What to do when your Mac won’t shut down.

Macs are just like any other computer. Sometimes they don’t turn on and sometimes they don’t turn off. If your Mac refuses to shut down, here’s how to shut it down anyway and hopefully fix the problem permanently.

How to shut down your Mac

Shutting down your Mac is as simple as clicking the Apple logo in the menu bar at the top of the screen, then choosing “Shut Down…” followed by “Shut Down” in the box that appears. If you’re feeling particularly impatient, you can hold down the Option button on your keyboard while clicking the menu option to avoid that confirmation box from appearing.

What to do when your Mac won’t shut down

Once the shutdown process has started, you have to wait. Even if you leave the “Reopen windows at logon again” box checked, you’ll still have to wait for any open apps and windows to close before shutting down your Mac.

Assuming your Mac doesn’t shut down, it’s time to try a few more things.

What to do when your Mac won’t shut down

Software can cause shutdown issues

Sometimes software can prevent your Mac from shutting down properly. Occasionally your Mac will notify you that “Application crash has shut down” and sometimes you won’t see any errors at all. First, try closing all your apps by right-clicking (or clicking with two fingers) on their icons in the dock and selecting “Exit.”

You can force close any application that is not responding or does not close. Right-click (or click with two fingers) the app icon, hold down the Options key on your keyboard, then click “Force Quit” and the app should close. You can then try shutting down again.

What to do when your Mac won’t shut down

If this doesn’t work, a background process may have been blocked and is causing the problem. Open Activity Monitor (press Command + Space then search for it) and click on the CPU tab. You can sort the “% CPU” column in descending order to see if any app is using a lot of CPU power. If so, click on them to highlight them, then click the “X” in the top left to finish the process.

Other apps that may crash will be highlighted in red, followed by a label that reads “(Not Responding).” You will need to click on these and then click on the “X” to kill them as well. Assuming you’ve gotten rid of any errant processes, it’s time to try shutting it down again.

What to do when your Mac won’t shut down

Unplug all peripherals

Peripherals can also cause problems when trying to shut down your Mac. For best results, unplug all attached peripherals and try again. If you’re using an iMac, you can try unplugging everything except your mouse or Magic Trackpad (although keyboards shouldn’t cause any problems).

Safely remove any external drives by right-clicking on them and selecting “Eject ” Or by clicking and dragging the volume to the trash. If you can’t eject a drive, you may have found your problem. You may see a new pop-up window with the option to “Force Eject…”, which you can try.

If not, you can force an eject via Terminal with the following command (replace “DISK” with the name of your drive):

What to do when your Mac won’t shut down

diskutil unmountDisk force /Volumes/DISK

To get a list of attached drives, run this command first:

diskutil list

What to do when your Mac won’t shut down

When All Else Fails: Force Restart Your Mac

If your Mac still won’t shut down, the only thing left to do is, figuratively speaking, “unplug” and force shutdown. This works on both desktop Macs and MacBooks. To do this, first press and hold down the Control and Command keys, then hold down the Mac’s power button.

If you don’t have a power button, then you’ll need to hold Control and Command plus the Eject button or Touch ID button instead. Hold down the button for about 10 seconds, after which your Mac screen should turn black. Wait about 30 seconds before turning your machine back on.

Note: This should only be used as a last resort. The shutdown process is implemented to protect core system files that must always be shut down gracefully before the machine is powered off. Your Mac will likely work fine after a forced restart, but there is always a risk in doing so. If something went wrong and your Mac won’t start anymore, learn how to fix a Mac that won’t start.

A restart will fix the vast majority of issues that prevent your Mac from shutting down properly. If this problem becomes more frequent, you will need to get to the source of the problem with the steps below.

What to do when your Mac won’t shut down

Prevention of shutdown problems in the future

If the problem is caused by software, you can take some steps to correct it. If an app was stopping its shutdown procedure, try checking for software updates that might fix the problem. You may want to ditch the app in favor of an alternative if there is such an option. Try restarting your Mac without running the problematic software first.

macOS should also be regularly updated to stay on top of issues. You can check for software updates in System Preferences > Software Update. While you’re there, you can enable automatic updates by clicking “Advanced…” and then checking the appropriate boxes.

Boot into safe mode

Restarting your Mac in safe mode can also help prevent the problem from reoccurring in the future. When you start your Mac in safe mode, the startup disk is scanned for problems, and macOS will try to fix any problems it finds. Safe mode also removes font, kernel, and system caches, along with a few other things.

What to do when your Mac won’t shut down

To start your Mac in safe mode:

Shut down your Mac (you may need to force shutdown).
Press the power button and immediately press and hold the Shift key (either one).
Release the Shift key when you see the login window and log in as usual.

When you restart your computer, it will reboot in normal mode. Safe Mode isn’t the only alternative startup mode for your Mac, check out the full list of macOS startup modes and what they’re used for.

Reset your SMC and PRAM/NVRAM

The System Management Controller (SMC) is responsible for low-level functions on your Mac, including power management, battery charging, and keyboard backlighting. Sometimes power issues can be caused by the SMC, so it makes sense to try resetting the SMC if you are having chronic shutdown issues.

The process is simple, but it differs depending on whether you have a MacBook with an internal battery, a MacBook with a removable battery, or a desktop computer like an iMac. Find out how to reset the SMC on your particular Mac.

Your Mac uses Non-Volatile RAM (NVRAM) or Parameter RAM (PRAM) to store settings such as startup disk preference, screen resolution, and time zone information. NVRAM/PRAM is unlikely to affect how your Mac shuts down, but if you’re still having trouble at this stage, it’s probably worth a try.

The process for resetting this memory is the same across the board:

Make sure your Mac is turned off.
Press and release the power button (or the Touch ID button on some MacBooks), and then press and hold Option + Command + P + R on your keyboard.
After about 20 seconds, you can release these keys and your Mac should start up as usual.

What to do when your Mac won’t shut down

After resetting NVRAM/PRAM, you may need to adjust settings such as screen resolution, startup disk, and time zone. Now try restarting or shutting down your Mac normally to see if you still have problems.

Still have problems? Try the nuclear option

When all else fails, you can always format your drive and reinstall macOS. You must first back up your Mac with Time Machine to save your files. Avoid using third-party disk cloning software for backup (we’re looking for a clean install, after all).

Then you can follow the instructions to remove macOS and reinstall the operating system from scratch. Remember that you’ll need to restore your Time Machine backup and reinstall any software you want once you’ve done so. This is not a quick process, so allow an hour or two before you start.

A fresh install should fix the problem for good. It can also resolve other issues caused by leftover kernel extensions and partially uninstalled software. You may notice that your Mac is faster and it will also have a lot of free space.

What to do when your Mac won’t shut down