Why Mac keeps turning off and what you can do about it
Does your MacBook randomly shut down? Its 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. Ignoring this issue may lead to dealing with lost data or deleted files, and no one wants it. In this article, I'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. Mac shuts may point that your computer suspects that there is something wrong with the apps you have installed. For example, if Mac shuts down randomly after you install a new app, it may be a sign that it came with a software bug.
The old version of macOS. In older macOS versions, issues with Mac settings or the update process may emerge. It may lead to repeated Mac restarts.
Malware. Random Mac shutdown may be a sign of malware. In most cases, you do not know that it sneaked into your system, so shutting down randomly hints at the need to check it for being infected.
Peripheral devices cause malfunctions. It is a common reason for Mac shuts, especially if you leave any peripheral device plugged in all the time. Mainly, it happens because any of the devices connected is not working properly.
If your MacBook Pro or any other Mac keeps shutting down randomly, 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? Recently, Apple officially recognized the random Mac shutdown issue and updated a support article, which helped troubleshoot the issue on MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2019, Two Thunderbolt 3 ports). Since then, the article has been updated several more times, and now it covers all Mac computers. It seems like the problem has become common for other Mac models, including MacBook Air, Mac mini, newer MacBook Pro models, Mac desktop computers, and Mac Pro. I'll talk more about this later in the article.
How to stop your MacBook from shutting down randomly
1. Complete a proper shutdown
This has to be number 1 on the list when you try to fix Mac shuts, 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 the risks of other issues.
After an unexpected, random shutdown:
- Power up your Mac once again.
- Press Command-Option-Esc to Force Quit any applications that are not responding.
- Then, go to the Apple menu and restart 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 it for free here. The app is notarized by Apple, so you know it's safe to use. Now here's how to use CleanMyMac X to run a virus scan:
Open the CleanMyMac X app.
In the left sidebar, select Malware Removal.
Click Scan and wait for it to complete.
If anything is found, CleanMyMac X will remove it for you.
3. Check if your Mac is overheating
Overheating is one of the factors potentially causing random Mac shutdown. In most cases, it will not remain unnoticed; however, it is still worth checking if it is not the issue because it would not necessarily become hot, with Mac fans going crazy.
Here's how to check if your Mac is overheating:
- From the Finder, go to the Applications folder > Utilities.
- Locate Activity Monitor and open it. Alternatively, you can use the Spotlight search or Siri to open the app.
- Click CPU and filter the processes by % CPU.
- Locate the most CPU-intensive apps and processes and quit them by clicking X if you do not need them running.
Important note: some vital system processes have hard-to-understand names, so it is better to do a quick online search to make sure that nothing crucial is quit.
4. 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:
- Shut down your Mac.
- On your built-in keyboard (not a removable one), press Shift-Control-Option on the left-hand side of your keyboard while you press the power button at the same time.
- Hold all four keys for 10 seconds and then release.
- Press the power button again to start your Mac.
If your battery is removable, here's how to reset the SMC:
- Shut down your Mac and disconnect the power adapter. You may simply unplug the power cord.
- Remove your battery and press the power button for five seconds.
- Now, reconnect the battery and power adapter or power cord.
- 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:
- Shut down your Mac.
- 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.
- Now, release all keys and wait a few moments.
- Turn your Mac on as usual.
Not sure if you've got a T2 Chip? Here's how to do a quick check.
Holding down the Option key, select the Apple icon, top left.
Click System Information and click Controller.
If you have T2 Chip, it will be listed here.
For a Mac with Apple silicon
To reset SMC, all you need to do is restart Mac or shut it down from the Apple menu. Then, press the power button to switch it on. Make sure that your power cord is not unplugged and MagSafe power adapter is connected.
5. Customize Mac's sleep settings
Sometimes, the supposed Mac shuts are not shuts per se; instead, these are unplanned events of your Mac enabling sleep mode. It may be that some sleep settings have been misconfigured, so customizing them is another quick fix. Luckily, this one is easy:
- From the main Apple menu, open System Settings.
- Navigate to Lock Screen.
- Here, customize the Turn display off settings by selecting the time frame most suitable for your needs.
This way, if you do not use your Mac for a while, it will not go to sleep, and the risks of mistaking it for a random shutdown are minimal. As a bonus, it may be a good way to save battery life. More on that below.
