What to do if your MacBook keeps shutting down

9 min read

We’ve been taught that Apple devices are a standard of reliability. If you want a stable computer, you get a Mac. If you want a phone that can handle hours of unbreakable connection, you get an iPhone. There’s some truth to it, but it would be wrong to think Apple devices are invincible. If you’ve ever experienced random Mac shutdowns, you know for sure Apple experience is not always flawless. 

Worst of all, shutdowns might happen while you’re working on something important. This can result in lost data and your work being seriously delayed. In this article, we’ve collected all the fixes you’ll ever need if your Mac starts randomly shutting down. It also includes a guide to fixing a 13-inch MacBook Pro misbehavior. 

How to fix your Mac shutting down 

Restarting your Mac is always the first idea that should come to mind. And sometimes, it really helps. Even though your Mac is technically shut down, restart Mac once again — the proper way. This will kill the background processes, ensuring your Mac has a healthy startup. 

Once you power up your Mac after a shutdown, press Command + Alt + Esc to force quit background apps and then put your Mac to sleep, restart, or shut down from the Apple menu. 

Chrome shut down

Unfortunately, this will hardly prevent your computer from shutting down again. If your computer keeps shutting down, consider SMC and PRAM resetting. 

Reset the SMC

The SMC (System Management Controller) is responsible for battery and thermal management as well as any processes related to closing and opening your MacBook lid and pressing the power button. Clearly, it might be a part of the shutdown problem. 

There are some differences on how to reset the SMC, depending on the type of computer you own. Pick your device from the list below and try it out. 

MacBooks with removable or nonremovable battery

Reset the SMC on Mac laptops with removable battery: 
  1. Shut down your Mac. 
  2. Remove the battery (if you don’t want to do it yourself, go to the nearest Apple Service Center or Apple Retail Store). 
  3. Press and hold the power button for a few seconds. 
  4. Reinstall the battery and turn on your computer. 
Reset the SMC on Mac laptops with nonremovable battery: 
  1. Shut down your Mac from the Apple menu. 
  2. Hold Shift + Control + Option + the Power button (or Touch ID button) for about 10 seconds. 
  3. Release the keys and turn on your computer.

Mac desktop computers 

Here’s how to reset the SMC if you’re an owner of iMac, Mac Mini, Mac Pro, or Xserve. Note that this method works only for desktop computers without the Apple T2 Security Chip. 

  1. Shut down your Mac from the Apple menu. 
  2. Unplug the power cord and wait for about 15 seconds. 
  3. Plug the power cord back in and wait for about another 5 seconds. 
  4. Turn on your computer. 

Computers that have the Apple T2 Security Chip 

Here’s the complete list of Macs with the Apple T2 Security Chip: 

  • iMac Pro 
  • Mac Pro (2019) 
  • Mac mini (2018) 
  • MacBook Air (2018 or later)
  • MacBook Pro (2018 or later). 

You can also find out whether your computer has the T2 Security Chip by holding Option > Apple Menu > System Information. From there, navigate to Controller or iBridge in the sidebar. You’ll find the answer under “Model Name.”

macbook controller info

Here’s how to reset SMC if your computer has the T2 Chip: 
  1. Shut down your Mac from the Apple menu. 
  2. Hold the power button for about 10 seconds. 
  3. Release the power button and wait for a few seconds before turning on your Mac. 

If it didn’t work, try shutting down your Mac and then unplug the power cord. Wait for about 15 seconds, plug the power cord back in, and turn on your computer. 

Here’s how to reset SMC if your computer doesn’t have the T2 Chip: 

The traditional reset method for Macs without the T2 Chip is identical to the one described above. However, if it doesn’t eliminate the problem, you might need to try this one: 

  1. Shut down your Mac from the Apple menu. 
  2. Press and hold the right Shift key + the left Option key + the left Control key for about 7 seconds.  
  3. Once the Apple logo appears on your screen, continue holding Shift, Option, and Control + the Power button for another 7 seconds. 
  4. Wait for your Mac to turn off and release the buttons. 
  5. Turn on the computer again. 

Reset the PRAM 

PRAM, or Parameter RAM, is another part of your computer that might be responsible for misbehavior. It stores lots of minor preferences — including those related to the startup disk. Resetting PRAM might be a good way to prevent shutdowns: 

  1. Shut down your Mac from the Apple Menu. 
  2. Press the Power button and hold Command + Shift + P + R. 
  3. Release the keys once you see the Apple logo for the second time, hear the second startup time, or after 20 seconds. 

After resetting PRAM, you might need to go to the System Preferences and adjust some of your settings — including volume and display resolution. 

Update your macOS 

There’s always less likelihood your Mac will be shutting down if you keep the macOS up-to-date. Unless you use 32-bit apps that are unsupported on macOS Catalina and macOS Big Sur, we recommend to upgrade your Mac. You can check for any pending updates in Apple Menu > About This Mac > Software Update.

Software Update mac

Sometimes a Mac update is too large to install on your existing system without wiping the data on your Mac. Remember to backup all of your essential information before you wipe your Mac or reinstall your macOS.

