Here at MacUpgrades we see a lot of Macs that don't work. The vast majority of problems are resolvable. Whether it be a hard drive, or a power supply, or the logic board. In order to diagnose a fault at home (or at least get a clearer idea of the problem with your Mac) you can use the following guide to help.
Some of the things we suggest do require additional equipment which you may not have access to, or you may simply prefer to have us to look at your machine. You can always just bring or send us the computer for us to work it out, and quote on a fix.
We've separated this guide into sections for different types of Macs. A lot of the steps are very similar, but differ in important ways.
This guide is meant to give an overview of simple diagnostic steps that you can take, which can help you to resolve simpler problems, or give you enough information to seek useful help with more complex issues from somewhere like ourselves. We also have a guide to common faults that are specific to some Apple models here.
- Laptops 2006 - 2015 (& Air 2017)
- Laptops 2016 and Later
- Mac minis
Help! My MacBook/MacBook Pro/MacBook Air (2006 – 2015) Does Not Work!
- Does it chime when power button is pressed? If it does, then you don’t have a power issue. The chime indicates POST (Power On Self Test) is successful. You might have a screen/backlight/hard drive/SSD problem. If nothing happens at all, have a look at some of the power related items further down this list.
- Does the loading bar appear but then stop partway through? If so you don’t have a power issue, you most likely have a drive or graphics card issue. More investigation required to find out which one it is.
- Is there a flashing folder with a question mark on the screen? If so, you most likely have a drive problem - though sometimes a cable issue (especially on a 13in MacBook Pro Unibody) or even a logic board problem. This image is shown when the computer cannot locate a drive to boot from. A purely software problem is also possible, if there is a serious problem with the Operating System (you see this icon when a new blank drive has been fitted). Drives are relatively easy to replace, and we sell parts and offer a fitting service - enter your Mac's serial number (written on the bottom of the machine) to see what we have for offer, or give us a call.
- Does it work fine on an external screen? 99% of Macs have the ability to drive a secondary monitor (albeit with a range of adapters required). If this works but the internal display remains blank, then you either have a screen issue or a logic board issue (very occasionally it is just a cable). Both can be resolved, but screens are generally more expensive than a logic board repair. We can repair both issues on almost all models.
- If you shine a torch through the back of the Apple logo, do you see anything on the screen? If the machine is displaying normally to the screen, but it is only visible when a torch is shone through it, there is a problem with the backlight. This can be either a problem with the screen, logic board, or (rarely) cabling. Please contact us and we can take a look at the machine. In the meantime, the machine is functional apart from the display - you should be able to get data off it if required.
- Is there charge in the battery? If your machine has a battery indicator on the left hand side, press the button and see if it the battery has charge. The indicator light will show a number (dependent on the amount of charge) of green lights. If a single light flashes the battery has no charge. This could be an indicator of a battery or an AC adapter problem, move on to next step.
- Does the machine have power? Plug in your MagSafe charger. Does the light on the charger come on? If so what colour is it? If no light appears on the charger, the next step is to try another known good charger. If this also gives no light then it is likely you have either a DC-in board (where the charger connects to the logic board), or a logic board problem. If you get a green light which changes to orange, then the AC adapter is most likely fine.
- Does the power button work? Most of these laptops have a power button that runs through the keyboard. This means that if the keyboard fails, then the machine appears completely dead. This step involves removing the bottom case screws and disconnecting the battery. If you are not happy to do this, then this is the time to get someone (like us) to have a look at it. Remove all the bottom screws of the laptop and find the battery connector – using a plastic tool, not metal gently pry the battery connector up so that it is disconnected. Next plug in the charger. The reasons for this is that most of the Macs of this type will power on automatically when AC power is applied, and the battery disconnected (this is only true when using a powerful enough MagSafe AC adaptor). If this works it means that your keyboard needs replacing. If your machine still does not turn on, try reconnecting the battery, leave it plugged in for a while, and then try turning it on again (this can sometimes work as it gives a full "reset" to the system.
- Does an SMC reset help? This is a key combination to press on the keyboard. This rarely helps but is always worth a go. With power applied to the laptop, press and hold the CMD, CTRL, ALT and left SHIFT keys. Whilst holding these down press power button for 5 seconds then release the keys. If the charge light changes from orange to green then back this has been successful. Try turning the machine on again. (Or on very early pre-Unibody MacBook Pros and polycarbonate MacBooks, remove the battery and hold down the power button for 5 seconds before refitting the battery and powering on the machine). Apple instructions here.
