What to Do If Your Macbook Pro Screen Goes Black and Unresponsive


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Apple MacBooks are the most reliable brand of laptop and have been for many years. That doesn’t mean they don’t still have an occasional problem though.

One of the problems that can pop up is your MacBook Pro screen goes black and unresponsive. Let’s look at how to troubleshoot that issue, along with several other common problems.

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What to Do if Your MacBook Pro Screen Goes Black and Unresponsive

A black screen can happen if your Mac doesn’t turn on at all or it might turn on but the display isn’t coming up for some reason. A few different things can cause it. You should test each possibility in the following order. As reported by many of the top Apple blogs, you can walk through the following steps.

1. Reset the System Management Controller

The Mac’s System Management Controller (SMC) handles a lot of things related to power. Resetting the SMC will reset several different power settings. To reset the SMC, shut down your Mac and connect it to power if it isn’t already.

Hold down the Shift+Control+Option+Power buttons for a few seconds, all at once. Release them all at the same time and power the Mac back on to see if the black display is fixed.

2. Try a Simple Keyboard Sequence

If your Mac is powering on but the screen stays black, try pressing the power button once then press the S key. This is the shortcut key to put the Mac to sleep.

Next, hold down the power key until the Mac turns itself off. Wait 15 seconds and power it back on.

3. Reset the PRAM

The Mac’s PRAM is memory that holds some settings for your Mac. These settings carry forward even if you restart or shut down the Mac. If they get corrupted somehow, it can cause problems like a black screen.

To reset the PRAM, power on your Mac and as soon as you hear the startup chime, hold the Command+Option+P+R keys. Wait until you hear the chime a second time and then let go of the keys. Let the Mac boot and see if the black screen is fixed.

4. Boot into Safe Mode

Sometimes a black display is the result of corrupt information on the startup disk. You can force your Mac to run diagnostics on the disk by booting into safe mode.

To start up in safe mode, power up or restart your Mac and hold the Shift key until the Apple logo appears on the screen. At that point, let go of the Shift key and let the system start up. It will take longer than normal because it’s running diagnostics during the boot sequence.

After it finishes starting up, restart again to leave safe mode and start normally to see if the black display problem is fixed.

Unresponsive Apps

Another common problem that Mac users face is one or more apps becoming unresponsive. If this happens, it usually means the app has crashed. In most cases, the Quit command on the application menu won’t work.

Instead, use the Force Quit command to close the app. You can Force Quit an app in three different ways:

  1. Click on the Force Quit command on the Apple menu.
  2. Press Command+Option+Escape on the keyboard to bring up the Force Quit menu.
  3. Right-click or hold the Control key and click on the app in your dock and click Force Quit on the menu that pops up.

If you force quit an app, you’ll lose anything that you were working on if you haven’t saved it before the app crashed. There’s nothing you can do to avoid this if the app has already crashed though, so make sure you save your work regularly.

If your Mac has frozen completely, not just a single app, learn more about how to fix that problem.

Spinning Beach Ball

You’ll sometimes see the mouse cursor turn into a spinning “beach ball” icon on your Mac. This happens when the system is being pushed to its limits and it’s having trouble keeping up with all the tasks running at once.

If you have a lot of apps open or a lot of different websites open in Safari tabs, this can lead to the beach ball. You can identify which apps are using a lot of system resources with the Activity Monitor app that’s installed on every Mac.

You’ll find Activity Monitor in the Utilities folder inside of your Application folder. When you open it, you’ll get a list of all the apps currently running along with system processes that are running in the background.

Look for apps that are using an unusually high amount of memory or CPU resources. Those are the most likely culprits for the spinning beach ball problem. Quit or force quit those apps and you shouldn’t see the beach ball any longer.

Kernel Panic

A kernel panic happens when macOS itself crashes. It doesn’t happen very often but even Macs do crash now and then. When a kernel panic happens, the display on your Mac will go dark and show a message that says “You need to restart your computer. Hold down the Power button for several seconds or press the Restart button.”

Similar to a single app freezing, if you have a kernel panic there’s nothing you can do to go back to where you were. You’ll need to restart your Mac.

Hold the power button for a few seconds to force the Mac to power off and then unplug all external accessories you have connected. External drives, printers, monitors, etc. should all be disconnected. Restart without the items connected and see if the problem goes away. If so, something may be incompatible so add them one at a time, restarting each time, to identify the one that’s causing problems.

If no external add-ons seem to be at fault, have you had any recent upgrades or repairs done? Faulty or incompatible RAM will often cause kernel panics so if you’ve had a RAM upgrade done recently, it may be the problem.

If all else fails, you may have to reinstall macOS. This is more time-consuming but if part of the operating system has been damaged and is causing the kernel panic, this should solve it.

Don’t Get Complacent

Macs are well-known for their reliability but don’t let that make you complacent. Whether your MacBook Pro screen goes black and unresponsive or a single app freezes in the middle of something, you can lose your hard work when problems occur.

Make sure you save your work regularly and backup your important data so you can minimize your losses if something does go wrong. There’s nothing worse than having to go back and do a bunch of work over again because your computer crashed right in the middle of an important project.

Check back often for more helpful posts like this one.



