My MacBook Crashed And Now I Can’t Reboot The Computer [Ask MacRx]



A crashed computer is one of life’s annoyances. A crashed computer that you can’t subsequently reboot becomes a bigger headache. Sometimes the battery in a laptop can be the culprit:

My Macbook froze out of nowhere. I have only had it for a few months. I purchased it new. I tried pushing the restart button and option/command/esc (what it says in the manual to do) but none of that works. My mac is totally unresponsive. What should I do?

Thanks in advance,

Hi Andrea,

Your Mac may have crashed and still be running off the battery, as I’ve seen that happen before. You can try removing the battery; on a unibody MacBook that requires taking the bottom cover off (and lots of tiny screws). Remove the battery, wait a few seconds, replace it, then see if you can get things started. However this is not an option for the faint-hearted, or if you don’t feel comfortable working inside your system.

Otherwise since it’s just a few months old and you’re still under warranty, the easiest solution may be to bring the system to an Apple Store Genius Bar and have them suss out the issue.

Thank you for responding. I unplugged my Mac and had it all boxed up to go to the store today. When I woke up this morning, I plugged it back in and pushed the start button. It came on and all my screens reappeared. I had an error message that my time and calendar was set for a date sooner than Jan. 2008. This made absolutely no sense to me b/c I didn’t make any changes! I checked my settings to make sure the date and time were correct and they were!! My computer works just fine now. It was so weird and still makes no sense! I’m just happy it works again! Thank you so much though.

Actually that behavior supports the possibility that the computer had crashed and was running off the battery. It will do this off the main battery until that drains, then for a short while the smaller battery which retains settings like Date & Time will be used. Once it’s completely dead you can then plug it in and reboot; the date will be momentarily wrong then correct itself via the network.

Glad it’s working again. Take this as an advance warning to make sure you always keep a current backup of your data!

• • •

Readers, have any additional suggestions on this topic, or corrections/clarifications on the advice above? If so, please leave your thoughts in the comments.

  • appledrunk

    What about just holding in the power button until it shuts off?

  • Ed_Kel

    This happened to my wife once.. Luckily she has a MBP from early 2009 where the battery just popped out.

  • Adam Rosen

    That’s certainly worth trying but it doesn’t always work.  If the crash is low-level enough it may affect the Mac’s firmware operations, which are what control that behavior for the power key.  On a desktop you can just yank the power cord as a last resort; on a laptop you need to remove the battery as well when this happens.

  • CRodBlogs

    Anyone else hate that Axe deodorant ad at the top of every page on cultofmac? It’s so intrusive. Down with ads.

  • prof_peabody

    Hard to tell from the description if it’s actually still running or not but holding down the power key would be the first thing to do, and using safe boot mode is also worth trying if it’s a case of it’s already off but won’t boot up.    

  • Ben at Deluxe

    I think that photo is a picture of me from college. Totally interested in where you got those stock photos!

  • aardman

    Apple really should put in a button/switch that manually disconnects the battery.  What if this happens when you’re printing a report at 2 a.m. that’s due at 9? 

  • CharliK

    Make a genius bar appointment. Or if you don’t have an Apple store nearby find an Apple authorized 3rd party tech. 

    Asking anyone to tell you what is wrong over the phone, over the internet etc is a bad move. There’s tons of details that you might not be giving because you don’t think it is important that that person might not think to ask, not to mention testing that can be done by someone with the right tools and access to your computer. And without that data, someone could say that it’s this and do to X when it was really that and doing X actually makes the problem worse. 

  • CharliK

    Telling someone to remove the battery without mentioning static precautions or the fact that they need to be super careful not to pierce the battery casing or it could actually ignite is beyond irresponsible. To the point that said person could actually ruin their computer in the process if they do this and don’t know exactly what they are doing. 

  • firesign

    Firefox. AdBlock plugin. Never see it again.

  • RyanTV

    Just hold the power button down until it turns off. It always works. With every mac in the past 5 or 6 years. No need to bother with the battery at all.

  • appledrunk

    In all my years of using Macs I’ve never had holding the power button not work.

  • Adam Rosen

    In 15 years of computer support work I have never pierced a battery casing and had it ignite.  No need for the melodrama, even though I know you disagree with all advice I give, Mr. Scott.

  • Adam Rosen

    Found ’em all on the internet, multiple sources for each one.  Couldn’t say exactly where offhand.  Which one do you think is you?

  • Adam Rosen

    Usually – but doesn’t always – work.  See reply to AppleDrunk below.  I’ve needed to use the battery trick a few times.

  • Adam Rosen

    Then you have had better luck than I.

  • CharliK

    What you have or have not done is beside  the point because you are telling other folks that very possible haven’t had 15 minutes of experience in computer support to do it

    And you are the one giving off the melodrama claiming I disagree with ALL your advice. I just don’t bother to pump your ego by proclaiming how brilliant you are on the rare occasions you actually give a proper and full answer. 

    Oh and speaking of a proper and full answer, before calling someone Mr you might want to verify they have or were at least born with a penis

  • Adam Rosen

    Jesus, here we go again. OK – charlikscott – who apparently is a female, but one who posts under a pseudonym rather than using your real name – if you read my answer you will note that I did include a caution to the person who wrote the question not to undertake this operation if they didn’t feel comfortable doing the procedure, and instead to make an appointment at the Genius Bar.

    FYI the rest of the email conversation with this reader, which wasn’t included in this column, was an expression of thanks and appreciation from her for trying to help and explain a bit how their computer works.

    It’s amazing for someone who is apparently wrong as often as I am – in your opinion – that I can make my living as a computer consultant.  It’s a miracle I’m not sued every day for my incompetence and malpractice.

    This column is not an attempt to stroke my ego, it’s an attempt to provide help to people who ask for it.  Believe me, it’s not worth the small compensation we get for writing nor the aggravation from trolls.  People like you suck the joy out of any attempt to be helpful.  

    I breathlessly await your response telling me what I’m wrong about now…

  • CharliK

    Again posting things you don’t have any clue about like whether I might be sharing an email address with someone. 

    And then there’s your immaturity at not just saying ‘He or she is a freaking idiot that I am too grown up to play games with’

    but never fear I am which is why I and my sister are done with this once great site that has turned in a hit mongering gossip blog run by total asshats.