 3: From the macOS Utilities menu, select "Restore From Time Machine Backup" and click Continue.

Step 4: The Restore from Time Machine window will appear, click Continue.

Step 5: Select the disk that contains the snapshots and then click Continue.

Step 6: A list of snapshots will be displayed sorted by date and the macOS version they were created with. Select the snapshot you wish to restore from, then click Continue.

Step 7: A sheet will drop down asking if you really want to restore from the selected snapshot, click Continue to proceed. Once the restore is complete, your Mac will reboot automatically.

11. Restore your Mac from a Time Machine backup

If you have a backup of your macOS system, you can restore it from the Time Machine backup with following method:

Step 1: Make sure that your Time Machine backup disk is connected to your Mac computer.

Step 2: Boot your Mac into macOS Recovery mode.

Step 3: From the macOS Utilities menu, select "Restore From Time Machine Backup" and click Continue.

Step 4: Select your Time Machine backup disk as the restore source and then click Continue.

Step 5: Select a backup and then click Continue.

Step 6: Select the hard disk as the restore destination and then click Restore to continue.

Step 7: Restart your Mac computer when the restore is done.

12. Erase the drive and then reinstall macOS

The last chance is to erase the drive and then reinstall macOS, but before that, please make sure you have recovered data from Mac that won't boot up.

Step 1: Boot your Mac into macOS Recovery Mode.

Step 2: From the macOS Utilities menu, select "Disk Utility" and click Continue.

Step 3: Select the unbootable Mac hard disk.

Step 4: Choose Erase, complete name, format, scheme, and then click Erase to reformat it.

Step 5: Return to macOS Utilities window in macOS Recovery mode, and select "Reinstall macOS".

Step 6: Choose the erased Mac hard disk and follow the wizard to complete the installation.

Step 7: Reboot your Mac and then check if your Mac computer can boot.

13. Take your Mac to Apple store

If none of the above solutions helped, you will need to take your iMac, MacBook Air or MacBook Pro to an Apple store or a local repair shop to start working on a DIY solution to fix your Mac that won't turn on.

How to recover data from Mac that won't turn on

After your Mac won't turn on, the important thing is data recovery from Macintosh HD. If the 'Mac not burning up' issue cannot be solved, you have to recover data from Mac that won't turn on.

To recover data from Mac that won't boot, there are three methods:

Option 1: Run M3 Data Recovery in macOS Recovery mode

If your unbootable Mac is macOS 10.12 and later version, follow below solution to recover data from Mac that won't turn on. If your Macd is Mac OS X, try solution 2 at: How to run M3 Data Recovery in macOS recovery mode.

Step 1: Start your Mac into Internet Recovery mode - Turn on the Mac by pressing the Power button and hold down the OPTION+COMMAND+R keys immediately until you see the spinning globe.

You will see the spinning globe instead of the apple logo because here you're starting macOS Recovery mode via the Internet.

Step 2: Connect your Mac to Internet. Loading and activating M3 Data Recovery for Mac require Internet connection.

Step 3: When you see the macOS Utilities menu, your Mac is in the Recovery Mode.

Step 4: Open Terminal from Utilities drop-down menu.

Run Terminal in macOS Recovery mode

In the macOS Utilities > Reinstall macOS, you can see which operating system is installed in the Recovery Mode.

Step 5: Run the following command:

sh <(curl boot.m3datarecovery.com/boot.sh)

Step 6: After M3 Mac Data Recovery launched, please follow the wizard to recover lost data.

Step 7: After your data is found, you need to purchase M3 Data Recovery for Mac and then recover data.

Option 2: Copy files via Target Disk Mode

If your startup drive is not corrupted and you have two Mac computers with FireWire or Thunderbolt ports, you can connect them so that one of them appears as an external hard disk on the other. This is called target disk mode.

Step 1: Connect these two Mac computers with a FireWire or Thunderbolt cable.

Step 2: On the Mac you want to use as the disk in target disk mode, do one of the following:

If the Mac computer is off, start it up while pressing and holding the T key.
If the computer is on, choose Apple menu > System Preferences, click Startup Disk, then click Target Disk Mode.
When the computer has started up, a disk icon appears on the desktop of the other Mac computer.

Step 3: Transfer files by dragging them to and from the disk.

Step 4: Eject the disk by dragging its icon to the Trash.

Option 3: Create a disk image

You can back up your data by creating a disk image with Disk Utility. This method can get your files off only if your startup disk is not corrupted.

Step 1: Start up your Mac in macOS Recovery mode with the above method.

Step 2: Select Disk Utility from macOS Utilities window and click Continue.

Step 3: Connect an external hard drive to your Mac. This external hard drive should be empty and have a large capacity.

Step 4: In Disk Utility, select Macintosh HD. And then choose File at the top menu, click New Image, and then choose "Blank Image".

Step 5: Enter a file name for the disk image, add tags if necessary, then choose external hard drive to save it.

Step 6: In the Name field, enter the name for the disk image.

Step 7: In the Size field, enter a size for the disk image.

Step 8: Choose an option from the image format pop menu: read-only, compressed, read/write, or DVD/CD master.

Step 9: Click Save, then click Done.

Need more information?

Now that you know what to do when your Mac or Macbook is not turning on, you might need more information. Maybe you want help from a professional who can identify a fix to your issue quickly. Or maybe you need help after getting your Apple Diagnostics results.

Whatever information you need, we're here to help. At M3 Data Recovery, we're experts when it comes to all your Mac or MacBook issues. We can also help with data recovery.