What to do if your Mac won't shut down

Updated: June 02, 2023
6 min read
What to do if your Mac won't shut down
by Mia Green
Tech Expert & Writer
Checked by
Quality Control team

Close applications that are hanging

Before we start

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Sometimes running programs hang up and prevent the device from rebooting. In this case, your Mac may show the message "The program won't let you restart your computer," but not necessarily.

  1. Close the programs that are hanging. To do this, right-click the icon in the Dock and select the "Force close" option.
  2. You can also try clicking Apple → "Forced shutdown" or pressing Alt + Cmd + Esc, specify the hung application, and select "Shutdown."
  3. After closing all programs, try shutting them down again.

Complete unnecessary processes

Sometimes applications don't respond to either the "End" command or the close window button. In this case, you can kill the process via "System Monitor," which is almost the same as "Task Manager" in Windows 10.

  1. Click Launchpad → "Others" → "System Monitoring." Or open Spotlight with Cmd + Space, start typing the word "Monitoring," and the Mac will find it for you.
  2. In the window that appears, select the process you can't close and click the "Stop" button (the one with the cross, first on the panel). The Mac will ask you to confirm your actions — click "Forced end."
  3. Repeat this with all hung apps and try shutting down your Mac again.

Disconnect peripheral devices

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If you have external drives, flash drives, cameras, and other goodies connected to your computer, they can interfere with the system's ability to complete its work. So deactivate everything except the mouse or trackpad.

  1. Right-click the media, then choose "Eject." Or drag its icon to the trash. Don't worry, this won't remove it, it will only allow it to be detached.
  2. If the disk cannot be ejected, you have found the problem. You can click the "Eject Forced" button. Or open "Terminal" and type a command there:
  3. diskutil list
  4. A list of your drives will appear. Remember the name of the device that cannot be disconnected and enter the command:

diskutil unmountDisk force /Volumes/device_name

The system will now be able to terminate as usual.

Try forced shutdown

If the measures you have taken do not lead to anything, deactivate the computer forcibly.

On most Macs, all you have to do is hold down the power button and wait for the screen to turn off. On MacBooks with the Touch ID key, you'll need to hold it down for a few seconds. To turn the device back on, you must close and open the lid.

Or you can try pressing Ctrl + Cmd + Eject or Ctrl + Cmd + Touch ID.

Boot in safe mode

The above steps can be used in isolated cases, but if your Mac is having trouble disconnecting all the time, you need to fix the cause.

First, try rebooting in safe mode. MacOS will scan your disk for problems and try to fix them. It will also remove third-party fonts, kernels, system cache, and some other things that could (in theory) cause problems.

  1. Turn off your Mac. Force it if necessary.
  2. Press the Power button, then immediately press and hold the Shift key.
  3. Release Shift when you see the login window.

Then reboot as usual.

Reset SMC

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The System Management Controller (SMC) is responsible for things like power management, battery charging, and keyboard backlighting. Sometimes shutdown problems can be caused by a malfunction in the SMC, so it's worth trying to reset it.

  • On a desktop Mac, turn off the computer, unplug the power cord, and wait 15 seconds. Then reconnect the cable, and after 5 seconds, press the power button to turn it on.
  • On laptops with a removable battery, you turn off your Mac, remove the battery, and then press and hold the power button for 5 seconds. After that, install the battery and press the button to turn it on.
  • On laptops with a non-removable battery, turn off your Mac and press and hold Shift + Command + Option for 10 seconds while pressing the power button. Then release all keys and press the power button to turn it on.
  • On newer MacBooks (2018 and newer), the procedure is slightly different. With the laptop turned off, press and hold the right Shift key, the left Option key, and the left Control key for 7 seconds. Without releasing them, press the Power button for 7 seconds. Then release all keys and the power button, wait a few seconds, and turn the laptop on as usual.

Reset PRAM and NVRAM

NVRAM and PRAM are non-volatile memory Macs use to store settings such as drive boot order, screen resolution, and time zone information. Sometimes failures in this memory prevent the system from shutting down.

  1. Turn off your Mac.
  2. Press the power button (or Touch ID on some MacBooks).
  3. Press and hold Alt + Cmd + P + R.
  4. After 20 seconds, release these keys. The Mac should boot up as usual.

Reinstall macOS

If no effort can fix the problem, reinstall macOS. Make a backup of all your important files and documents. Turn off your computer, then turn it back on and press Cmd + R. On the recovery menu that appears, select the "Reinstall macOS" option and follow the instructions on the screen.

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