What to Do When Your Mac Won't Turn On

When your Mac or MacBook is dead, all hope is not lost

Pnotograph of a keyboard smashed through a computer LCD monitor

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When your Mac won't turn on, there's plenty you can do to try and make it operable again. At the least, you may be able to isolate what's causing the problem, even if you don't have the tools or skills to solve it on your own.

What to Do When Your Mac Won't Turn On

If you can't get your Mac to power up at all, it's a good idea to start by making sure the most basic box is checked: the power connection. That's an essential link in the chain after all, but it isn't the only possible culprit. If your Mac is a laptop, the battery could be the source of your problem. If your Mac overheats, that can prevent it from turning on too.

Check the Power Connections

Start by tracing back all power cables to both ends to confirm that they are firmly connected to power and the back of your Mac. There should be nothing between the power connector and any of its connection points on the Mac, the power adapter, or the power socket. Remove anything that could reduce the integrity of the connection.

On portable Macs, the power bricks can sag or pull themselves out of wall-mounted power sockets. This is especially problematic when it comes to the two-pronged adapters, which can quickly wear out based on usage. Unplug and replug everything to make sure the connections are secure.

Look for Common Connection Problems

Make sure the wall socket works. Plug a lamp into the same power outlet. If the lamp won't turn on, neither will your computer. Now, you're troubleshooting the outlet, which is a different task entirely.

Power strips or outlet expanders can be turned off or burnt out. Sometimes, their internal fuses die, or the underlying wiring or electronics fail. Remove these devices from the power chain and plug your computer directly into a wall socket. If it works, you only need to replace the power strip or outlet expander.

Make Sure the Plug Is Grounded

There's a good chance your power cable has a grounded three-pronged connector. If so, make sure it is plugged into a power outlet that supports the three-pronged connector. People have been known to circumvent this by removing the third grounding pin.

While your power cable may still work without the third grounding pin on the bottom, it's also significantly more dangerous, both for you and your computer. With many international plug styles, it's impossible to find a way to disable a ground pin; that's how bad an idea it is.

Using cheater plugs or physically removing the ground pin might work at first, but you'll be limiting the life of your device dramatically, and it won't fix any problems.

Is the MacBook Battery Working?

Even when your portable MacBook isn't connected to a wall outlet, plenty of things can go wrong. Batteries are an entirely separate power source that needs an entirely different approach.

If your MacBook battery is swollen or "puffed up" at all, distorting the back of the laptop, stop using your device immediately. Power it off and do not power it back on. It's possible the battery could explode, causing a fire. Keep the laptop away from flammable objects. Take the Mac to an authorized service technician to replace the battery and address any damage it caused.

Ultra-Low Power Deep Sleep

The most likely cause of your power woes is a dead battery. When your Mac's battery charge is extremely low, the computer goes into standby to prevent losing your work.

When the power comes back, so does your device. However, it might take a while to charge up the battery first. Plug your MacBook into an outlet that you are sure is working and wait at least 10 minutes before trying your Mac on battery power again.

The MacBook may display a black screen during this time, which is fine. It may also display a dead battery icon, which is even better. That indicator goes away after you charge the Mac's battery.

Battery Failure

If you attempt to charge the battery and nothing happens, it's possible the battery in your MacBook has failed and cannot be charged at all. If the battery has suffered physical abuse, electrical shock, water infiltration, or other damage, you might have a lithium-ion paperweight on your hands.

In a Mac with a user-replaceable battery, replace the battery with a known-functional unit to confirm there's nothing wrong with the rest of the laptop.

Apple stopped using removable batteries in its laptops in 2012. If your Mac's battery isn't user-replaceable, you need to have an Apple tech look at it, either at an Apple Store or an Apple Authorized Service Provider.

Damage to Power Connector or Logic Board

With your MacBook plugged into a wall outlet, check the status light (available on some Macs) indicating the power connection. If it shows amber, then the battery is charging. If it shows green, the battery is fully charged. If it shows nothing, the device can't report its battery status, possibly because of hardware damage to the power connector or logic board. This is most common when the Mac suffers water damage, but many types of physical damage, including electrical shock or a blunt force impact, could cause this to happen. In these cases, you need to take the Mac for repair.

Is Your Mac a Little Overheated?

Apple computers have built-in protection against overheating. If the device's internal thermostats detect a temperature outside the safe operating range, the device may shut down or go into a suspended state. This protects the internal electronics of the device, and you shouldn't try to circumvent it. The MacBook's ideal comfort range is 62º to 72º F. Any ambient temperature over 95º F (35º C) is too hot for your Mac.

If the Mac feels hotter than usual, move it to a cooler area. You want to cool down the device as best you can. Remove the computer from direct sunlight. For a laptop, remove the device from anything soft like a couch, bed, or a pillow, as they all retain heat and can cause dramatic thermal load within the Mac itself.

If possible, provide an inch of clearance below your MacBook to allow air to circulate. If that isn't possible, set your computer on a hard surface with the hinge open and the keyboard and monitor facing the tabletop to provide clear space around the laptop for air circulation. The MacBook is built to dissipate extra heat, so passive cooling should get the device up and running pretty quickly.

Fanning the device is likely unnecessary and may blow debris into the delicate keyboards of the newer MacBook Pros.

Mac Powers On but Won't Boot

If your Mac powers on but doesn't complete the boot process, that's a different sort of problem. You need to focus on troubleshooting tips for Mac startup problems.

If Nothing Works

There may be nothing you can do to fix the computer on your own. If none of the troubleshooting steps here led to more information or a solution, you need to take your Mac to a professional.

Either an Apple Store or an Apple Authorized Service Provider can help you. They have diagnostic tools that are more advanced than those of the standard home user or computer enthusiast. They can also provide a detailed analysis and recommend a course of action, whether it's a repair, a replacement, or data recovery.