5 reasons your Macbook keeps restarting and how to fix the issue
Is your Mac suddenly restarting for seemingly no reason? It’s incredibly frustrating to come back to your computer, only to find out it’s mysteriously shut down and rebooted. If restarting issues get bad enough, they can prevent you from using your Mac entirely, so finding a solution is a top priority. Here are the common causes of looping restart issues, and what you need to do to fix the issues.
Note: If at all possible, try to save your MacOS settings and valuable data on an external drive when you run into this constant startup problem. Sometimes solutions require wiping your computer or other measures that will lose any locally saved information. So, before you start in-depth troubleshooting, make sure your data is secure.
MacOS isn’t updated
Sometimes a missed MacOS update, or an update flaw can create problems with your Mac settings and update process. This confuses your Mac and can lead to repeated restarts and other issues. The easiest way to fix all these issues is to install all available updates for MacOS that your Mac model is compatible with. You may have to restart several times if you are behind on updates — that’s okay! It’s just your Mac working through all the important software changes.
If you can’t install the latest MacOS software because your Mac model is too old (for example, a model from 2010 may not be able to handle the latest OS updates), then you should consider a future hardware upgrade for better performance.
Your software is causing an error
Sometimes, programs and apps that you downloaded onto MacOS may be causing a problem. This happens when software causes a serious, unrecoverable problem and your Mac says, “Whoa, that is NOT supposed to be happening and I need to restart ASAP!” otherwise known as the dreaded kernel panic. You can tell a kernel panic happened because you’ll see a message on restart that says something like, “Your computer restarted because of a problem.”
Kernel panic doesn’t always mean there’s something irrevocably wrong with your computer, but it does mean you may have to make some changes. It’s especially true if recent software is causing the issue. First, look at the popup message and see if there’s an option to look at with a “More Info…” button. This doesn’t always tell the average user much, but sometimes the problem details will show the name of the software causing the problem so you know where to look.
First, see if any third-party software needs to be independently updated. Sometimes that’s all it takes to fix the problem. If this doesn’t work, try removing recent third-party software entirely from your Mac and restart (your startup message may include a “Move to Trash” option to help with this. If removing the software fixes the problem, then you’ll have to avoid downloading that particular program, at least until it gets an update. On the plus side, removing unneeded software is a good way to speed up your Mac.
Your peripheral devices are causing a malfunction
Another common cause of kernel panic is an accessory or peripheral device that isn’t working properly with MacOS, creating kernel panic every time you try to use it (this can be immediately on startup up or a few minutes after turning your Mac on, depending on the situation). Fortunately, this is an easy problem to diagnose. Simply remove everything attached to your Mac — that includes mice, keyboards, drives, anything connected to your ports. Generally, Apple devices like the Magic Mouse are fine if you need at least one device connected to use your Mac. If you can restart successful and your Mac continues to operate without incident, then you know one of the peripherals is probably at fault.
Plug in one peripheral at a time and keep testing your Mac. If you find a peripheral that makes the computer crash and reboot, then you have found the issue. The best thing to do is to remove all third-party RAM uploaded to your Mac and stop using the peripheral. It’s sad but true.
Your settings need to be reset
Sometimes there isn’t anything intrinsically wrong with your Mac, but a recent change caused setting problems on startup that initiate a kernel panic. When this happens, your Mac may try to reboot just as it’s loading up. It may not even allow you to access anything beyond the login screen.
You can often fix this issue by resetting your Mac hardware settings. This will revert any changes you’ve made, such as to the screen or to battery behaviors. However, it can also fix your problem!
First, reset your NVRAM or PRAM. The easiest way to do this is to press the “option,” “command,” “P,” and “R” keys at the same time as your Mac is turning back on. Hold the keys down for around 20 seconds.
Second, reset your System Management Controller, or SMC. There are a few different ways to do this based on the type of Mac that you have, so take a look at specific instructions for each case.
If these resets solve your problem, your Mac should be good to go.
There’s a flaw in MacOS and you need to reinstall it
Sometimes minor resets aren’t enough to fix the problem. In these cases, the kernel panic is rooted deep in a native operating system problem (and occasionally, even hardware problems). Here, the best way to solve the problem is to reinstall MacOS. The good news is that this is basically guaranteed to fix any native problem that’s causing kernel panic. The bad news is that your data may not survive. Start with reinstalling MacOS using the linked instructions, but without fully erasing the disk first. If this doesn’t work, you may need to erase the disk to completely fix the issue.
If you are experiencing kernel panic or nothing seems to work, contact a local Apple Store and arrange for an appointment. Likewise, if you are afraid of losing your valuable data, make a visit to an Apple Store and see what solutions they can set you up with. Sometimes these restart issues are too complex to easily deal with on your own, so getting professional help is a good idea.