How to Fix It When MacBook Pro Shuts Down Randomly

Random shutdowns are something that most Mac users use to make fun of PC owners. While it may be less common with a MacBook Pro, it does happen. This can be frustrating especially if it becomes a chronic problem.

I’m not going to sugarcoat this. Random shutdowns are one of the more difficult computer problems to troubleshoot. The fact that they are random makes them impossible to predict, therefore it is hard to determine the exact cause, but don’t give up.

My name is Eric and I have been troubleshooting computers since the early 1980s so I have seen a few random shutdowns in my time. The trick is to cover all your bases by first trying the simplest and obvious solutions to rule them out and then move on to more complicated ones.

Keep reading if you would like to see some of the things I would try in this situation. Hopefully one of these will help you to fix your problem.

Preparation for Troubleshooting

Due to the randomness and sporadic nature of this problem, it can be very hard to troubleshoot. To start this process I would advise doing a couple of things.

First, think back to when this problem started. Did you make any changes to your computer? Did you install any new applications? Or remove any? These can all be clues to what may be causing the issue. 

Second, get a pad of paper and a pencil so that you can take some notes. Write down the information you can remember from when this started. Keep track of the apps you are using and things you are doing as you use the computer and make note of when the shutdowns occur.

You should record the time and what was happening. These things can be solid clues that could lead you to possible causes and solutions. Once you are prepared, start the troubleshooting steps we have described below, and hopefully, you will find a quick solution.

1. Full Restart

Your MacBook Pro has already been restarting, so you may be wondering why to restart it again. Well, the random restarts are probably not fully shutting the system down first. They may be suddenly powering down with all your apps still open and it is not getting a clean or full shutdown.

Let’s do a full shutdown and then restart to see if this can clear up the problem. Just follow the steps below.

Step 1: While your system is still up and running, close all applications that you have running. You can do this by hitting the Option+Command+Esc keys at the same time. This will bring up the Force Quit Applications window.

Step 2: Select each application listed and click on the Force Quit button. You can select all the apps at once by holding down the shift key and clicking on each one.

Step 3: Restart your MacBook Pro by clicking on the Apple symbol in the upper left corner of the screen and then selecting Restart.

Once your computer starts back up, you should now have a clean running system. Start using it the way that you normally would and hopefully it will not randomly shut down. 

As you are using it try to keep a mental note of the applications you are running and what you are doing. If you do experience another shutdown you may be able to determine what caused it by what app you were using or what you were doing at the particular moment it shuts down.

2. Update macOS

If you are still seeing shutdowns after a clean restart and you are not able to pinpoint an application or particular action, then the next logical step is to ensure that your macOS is up to date. 

If you are running an older macOS version, there’s a slight chance that there could be a bug or glitch that is causing the shutdowns. It could be a conflict with any of your apps, services, or actions that you may be doing and they may not be compatible with the older version.

Sometimes an update has a fix for that particular problem but it does not necessarily mean it is macOS causing the issue, It could be the app or service that does not like the older macOS version. In any case, it is good troubleshooting practice to make sure your system is up to date.

You can find information on how to update your macOS from this Apple Support article.

3. Update Your Applications

You will also want to ensure that your applications are up to date. It could very well be an application that has a bug or glitch. Updating them can be a possible solution since the developers of that application may be aware of the issue and fixed it in an update.

As you are using your system, try to keep aware of what applications you are running. If you experience a shutdown take note of the running applications. You may be able to pinpoint the exact application that is causing it.

You can find information on how to update your applications.

4. Disconnect Peripheral Devices

There’s a chance that an external device such as a mouse, keyboard, USB drive, etc, could be causing the issue. Disconnect all your peripheral devices. Use the computer for a while and see if you experience any shutdowns. 

If you don’t see any issues, start reconnecting the devices one at a time. Use the computer and monitor for shutdowns. If you find you have a shutdown soon after reconnecting one of them, this may indicate that it is the one causing the issue. If so, get rid of it or replace it

5. Reset SMC

Resetting SMC can often fix system glitches such as random shutdowns and if your MacBook Pro has Apple Silicone this is done automatically every time you reboot your system. If not you will need to do it manually.

There are different methods of doing this depending on the type of MacBook Pro you are using. Take a look at the recommendations from Apple Support to see how to do this with your system.

6. Reset NVRAM/PRAM

Resetting your NVRAM/PRAM can often resolve problems when your system is experiencing issues like this. Just follow the quick steps below to try it.

Note: This only works on some MacBook Pros. For ones with an Apple Silicone chip, it is reset automatically every time you reboot and the data is rebuilt on startup.

Step 1: Shut down your Mac.

Step 2: Turn it back on and immediately press and hold down the Option + Command + P + R keys all at the same time until you hear the startup sound.

Once your system starts back up, the NVRAM/PRAM will be cleared and may possibly prevent further reboots.

7. Check Your Battery

If your battery is near its end of life, it’s possible that it could be causing the reboot. It starts to have trouble holding a charge, therefore the system shuts down and restarts. MacBook Pro batteries have a limited lifespan and your system keeps track of it by the number of cycles used.

If your battery is getting to be around 1000 cycles, this could be the culprit. You can check your battery health by using the steps below.

Step 1: Click on the Apple menu in the upper left corner of your screen and select About This Mac

Step 2: Click on System Report and go to the Hardware section. Then select Power.

Step 3: Look for Cycle Count under Battery Information and check the number.

Step 4: Also look under the cycle count and you should see Condition. If it says Normal then your battery should be fine.

8. Check Malware

When we think of MacBooks and Macs in general, we usually don’t suspect malware or viruses because Apple generally produces very secure operating systems. But do know that no operating system is 100% safe, they just may be a bit more of a challenge to crack.

Malware can definitely cause random restarts. I have seen this on both Windows and Mac machines and if you think your MacBook Pro may have malware, the best thing to do is find a good Malware or Virus scanner from the App Store or a well-known or recommended website.

Most of these utility apps that can prevent and clean up malware will also clean up your system in general. They can find specific issues with your system that may be causing the problem and they can help to tune your Mac so that it is back to running smoothly again without restarts.

9. Check If macOS Is Corrupted

There’s a chance that your macOS has somehow been corrupted, but this can be very difficult to diagnose. If you are able to backup all your personal data and files, then you may want to look at resetting your MacBook back to its factory settings.

With a newer macOS, this really is not too difficult to do, the main thing is to make sure that you backup all your important files from your system. Once that is done, you can reformat your hard drive and reinstall macOS right from the internet without even needing an install disk.

10. Hardware Problems

If none of the above solutions have seemed to help, then it may be that you have some type of hardware issue internally in your MacBook Pro. This means it may be time to make a trip to the Genius Bar to have some Apple experts check it out.

If your system is still under warranty you may be in luck and be able to get it fixed or replaced. If not, you could be looking at a major cost and you may need to decide whether to get it fixed or look at getting a new one. You will have to evaluate the situation to make that decision.

Final Words

Random shutdowns can be one of the more frustrating problems a MacBook Pro user can run into. They can often lead to lost data and lost time. Using the information above, I hope that you can solve your random shutdown issue.

If you do solve your problem, let us know how you fixed it. We would love to hear from you.

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