We got a customer into the store the other day with a MacBook Pro that kept booting to a pure white screen. She was at her wits end as she simply could not get it to boot into MacOS and even some of the techniques on the web couldn’t help her. As she lived close to our Hillsborough computer repair store, she brought it to us.
Apple Mac and MacBook are pretty reliable machines. Sure you pay for that privilege but in return you get an operating system that works 99.9% of the time. That said, this white screen issue seems quite common which is what prompted this post. I’m going to show you how to troubleshoot the Apple Mac white screen issue and hopefully fix it. If you cannot, you know where we are.
Fix the Apple Mac white screen issue
As with any troubleshooting process, we begin with the simplest and lightest fixes first. Lightest means the least disruption to the system and the fewest changes. There is no point digging deep into the OS and making significant changes if a simple tweak does the trick!
The first thing we do with any computer having issues with botting into the OS is force it to boot into safe mode. That way we can do some investigation and hopefully fix the issue.
- To reboot a Mac into safe mode, reboot as usual and then hold down Shift until you see the Apple logo. Then let go and allow the system to boot.
- Once booted into safe mode, boot again normally to see what happens. Sometimes this is enough to fix a troublesome boot. Sometimes it isn’t.
Boot files are often edited when a system loads so forcing it into safe mode and then allowing it to boot normally is occasionally enough to overwrite a boot setting that is causing the problem. It isn’t often it happens but is simple enough that it is definitely worth trying.
Reset NVRAM or PRAM
Did you know your MacBook Pro comes with its own PRAM? Parameter RAM is a memory chip within a MacBook that is also referred to as NVRAM. It stores your settings and preferences and can occasionally become corrupted causing this white screen issue. It stores your boot disk, cache, display driver information, time zone and other details that ensures your Apple device boots using the preferences you set.
Resetting PRAM is the second of our troubleshooting techniques.
- Reboot your Mac until you hear that first boot sound.
- Press Command + Option + P + R.
- Let the keys go when you hear another boot sound.
- Boot your Apple device as normal.
You will need to reset some of your preferences as they will be cleared. However, you may also be able to boot your Mac normally having cleared PRAM.
Resetting the System Management Controller
If safe mode and a PRAM reset doesn’t fix the issue, resetting the System Management Controller (SMC) might. The SMC controls the hardware and how it functions. Features such as fans, keyboard, GPU, display, audio, sleep and power are all controlled by SMC. Sometimes it gets corrupted or stuck and will need a gentle prod to work properly again.
- Turn off your Apple device and plug it into the mains.
- Hold down Shift + Control + Option + the power button all at once.
- You should see the color of the light on the MagSafe adapter change briefly to signal SMC reset.
- Boot your Mac as normal.
Like PRAM, SMC retains some personalization settings you may have configured when you first got your Mac. You will need to reset these preferences once you get it working again.
Repairing MacOS is usually the penultimate option in our series of troubleshooting tasks as it can overwrite files, preferences and some settings. However, if none of the previous methods have helped you boot out of white screen mode, it is the next logical step.
- Turn off your Mac.
- Boot it while holding down Command + R to boot into recovery mode.
- Select Disk Utility from the window when it appears.
- Select First Aid and allow it to run.
Ideally, First Aid should find disk errors or file issues and fix them. Then you should be able to boot as normal. If the error list is long, there may be something more amiss such as a drive issue or something. I would suggest bringing it into our Hillsborough computer store if that happens. If only a few errors occur, let disk repair work and try to boot as usual afterwards.
Reinstalling MacOS is always the step of last resort. It takes time, can overwrite files and folders, resets preferences and entails a bit of configuration after the fact. It is very effective though which is why we use it.
In an ideal world you would be able to back up your Mac before reinstalling MacOS but if you’re still botting into the white screen that won’t be possible. This is a reinstallation though so not everything will be lost. However, in my experience, things can lost so I would always recommend a backup first.
- Boot your Mac and hold down Command + R to boot into recovery mode.
- Select Reinstall MacOS and then Continue.
- Select your hard drive, then Continue or Unlock and follow the wizard.
The process may take a little while depending on how new your Apple device is. You should factor in around an hour. There will be an indicator on screen but this is notoriously inaccurate so ignore it.
As mentioned, most of your files and settings should be preserved but that isn’t always the case. If you factor in some time to recover files and reset settings you should be good.
Those are the ways we troubleshoot the white screen at boot issue on Apple devices. Feel free to bring your Mac to our store if you would prefer us to do all the hard work for you.