Hopefully this has helped you get an idea of what sort of problem you have. If you need help then get in touch as we can fix the large majority of Apple laptop problems.
Help! My MacBook/MacBook Pro/MacBook Air (2016 and Later) Does Not Work!
The newer Mac laptops have far less clues to work out what an issue is. The removal of the MagSafe AC adapter, with its useful light, means that without a USB-C multimeter it is not possible to tell if the machine is charging, or drawing the correct 20V from the charger. Also the startup chime has been removed, so it is not easy to tell if the machine is POSTing or not. And the bottom case screws and battery connection are far more difficult to disconnect, so trying it without the battery is more involved. Also with the removal of the white Apple logo at the back, the ability to use a torch to check for a backlight failure has gone.
NB: The MacBook Air 2017 is of the older style, and you can use the techniques we mention in that section.
Things you can try:
- Try a new AC adapter. A fault with the charger will lead to the battery running down, and the machine appearing completely dead. Always worth checking this if at all possible.
- Try an SMC reset. The method varies depending on model - see Apple's instructions here. This does not often solve an issue, but it does happen and it is easy to do, so should always be tried.
- Try an external screen. If this works on a machine that is not working on its internal display, then the internal display may need replacing, or there might be a logic board problem. Please contact us.
- If the loading bar appears but gets stuck part way through. Try booting from a known good drive externally. If this works, your internal SSD storage has a problem. As these are mostly soldered in to these units its time to check your backup has worked. You can boot into Recovery Mode, and try and erase the SSD and either reinstall a clean OS or restore from your backup. If this fails, then there is likely a hardware problem with the SSD - this will mean a full logic board replacement.
Help! My iMac Does Not Work!
- Does the iMac chime when you press the power button? If yes then power supply and power button are working. If not, then try a new power lead (very uncommon), or try unplugging the iMac from the wall for 1 minute (resets the SMC). If this doesn't help, then there are not any more steps you can take without opening the machine. Power supply is the likely point of failure, though a faulty power button is a possibility. Get in contact and we can a look for you.
- Does the loading bar appear but then stop (or the iMac reboot) partway through? If so you don’t have a power issue - you most likely have a drive or graphics card issue. More investigation required to find out which one it is. Try booting from a known good external USB boot drive. If it boots from a known good drive, it is likely a drive issue. If the fault replicates with a known good external drive then it is highly likely that the graphics card has a fault (common in Late 2009 - 2011 models).
- Is there a flashing folder on the screen? If it does then you most likely have a drive problem (or, rarely, a cable issue or logic board problem). The computer shows this icon when it cannot find its boot drive. It could be a purely software problem with the operating system, and erasing the drive in Disk Utility may allow you to restore from backup or do a clean install, but if it is a hardware problem with the drive then it needs to be replaced - put your serial number into the website to see the options we have available.
- Does it work fine on an external screen? All iMacs can output video to a secondary display (though you may need an adaptor). If this works, but the internal display remains blank, then you either have a screen issue or a logic board issue (very occasionally it is just a cable). Contact us for options.
Due to the sealed nature of iMacs, there are less things you can do at home without taking them apart, which can be difficult especially on later models. If you are unsure you can always book it in with us for assessment.
Help! My Mac mini Does Not Work!
- Does the Mac mini chime when you press the power button? If yes then the power supply (and power button) are working. If not then try a new power lead (though this is a very rare point of failure) or try unplugging the Mac from the wall for 1 minute (resets SMC). If this doesn't help, then there are not any more steps you can take without opening the machine. Get in contact and we’ll take a look for you.
- Does the loading bar appear, but then stop partway through? If so you don’t have a power issue, you most likely have a fault with the boot drive. Try booting from a known good external USB boot device. If this works, then it is almost certainly a drive problem.
- Try a different monitor (and video port) Try another monitor on your Mac mini, and/or test your monitor on another computer. Also since Mac minis made after 2009 have 2 video outputs, try hooking a known-good monitor to the other output. If this testing does not isolate the problem as a monitor or connector fault, then it is likely the problem is with the logic board.
There are not so many troubleshooting steps for the Mini. If yours is still not working then give us a call and see if we can help.