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 and  Macbook service providers, 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.



Zac

84 Comments

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  1. My screen went back all of a sudden. It seems like it’s in sleep mode, I’ve tried all the options listed below, none of them worked well for me.

    I contacted customer support for more options to try, either of them worked. I have not dropped, impacted, hit or spill water on it. I don’t know what’s wrong. Can someone help me?

    1. Best thing at this point would be to go to the nearest Apple Store (when they open again).

  2. I have a Macbook Pro, Was using Apple TV box on mirroring, upon closing mirroring the screen went black, I have tried all of the above resets but screen still black, please help

  3. I was watching Netflix on my Macbook Air and I paused it for a minute and now the whole screen is black and won’t do anything. It’s not dead bc it makes the sound when you plug it in.

  4. All of the sudden I am getting black screen on my Macbook Air. I didn’t drop or anything.
    Any help would be appreciated.

  5. Hi,

    I have a MacBook Air that has a black screen with a white folder icon and a question mark inside folder icon, flashing in the middle of the screen. Please advise as to how to fix this?

    Thank you in advance.

    Steven

  6. Hi
    Suddenly my macbook pro when i try to log in the screen goes black

    I have tried every step but nothing works. I’m able to access safe mode but even re installing mac os doesn’t solve the issue.

    Kindly assist what i can do

    Thanks

  7. Hi

    I dropped my macbook pro a while back, and now the screen in black and i can hear the starting chime and the key board lights up, sometimes i hear some beeps but nothing else.

    Please tell what i can do

    Thanks

  8. I have same issues of my MacBook screen go black I tried all the options to get it fixed and nothing worked for me. Please what can I do .

  9. My MacBook Pro’s monitor failed for the second time. Bought it in 2917, with Touch Bar

    The monitor started getting likes in 2018. Got the monitor replaced for free. Now in 2020, again the same problem

    Is the monitor failing common? It is pricey to get it fixed.

    Laptop still as new. No damages, never fell down etc

    I use a protective case, can that cause a problem? I can imagine it can be the reason.

  10. My MacBook Pro have a same problem black screen, but I can operate it using a touch,,, but no light inside please help

  11. I was watching Hulu today and my screen went black (or a very dark blue). I’ve done all of the steps recommended and have gotten very little response from the computer itself. Once I finally reached the login screen, there appeared to be in issue with the monitor itself. I haven’t dropped it or traumatized it in any way. What do I do? Thank you for any advice, etc. Thank you!

  12. None of the remedies work to fix my black screen. Please help so where doi go to have it fixed. Thx C

  13. Hi I have a MacBook Pro 15 inch late 2016 model and all of a sudden my computer went pitch black.. it seems to work fine — Siri works, keyboard lights up, Touch Bar works, but screen is pitch black, ive never dropped it.. read on the internet MacBook Pro 13” were getting this problem fixed for free, something called backlit problem.. called in about my computer and they gave me an estimate of $300. Does anyone else know what could’ve happened to my computer?

  14. SO MUCH LOVE TO THIS PERSON, WHO WROTE THIS ????????????????
    THANKS SO MUCH FOR THIS ….. My second screen was like turning black (flickering) 5 sec after restart
    For me the “SHUT DWON” + holding SHIFT key helped
    tanks a lot

  15. Bought it in 2017
    Had charger problem….bought new onen for 8000 Rs …..and now….it’s blank….tried all…but failed….this not expected of Apple….very dissapointed……

  16. I have this problem too. Interesting to see how this article is 1 year old, but all comments and feedback are from the last 4 months. Perhaps related to a software update?

  17. Just what I was thinking.. fucking Apple trying to make us all buy their new shit for 4K now … assholess

    Meanwhile I’m so fed up with trying to solve this Mac air black screen problem, I tried turning on my Mac Pro from 2012 after it having died 5 years ago and it works again wtf.. guess I gotta wait another 4 years and my Mac air will work again

  18. I have the same issue when the screen is at a ~30 degree angle it works but when its 90 degrees it blacks out! I have mac book pro 13’

  19. TRICK: Nothing working here. Saw on Youtube. Take a flashlight and hold it against yiur screen you can see the machine is on and you can reboot, copy over things if all else tails. It is tedious but you can manage this disatser. Always back up. None of my bootables will launch. They will mount but something is really wrong here. Save you user folder at least. Probably going to reinstall. Such a drag. Closed a netflix movie and here I am.

  20. I have the same problem .. it was working fine the day before it went unresponsive.. i thought i just needed to charge it but after i had it plug in for a few hours.. it wasnt even turning on… screen was black.. i only had this macbook pro for over a year so i took it to best buy where i got it.. the geek squad plug it in for two min.. then said to “you better off just getting a new one cuz it just the same price to have it fix”… i thought he would at least do a diagnostic to find ouf what the problem is… i tried fixing it following the above article nothing helps…

  21. Same here, had a few tabs open on google chrome, then all of a sudden the screen goes black and nothing seems to get it going again. Runs off an HDMI cable to the tv, but nothing on the screen.

  22. Reading these comments is sad because there seems to be no solution. I bought my MacBook Air January 2020, it works fine, but sometimes the screen goes black even though I’m actively using it. When I close my laptop and reopen, it wakes up. I’m not sure if I’ve come to the right place or if I’m dealing with a different problem. ?

  23. Same here, my screen was flickering at the beginning. After I trying to move the screen into a certain degree, it goes to black totally.

  24. I just purchased a gently used MBP 15″, I’ve had it for almost a week and experienced the black screen this morning. I was able to do a hard restart and it is working right now. I’m hoping this is not going to be an ongoing issue.

