If iMovie for Mac isn't working

Learn what to do if iMovie won’t open, you can’t play a project, or you’re having another issue.

Before you start troubleshooting iMovie, back up your iMovie libraries, your media, and the iMovie app.

Try these steps in order

After trying each step below, test iMovie again to see if you've fixed your issue.

  1. Restart your Mac

  2. Disconnect external devices

  3. Make sure the app is working as expected

  4. Update iMovie

  5. Check privacy and security settings

  6. Check third-party camera compatibility

  7. Check iMovie library storage location

  8. Check external storage device format

  9. Test with a new library and project

  10. Reset iMovie

  11. Reinstall iMovie

Restart your Mac

Choose Restart from the Apple menu .

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Disconnect external devices

An incompatible or malfunctioning external device can sometimes cause issues with iMovie. To test external devices:

  1. Quit iMovie.

  2. Choose Shut Down from Apple menu  to turn off your Mac.

  3. Disconnect all external devices other than your keyboard and mouse.

  4. If you have an Intel-based Mac, reset NVRAM. You only need to do this the first time you disconnect external devices.

  5. Turn your back Mac on, open iMovie and try to recreate the issue. If you can't recreate the issue, reconnect devices one-by-one until the issue reoccurs. If you can recreate the issue when a particular device is connected, you might need to update or service the device. Contact the manufacturer for support.

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Make sure the app is working as expected

Check the iMovie User Guide to make sure the app is working as expected. You can search the user guide for key terms shown in menus, windows, alerts, or error messages.

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Update iMovie

  1. Try to complete all active projects.

  2. If you haven't already, back up your existing libraries and your current copy of the iMovie application.

  3. Choose Apple menu  > App Store, then click Updates in the sidebar. If an iMovie update is available, click the Update button to download and install it.

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Check privacy and security settings

If you can't access your photo library, record audio, or record video within iMovie, check the privacy and security settings on your Mac.

  1. Choose Apple menu  > System Settings.

  2. Click Privacy and Security in the sidebar, then choose an option depending on what you can't access from within iMovie:

    • If you can't access the photo library, choose Photos from the list, then turn on iMovie.

    • If you can't record audio with the built-in microphone on your Mac or with an external device like a USB mic, choose Microphone from the list, then turn on iMovie.

    • If you can't record video with the built-in camera or with or with an external device like a USB camera, choose Camera from the list, then turn on iMovie.

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Check third-party camera compatibility

Check that you're using a supported camera, and that you're importing media properly from file-based cameras, from iPhone or iPad, or from your Mac.

For any external devices you're using like cameras, storage devices, or interfaces, check with the manufacturer for software or firmware updates. Follow the manufacturer's instructions when updating.

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Check iMovie library storage location

You can have one or more iMovie libraries. iMovie libraries are usually stored in the Movies folder on your startup disk, which is by default called Macintosh HD. But you can store libraries in other places, like on an external storage device. If they are stored somewhere other than your startup disk, make sure they aren't stored in any of these types of locations:

  • On a volume you're using for Time Machine backups

  • On a storage device formatted with an unsupported Windows-compatible file system like ExFAT, FAT32, NTFS, or any format other than APFS

  • On the Desktop or in the Documents folder with Desktop & Documents turned on in iCloud Settings

  • With third-party cloud storage services like Dropbox or Google Drive

If your libraries are stored in any of those locations, move your iMovie libraries to a different location.

How to check where a library is stored depends on whether or not you can open the iMovie app.

If you can open iMovie

Control-click a library in the sidebar of iMovie, then choose Reveal in Finder. The path of the library appears at the bottom of the window in the Finder. If you can't see the path, choose View > Show Path Bar from the menu bar in the Finder.

If you can't open iMovie

  1. In the Finder, press Command-F to access advanced search criteria.

  2. Choose View > as List from the menu bar in the Finder.

  3. Click the search criteria pop-up menu that says Any, then choose Other.

  4. Enter “iMovie library” in the field next to the pop-up menu.

  5. Choose View > Sort By (or Group By, depending on your settings), then choose Date Modified. The most recently modified library will be near the top of the list.

  6. Control-click the library in the list, then choose “Show in Enclosing Folder.” The library location path will appear at the bottom of the window in the Finder. If you can't see the path, choose View > Show Path Bar.

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Check external storage device format

If you're storing iMovie libraries on an external storage device, make sure the device is formatted with the APFS format: In the Finder sidebar, select the storage device, then choose File > Get Info. The format of the drive appears in the General section.

If the storage device is formatted with an unsupported format like ExFAT or FAT32:

  1. Copy any iMovie libraries on an external storage device to a temporary location like your startup disk (usually called Macintosh HD) or another external storage device.

  2. Reformat the storage device, making sure to choose Apple File System (APFS) as the format for the device.

  3. Copy your libraries back to the reformatted storage device.

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Test with a new library and project

You can create a new library and test project to check if the issue is with your library, project, or iMovie app. First, create a new library:

  1. Quit iMovie.

  2. While you press and hold the Option key, click the iMovie app in the Dock or double-click the iMovie app in the Applications folder.

  3. In the Open Library window, click New to create a new library.

  4. Name the test library "Test iMovie Library," then save it to the Movies folder in your home folder.

Next, create the test project using a built-in trailer template, then export it as a QuickTime video file:

  1. In iMovie, click Projects to return to the Projects view.

  2. Choose File > New Trailer, click the Action trailer template, then click Create.

  3. Choose File > Share > File, click Next, name the file "Finish Line," then save the video file to the Desktop.

Next, import the QuickTime video file into a new project in the new library:

  1. Click projects to return to the Projects view. In the window, click OK.

  2. Choose File > New Movie.

  3. Choose File > Import Media, then click Desktop in the Import window sidebar. Select the "Finish Line.mov" file in the list, then click the Import Selected button.

  4. Select the clip in the browser, then press the E key to add the clip to the timeline.

  5. Try to recreate the issue you were having. For example, if iMovie quit when adding a transition, try to add a transition to the timeline.

If the new library and project work as expected, you've isolated the cause of your issue to the original library or project. Try to restore a previous version of the original library from a Time Machine or other backup.

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Reset iMovie

Reset iMovie to default settings. Libraries won't be affected.

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Reinstall iMovie

Delete iMovie, then redownload and reinstall it. Libraries won't be affected.

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Still not working?

Contact Apple Support

Learn more

Move your iMovie for Mac library

iMovie User Guide for Mac

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