Safe Mode on the Mac is typically accessed intentionally and on a per-boot basis by holding down the Shift key during system restart or boot, then whenever the troubleshooting action is complete that required Safe Mode, the next reboot should be normal again. But sometimes a Mac can seemingly get stuck in Safe Mode regardless of restarting, and the Mac then constantly boots into Safe Mode, limiting the use of the computer.
As you might already know, booting a Mac in Safe Mode is a common troubleshooting trick, but you certainly don’t want to be constantly booting into Safe Mode since the functionality of Mac OS is limited when doing so, thus if your Mac keeps booting into safe mode you will want to resolve that.
The Shift key gets pressed automatically only [on my MacBook Pro] during startup, and it start up to Safe Mode. After that, the Shift works.
The problem can’t be a driver issue with the keyboard, since the laptop comes with on built-in. If the Shift key worked erratically or continued to seem to be depressed after startup, then you would want to clean or replace the keyboard.
If you have any external USB devices plugged in, however, remove those and restart to see if the problem persists.
In this guide I’ll explain why your Mac keeps booting into Safe Mode and how to fix the issue for good.
Troubleshooting a Mac That Always Boots Into Safe Mode
There are a few reasons why a Mac may always be booting into Safe Mode. Let’s go through each of the most common reasons and address them individually.
Check if Shift Keys Are Stuck on the Mac
Sometimes a Shift key can get stuck on a Mac for various reasons, and if the Shift key is stuck down (whether it’s visibly obvious or not) then the Mac will constantly boot into Safe Mode whether you intend it to or not. Thus the first thing you should do is check and clean the keyboard, and specifically check the Shift key to make sure that it’s working as expected.
You might want to use compressed air and blast around the shift keys on the keyboard to make sure nothing is lodged underneath it.
Checking for stuck keys is particularly important for the often problematic keyboard featured on the 2016-2018 MacBook Pro lineup and the 2015-2017 MacBook line, where the keyboard keys are notorious for getting stuck or jammed, whether by tiny particles of dust or debris, or seemingly at random. Apple has a rather comical / ridiculous support page here that advises holding the computer into various unusual tilted positions and blasting the keys with compressed air, to attempt to remedy stuck or unresponsive keys.
If you own a 2015-2017 MacBook Pro or a 2015-2017 MacBook, Apple has a keyboard repair program available here to replace and repair problematic keyboards.
Reset NVRAM on the Mac
It’s possible that a system-level setting was changed, however unlikely that might be. Apple has a support page that explains several ways to use the nvram command-line utility to modify behavior at startup when you can’t connect a keyboard to your Mac.
You can force a Mac to start in safe boot by using this command at the prompt in the Terminal app (and entering your macOS password when prompted):
sudo nvram boot-args=”-x”
You can reverse out of that by entering, which disables Safe Mode:
sudo nvram boot-args=””
Try that sequence and then restart to see if it clears the state. If not, I’d actually now enable verbose mode on your Mac alongside safe mode by entering:
sudo nvram boot-args=”-x -v”
and restarting. The verbose mode dumps system startup and diagnostic messages, and it might tell you if something’s wrong that’s causing your Mac to always start up in Safe Mode.
Did the steps outlined above fix your Mac and stop it from always booting in Safe Mode? Do you have another helpful troubleshooting method to resole this issue? Share your experiences in the comments below!
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