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Zac

84 Comments

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  1. Flexgate with New MacBook Pro Repair program for 13. I do have MacBook Pro 15, every time when I open the lid more than 40 degree turn the display to black. I read that many people have the same problem. Are they planning to do anything?
    There is a lawsuit in California for the same problem.

    1. My MacBook Pro randomly goes black screen on daily tasks, its like the video sound is still playing but the screen is black. I have to close the laptop and reopen it again and again, it is not unusable but it was super annoying. I have tried every way on the internet but it still happens over and over again.

  2. i have the 2019 macbook pro and in the middle of a youtube video it went black and turned off completely, it won’t boot up to start or make any noises, nor will the keyboard work or any buttons and it’s only 8 months old. kinda scared

  3. I have tried absolutely everything. All of the different key sequences and different power off and start ups. Nothing works. Just a very dark screen. There is a bit of light, like the screen is on, but it’s only black. The keyboard doesn’t light up either now. I don’t know what else to do. I use this for my business and studies. Can’t do anything.

    1. I have an old 2011 that seems to have similar problem. Sil light shows on screen black. It won’t power down whatever I do. Guess I will just have to wait for battery to die. I hear whirringvwhen I put cd/dvd in but screen still black. Shift lock light is on Sometimes there is a sound of life if I close my lid to about 30% then re open. But it’s not even done that recently. I have no hdmi on my old mbp so not sure how to connect to tv. Anyone any input?

  4. My MacBook Pro battery was really low so I charged it overnight. This morning when I opened it, the screen was there for a second and then went black. I have tried all the different key sequences but nothing is working. I hear the chime when the charger is plugged in and the cap locks key lights up.

    1. I have the exact same problem with my 2017 Macbook Pro!! Word for word!!
      I took my laptop to an Apple authorised repair shop. They just got back to me saying there’s no backlight issue and resetting the display flex cables didn’t work. That means they need to replace the whole display—and they’re charging $610 !! That’s nearly half the price of a brand-new 2020 model! I really don’t know what to do…

    2. Ok update: I plugged my laptop into my TV using an HDMI cable and it works perfectly! Shame I can’t take it anywhere now, but at least it’s not dead and gone.

    3. I had the same exact thing happen to me with my 2017 model. Literally mid netlfix episode it just went all black. I can also use it with an HDMI cord but it is too much of a hassle so I just got a new one. UGH! I hate it here.

  5. I have Mac Pro 2020. Today I charged and opened full blank screen. I could tell something was up because before it did so lines were on my screen. Anywho. I’m confused. Anyone find a solution?

  6. Same problem, tried everything with no success. How can we get refunded for these defective macbooks?

    1. I have the same problem with a 2020 pro. I connected with Apple support and they sent some fixes to try, but it didn’t work.
      They should issue a recall on those defective

  7. I don’t agree Macs are reliable anymore. just cost quality ratio gone all way wrong. Mac book pro 2016 (bought brand new in early 2017) went black screen after 3 years of use. Apple store acknowledged their Display black screen problem and apparently replaced the screen for free. But screen went black again 12 months later and Apple now asks 25% of the laptop price to replace the screen again. Seriously that’s worst than No-brand laptops which cost less than 25% of Apple’s screen only.

  8. Macbook Pro 2016 , bought new in Jan 2017 had sticky keys and screen went black all of the sudden in 2020. Apple store showed me the faded screen and replaced both screen and keyboard for free. Has been Ok for 12 months then screen went black again and some keys went sticky again in just few months. I need to pay £500 to replace the screen now.

    1. You should be able to have the keyboard replaced for free because of the sticky keys.

    2. They did then same problem comes and goes again. Critical issue though is the screen black again exactly 12 months after they replaced it under display daylight defect. I bought Apple laptop pro for £2K to end up confined to my TV screen to be able use it or I have to pay £500 every time replacement screen fails again. This doesn’t make sense.

  9. I accidentally closed my laptop for a second, opened back up, and screen has been black since. I’ve tried everything. All of the keys light up when the laptop is open, and the white light on the front blinks when closed, but the screen remains black.

  10. I am also facing same issue.
    My macbook pro 13 inch 2017 model was working fine till few today.
    I closed screen once and when opened again, the screen shows up till few degrees but If I open screen completely, it goes off.
    What is wrong with Apple?
    Please suggest if some one knows how to fix it.

  11. I also have same issue and very frustrating, I have 2018 model which I bought in 2019 January, it was working fine before today when I turned off the screen and then opened it back after 20 minutes, now all things are working perfectly except black screen, with the help of a torch I can see mbp is running fine (although I can feel it gets heated if I turn it on), I tried all of the sequences , my laptop is of very high configuration and costly, if someone have any other clue of how to fix it, that will be really great. Thanks

  12. I bought my Mac book air 13″ in 2015 and have no issue with it untill yesterday when the screen goes dark. I have try all the steps and procedures yet the remain dark. Stressful since all my works are inside it.

  13. Black screen as of this evening. Turned it off then some 30 seconds later on again. Opened it up a bit more and screen goes black again and now won’t budge off that black screen whatever sequence of keys as suggested put into it. The last 4 or 5 times I have woken it from sleep (thats say over the last 4 or 5 days) screen message “sticky keys on” or something. I have never seen that before.

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