How to Fix It When Mac Won’t Start in Safe Mode

If you cannot get your Mac to start in safe mode, some of the possible reasons could be the configuration of your system, a security issue, a data corruption issue, or even a user error. It’s also possible that you may already be in safe mode and not realize it.

Solutions to these problems include resetting SMC and/or PRAM/NVRAM, disabling FileVault and your firmware password, or even booting in recovery mode. You’ll first want to ensure you are trying to enter safe mode properly and maybe verify whether or not you are already in safe mode.

My Name is Eric, and as a software engineer, I regularly deal with problems like this. It can often require trying multiple solutions, but you can eventually narrow down the problem. I’ve taken a look at this one, and I can show you some things that can fix it.

If you want to learn more details about why this may happen and how to solve the problem, keep reading below, and I will discuss some of the things I have learned. 

Possible Reasons and Fixes for Mac Not Starting in Safe Mode

Several things can prevent your Mac from booting into safe mode. Below I will go over some of the most common and how to fix them. I will start with the simplest and what may seem to be the most obvious since those are usually the easiest to fix.

1. User Error

It may seem embarrassing, but you shouldn’t feel bad; it happens to all of us. Sometimes we miss steps, use the wrong procedure or type something wrong. It’s one of the most common reasons for something to go wrong, and when booting in safe mode, it can be easy to do.


There are different procedures that you need to use, depending on what processor your Mac has. Intel-based processors have one way to do this, while Apple-based processors have another. If you’re using the wrong one, this is most likely the cause of your problem.


The best way to solve this problem is to ensure you are using the correct method to start your Mac in safe mode. If you don’t know your Mac’s processor, you first need to find out. Then you can determine which procedure to use.

Look at this information from Apple to find out which processor you have and which procedure you should use to boot into Safe Mode.

2. In safe mode but don’t realize it?

This may sound too obvious, but it does happen. In fact, it has happened to me, so don’t feel bad if this is your issue. The great thing about it is that it’s an easy fix. You don’t have to do anything.


You are successfully booting into safe mode but don’t realize it. 


Check to see if you are already in safe mode. If you are, then you are good to go. You can check by using the following steps.

Step 1: Click on the Apple symbol in the upper left corner of your screen and select System Settings.

Step 2: In the System Settings window, select General in the sidebar and then Click on System Report at the bottom of the window.

Step 3: In System Report, click on Software and then look for Boot Mode. It will show Safe for safe mode or Normal if you are not in safe mode.

3. Configuration problem

A configuration problem is not something you would normally be aware of but can often cause your Mac to act up, and it could prevent booting in safe mode.


The SMC (system management controller) and NVRAM or PRAM often hold configuration data for your system. This data is kept even when you shut your Mac down and it is used to store important data on start-up and initialization. 

Over time, both SMC and NVRAM/PRAM can become corrupted and cause various glitches in your system. The ability to boot into safe mode can possibly be affected, and this may be what you are experiencing.


Fortunately, the fix for this is relatively straightforward. You can reset both SMC and NVRAM/PRAM quite easily. There are different methods for doing this, depending on your processor. Apple support has the necessary key combinations and steps for both types of processors.

4. Security problem

Your Mac has security features that protect it from intruders and other outside threats, but sometimes security measures can cause issues with booting into safe mode.


Diagnostic modes such as safe mode often provide backdoors to outside threats and intruders. As a security measure, applications like FileVault and methods such as using firmware passwords may be blocking you from entering safe mode.


You can resolve this issue by temporarily disabling Filevault and turning off the firmware password. Follow the steps below to disable each of them. 


Step 1: Open System Settings by clicking on the Apple symbol in the upper left corner of the screen and select System Settings

Step 2: Select Privacy and Security in the pane on the left side of the screen and then scroll down until you find FileVault.

Step 3: Click on the button as shown below to turn it off (if it is on). You will be prompted for your password to do this.

Firmware Password

You need to boot into recovery mode to disable your firmware password. Follow the steps below to do this and disable the password. 

Step 1: Start your Mac up in recovery mode.

Step 2: Once you see the Utilities window, click on the Utilities menu at the top of the screen on the menu bar.

Step 3: From the Utilities menu, select Firmware utility.

Step 4: Click on Turn off firmware password. It will prompt you to enter your firmware password, enter it and hit continue.

Step 5: Exit the utility, go to the Apple menu in the upper left corner of the screen and click on restart.

Turning these security measures off can often help you solve the problem of not being able to start in safe mode, but don’t forget to turn them back on once you are done trying this option and doing whatever you need to do.

You can turn them back on, using the same procedures for each, but clicking to turn them on instead of off.

5. Disk problem

Disk problems cause all kinds of strange issues, and it’s possible that they can affect the ability of your system to boot in safe mode.


If you have a disk problem, some of the data on your disk could be corrupted, and your system may have trouble reading it on startup. If the affected disk area contains information used to boot in safe mode, this could be your problem.


If you suspect disk issues, you need to boot into recovery mode and then use the Disk Utility First Aid to detect and repair any errors. Follow these instructions from Apple

If you cannot repair your disk, they will point you to the information you may need to reformat and reinstall your macOS if you want to go that far.


It can be very frustrating if you have issues starting your Mac in safe mode. I have covered several reasons that can cause this issue and provided possible ways to fix them. I hope that one of these solutions can help you.

Let me know if you have questions or any feedback. I would love to hear from you!

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