How to use safe mode on your Mac

Safe mode can help you determine whether an issue is being caused by software that loads when your Mac starts up.

Safe mode prevents your Mac from loading certain software when it starts up, including login items, system extensions not required by macOS, and fonts not installed by macOS. It also does a basic check of your startup disk, similar to using First Aid in Disk Utility. And it deletes some system caches, including font caches and the kernel cache, which will be created again automatically as needed.

Safe mode is particularly useful when you're trying to resolve an issue that doesn't seem to be associated with using a particular app. As always, keeping your software up to date is the first step for resolving any software issues.

How to use safe mode

Apple silicon

  1. Shut down your Mac.
  2. Turn on your Mac and continue to press and hold the power button until you see the startup options window.
  3. Select your startup disk, then press and hold the Shift key while clicking “Continue in Safe Mode”.
  4. Log in to your Mac. You may be asked to log in again.

Intel processor

  1. Turn on or restart your Mac, then immediately press and hold the Shift key as your Mac starts up.
  2. Release the key when you see the login window, then log in to your Mac. 
  3. You may be asked to log in again. On either the first or second login window, you should see "Safe Boot" in the top right-hand corner of the window.

If the issue continues in safe mode

If you continue to experience the issue while in safe mode, or your Mac restarts several times and then shuts down while starting up in safe mode, you should reinstall macOS and make sure your Apple software and third-party apps are up to date.

If the issue doesn't continue in safe mode

If you don't continue to experience the issue while in safe mode, leave safe mode by restarting your Mac normally. Then test for the issue again. The issue may have been resolved.

If the issue returns after leaving safe mode, startup items are probably at fault. Apps can install such items in numerous places, and they aren't always easy to find or recognise. For that reason, you should first make sure you've installed any available updates for your Apple software and third-party apps.

If updating your software doesn't help, try any of these solutions:

  • Test your login items.
  • To find out whether software in your user account is causing the issue, set up a new user account, then log in to it and try to reproduce the issue in that account.
  • Unplug all accessories from your Mac, including printers, drives, USB hubs and other non-essential devices. There may be an issue with one or more of these devices or their cables.
  • Reinstall macOS.

If you still need help, please contact Apple Support.

Learn more

Some features may not work in safe mode, such as film playback in DVD Player, video capture, file sharing, Wi-Fi, some accessibility features, some audio devices and some devices that connect via USB, Thunderbolt or FireWire. Accelerated graphics are disabled, which can cause flashing or distortion of your screen during startup.

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