Frequently Asked Question

Resolving kernel panic on a MacBook
Last Updated 7 years ago

If your Mac restarts unexpectedly, or freezes and becomes unresponsive, an error known as a “kernel panic” occurred. After the restart, you’ll see a message that your computer restarted because of a problem. The most likely cause is faulty software. A kernel panic can also be caused by damaged or incompatible hardware, including external devices attached to your Mac.

If the kernel panic is caused by a known problem, the faulty software is identified. To make sure that this software doesn’t continue to cause kernel panics, move it to the Trash.If the faulty software is not identified and your Mac continues to experience kernel panics, follow the troubleshooting steps below.

1. Restart your computer in safe mode by holding down the shift key as soon as you hear the start up tone, not releasing it until the spinning gear appears. Once you're logged in, click the apple logo at the top left of the screen and select software update. Download and install any updates available.

Uninstall any plug-ins or other enhancement software from manufacturers other than Apple. If you recently updated OS X or an app, plug-ins and other software that worked in the past may no longer be compatible. Read the manufacturer’s documentation (including Read Me notes) to be sure the software is compatible with your version of OS X.

3. Reset parameter random-access memory (PRAM). To do this, shut down your Mac and locate the "option", "command", "P", and "R" keys. Turn your Mac on and immediately press and hold those four keys (before the gray screen appears) until you hear the start up tone a second time. This action may change some settings and preferences. Use system preferences to restore those.

Use Disk Utility to repair your startup disk or your disk permissions, or both. To do this, turn your computer on and immediately hold down the "command" and "R" keys. In the "OS X Utilities" box that pops up, select "Disk Utility" and "continue". Select "Macintosh HD" at the left of the following window, then choose "Repair Disk" at the bottom right of the window. (If Repair Disk is unavailable, click Verify Disk. If the disk needs repairs, you'll be given instructions for repairing the disk from the Recovery HD.)

5. Disconnect all USB and FireWire devices, except for the Apple keyboard and mouse. Remove hardware upgrades from other manufacturers, such as random–access memory (RAM) and Peripheral Component Interconnect cards. Then try restarting your Mac.If this resolves the issue, reconnect one device at a time, restarting your Mac after reconnecting each one, until you determine which device is causing the problem.

6. Use Apple Diagnostics or Apple Hardware Test. (These apps can tell you if hardware you installed, such as additional memory, is incompatible, improperly installed, or defective.) To do this, disconnect all external devices except the keyboard, mouse, display, and speakers. If you have an Ethernet cable or external DVD drive, disconnect it. Make sure you are connected to the internet prior to this test. Turn your computer on and immediately hold down the "D" key. If your Mac is older than mid-2013, you will use Apple Hardware Test. If it's newer than that, you will use Apple Diagnostics. Whichever comes up, follow onscreen directions.

7. If none of these steps work, try reinstalling your operating system. (NOTE: USE TIME MACHINE TO BACK UP YOUR COMPUTER BEFORE TRYING THIS.) Turn your computer on and immediately hold down "command" and "R". Select "Reinstall OS X" and "continue" from the resulting window. If your files are erased during this step, wait a few hours after it is completed, then start your computer holding down "command" and "R" again and select "Restore From Time Machine Backup" and "continue".

If none of these solutions resolve the issue, take your computer in to your local Apple Store for assistance. If you have Apple Care, their service will most likely be free.


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