What to do if MacBook screen goes black but still running

6 min read

Did your MacBook screen go black but it's still running? Although alarming, this is fairly common, and the good news is that there are many troubleshooting tips to help you rectify the issue.

We'll walk you through the various possible causes, fixes, and prevention options. Let's get started.

Why did my MacBook screen go black?

It's undoubtedly strange when you're working away, and suddenly your MacBook Pro screen goes black, but it's still running. Or if you're trying to boot your Mac up, you can hear it running, but your screen is black.

From battery issues, annoying system glitches, hardware failures, overheating, and screen damage to malware, as you can see, there are a few possible causes.

Before we dive into the tips, just make sure you haven't accidentally turned your screen brightness down. It can happen. Simply press F2 to increase the brightness of your screen.

We'll help you identify your issue and work through some simple troubleshooting.

Fixes for MacBook Pro screen black

1. The obvious checks

First, let's rule out any physical damage to your Mac that could be causing the screen to go black.

Have you recently dropped your Mac? Do you see any screen damage, like cracks or splits?

If you're certain damage isn't the problem, let's take a moment to check your battery. Does your Mac have enough battery life? Was it fully charged before you encountered the black screen? Is your MacBook connected to the power? 

Finally, it's worth checking that your MacBook's charger cable isn't faulty. If battery power isn't your problem. 

Once you've ruled out these obvious checks, then move to the next tip.

2. SMC reset

Did you know a quick SMC reset can actually fix multiple issues on a Mac? Your SMC (System Management Controller) handles many functions, like keyboard lighting, battery, and thermal management.

SMC rest for Macs with Apple silicon

You can't officially reset the SMC on an M Mac, as the M chip handles all of the SMC functions, but it is widely known that completely shutting your MacBook down from the main Apple menu and then waiting for 30 seconds before starting it up again, performs something similar to the SMC reset.

SMC rest for Macs with Apple silicon

Intel-based Macs

  1. Shut down your device from the main Apple menu.

  2. Hold the below keys for 10 seconds

    • Control - Option - Shift - Power button
  3. Release, then restart your MacBook.

      SMC rest for Intel-based Macs

      3. Reset your NVRAM

      Your Mac's NVRAM manages many operating system functions, so resetting your NVRAM is another way to solve the MacBook screen black but still running issue; here's how to do it on Intel-based Macs:

      1. Once again, shut your Mac down.

      2. Press your Mac's power button, but immediately press and hold the below keys:

        • Command - Option - P - R 
      3. Release when the Apple logo appears and disappears for the second time or when you hear the second startup sound.

          How to reset NVRAM

          Macs with Apple silicon reset it automatically if there is such a need. 

          4. Boot into safe mode to fix MacBook screen going black but still running.

          If you've tried the tips above without relief, it's time to boot your Mac up into safe mode. This can help you identify software-related issues caused by items like system extensions, login items, even fonts, and other things that weren't originally installed by your operating system.

          Safe mode for Apple silicon

          • Shut your device down.
          • Hold the power button until you see the startup options.
          • Select a volume, and then hold down your Shift key.
          • Press Continue in Safe Mode.
          • Your Mac will now restart; you should see Safe Mode in the menu bar.

          Safe mode for Apple silicon

          Safe mode for Intel-based Macs

          • Shut your device down and then turn it back on as normal.
          • Hold your Shift key until the login window loads up.
          • Sign in to your Mac (you might be asked twice)
          • You will see Safe Boot in the menu bar.

          Safe mode for Intel-based Macs

          When it is in safe mode, operate your Mac as usual to see if the problem persists.

          Repair disk permissions in safe mode

          Disk permissions are there to keep our files safe, but they easily become corrupted, causing all kinds of glitches. That's why you'll often find repair disk permissions in troubleshooting guides. Luckily, they are really easy to repair.

          When your MacBook Air screen goes black but still running, it's time to repair your disk permissions; here's how:

          1. Open Disk Utility from Finder > Applications > Utilities.

          2. Select your Macintosh HD from the list.

          3. Click First Aid > Run.

          4. Enter your admin password, follow any on-screen instructions, and wait for the repair to complete.

          Repair disk permissions in safe mode

          If the black screen problem happens, while you're in safe mode, then you'll need to reinstall your macOS. We'll show you how in the section below.

          How to stop Mac screen from going black

          Like many issues on our MacBooks, preventing them from reoccurring is essential. Here are a few suggestions for eliminating the irritating black screen glitch in the future.

          1. Regularly check for malware

          Malware and other malicious viruses can attack our Macs, wreaking havoc and causing all kinds of file corruption and glitches. If you don't have antivirus software, then this is a friendly reminder to purchase some.

          It's vital to be able to run quick system checks when you encounter strange behavior. The Apple notarized Mac cleaner tool CleanMyMac X has a fast-acting Malware Removal module powered by ​​Moonlock Engine, which is perfect for the task at hand.

          Here's how to check your Mac for malware:

          • Launch the app or get 7-day free trial here.
          • Click Malware Removal > Scan.
          • Wait for completion and follow on-screen advice.

          Malware scan in process

          2. Update your macOS

          Running the latest software has many benefits, including security updates, bug fixes, and app improvements, which can all help you avoid issues like the MacBook Pro screen black. It's worth taking a few moments to check if your Mac is operating the latest software: here's how:

          1. Select the main Apple menu > System Settings > General > Software Update.

          2. Check for updates here and install.

          System Preferences - Software Update

          3. Check for application updates

          Outdated or corrupt applications could cause issues for your Mac, especially when you are starting up your machine. It's worth checking for new updates; here's how:

          Apps downloaded from the App Store:

          • Open the App Store.
          • Select Updates from the sidebar.
          • Any applications that have available updates will be listed here. 
          • Click Update next to the app to start the process.

          AppStore Updates tab

          Applications downloaded from the Internet:

          If the app you downloaded wasn't from the App Store, then you need to visit the developer's website and check for any recent updates. Or you can open the app and choose Check for Updates from its menu.

          Check for Updates menu

          4. Reinstall your macOS and start fresh

          If you found the black screen problem occurred in Safe Mode, then a final option to consider is giving your MacBook a completely fresh start by reinstalling your macOS from macOS Recovery. This will remove all issues, bugs, and glitches, putting your Mac back to its original factory state.

          This means all your personal data and saved settings will be lost, so if you decide to go down this route, first ensure you back up any important information using Time Machine.

          It's a good option for those who frequently encounter issues. The official Apple guide to reinstalling your macOS is available here.

          If none of these tips helped you solve the black screen issue, it's worth making an appointment at your local approved Mac repair center; they can look at hardware failures and other more complex issues.

          Hopefully, you found a troubleshooting tip here that helped fix the MacBook screen going black, but it's still running.

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