How one can Repair the Mac Folder With a Query Mark Error

Do you keep seeing a folder with a question mark on it when you start up your Mac? This indicates that the computer is having trouble finding an operating system on the startup disk.

Sometimes your Mac boots into macOS shortly after, and a few fixes can fix the problem for good. However, if you get stuck on screen indefinitely, it will require advanced troubleshooting. Here are all of the different fixes you can use.

1. Reset your Mac's NVRAM

If your Mac boots with a question mark error in macOS despite the folder, the best thing to do is to do a quick reset of your Mac's NVRAM (also called PRAM).

NVRAM is made up of non-volatile memory that contains system-critical information, and resetting it usually helps troubleshoot startup problems. However, this is only possible on Macs with Intel chipsets. Apple Silicon Macs automatically reset NVRAM without manual intervention when they encounter problems during boot.

However, if you are using an Intel Mac, here's what you need to do to manually reset the NVRAM:

  1. Turn off your Mac.

  2. Press the power Key and immediately hold the Command + Option + P + R Key.

  3. Press and hold these buttons until you hear the startup tone twice. For Intel Mac models using the Apple T2 security chip, wait until you see the startup Apple logo for the second time instead.

If resetting the NVRAM didn't help, reset the System Management Controller (SMC) before proceeding to the next fix.

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Related: How to Perform an SMC and PRAM / NVRAM Reset on Your Mac

2. Enter the start disk in the system settings

After resetting NVRAM and SMC, try specifying the correct startup disk for macOS (if you have multiple startup disks set up). Skip this fix if your Mac never goes past the folder with a question mark screen.

To specify the startup disk:

  1. Open that Apple Menu and select System settings.

  2. click Startup disk.

  3. Press the padlock and enter your Mac's administrator password (or use Touch ID) to make changes to your startup settings.

  4. Select the correct startup disk.

  5. Choose Start anew.

3. Try a forced shutdown

If you can't get past the folder with a question mark screen, do a force shutdown of your Mac and then do a reboot:

  1. If you're using a MacBook, unplug the charging cable.

  2. Press and hold the key on your Mac power Press until the screen goes completely dark.

  3. If you're using an iMac or Mac mini, unplug the power cord.

  4. Wait up to 10 seconds.

  5. If you're using an iMac or Mac mini, plug the power cord back in.

  6. Turn on your Mac.

4. Select the correct hard drive at startup

If a forced shutdown and restart didn't help, try choosing the correct startup disk by accessing the Startup Options screen when your Mac starts up. The procedure is different for Intel and Apple Silicon Macs.

For Intel-based Macs, do the following:

  1. Press and hold the power Key to shut down your Mac.

  2. Press the power again to boot up and hold the opportunity Key immediately. Once you get to the startup disks screen, release the option.

  3. Select the correct startup disk and choose the arrow-shaped one Keep going Button.

For Apple silicon Macs, do the following:

  1. Press and hold the power Key to shut down your Mac.

  2. Press and hold the power Button again. Hold on until you get to the Start options Screen.

  3. Select the correct startup disk and choose Keep going.

5. Run First Aid through macOS Recovery

The next fix involves checking your Mac's internal storage for errors. To do this, you need to boot your Mac into macOS Recovery. This is a special recovery environment that provides access to the Disk Utility app without having to boot into macOS. Again, the process differs depending on the chipset in your Mac.

For Intel-based Macs, do the following:

  1. Press and hold the power Key to shut down your Mac.

  2. Press the power again to boot up and hold the Command + R Key immediately.

  3. Hold down both buttons until you get to macOS recovery.

For Apple silicon Macs, do the following:

  1. Press and hold the power Key to shut down your Mac.

  2. Press and hold the power Button again. Hold on until you get to the Start options Screen.

  3. Choose Options and click Keep going.

  4. Select your Mac user account.

  5. Enter your password and press Enter. You will briefly enter macOS recovery.

Once you are in macOS recovery

Once you enter macOS Recovery, here's what you need to do:

  1. Choose Disk utility.

  2. Choose view Button and select the Show all devices Opportunity.

  3. Start running First aid for each volume within a storage device.

  4. Follow this by running First aid on each container and then on the full storage device itself.

When First Aid finishes finding and repairing hard drive errors, select Disk Utility> Quit Disk Utility from the menu bar. Then restart your Mac (open the Apple Menu and select Start anew).

6. Reinstall macOS on your Mac

If none of the above fixes worked, you'll need to take the time to reinstall macOS. You will lose all of your data in the process, but if you've set up Time Machine beforehand, you can restore data from your most recent backup.

Start macOS Recovery again on your Intel or Apple Silicon Mac, but this time choose the Reinstall macOS Opportunity. Then select the startup disk you want to install the operating system on and follow all the on-screen instructions to set up macOS from scratch.

Related: How to Install macOS from USB

Once you've finished reinstalling macOS, you can import your data through Time Machine as you work your way through the setup screens. Or you can use the migration assistant (which you can open via.) Launchpad> Other> Migration Assistant) to get your data back after you finish setting up your Mac.

If all of that doesn't work, it's time to visit Apple

If your Mac continues to get stuck with the folder with a question mark screen (or if you're having trouble making any of the fixes above), you are likely dealing with damaged or defective internal storage. The best thing to do is make an appointment at the nearest Apple Store and let an Apple Genius take a look at it.

How to make an Apple Store appointment in a Genius Bar

An Apple Store appointment will help identify and resolve issues with your Apple devices.

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About the author

Dilum Senevirathne
(32 published articles)

Dilum Senevirathne is a freelance tech writer and blogger with over three years of experience contributing to online technology publications. He specializes in topics related to iOS, iPadOS, macOS, Windows and Google web apps. Dilum holds an Advanced Diploma in Management Accounting from CIMA and AICPA.

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