What can you do if your MacBook Pro shuts down randomly

5 min read

Does your MacBook randomly shut down? It's timing always seems to be so "perfect," just as you're about to jump on that important Zoom call, send an email, or finish the last paragraph of your thesis. For many Mac users, this annoying experience happens regularly, like every few days. In this article, we'll explain why your Mac keeps shutting down and tell you how to fix it.

Why does your Mac shut down all of a sudden?

It is challenging to locate and identify the exact issue that might cause your Mac to randomly shut down. 

Here are some known reasons:

  • Software errors

  • The old version of macOS

  • Malware

  • Peripheral devices cause malfunctions

The best advice is to go through all the possible fixes, one by one, to try and find the cause and solution. Let's get to it. 

Did you know? In 2019, Apple officially recognized the issue and updated a support article, which helps troubleshoot the issue on MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2019, Two Thunderbolt 3 ports). We'll talk more about this later in the article. 

How to stop your MacBook from shutting down automatically

1. Complete a proper shutdown

This has to be number 1 on the list, no matter how obvious and a bit ridiculous it sounds.

An unexpected shutdown is not quite the same as a proper one. Correctly shutting down your Mac from the Apple menu allows all the background processes and programs to close safely– reducing other risks of issues.

Shut down menu

After an unexpected, random shutdown:

  1. Power up your Mac once again.

  2. Press Command-Option-Esc to Force Quit any applications that are not responding. 

  3. Then, go to the Apple menu, put your Mac to sleep, and restart your Mac.

This is unlikely to entirely fix the problem, but it's basic troubleshooting and a good starting point.

2. Check your Mac for malware

Malware is capable of wreaking havoc on your Mac and could be responsible for your Mac shutting down on its own. I use the CleanMyMac X Malware Removal module to run regular checks on my Mac. 

I like CleanMyMac X because it protects my Mac from all kinds of vulnerabilities in real-time and warns me whenever I'm downloading something suspicious. 

You can download a free version here. The app is notarized by Apple, so you know it's safe to use. 

CleanMyMax X - Malware removal module

  1. Open the CleanMyMac X app.

  2. In the left sidebar, select Malware Removal.

  3. Press Scan and wait for it to complete.

If anything is found, CleanMyMac X will remove it for you.

3. Reset your SMC settings

The SMC (System Management Controller) is a chip that controls components like battery, fans, power and other features. Resetting SMC may help you fix random shutdowns.

The steps can be slightly different depending on if your Mac has a removable battery or not.

MacBooks that have a non-removable battery:

  • Any MacBook Pro from 2009 and later

  • Every MacBook Air, MacBook (Late 2009)

  • 12-inch MacBook from 2015 and later

If your Mac has a non-removable battery, here's how to reset the SMC:

  1. Shut down your Mac.

  2. On your built-in keyboard (not a removable one), press Shift-Control-Option on the left-hand side of your keyboard while the power button pressed at the same time.

  3. Hold all four keys for 10 seconds and then release. 

  4. Push the power button again to start your Mac.

If your battery is removable, here's how to reset the SMC:

  1. Shut down your Mac, and disconnect the power adapter.

  2. Remove your battery, and press and hold the power button for five seconds.

  3. Now, reconnect the battery and power adapter.

  4. Press the power button and turn your Mac back on.

For any Macbook with the T2 chip (almost all Macs introduced in 2018 or later), here's how to reset the SMC:

  1. Shut down your Mac.

  2. Once shut down, press and hold the Shift key on the right, the Option key on the left, and the Control key on the left for 7 seconds; while keeping those buttons pressed, now hold down the power button for 7 seconds more.

  3. Now, release all keys and wait a few moments.

  4. Turn your Mac on as usual.  

Not sure if you've got a T2 Chip? Here's how to do a quick check.

How to check your chip

  1. Holding down the Option key, select the Apple icon, top left.

  2. Click System Information and click Controller.

  3. If you have T2 Chip, it will be listed here (As you can see, mine Mac has it).

4. Monitor your battery health

Batteries don't last forever; each battery is supposed to last for a limited number of charge cycles, and this varies by model. A depleted battery could be the cause of your Mac randomly shutting down. It's pretty simple to check your battery status, and if you've reached your maximum cycle count, well, it's time for a new one.

How to check battery cycle count

Check your battery:

  1. Open the Apple icon, top left, and select About This Mac.

  2. Click System Report; under the Hardware section, select Power.

  3. Under Battery Information, you'll find your current cycle count. 

If your battery is reaching 1000 cycles, it’s time to replace it. Under Cycle Count, you’ll see Condition, and when it’s Normal, your battery is fine. 

5. Update your macOS 

When your Mac is up-to-date, there is, of course, less chance of shutdowns, so it's another obvious one, but check for updates; this gives your Mac another fighting chance. 

macOS update window

  1. Open the Apple menu.

  2. Select, About This Mac and Software Update.

  3. If you've got one pending, like me, you'll see it listed there.

While we're talking basic checks, running some simple maintenance scripts and repairing disk permissions is another way you can help if your Mac randomly shuts down.

The app I mentioned earlier, CleanMyMac X, has a really simple to use Maintenance Module, which can run these checks in just a few clicks. 

CleanMyMac X - Maintenance module

  1. Download CleanMyMac X here.

  2. Open the CleanMyMac X app.

  3. From the left side, bar select Maintenance.

  4. Then select Run Maintenance Scripts, and Repair Disk Permissions from the list then hit Run.

If the issue persists

Earlier on, I mentioned that Apple acknowledged the random crashing issue in 2019. They have a quick support article, which tells you what to do when your MacBook shuts down.

Although Apple says this is just for 13-inch, 2019, Two Thunderbolt 3 ports MacBook Pros, there are lots of discussions online where other Mac devices users have had success with this – I think it's worth a try. You can read the official support article here.

So, there we have it; we've looked at some great ways to help when your MacBook Pro keeps shutting down. Happy troubleshooting, and come back for more articles and guides. 

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