6. 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.
Check your battery:
- Click the Apple icon top left and select About This Mac. For macOS Ventura, the steps are as follows: Apple menu > About This Mac > More Info.
- Click System Report; under the Hardware section, select Power.
- Under Battery Information, you'll find your current cycle count.
If your Mac's 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.
There is yet another way to check your Mac's battery health — CleanMyMac X. It comes with a handy Menu app that has the Battery tool providing you with information about health, cycles, and temperature. It also has other valuable tools, such as CPU load, memory load, and real-time malware monitor. To start using it, once you've downloaded and launched CleanMyMac X, go to Preferences/Settings from the menu bar > Menu > Enable Menu.
7. 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.
- Open the Apple menu > About This Mac > Software Update, or go to System Preferences > Software Update. For macOS Ventura, follow these steps: Apple menu > System Settings > General > Software Update.
- If you've got one pending, you'll see it listed there. Just follow the on-screen instructions to install it.
Sometimes, you may need to reinstall macOS; however, updating it is commonly enough to fix it if your MacBook Pro or any other Mac computer keeps shutting down randomly. I'll provide instructions on how to reinstall macOS further in the article, just in case.
8. Reset PRAM
Similar to SMC, PRAM (parameter RAM) may be responsible for your Mac's erratic behavior. PRAM is a piece of memory responsible for storing numerous minor preferences. Resetting it may be a solution to the problem. Here's how to reset PRAM on a Mac:
- From the main Apple menu, turn off your Mac.
- Press the power button and then Command+Option+P+R keys.
- Do not release the keys until you hear the startup chime.
That is it. Note, though, that the steps above apply to Intel-based Macs only. On Macs with Apple silicon, there are no tips for resetting PRAM — it is unnecessary for these computers.
9. Uninstall suspicious apps
As I mentioned above, sometimes, apps with software bugs can cause the Mac shutting down issue. What should be noted, though, is that these apps with bugs are not necessarily malicious, meaning that they do not pose security threats to your Mac. However, they can still affect its performance, so it is better to get rid of them.
You can try and hunt down these apps manually. For example, you could go to the Applications folder and do some research on all of the apps you have installed to decide which one to delete. Alternatively, if you have noticed random Mac shuts after opening a particular app, you may choose to get rid of this specific application.
Still, there is a more convenient way to uninstall suspicious apps, and it is CleanMyMac X I introduced earlier in the article. It comes with the Uninstaller tool that can do the job for you. More importantly, it removes all of the associated and leftover files, ensuring that no conflicting issues persist after deleting the app. Here's how to use it:
- Open CleanMyMac X and navigate to Uninstaller from the sidebar.
- In the middle pane, click Suspicious.
- If any apps are there, select them and click Uninstall.
10. Reinstall your macOS
If nothing has helped, you can reinstall macOS. It is always the last thing to try because you may lose your data and files, even though Apple claim that reinstalling macOS does not wipe them out. Nevertheless, if you have a recent backup and some spare time, you're good to go. The very first thing to do is to boot your computer into recovery mode, and the process will depend on your Mac model.
For an Intel-based Mac, click Restart from the Apple menu and press and hold the Command-R keys during the restart. When the Apple logo appears, you can release the keys.
For a Mac with Apple silicon, after clicking Restart, press and hold the power button. It can be safely released once you see the startup options window. Now, click Options (an icon with the gear) > Continue.
Once you've booted into recovery mode, click Reinstall macOS [your macOS version] and follow the on-screen instructions to do it.
If the issue persists
Earlier on, I mentioned that Apple acknowledged the random crashing issue several years ago. They have a quick support article which tells you what to do when your MacBook shuts down. They recognized that the problem occurred on different Mac models — MacBook Air, Mac mini, newer MacBook Pro models, Mac desktop computers, and Mac Pro.
There were lots of discussions online where other Mac device users have had success with this and did not have to recover deleted files or seek how to recover lost data – I think it's worth a try.
If nothing helped fix Mac shutdowns, don't run to Apple retail store yet. Instead, you may need to contact Apple support or book an appointment with the nearest Apple service center.
So, there it is; I've looked at some great ways to help when your MacBook Pro keeps shutting down without having to deal with lost files or lost data. Happy troubleshooting, and come back for more articles and guides.