Various macOS Startup Modes Explained

Macos Startup Modes Cover

You may be used to simply pressing the Power button on your Mac to turn it on, but in the case that you need to start up your Mac in a different mode, you’ll need to press a specific key combination to do so. macOS features different modes for troubleshooting which you can activate by pressing the specific key combination during the startup boot process. We’ll cover the macOS boot modes and their specific key combinations briefly below.

How to Enter a Specific Startup Mode

As we mentioned earlier, to enter into any specific mode using any of the key combinations below, you need to first turn on your Mac using the Power button and then immediately press the desired key combination.

Recovery Mode

Recovery mode lets you access Terminal, repair disks using Disk Utility and reinstall macOS using Recovery mode, which is located on a separate partition on your hard drive.

Macos Startup Modes Recovery

To enter Recovery mode, press Cmd +R on startup.

Select Startup Disk

Macos Startup Modes Boot Disk

If you’d like to select your startup disk or boot from a portable USB, simply press Option while turning on your Mac.

Boot from Optical Media (CD/DVD)

If you have an older Mac that features an optical drive, you can choose to boot up from a CD/DVD containing an installation media.

Macos Startup Modes Optical Media

To do so, press the C key on startup.

Eject Optical Media

Macos Startup Modes Eject

Similarly, to eject an optical media that might be stuck in your Mac, press the Eject button, F12 or your mouse/trackpad button on startup until the disc is ejected.

Apple Hardware Test / Apple Diagnostics

Macos Startup Modes Hardware Test

Depending on your Mac’s version, you can access an Apple Hardware test or Diagnostics test to detect any possible issues with your hardware. To access it, press the D key on startup.

Safe Mode

Safe Mode allows you to launch your Mac with the bare essentials required to start the operating system. In safe mode, you can check your startup disks for errors and make repairs accordingly. This mode will prevent all startup/login items from loading, and will also clear up your system caches.

Macos Startup Modes Shift

To launch your Mac in safe mode, simply press Shift on startup.

Target Disk Mode

Target Disk Mode allows you to easily copy files from one Mac hard drive to another. Once in Target Disk Mode, simply connect your Mac to another Mac using the proper cable, and transfer your files to the other hard drive.

Macos Startup Modes Target Mode

Target mode only works when using one of the following cables to connect your Macs:

  • Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C)
  • USB-C
  • Thunderbolt 2
  • FireWire

To enter Target Disk mode, press the T key on startup.

Single User Mode

Single User mode boots your Mac into a basic text-based environment with a Unix prompt, in which you can type in commands. It’s for more advanced users that can attempt to troubleshoot issues with their Mac not starting. There’s no GUI or drives mounted on startup in the Single User mode.

Macos Startup Modes Single Mode

To enter the Single User mode, press Cmd + S on startup.

Verbose Mode

Verbose Mode replaces your Mac’s startup screen with a status report of the processes going on during the startup. If your Mac hangs while starting up, you can use Verbose mode to see what’s going wrong during the startup process and what’s causing it to hang.

Macos Startup Modes Verbose Mode

To launch Verbose mode, press Cmd + V on startup.

Network Mode

If you have client computers on a network image, you can use the NetBoot service to customize macOS and create custom images for specific users. This will allow you to deploy the images network-wide without having to modify every machine individually.

Macos Startup Modes Network Mode

To boot into Netboot, simply press the N key on startup.

Reset SMC

Apple Macs feature a SMC chip – System Management Controller chip that controls various hardware tasks such as fan speeds, power management etc.

Macos Startup Modes Smc Mode

You can reset the SMC by pressing Shift + Control + Option.

Let us know in the comments if you know if any other startup methods.

Shujaa Imran
Shujaa Imran

Shujaa Imran is MakeTechEasier's resident Mac tutorial writer. He's currently training to follow his other passion become a commercial pilot. You can check his content out on Youtube

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