How to Fix Your Mac Hanging on the Loading Screen or Not Booting


Is your MacBook (or Mac - this guide will cover any system running a macOS) stuck on the loading screen with the Apple logo? Do you get a never-ending spinning circle? Or does your Mac fail to boot and display some other error? Don't panic. You are not the only one facing this problem and, in fact, it's something that I myself have had to deal with a handful of times.

That's why we've created a step-by-step guide that will enable you to quickly and easily fix the problem, so you can get right back to using your device as quickly as possible.

While the risk of data loss is negligible with these methods, we always advise that you should have Time Machine backups in place, or some other system. Of course, it would ideally be in place before something like your Mac failing to boot happens though!

Shut Down Your Mac

The first step in trying to solve the problem is simply a restart. If your Mac is stuck on the loading screen, you will obviously not be able to shut it down via any normal method though, such as via the Apple menu. Here is what you can do:

  1. Press the power button for 5 seconds until your computer turns off.
  2. Disconnect all peripheral devices from your Mac.
  3. Wait for 1 minute.
  4. Press the power button of your MacBook Pro to turn it on.

This is the simplest way to fix the stuck on the loading screen issue. However, if this does not help in your case, don't worry. There are a few more methods you can try.

Repair the Disk

A faulty disk or corrupt file might potentially be causing your loading screen freeze issues. If it is, running the Repair comment on the disk will find and hopefully fix it, here's how:

  1. Restart the computer.
  2. Once you hear the chime, press the Command + R keys together and keep holding until the next screen.
  3. Recovery Mode will start and you should see the Utility menu on the screen.
  4. Select 'Disk Utility'
  5. You should see your hard-drive listed - it will likely be called "Macintosh HD"
  6. Click on it and select 'First Aid'

The process should run and you will be notified if any issues where found and fixed.

Start in Safe Mode

Starting your MacBook Pro in safe mode is another way to fix the loading screen problem. Follow these steps to get to Safe Mode:

  1. Start your Mac.
  2. Immediately hold the Shift key (right when you hear the startup chime, if you can).
  3. The Apple logo will appear on your display, keep holding Shift.
  4. Release the Shift key when you see the login window.
  5. If your startup disk is encrypted with FileVault, you might be asked to log in twice: once to unlock the startup disk, and again to log in to the Finder.
  6. To leave safe mode, restart your Mac without pressing any keys during startup.

Hopefully, this method works for you. If it doesn't and you still hang on the loading screen, you can try resetting the NVRAM as a next step...

Reset NVRAM

Resetting your Mac's NVRAM is another solution. Short for non-volatile random-access memory, NVRAM is memory that saves its stored data regardless if the power is on or off. Resetting it might help successfully boot your Mac up. Here is how to do it:

  1. Shut down the computer.
  2. Turn it back on.
  3. Immediately press and hold the Option, Command, P and R keys simultaneously.
  4. Release them after about 20 seconds.
  5. You will hear the startup sound and the Apple logo will appear.

If this still doesn't work, let's move on to the next step.

Reset SMC

Many issues that you might encounter with your Mac can be resolved by resetting the SMC - not just boot issues or hanging. SMC stands for System Management Controller and it controls the battery charging, thermal and power management, sleep and wake, hibernation, and LED indicators of your computer. Here's how to clear it.

  1. Shut down your Mac.
  2. Hold the Shift + Option + Command keys.
  3. Press the power button together for 10 seconds.
  4. Release all keys and turn on your Mac.

Don't fear if we still have gotten a successful boot yet, we can move onto the next step.

Delete StartUp Items

When your Mac is turned on, various programs, apps and other functions are automatically executed too. Some of them can cause problems though, and in fact these are what have personally caused my issues with booting my own Mac, at times. You can either stop them from loading by holding down the Shift key from right after you press enter after entering your password to login, or you can follow this manual process:

  1. Turn on your Mac.
  2. Press and hold Command + S.
  3. The command shell will be launched.
  4. Type the following commands (don't forget to hit enter after every command)
    mount -uw /
    sync
    reboot
  5. If that doesn't work, try this:
    mount -uw /
    mv /Library/Extensions/*.kext /
    mv /Library/LaunchAgents/*.plist /
    mv /Library/LaunchDaemons/*.plist /
    sync
    reboot

Delete the mbr_cache

The mbr_cache on your computer is basically a cache file for your master boot record. Deleting this file has fixed many a boot issue (and it will be rebuilt the next time you boot), so our next step is to do the following:

  1. Boot your MacBook Pro and hold Command + R.
  2. macOS Recovery will pop up.
  3. If Filevault is on, mount the disk with Disk Utility and enter your password.
  4. Enter these two commands in Terminal:
    cd /Volumes/Macintosh\ HD/var/db/caches/opendirectory
    mv ./mbr_cache ./mbr_cache-old
  5. Exit from the Terminal./li>
  6. Restart the computer.

Reinstall macOS

If nothing else works, the best option (short of engaging the services of a paid professional, or taking your device into Apple directly) is to reinstall macOS. The good news is that, at least for the first attempt, we are not going to wipe the hard drive first, so your documents, pictures and other personal files will remain on your computer. If this doesn't work, that is the next step though!

Reinstalling macOS completely wipes the old version of the OS and installs a new, clean version.

  1. Restart your computer.
  2. Hold down Command + R until the macOS Utilities menu appears.
  3. Choose Reinstall macOS.
  4. Click Continue.
  5. Follow the on-screen instructions.

Format Your Hard-Drive and Reinstall macOS

This is the final option that we have in this list and should only be done if you know what you are doing, as you can lose ALL your data if you don't back it up correctly. First, you need to backup your data by following this guide. That basically uses the Terminal app to manually copy files to an external USB. Once that operation is completed successfully and you are 100% positive that you have every single file you need off your computer, you can proceed as below.

  1. Restart your computer.
  2. Hold down Command + R until the macOS Utilities menu appears.
  3. Open the Disk Utility.
  4. You should see a Volume under 'Internal' named "Macintosh HD". Select that.
  5. Click "Erase" and confirm.
  6. Follow the instructions above to reinstall macOS.

If you are not able to Erase the "Macintosh HD" disk because of an error similar to "process 780 (kextcache)" then you need to exit the Disk Utility and enter the Terminal. From there, type the following commands:

diskutil list

You should be able to identify your disk via the size of it. It is likely to be the one labelled "/dev/disk0". So enter the following command to unmount it, and then head back to the Disk Utility to try the "Erase" command again.

diskutil unmountDisk force /dev/disk0

Conclusion

If none of these methods work for you, we think it might be time to get your Mac to a service center. Since these methods fix almost any software problems, it is very likely that you have a hardware issue. We recommend not to try fixing your Mac's hardware by yourself, unless you are an expert. It is otherwise best handled by the specialists at an Apple service center.

Muaz Ashrafi

Hi! I am Muaz, a Mass Communication major. I like to think I am a free urban spirit. I write blogs with a focus on tech and gadgets. When I'm not writing, you can find me with my headphones on, relaxing to some good house EDM music. I'm also a hobbyist photographer, you can find me on Instagram @mzwithacamera.

2 Comments

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  1. What a great guide! My MacBook was doing exactly this but not every time, very frustrating. I successfully managed to repair the disk and it seemed the issue was solved. I still followed everything else in the guide just to be sure except for reinstalling macOS. If the issue comes back then I’ll try that.

  2. My MacBook Air has been doing this recently and it also stutters sometimes when I’m just browsing. It’s a 2013 model so maybe it’s time to get a new one? I can try these suggestions though and I’ll be happy to get another year out of this. I don’t really want to buy a new MacBook right now.