How to Boot to Safe Mode in macOS

Safe mode is a diagnostic mode in computer operating systems like Mac and Windows, designed for troubleshooting purposes. By booting in Safe mode, you can start up your Mac to perform certain checks while preventing automatic loading or opening of some software. It also helps isolate software issues and/or hardware failures. It is a recommended way of diagnosing issues if you encounter some that cannot be fixed using other methods.

When you start your Mac in safe mode, it does several things including:

  • Verifies your startup disk and attempts necessary repair directory issues
  • Loads kernel extensions required
  • Prevents automatic opening of startup and login items
  • Disables user-installed fonts
  • Deletes font, kernel, and other system cache files

Safe mode helps resolve any issues that may prevent your Mac from starting up completely or isolates issues related to your startup disk.

How to Start Up Your Mac in Safe Mode

1. Start your Mac. If it was on, restart it.

2. Press and hold the Shift key.

3. You’ll see the Apple logo appear on the display.


Note: If the logo doesn’t come up, press the power button and check for signs of power like sounds from your hard disk, fans, etc. Check also for any lights like the Caps Lock key, backlit keyboard, or sleep indicator light. Otherwise, ensure the power cable is plugged in securely and that you’re using the correct power cable and adapter. Also, check that the brightness is turned up using the Brightness Up key on the built-in keyboard.

4. Release Shift when the login window appears.

How to Tell You’re in Safe Mode

Not sure if you’re in safe mode? Use System Information to confirm.

To open System Information directly, hold down the Option key and choose “Apple menu -> System Information.”

The Software section in System Information lists Boot Mode as “Safe” when you’re in safe mode instead of “Normal.”


On the upper-right corner of your screen you’ll see the words “Safe Boot” displayed on the login window when your Mac is in safe mode.

How to Exit Safe Mode

To leave safe mode, do the following:

1. Restart your Mac without pressing keys on startup.

2. Select “Apple menu > Shut Down.” This will return you to your desktop in normal mode.

Note: Exiting safe mode may take longer than booting in normal mode. Be patient and don’t interrupt the process or hard-reset your Mac.

What You Can’t Do in Safe Mode

Some applications or features of your Mac may not be available for use in Safe mode. These include:

  • Playing movies in DVD Player
  • Capturing videos in iMovie and other video apps
  • Audio input/output
  • The availability of some USB, Thunderbolt, and FireWire devices
  • WiFi networking unavailable or limited based on your Mac and macOS version
  • File sharing disabled
  • Accessibility features
  • Accelerated graphics in macOS Leopard v10.5 or later disabled

If Your Mac Has No Keyboard to Boot Up In Safe Mode or You Can’t Use Shift Key

If you don’t have a keyboard to boot up in safe mode, but you can access your Mac remotely, configure it to start up in Safe mode from a command line.

1. Open Terminal remotely or log in to your Mac using SSH to access the command line.

2. Use this Terminal command:

sudo nvram boot-args="-x"

If you prefer to start in verbose mode, use:

sudo nvram boot-args="-x -v"

3. After using safe mode, return to normal startup using this Terminal command:

sudo nvram boot-args=""

Were you able to boot up in Safe mode on your Mac using these solutions? Share in a comment below.

Elsie Biage
Elsie Biage

My passion has always been to share every bit of useful information I find on tech, with the ultimate goal of helping people solve a problem.

Subscribe to our newsletter!

Our latest tutorials delivered straight to your inbox