Apple Boot & Startup Issues

Experiencing boot and startup issues on your Apple devices can be a source of significant inconvenience. This guide provides comprehensive steps to troubleshoot and resolve common startup problems on Mac computers, whether they are Intel-based or equipped with Apple silicon. When your Apple Mac encounters boot or startup issues, it can manifest in several ways — such as a blank or blue startup screen, or a flashing question mark. These issues can stem from firmware updates, startup items, or software conflicts. Below are detailed steps to help diagnose and resolve these common issues.

Blank Startup Screen


  • A blank screen at startup, or a screen with an Apple logo and a flashing question mark.


1. Check for Firmware Updates

  • Ensure your Mac’s firmware is up to date. Check for updates in the 'Software Update' settings or visit the Apple Downloads website.

2. Verify System Requirements

  • After a macOS update, confirm your Mac meets the necessary memory and disk space requirements. Go to Apple menu > About This Mac > More Info.

3. Utilise macOS Recovery

  • Restart your Mac and immediately press and hold Command (⌘) and R to enter macOS Recovery. Use the built-in tools, like Disk Utility, to diagnose and repair issues.

Blue Startup Screen


  • A blue screen at startup, sometimes with a multi-colour pinwheel.


Safe Mode

  1. Restart your Mac in safe mode by turning it on and immediately pressing and holding the Shift key. Release the key when you see the login window.

Check Login Items

  • In Safe Mode, go to System Preferences > Users & Groups. Select your user account and click on 'Login Items' to check for any incompatible applications.

Disk Utility

  • Use Disk Utility in macOS Recovery to repair your startup disk.

Reinstall macOS

  • If the issue persists, back up your Mac and consider reinstalling macOS through macOS Recovery.

Question Mark on Startup


  • A flashing question mark at startup, indicating the Mac can't locate system software.


Re-select Startup Disk

  • If your Mac eventually boots, re-select your startup disk in System Preferences.

macOS Recovery

  • If the question mark persists, start up from macOS Recovery (Command (⌘) and R at startup), and use Disk Utility to check or repair your startup disk.

Reinstall macOS

  • If the problem remains, you may need to reinstall macOS from macOS Recovery.

Other Startup Symbols

Symptoms & Solutions

  • Prohibitory Symbol: May indicate an issue with the macOS version. Try reinstalling macOS.
  • Globe with Exclamation Mark: Suggests a problem with internet-based macOS Recovery. Check your internet connection or use local macOS Recovery instead.
  • Lock Icon: Appears when using a firmware password. Enter your password to proceed.
  • System Lock PIN Code: Indicates your Mac is locked with 'Find My'. Enter your PIN to unlock it.

Persistent Apple Logo or Progress Bar


  • The Mac shows an Apple logo or progress bar but doesn't boot to the desktop.


Restart and Safe Mode 

  • Try restarting your Mac. If stuck, boot into Safe Mode.

Disconnect Peripherals

  • Unplug all non-essential accessories and try restarting.

Disk Utility or macOS Reinstall

  • Use macOS Recovery to repair your startup disk with Disk Utility or reinstall macOS.

Additional Tips

  • Regular backups using Time Machine can prevent data loss during troubleshooting.
  • Keep your macOS and all applications updated to minimise compatibility issues.

Apple Boot & Startup Issues FAQs

What should I do if my Mac shows a prohibitory symbol at startup?

A prohibitory symbol typically indicates a macOS version issue. Try starting your Mac in Safe Mode and check if the macOS version is compatible with your Mac. If not, consider reinstalling the correct version of macOS.

How can I fix a Mac that’s stuck on the Apple logo with a progress bar?

If your Mac is stuck on the Apple logo, try restarting it and check if it progresses. If the problem persists, start your Mac in Safe Mode or use macOS Recovery to repair the disk or reinstall macOS.

What does a flashing question mark mean during startup, and how do I fix it?

A flashing question mark indicates that your Mac can't find a bootable operating system. Try restarting your Mac and holding down the Command (⌘) and R keys to enter macOS Recovery. From there, you can use Disk Utility to check the startup disk or reinstall macOS.

My Mac doesn’t start even after following the troubleshooting steps. What should I do?

If your Mac still doesn't start after trying these steps, it might indicate a more serious hardware issue. In this case, it’s best to contact our customer support team. 

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