Get Backup Pro is an excellent tool that can help you backup your important files and safeguard from data loss. You can use the app to back up select files and folders, create incremental or versioned backups. You can even have compressed backups to save space.

If your MacBook Pro randomly shuts off, you may find yourself with unsaved data you might want to recover.

Disk Drill is one of the most popular tools users love to employ when they need to dig up deleted or unsaved info on their Macs. The app can help you recover deleted files, unearth lost or damaged files, and help back up data. While the app is not magic, it can effectively scan your hard drive for not indexed files and recover as much as possible.

dig up deleted or unsaved info

How to fix 13-inch MacBook Pro shutting down 

If you have a Mac Pro with a Touch Bar instead of function keys, there’s a dedicated troubleshooting method for your device. While Apple hasn’t launched the hardware replacement program for this device yet, it’s important you make note of the following: 

  1. Discharge your MacBook Pro battery to 90% and below.
  2. Close all open applications. 
  3. Connect the charger and switch to the Sleep Mode. 
  4. Close the lid and let your Mac Pro charge for about 8 hours. 
  5. Turn on your computer and update it to the latest macOS version. 

If MacBook keeps restarting 

Another issue is your Mac getting into the loop of constant restarting. It might be impossible to trace the reason for such restarts, so make sure you know all the fixes. But before taking any further steps, create a bootable back up of your disk with Get Backup Pro to keep everything you store on your Mac protected. 

Disconnect peripheral devices 

Make sure no external devices such as hard drives or printers are connected to your Mac. If it’s a desktop computer, you might leave a keyboard, mouse, and a display connected — but nothing beyond that. Turn on your Mac and continue working as usual. 

Update software

Quite often, outdated software might cause restarting. Here are a few tips on how to deal with it: 

  • Update apps if you have any software updates pending. 
  • If there’s a particular app causing the problem, contact the developers to help you solve it, or remove the app from Mac. 
  • Reinstall third-party apps. 

Reinstall macOS

If you’ve exhausted all the options to fix the random shutdown issue or if your MacBook Air or Pro keeps shutting down on startup, your next step would be to reinstall macOS from Recovery. 

You’ll need to erase your startup disk first, but with the data backed up, you can do that knowing your important information is saved safely outside your Mac. You can check the detailed instructions on how to reinstall macOS on the Apple official support page

Keep your Mac healthy and avoid the trouble 

In many cases, random shutdowns have their symptoms: Your computer starts slowing down, the fans run at full speed and make loud noise, the apps go unresponsive. The other times, there’s no sign. Nothing. So it’s better to keep your Mac performance controlled so that you be warned whenever something goes wrong. 

Tidy up your Mac with CleanMyMac X 

CleanMyMac X is a cleaning utility for Mac that makes your machine tidier and therefore faster and stronger. It eliminates all the clutter from your hard drive and operating system in one scan. 

clean your mac with cleanmymac

Cluttered Mac is generally slower. If there are heaps of apps that haven’t been updated on your Mac, it can also shut down unexpectedly. This is where CMMX comes to help. From old caches to duplicates, CleanMyMac X wipes away everything that might be hampering your progress. The app will tell you about malware threats and let you know if there are any particularly large files you haven’t attended to. 

Monitor Mac’s health 

Your Mac will give you a hint when it’s not doing well if you have iStat Menus. The app adds tons of Mac health indicators to your menu bar. You’ll be able to control free disk space, instantly see what apps are draining your Mac’s battery, and view active processes. It’s the best way to ensure your computer never even starts misbehaving. 

iStat menus Mac's health monitor

You can also reduce the burden on your Mac by slowing down or stopping background apps.

App Tamer is the tool to help you do exactly that. The app allows you to choose which apps you want to “tame” and set CPU limits. This can free up your Mac’s power for things you actually need to do as well as help prevent your Mac from using up its CPU on processes you don’t really need.

limit background CPU usage

What to do If your computer keeps shutting down 

Take it to the nearest Apple Service Center. If you’ve tried to force shutdown Mac, reset SMC/PRAM, and update your macOS, but your Mac continues acting naughty, you’ll need to get service for your Mac. Most likely, it will be wiped — so prepare a backup in advance. Anyway, we wish you a long-living Mac and a productive work routine!


Why does my Mac keep shutting down? That’s the question some of us have been reluctantly faced, and the solutions vary between just a few resets and taking your device to service. Start with the simpler ones and move up the list.

Once you’ve resolved your issue, feel free to try the tools we mentioned in the article to help keep your Mac in the tip-top shape: CleanMyMac X to remove junk files and clean out malware, iStat Menus for monitoring your Mac’s health, App Tamer to limit CPU usage for background apps, Get Backup Pro to make backups of your valuable info, and Disk Drill to recover any lost files.

All the apps are part of the Setapp collection for productivity and tackling daily tasks on your Mac. You can try them all with your free 7-day trial along with dozens more tools to improve your work and handle day-to-day tasks better, faster, and more efficiently.

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