My Mac won't start: How to fix the white screen issue?

My Mac won't start: How to fix the white screen issue?

Today, technology growth is exponential. Phones, tablets, and computers are becoming faster and more sophisticated. If you are not an IT enthusiast or familiar Mac OS user, small issues can seem daunting. Furthermore, you may not wish to take your computer to support services, so Google can help to solve your problem, an option that most people take.

A very disconcerting problem that can appear on MAC computers is when it becomes stuck on white or grey screen when loading. It may seem as if there is a hardware or software fault, but do not panic. You can try several tips that might help to fix this problem, or at least troubleshoot the issue. In this article, we share the most popular and useful tips to address the issue. Before attempting to solve the problem, ensure you have a copy of your files (even if you do not have one, there is a way to create a backup if your computer is not loading).


Table of Contents:

How to create an backup while Mac OS is stuck on loading?

Before creating a backup, connect an external hard drive to your Mac with enough storage space for your copied files.

  • Start the procedure by shutting down your Mac.
  • Next, turn your Mac on and, immediately after the start up chime, hold down the Command and R keys on your keyboard until you see the Apple logo.
  • Once the logo appears, release the keys and wait until you see the OS X Utilities window.
  • In the window, choose Disk Utility and click continue. When the sidebar appears, select the drive to which you are going to write your backup - usually it is called Macintosh HD, unless you have changed its name.
  • Click Verify Disk. If the disk verifying process indicates a problem, click Repair disk.
  • In the toolbar, you will find the “New Image” icon. Choose your external drive to which you are going to save the backup. This procedure will create a compressed disk image of your hard drive content.

Note: steps might be slightly different for various Mac OS X and MacOS versions.


[Back to Table of Contents]

What prevents Mac from loading?

In some cases, white or grey screen problems can be caused by peripherals. The first solution might be to disconnect all unnecessary peripherals, if possible, leaving only the Apple branded keyboard and mouse. Try to reboot your computer. If it loads normally, connect your peripherals individually - the best case scenario would be to reboot your computer with all peripherals connected. There are cases when the problem is caused by a certain combination of connected peripherals. If the computer does not boot without any connected peripherals, try the next tip.

[Back to Table of Contents]

Try a Safe boot

MacOS and Mac OS X version 10.2, and subsequent versions, have included a Safe boot feature, which checks and repairs your hard drive. This feature rebuilds Mac’s boot database on your hard drive, and often resolves white or grey screen issues.

  • To launch your computer using the Safe boot feature, shut down your Mac.
  • Once it fully turned off, turn on again by pressing the power button and holding the shift key until the Apple logo appears. If your Mac is fully loaded, the first thing you need to do is clean up your Trash.
  • When Trash is empty, open a Finder window and check your hard drive (by default, named Macintosh HD, unless you have renamed it). Check if there is at least 10GB of free space. If not, move or delete some of your files. Media files are usually the biggest and easiest to move to another hard drive, either internal or external.
  • After cleaning your Trash and making space on your hard drive, restart your Mac in the usual way (without holding any keys).


[Back to Table of Contents]

Launch Disk Utility

  • Shut down your Mac by holding down the power button for a few seconds.
  • Turn on your computer by pressing the power button and holding down the Command and R key until you see the Apple logo.
  • You should now see the Mac OS X Utilities or MacOS Utilities window, depending on your operating system.
  • Choose Disk Utility, select your hard drive, and click verify/repair disk.
  • If the program reports repairing your drive was not possible, it will need replacing. If this is the first time it has happened, you could try to erase the volume and restore from backup. Note: once a drive fails, it will usually fail again.


Recovery partition not popping up?

If your Mac fails when booting up into recovery, you still can try boot using Internet Recovery by holding down the Command, Option and R keys until you see the Apple logo. To use this option, you must have an Internet connection. If Internet Recovery did not help, try to open Startup Manager by holding down the option key while trying to launch your Mac. Once Startup Manager is launched, choose how your Mac boots from the options provided on screen, including connected bootable hard drives, recovery partition, USB flash drives, network locations, and other boot sources.

