Control the startup process on your Mac with these keyboard shortcuts

Booting up your Mac is usually just a matter of pressing the power button and waiting for the login screen or desktop to appear. But from time to time, you might want something different to happen when you start up your Mac. Maybe by using one of the troubleshooting modes or by making use of HD Recovery.

Home keyboard shortcuts

Using startup keyboard shortcuts allows you to change your Mac’s default behavior at startup. You can enter special modes, such as safe mode or single user mode, which are special troubleshooting environments. Or you can use startup shortcuts to select a boot device other than the default startup drive that you normally use. Of course, there are plenty of other startup shortcuts, and we’ve rounded them all up here.

Using a wired keyboard

If you’re using a wired keyboard, you should use the keyboard shortcut key combinations immediately after you press the Mac’s power switch or, if you used the Restart command, after the Mac’s power light or display turns off turn black.

If you’re having trouble with your Mac and using startup keyboard shortcuts to help you fix it, I highly recommend using a wired keyboard to eliminate any Bluetooth issues that might prevent your Mac from recognizing your use of keyboard shortcuts. . Any USB keyboard will work in this role; it doesn’t need to be an Apple keyboard. If you’re using a Windows keyboard, knowing the Window keyboard equivalents for special Mac keys can help you figure out which keys are the right ones to use.

Using a wireless keyboard

If you’re using a wireless keyboard, wait for the startup sound, and then immediately use the keyboard shortcut. If you hold down a key on your wireless keyboard before the startup chime sounds, your Mac won’t properly register the key you’re holding down and will probably start up normally.

Some late 2016 and later Mac models lack startup bells. If you’re using one of these Mac models, press the appropriate startup key combination immediately after you start your Mac, or if you use the restart function right after the screen goes black.

These startup shortcuts are useful if you need to troubleshoot your Mac, or just want to boot from a different volume than usual.

home shortcuts

  • Hold down the ‘x’ key during boot. This will force the Mac to boot from OS X or macOS, regardless of the disk specified as the startup disk. You might find this useful if your Mac is set to boot with a non-Mac OS volume, such as Windows or Linux. In some cases, an alternate operating system can prevent the normal Mac bootloader from running.
  • Hold down the ‘c’ key during boot to boot from a bootable CD or DVD, or from a USB flash drive. If you’ve created a bootable installer for Mac OS on a flash drive, here’s an easy way to boot from the installer.
  • Hold down the ‘n’ key during startup to boot from a network computer that has a NetBoot volume. NetBoot volumes can be created with OS X or macOS Server, allowing you to boot from, install the Mac OS, or restore the Mac OS from the server on your local network.
  • Hold down option + ‘n’ key to boot from the default NetBoot boot volume.
  • Hold down the ‘t’ key during startup to boot into Target Disk mode. This mode allows you to use any Mac with a FireWire or Thunderbolt port as a source for your boot system.
  • Hold down the ‘d’ key during boot. Boot using the AHT (Apple Hardware Test), or Apple Diagnostics.
  • Hold down option + ‘d’ key during boot. Boot using AHT over the Internet, or Apple Diagnostics over the Internet.
  • Hold down the option key during startup. The Mac OS boot manager will appear, allowing you to select a disk to boot from. The startup manager will search for all the volumes attached to your Mac and list those that have a bootable operating system available on them.
  • Hold down the Shift key during startup. This will start your computer in Safe Mode. Safe Mode disables login elements and non-essential kernel extensions from startup.
  • Hold down command (⌘) + r keys during boot. This will cause your Mac to use the Recovery HD partition, which will allow you to restore the Mac’s operating system or use various utilities to troubleshoot your Mac.
  • Hold Command (⌘) + Option + ‘r’ during boot . Your Mac will boot from the Internet using Apple servers. It will run a specialized version of Mac OS that includes a small set of utilities, including Disk Utility, and the ability to download and install Mac OS, or restore from a Time Machine backup.
  • Hold Command (⌘) + ‘v’ during boot The command key is the key with the cloverleaf symbol. This shortcut will boot your Mac in Verbose mode, with descriptive text sent to the screen during the startup process.
  • Hold command (⌘) + ‘s’ during boot. This shortcut will start your Mac in Single User Mode, a special mode used for troubleshooting and repairing complex hard drive problems.
  • Hold down the primary mouse key during boot. On a two- or three-button mouse, the primary key is usually the left button. This shortcut will eject a CD or DVD from the optical drive.
  • Hold Command (⌘) + Option + “p’ + `r” during boot. This zaps the PRAM (Parameter RAM), an option that longtime Mac users will remember. Hold down the key combination until you hear the second set of rings. Zapping the PRAM returns it to its default configuration for display and video settings, time and date settings, speaker volume, and DVD region settings.