About the screens your Mac displays as it starts up

These are some of the screens you might see on your display during Mac startup.

Startup screens can vary by Mac model, operating system (macOS), and more. Some screens, such as the question mark or prohibitory symbol , mean that you need to resolve an issue before your Mac can finish starting up.

For all Mac models, startup is complete when you see the Finder menu bar, desktop, and Dock.

Prohibitory symbol

A circle with a line or slash through it means that the selected startup disk contains a Mac operating system, but it's not a macOS that your Mac can use. You should reinstall macOS on that disk.

Question mark

A folder with a question mark means that the selected startup disk isn't available or doesn't contain a Mac operating system. Learn how to resolve a flashing question mark.

Blank (empty) screen

Blank screen

It's normal for a blank screen to appear once or more during startup. Its background can be black, gray, blue, or a desktop picture. If an image doesn't appear after a few moments, make sure that your display is turned on, connected, and has its brightness turned up.

Lock icon

If your Mac is using a firmware password, the lock icon appears when you try to start up from another disk or volume, such as an external drive or macOS Recovery. Enter the firmware password to continue.

System lock PIN code

Your Mac asks for a PIN code when it has been remotely locked using the Lost Mode feature of Find My Mac. Enter the four-digit or six-digit passcode to continue.

Login window

At the login window, enter your user account password to log in to your Mac. If FileVault is turned on, this also unlocks your disk. You might see a default desktop picture in the background, which might change to your chosen desktop picture when you select your account.

Thunderbolt, USB, or FireWire symbol

A large Thunderbolt , USB , or FireWire  symbol onscreen means that your Mac is in target disk mode.


Learn more

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