Mac OS X Startup Keyboard Shortcuts

Take Control of your Mac's Startup Process

Use Your Keyboard to Control the Macs Startup Process
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Starting up your Mac is usually just a matter of pressing the power button and waiting for the login screen or the desktop to appear. But once in a while, you might want something different to happen when you start your Mac.

These startup shortcuts come in handy if you need to troubleshoot your Mac, or you just want to boot from a different volume than usual.

Startup Shortcuts

  • Hold the 'x' key during startup. This will force the Mac to boot from OS X, no matter which disk is specified as the startup disk. You may find this useful if you have your Mac set to boot to a non-OS X volume, such as Windows or Linux. In some cases, an alternate OS may prevent the Mac's normal boot manager from running.
  • Hold the shift key during startup. This will boot your computer in Safe Mode. Safe Mode disables login items and non-essential kernel extensions from starting up.
  • Hold the command (⌘) + r keys during startup. This will cause your Mac to use the Recovery HD partition, which will allow you to restore OS X, or use various utilities to troubleshoot your Mac.
  • Hold the Command (⌘) + Option + 'r' during startup. Your Mac will boot from the Internet using Apple servers. A specialized version of OS X will be run that includes a small suite of utilities, including Disk Utility and the ability to download and install OS X, or to restore from a Time Machine backup.
  • Hold Command (⌘) + 'v' during startup The command key is the key with the cloverleaf symbol. This shortcut will boot your Mac in Verbose Mode, with a descriptive text sent to the display during the startup process.
  • Hold Command (⌘) + 's' during startup. This shortcut will boot your Mac in Single-User Mode, a special mode used for troubleshooting and repairing complex hard drive issues.
  • Hold down the mouse's primary key during startup. On a two- or three-button mouse, the primary key is usually the left button. This shortcut will eject a CD or DVD from the optical drive.
  • Hold Command (⌘) + Option + 'p' + 'r' during startup. This zaps the PRAM (Parameter RAM), an option that long-time Mac users will remember. Press and hold the key combination until you hear the second set of chimes. Zapping the PRAM returns it to its default configuration for display and video settings, time and date settings, speaker volume, and DVD region settings.

    In your using a wired keyboard, you should use the keyboard shortcut combinations immediately after pressing the Mac's power switch, or, if you used the Restart command, after the Mac's power light goes out. 

    If your using a wireless keyboard, wait till you hear the startup sound, then immediately use the keyboard shortcut.

    Published: 1/23/2008

    Updated: 2/11/2016

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