Mac stuck on loading screen at startup: How to fix Apple startup issues

In most circumstances, booting up a computer is a quick process. Usually takes no more than a minute. But when your Mac is starting to fail, it will show signs that it is not working properly. This may sometimes reflect in the MacOS startup process. Startup processes are pretty frustrating, as you might not even be able to get your Mac to boot at all.

The problem looks like this: Your Mac does get to the Apple logo splash screen. You may also get the Mac startup chime as well. Then instead of booting up properly, you reach a loading bar screen that does not seem to finish loading. It may get to near completion and stay there, or turn off or restart itself.

This MacOS start up issue can come out of nowhere and be quite troublesome to face. Have no fear, you can definitely test your Mac for issues on your own to understand it. Let’s look at why this happens and what you can do to fix this problem. Check out our solutions to other Apple MacOS startup issues, like “How to fix Apple question mark folder at startup”.

The MacOS start up process

When you turn on your Mac, the firmware runs the “Power-On Self Test” (POST). This tests your Mac’s hardware to make sure it is fit to boot up. It includes testing components like the processors, memory, and peripherals. If your Mac passes POST, it will get to the Apple logo splash screen and eventually boots up successfully. If not, it will stay on a black screen and won’t boot at all. This is a sign that some of your hardware might not be working at all. It usually means a motherboard failure.

After passing POST, your Mac will go through the startup process. This involves certain bootup files and the MacOS on the hard drive. If the startup process is taking too long and is having trouble booting up, there might be a problem with your hard drive. Other components that are crucial for startup, namely the RAM and video card, could also be causing this issue.

Faulty components that could be causing this startup issue

Before we look at what could be causing this loading bar startup error, there are a few simple things you could try. Try restarting your Mac first, or reinstall MacOS from MacOS Recovery.

A computer restart is something we always recommend doing, as it can actually do a lot. You can try doing this to refresh your Mac and possibly solve bugs. This could also boot your Mac successfully again.

MacOS Utilities

Alternatively, you could try reinstalling MacOS from Recovery options. Reinstalling MacOS is also a way to refresh your Mac, and could buy you some time before any part of your Mac does fail. If you still get startup issues after trying these fixes, you might have to really look into what hardware issues you have. This brings us to how you can test your hardware for issues that need repairing.

Hard drive

2.5 hard drive HDD

Your hard drive, whether it may be a hard disk drive, flash storage, or fusion drive, is used as the startup disk. This means its normal functioning is crucial for the startup processes. The drive contains the MacOS, along with information needed for the process. When the drive fails and files become corrupted or lost, your Mac may have trouble starting up properly.

Most components on your Mac will fail eventually, and that unfortunately includes the storage drive. In fact, it is a very common computer issue that computer users face. Once a hard drive accumulates too many bad sectors, it will start to fail. Its failure will cause startup issues like the question mark folder error, or cause your Mac to slow down significantly. Data loss or corruption may also occur with a hard drive failure, so keeping regular backups is a useful habit to have.

The solution: Test and repair

There are a few ways to test a hard drive when you can’t get your Mac to boot properly. You can use Disk Utility and Apple Diagnostics from your Mac to do so. To enter Disk Utility from MacOS Recovery, you’ll need to restart your Mac and hold Command + “R” when you reach the Apple logo screen. Disk Utility can perform a quick scan of your hard drive and attempt repairs if possible. It can repair soft bad sectors and isolate hard bad sectors.

Holding down the “D” key will get you to Apple Diagnostics. This is a diagnostics tool for components across your Mac. After a full scan of your system, Apple Diagnostics can detect issues on parts like the hard drive, RAM, or battery. The error reports also come with reference codes for you to report to Apple support or for further research use.

Otherwise, you may also take out the drive entirely and test it on another Mac desktop computer with hard drive analysis software. Free software like WD Data Lifeguard can do more extensive and thorough tests on your hard drive. This method usually takes longer than using built-in Mac diagnostic tools.

Running tests will then confirm whether your hard drive is failing or not. If it is what’s causing your startup issues, it will probably need to be replaced. Learn more about replacing an Apple hard drive in our guide to Apple hard drive repairs.

Video card

A Nvidia video card on a motherboard

Your Mac’s display depends on the video card to work. The video card is responsible for generating a digital image feed. This is sent through the screen cable to reach the screen display. This is a constant visual feed of whatever you’re working on your Mac. Together with the video card, different parts of your Mac work together to display images correctly on screen. As your Mac does need to show a display once it’s turned on, the video card is surely critical for normal MacOS startup.

When a video card does start to fail, it may make things harder for the system to boot up. While it may not show image distortion like usual video card faults do, it can also disrupt the MacOS startup process. Without any visual clues to a video card failure, thorough testing is usually called for.

The solution: Test video card with software and replace

Again, you may use Apple Diagnostics (D key at startup) to test your video card along with other components. We also recommend using FurMark video card testing software from Geeks3D. This free video card analysis software, like hard drive analysis software, offers more in-depth tests and results. If you do find video card errors from these tests, you can start looking into replacement solutions.

Unfortunately, video cards on Apple Macbook laptops are embedded on the logic board, so you’ll need to replace the logic board as well. Only most Mac desktop computers have detachable videos that are available for testing and replacing.


RAM memory chips on motherboard

Your Mac’s virtual storage is significant for multitasking and general normal functioning. Its non-volatile memory stores information readily available for you to use at your convenience. This keeps everything running smoothly, and you won’t have to worry about overloading your Mac all the time. Although less likely, a RAM failure may also create MacOS startup issues.

The solution: Test with software or spare RAM and replace

The RAM on Macbook laptops are also usually built-in on the logic board, so you can only test it with Apple Diagnostics or software. RAM diagnostics software like MemTest86 can help you with that.

Some Macbook laptops and most Mac desktop computers have detachable RAM chips. You may take them out and test your system out with a spare chip of RAM if you have one around. If the loading bar issue still appears at startup, then you can eliminate the RAM as the culprit. This means your RAM is working fine and something else is causing the problem.

Once again, like the video card, you’ll need to replace the logic board if the embedded RAM is faulty. For detachable RAM chips, you can just swap it out with a new and compatible one. It’s as easy as that.

Apple Mac hardware repairs

man using laptop

One thing that affects how we go about Mac repairs is the parts that Apple uses in their devices. Certain Mac computers contain proprietary parts that are specific to MacOS devices. They are made to only work for Apple computers. So this would take some time to look for the compatible replacement part. If the part is out of market or discontinued, looking for a different but compatible part would also take some time.

Proprietary pentalobe screws that are used on some Macbooks can also make things harder for the at-home DIY repairs. Most consumers may not have the right screwdriver or screws to open up their laptops, and they can be quite expensive as well.

Soldered or glued-on parts is also an example of this. The low repairability of most Apple computers can give them quite a short lifespan, considering that sometimes it may not be worth it to get it fixed without damaging other parts. With that said, you may look to a professional technician to get your Mac repaired with no fuss.

Professional repairs

The Apple store or an Apple-authorised service centre is where you can get things done. With Apple Care or a valid warranty, you can typically get support services for your faulty Mac for free. If your Mac is deemed obsolete (from before 2012) by Apple, you might not be able to get free support that easily. This also applies for expired warranties.

So what else? A third-party repair service might be the final option for your professional repair needs. If so, our expert service at Safemode Computer Service might be something to consider! We offer highly-rated Apple Mac repair services, which is widely known across Sydney. Located in the Inner West, we can offer convenient and trusted services for your faulty Mac, test and recommend the right solution for you. Come by our store for a chat! We are in Enmore, Inner West Sydney.