19 Mac Startup Key Combinations You Probably Didn’t Know


Most of the time you won't need to worry about these special key combinations that you can use while turning on (booting up) your Mac. However, they can come in very useful at times, particuarly when you are having startup issues.

In order to be effective, you must press and hold these keyboard combinations immediately after you hear the startup chime. Let's jump into the list!

  1. Manual Restart

    Key: Press and hold Power (⎋)
    Description: If your Mac hangs or freezes, you can do a manual restart or power down by pressing holding the power button.

  2. Boot from CD/DVD

    Key: Press and hold C
    Description: Instead of booting from your hard-drive like normal, your Mac will boot from your CD/DVD player.

  3. Startup Manager

    Key: Option (⌥)
    Description: This allows you to select which disk you want your Mac to boot from.

  4. Single-User Mode

    Key: Command (⌘) + S
    Description: On Macs, Single-User mode loads a very basic UNIX environment. You only have a basic text console with which to execute commands. It can be useful for troubleshooting for advance users.

  5. Target Disk Mode

    Key: T
    Description: Instead of loading macOS, your Mac will behave as if it's a USB-C or Thunderbolt external storage device. Very useful for copying files!

  6. Verbose Mode

    Key: Command (⌘) + V
    Description: Instead of just seeing the loading progress bar and everything happening in the background, you'll see the text output of exactly what is being loaded/going on as your Mac boots.

  7. Safe Mode

    Key: Shift (⇧)
    Description: This mode disables all start up items and loads a minimum number of services and daemons. It can be very helpful for troubleshooting.

  8. Recovery OS

    Key: Command (⌘) + R
    Description: If you are having major issues with your Mac, this will load a menu that let's you run the Disk Utility and also completely reinstall macOS if you need to.

  9. Internet Recovery OS

    Key: Command (⌘) + Option (⌥) + R
    Description: In contrast to loading the Recovery OS, which will install whatever version of macOS you were running at the time, "Internet Recovery OS" allows you to download and install the macOS version that you device shipped with from the factory.

  10. Apple Hardware Test

    Key: D
    Description: Your Mac will carry out various hardware tests in order to try and identify a problem with its hardware, should there be one.

  11. Apple Hardware Test over the Internet

    Key: Option (⌥) + D
    Description: If your hard-drive is so damaged that you can't actually run a proper hardware test as above, you can use this command to try and run one remotely, via the internet.

  12. Boot from NetBoot Server

    Key: N
    Description: If there are other disks on your network that you want your Mac to boot from, you can select them here.

  13. Boot from NetBoot Server Using Default Image

    Key: Option (⌥) + N
    Description: As above, this will attempt to boot your Mac from other disks on your network, but the default image will be used (you don't get to choose).

  14. Eject Removable Media

    Key: Media Eject (⏏), F12, mouse button or trackpad button
    Description: If some removable media is inserted into your Mac, this option will boot it with that media being ejected (i.e. as if it wasn't actually inserted).

  15. macOS Startup Volume

    Key: X
    Description: If your Mac has somehow been set to boot from a non-Mac volume (like Windows) this will force it to boot from a Mac volume.

  16. Prevent Login Items from Opening

    Key: Hold down Shift (⇧) after clicking login on the login screen
    Description: This will prevent all login and startup items from loading. Useful if one of them is causing issues and not letting you boot.

  17. Prevent Automatic Login

    Key: Left Shift (⇧)
    Description: When you have set an account to automatically login to your Mac on each boot, this command will over-ride that and allow you to select an account to login with.

  18. Reset PRAM/NVRAM

    Key: Command (⌘) + Option (⌥) + P + R
    Description: Press and hold all these buttons as soon as your Mac turns on to reset the PRAM/NVRAM. This can be useful to try if your Mac starts playing up or behaving strangely (like the bluetooth suddenly stops working).

  19. Reset SMC

    Key: Left Shift (⇧) + Control (⌃) + Option + Power (⎋)
    Description: Press and hold these keys until your Mac turns on. It will reset the SMC which is another useful troubleshooting function.

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. The only key combo I knew was to boot from cd/dvd because I use it quite often. There’s so many and I had no idea! Really good diagnostic features that I haven’t seen implemented on Windows or Unix, good stuff Apple. I’ll bookmark this page incase I need to use these at any point.

  2. It’s the little things like this that make Macs the best computer. So many small features we don’t think much about but would be totally lost without them. I think OS X offers a perfect middle ground between simplicity for new users and enough tweaks and configuration to satisfy experienced users. I’ll have to make a note of they key combos as they are really useful.