How you can Boot Your Mac in Protected Mode

Troubleshooting a Mac can help you resolve many of the problems you may face. If your Mac is having trouble starting or is having boot problems, it might be a good idea to start your Mac in Safe Mode to try to identify and fix the problems.

Here is everything you need to know to start your Mac in Safe Mode.

What is macOS Safe Mode?

Apple includes a Safe Mode in macOS, which is essentially a stripped-down version of the operating system that can fix many problems that are preventing your Mac from starting.

Safe mode starts your Mac without launching other programs. This can include login items, minor system extensions, and third-party fonts. This will tell you whether it's an app causing problems or your system as a whole. Starting your Mac in Safe Mode will also clear the caches, which will make your Mac run faster.

In Safe Mode, you have limited functionality – you may not be able to use many apps, some USB or Thunderbolt peripherals may not be available, and your internet access may be limited.

Related: How to Isolate Software or Hardware Issues on Mac

Here's how to start your Mac in Safe Mode

Booting your Mac in Safe Mode is easy and safe. The steps are slightly different for Intel Macs and Apple Silicon Macs. We have described the two processes below.

Booting Intel Macs in Safe Mode

Follow these steps to safely start your Intel Mac:

  1. Start your Mac. If it's already activated, restart it.

  2. Press and hold the layer Press while your Mac is turning on.

  3. The Apple logo should appear.

  4. When the login window appears, leave the layer Key and log in.

  5. You may have to sign in twice if FileVault is enabled.

Booting Apple Silicon Macs in Safe Mode

To start your M1 Mac in Safe Mode, do the following:

  1. Press and hold the power Button until the startup options are displayed.

  2. Choose your startup disk.

  3. Press and hold the layer touch and click Continue in safe mode.

  4. Free that layer Key.

How to confirm that you are in Safe Mode

In Safe Mode, it should automatically display “Safe Boot” in red in the upper right corner of the screen. However, if you want to confirm that your Mac actually started in Safe Mode, you can use the About This Mac feature. In order to do this:

  1. click on the Apple logo in the top left corner of your screen.

  2. Choose About this Mac.

  3. Click on System report.

  4. Select in the window that opens software from the left pane.

  5. You should see the word Secure listed next Boot mode.

What to do in Safe Mode

After starting your Mac in Safe Mode, the first thing to do is to check that your Mac loads correctly. If your Mac hasn't started before, if you've started it normally and started in Safe Mode, it means there is a problem with a program or app (most likely a startup app).

As mentioned earlier, Safe Mode does certain checks and prevents some software from loading or opening when you start your Mac. This is usually a great way to identify any startup problems you may face. Since only essential kernel extensions are loaded (hardware and software drivers), a third-party app can cause your problems.

In addition, system caches are automatically cleaned up. This clears the caches and can speed up your Mac if it slows down your system. Safe mode also enforces a directory scan of the startup disk, which means it can identify any hard drive issues that are interfering with the startup process.

Other than that, there isn't much you can do in Safe Mode. As mentioned above, if an issue you were having doesn't come up while booting in Safe Mode, then it is most likely related to a problematic kernel extension (maybe related to faulty hardware) or an app problem. In this scenario, you should try cleaning up your Mac's startup app list.

How to edit your startup list

Too many startup programs can slow your Mac down and increase its startup time. You can change your startup apps in the system settings:

  1. Open up System settings on your Mac.

  2. Click on Users & groups.

  3. Select your account from the list and click on the Lock button to authenticate yourself.

  4. Click on Login elements to see all of your startup apps.

  5. Select the apps you want to remove and click minus (-) Button.

Related: Adding, Removing, and Delaying Startup Apps on Mac

Restoring a Time Machine backup in safe mode

If you still can't find or fix the problem, you can try restoring your Mac to a previous backup version using Time Machine. Make sure the version you are restoring your Mac to is working properly.

To restore your Mac using Time Machine backup, connect the external hard drive (with the backup) to your Mac and use the Time Machine app to restore it.

How to exit Safe Mode on Mac

Once you are done with Safe Mode and want to restore your Mac to normal, simply restart your Mac and turn it back on as you normally would. Your Mac will start up normally once you have resolved any startup problems.

If the problem is still not resolved

If your Mac won't start in Safe Mode, you might have a macOS or hardware problem with your Mac startup disk. You can try reinstalling macOS or restoring your Mac from a Time Machine backup using macOS recovery mode, which may do the trick.

Another tip is to load your Mac in verbose mode. Verbose mode loads everything on your Mac but describes what it does during the process. It looks similar to the terminal interface, but the advantage is that you can see exactly which process is causing your boot problems. To start your Mac in verbose mode, just press Command + V how your Mac boots. The terminal messages are displayed during the start-up process.

Related: A quick guide to macOS startup modes and startup key combinations

Take your Mac with you for a checkup

If there is a problem that you are not sure about, fixing the problem may be a little advanced for the average user. If this happens, we recommend taking your Mac to an Apple Store or Apple Authorized Service Provider for inspection. The technicians there should help identify the problem and hopefully they will fix it for you.

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About the author

Shujaa Imran
(26 published articles)

Shujaa Imran is a die-hard Apple user and loves helping others with their macOS and iOS issues. Apart from that, he is also a cadet pilot who wants to become a professional pilot one day.

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