[Back to Table of Contents]

Reset the NVRAM

If disk utility could not solve your boot failure, another solution you might try is resetting NVRAM. NVRAM (non-volatile random-access memory) is a small area of your MAC memory that stores certain settings in a location that the macOS can access. Here, information such as your computer speaker volume, screen resolution, startup disk selection, and any recent kernel panic reports, is stored. If any of these features cause issues, resetting NVRAM might help to solve them.

How to reset NVRAM?

  • First, shut down your Mac.
  • Once it fully turned off, hold down Command, Option, P and R key on the keyboard and click the power button to boot your Mac. The keyboard combination must be pressed and held immediately you hear the startup sound.
  • Hold buttons down at least 20 seconds to be sure process completed correctly.

Note: some Macs released before 2016 might have slightly different steps.

[Back to Table of Contents]

Reset System Management Controller (SMC)

This step is mostly related to portable Macs such as MacBook Pro, MacBook, and MacBook Air models.  First, shut down your computer, plug in your power adapter. Hold down the Shift, Control and Option keys and click the power button. Release all buttons simultaneously. Then, reboot your Mac in the usual way.

[Back to Table of Contents]

Using Terminal in Single User Mode

The steps above usually help to solve the white or grey screen issue. If not, however, you can try one more solution before reinstalling your operating system. Run single user mode using the command 'fsck', which performs a file system check. When launching single user mode, you will see commands scrolling on the screen. This is how single user mode works - when it stops, run the commands listed below to analyze your Mac startup disk.

  • Restart your Mac. When you hear the startup sound, press and hold the Command and S keys, and keep holding until you see white letters on a black screen. Your Mac will then boot into single user mode.
  • On the terminal window type the command 'fsck - fy' and then press return.
  • Then, type 'mount -uw' and press return.
  • Next, type touch/private/var/db/.AppleSetupDone and press return.
  • For the last command, type 'exit' and click return. After entering these commands, perform a Safe Boot as detailed before.


An alternative terminal command

Enter single user mode once again, and when it has started, type '/sbin/fsck -fy' and press return. This will start the system check, which will report two possible messages: 1) “Macintosh HD appears to be okay”; 2) “File system was modified.” If it reports that your system is okay, enter the reboot command and press return. If the message reports that your system was modified, type the '/sbin/fsck -fy' command again and click return. Repeat this command until you get a report saying the system is okay. The, type the reboot command, press return, and then perform a Safe Boot.

Dictionary of Terminal Commands

  • fsck -fy
    Checks the boot volume file system and repairs it if needed. The -y in the end of command means 'yes', fix any problems.
  • mount -uw
    Remount the boot volume, enabling write access.
  • touch/private/var/db/.AppleSetupDone
    Reports that it has completed the set-up.
  • exit
    Continue to boot process.
  • reboot
    Reboots the computer.
  • /sib
    Contain executable programs needed to boot the system by the root user.

[Back to Table of Contents]

Reinstall MacOS or Mac OS X

If none of the steps above work, you could try is reinstalling your operating system.

  • To perform an operating system reinstall, shut down your Mac by holding the power button for a few seconds.
  • Hold down the command and R keys and turn on your computer. When you see Apple logo, release the keys.
  • You should see the Mac OS X utilities or MacOS utilities window. Select the Reinstall option.
  • If simple reinstall does not work on your Mac, try reinstall using Internet recovery. To manage a reinstall using Internet recovery, repeat the steps listed above, however, on launching your computer hold down the Command, R and option keys until the Apple logo appears. When you see the utilities window, choose reinstall MacOS or Mac OS X and follow the instructions.


[Back to Table of Contents]

Video showing how to fix white screen:

[Back to Top]

About the author:

Tomas Meskauskas

I am passionate about computer security and technology. I have an experience of 10 years working in various companies related to computer technical issue solving and Internet security. I have been working as an editor for since 2010. Follow me on Twitter to stay informed about the latest tech news or online security threats. Contact Tomas Meskauskas.

Our guides are free. However, if you want to support us you can send us a donation.