  25. What Fink was writing actually works! If I hold a light at the screen, I can see the log-in page and using an external screen I can actually do something. I already had a back-up using time machine. @Fink: did you try to re-install? Did this fix the black screen?

  26. I have a macbook pro that will go black screen randomly while working. I can hold power down and restart and the screen will be fine. But eventually, the screen will go black. It can happen multiple time daily. Or it can happen not at all for a week then, bam! Black screen. Tried reinstalling OS opening in safe mode. Does not ever start with black screen. Not sure what is going on.

  27. My MacBook Air has the Black screen. The laptop is on because the keyboard backlights are illuminated, and I have sound when it restarts. Non of the Help procedures have help. Anyone have any other thoughts, would be appreciated. Yes I know I’m probably going to need to take it to the Apple Store Genius Bar, however thought I would check with the pros out there…
    Thanks in advance everyone…!

  28. i have encountered same problem, while opening chrome window the screen turned of to black.

    I have tried all suggestions, nothing work for me.
    I have unplugged the battery and all display cables and replugged them, and same problem.
    I have reinstalled macOS and no success.
    Currently i’am able to use my Mac via an external cdmi display(TV), but the built-in display is black.

  29. What do you do when absolutely none of these “fixes” work….?
    This is incredibly frustrating….To say the least…..!

  30. I have exactly the same problem. Un apple authorised service provide ask me for 700-800 CHF to fix (around 766-850 USD) to fix the problem. OK I am in Switzerland prices always goes up here.. but someone already mentioned 300$ to get it fixed. I am going to Apple store in two days lets see if I get a better price.

    I guess Apple should take responsibility for this problem!

    The good news is that I can still work using an external monitor – try it if you havent yet.

  31. I am having the same problems.. black screen after installing Big Sur stable release through usb pen drive. Black screen… now I run command + R recovery mode, change the startup disk to previous OS. and able to relogin with old OS.

  32. I have a 2018 Macbook. Taken good care of it… not drops or issues prior. Updated to BigSur OS and got the black screen of death a day later… Screen only works if tilted less than 90 degrees… wtf. Going to apple store later this week, but it they don’t do something to fix this then im not buying another apple computer again

  33. Hi esteemed Apple lovers,
    I have similar problem today with my MacBook Air which turns black after I switched to window OS, only the Apple logo at the back showing light. All the aforementioned suggestions provided proved abortive. However, based on the statistics I saw, it seems as Apple itself is aware of this cantankerous act, why are we all keeping having similar problem in 2020? Hopefully it is not act of extortion?

  34. bought Apple silicon Macbook air on 25th november 2020. Online from Apple India store. Became unresposive on 12December 2020!!. Black screen of death. Contacted Apple, Service center suggested nay be major hardware problem . Apple refuses to replace as “replacement period ” is two weeks only. Should have highlighted earlier or this a convenient way of offloading? I am disgusted.

  35. Same problem as BAPP – goes black randomly, but after making an appt for a battery replacement (the battery now has a service warning message), it began going black every minute or so. Has not been able to make a backup for several months – interestingly since the new updates were recommended . I’m still using Mojave and an Apple Support rep advised me not to transfer over to Catalina yet until I could make a successful back up. It’s not working, and even when I call Suppprt they can’t get through to do a screen share. They tell me it’s on their end, but with three calls, no one was able to do it. So still, no backup, no update, and now, no battery (I have to be plugged in all the time- goes dead as soon as I unplug, and now..:: black screen. Will see what they say when I take it in. I was about to order a new Air (mine is the early 2015 MacBook Pro Rerina), but after reading all these posts I may be done with Apple.

  36. Hi All,

    I was having the same problem, black screen but the computer was working fine when plugged into external monitor. Resetting the various rams did nothing but one of the previous comments gave me an idea. I tried powering up the computer with the screen open just a tiny bit (maybe 15 degrees) and to my surprise the screen was working. But when I would open past 40 degrees it would go black again. So I had the idea to turn the screen brightness all the way up while the screen was visible (open a tiny bit) and then slowly opened it further until I got to 90. IT WORKED! No idea why but maybe it will work for somebody else too. Best of luck.

  37. Same has happened to me. Three months ago I got the black screen of death. Nothing helps to fix. Never dropped, well looked after laptop.
    Strange how it’s happened to so many people in a short time frame.

  38. I was having the same problem. Searched apple help and found a suggestion that seems to have worked for me. I was using my Air while it as sitting on top of a Dell portable. Apparently something magnetic in one can cause other to shut down or go to sleep. Took off the Dell and presto changeo it is working again. Will get back if it returns.

  39. Hi.
    My Mac was fully charged and working just fine, I closed it to go make some dinner when I came back and opened it up the screen was black and nothing would work.. I could get it to turn off and on because of the chime and the keyboard lights up but that’s it.. I tried everything in this article and nothing is working. So so upset.. will have to take it to the store ..

  40. This just worked for me. I went to support.apple.com and under “if your Mac starts up to a blank screen”, with you machine off, press and hold the power button for about 10 seconds. Presto! the screen came on. I could hardly believe it after going through all the same steps, as many of you, several times. Anyway, give it a try, it couldn’t hurt.

  41. sometimes when your goes black, the problem could be overheating issues. The thermal paste on the CPU or GPU might have worn out and not able to conduct heat properly to the heat sinks. The screen therefore goes black to prevent the CPU or GPU from damage. To solve this, you need to open the laptop and new THERMAL PASTE to the CPU or GPU. This solves most issues involved with black screen when your keyboard lights up but your screen is black.