How to fix a MacBook that won’t turn on

Although Apple’s operating system and its components are generally robust, there is nothing infallible. Suddenly your computer may not turn on and you may lose all your valuable data. There are some ways to try to repair a MacBook that suddenly doesn’t turn on, but there are also some prevention tips that will minimize the damage once it has occurred.

Before going into what to do when you have had this problem with your Macbook, you may have a look to the post we talked about earlier “What to do if the Macbook gets wet“.


Apple offers us many solutions to this end. The main ones are backups (like Time Machine), saving your data on a cloud storage system and the computer’s warranty. The first two solutions only protect your data, which is not protected by warranty. If your computer has a hardware failure once the warranty period has expired, it would have to be repaired at a MacBook repair centre, an Apple Technical Service, or other less specialized repair centres. Some people take the risk of taking their MacBook to any repair centre, but that is not the best option. We will not repair devices previously manipulated by little qualified people.

To avoid problems with your computer you must keep the system updated and turn it on and off properly. If your computer has a mechanical hard drive you should avoid moving it around while it is powered on; it could cause a failure and the system could get stuck when starting up.

What to do if your MacBook won’t turn on

The first thing you should do is identify the problem that causes your MacBook to not turn on by analysing its symptoms. Also, it would be great if you knew the causes of the problem. If you spilled water on your MacBook, you already know the cause of the failure; then you should try to identify the problems it has caused and its magnitude.

Broadly speaking, your computer could behave in 3 different ways:

  1. The computer doesn’t turn on. You press the power button but it doesn’t respond, there is no light or sound and the fans don’t work.
  2. The computer turns on, the fans work and you can hear the startup chime, but the screen doesn’t turn on.
  3. The computer turns on but it doesn’t access the operating system and/or there is a question mark on the screen.

In the first case, unless you are a hardware expert, there are some things you could try. Check for power issues, make sure the battery is charged, try to turn it on with and without the charger (check MagSafe connector problems), disconnect all peripherals and press and hold the power button or perform an electrical discharge. To perform an electrical discharge you must disconnect all peripherals and also the power supply of your Apple computer, then press and hold the power button for 30 seconds. Let the computer rest for 5 minutes and then try again to see if the Mac turns on. Otherwise your computer may have a battery failure or a motherboard failure. The best you can do is ask us for a complete diagnosis.

If you can hear the startup chime but there is nothing displayed on the screen, there is probably a fault in the graphics card or in the motherboard. Sometimes you can see some movement on the screen but there is no light; that is probably due to a defective inverter. These cases may require a screen replacement, a motherboard repair or a graphics card repair. If you’ve made hardware changes or manipulated the RAM, check that everything is connected properly and there are no errors.

If the screen starts to fail, check the blog entry “Graphics card failure” (Spanish). It is possible that some of the symptoms of the error are related to the MacBook’s graphics card. The following video shows how to replace a MacBook Retina display:

What to do if your MacBook turns on but doesn’t finish starting up

If your computer turns on but doesn’t finish starting up, it is likely that MacOS is repairing itself or the hard drive is damaged. In that case you should recover the data from your MacBook so you don’t lose it. Many types of failures or errors may occur. By using diagnostic and tests, you will be able to identify and repair those errors and prevent the same faults or other related errors from occurring.

If the problem is not a physical failure on the hard drive, you could try more options to fix your MacBook. There are different options to recover the system intact or restore it without losing data. However, it is possible that you lose data during the recovery. That is why we strongly recommend making preventive backups which will avoid this type of problems.

If you’ve reached this point, that means your computer is not accessing the operating system (it gets stuck in the Apple logo), or there is a folder with a question mark on the screen. There are now different recovery options:

  1. The first and most useful option is resetting the PVRAM and NVRAM. Turn on the computer (you will hear the startup chime) and before the grey screen appears you should hold on these keys: Command + Option + P + R. It is important to keep holding the keys down until you hear the startup chime again and check that the Mac restarts.
  2. Disconnect all accessories, including keyboard and mouse. It could happen that one of the peripherals is causing problems with the system.
  3. Lack of space on the local disk may be the reason why the operating system is not loading up. Space on the local disk can be recovered using “Target Mode”, or also through an external system.

Repair by using the FSCK command

macbook fsck

You could also use a diagnostic and repair program called fsck, which is not simple but still accessible for a normal user. This program checks and repairs your MacBook’s startup drive. You must perform the following steps:

  1. First, turn off your Mac. Restart your MacBook while holding down CMD + S on your keyboard to launch in Single User Mode (the Superdrive system to force entry into the hard drive).
  2. Enter the following at the console prompt: /sbin/fsck -fy (usually it starts up in English so keyboard layout may change)
  3. You should wait for several minutes now. If one or more problems are repaired, the message “FILE SYSTEM WAS MODIFIED” will appear. The message “HD appears to be OK” may also appear. After you encounter one of these messages, type reboot and press Return. If everything is fine, your computer will restart without any problem.

All this applies to MacBook, MacBook Pro and MacBook Air. We will gladly assist you and help you with your questions in the contact section. For more information on how to repair your MacBook visit the related section on our website.