How to Troubleshoot and Fix a Gray Screen at Mac Startup

Stuck with a gray screen on your Mac? This guide may help you get you out of the gray area!

Has your Mac ever greeted you with an unwelcome, persistent gray screen during startup? If you’re nodding your head right now, rest assured, you’re not the only one. This notorious Gray Screen scenario is a common stumbling block many Mac users experience.

Mac with gray screen

Instead of the iconic Apple logo to welcome you, your screen stays frustratingly blank and gray, almost as if your Mac is in a stubborn mood and refuses to cooperate.

The gray screen is actually a tell-tale sign that your Mac is having a tough time loading the essential applications it needs to boot up smoothly.

Common Causes of Gray Screen:

There are several potential reasons behind this issue:

1. Corrupted Startup or Login Items

These are applications programmed to launch automatically when you log into your Mac. If these items become corrupted or aren’t compatible with your macOS, they could trigger the gray screen problem.

2. Peripheral Devices

Connected peripherals, such as printers, external storage devices, or other USB devices, can sometimes interfere with the startup process, causing the gray screen issue.

3. App or Hardware Issues

Less frequently, a gray screen at startup could signal a more serious problem with your Mac’s software or hardware.

How to Fix Gray Screen at Startup

Here’s how you might go about resolving a Gray Screen at startup:

1. Disconnect All Peripheral Devices

Start by unplugging all external devices from your Mac, including printers, external storage devices, and other USB devices. After disconnecting them, try restarting your Mac.

If your Mac starts up properly, you can start reconnecting the devices one by one. This will help you identify the device causing the issue.

2. Boot into Safe Mode

If disconnecting peripherals doesn’t solve the problem, try booting your Mac into Safe Mode.

Mac in Safe Mode

For Macs with Apple Silicon:

  1. Shut down your Mac and wait for it to completely shut down.
  2. Then press and hold the power button until “Loading startup options” appears.
  3. Select a volume.
  4. Press and hold the Shift key, then click “Continue in Safe Mode.”

For Intel-based Macs:

  1. Restart your Mac and immediately hold down the Shift key as soon as you hear the startup chime.
  2. Release the Shift key when you see the login screen.

Safe Mode disables certain applications and clears out various system caches, which may help to resolve the issue.

3. Check Your Disk with Disk Utility

If you can boot into Safe Mode successfully, use Disk Utility to check your startup disk for errors.

To do this, reboot your Mac and hold down Command + R to enter Recovery Mode during startup.

Once in Recovery Mode, select "Disk Utility", choose your startup disk, and click on “First Aid” to check for and repair errors.

Disk Utility First Aid

4. Reset the NVRAM

NVRAM (Non-volatile random-access memory) is a small amount of memory that your Mac uses to store certain settings for quick access. Resetting the NVRAM can sometimes resolve startup issues.

To reset the NVRAM, shut down your Mac, then turn it on and immediately press and hold these four keys together: Option, Command, P, and R. Release the keys after about 20 seconds.

Mac NVRAM reset

This action should reset the NVRAM.

5. Reinstall macOS

If all the above steps fail, you may need to reinstall macOS. This can be done from Recovery Mode by pressing Command + R at startup. Choose “Reinstall macOS” and follow the prompts.

Reinstall macOS

One more thing – It’s a good idea to back up your data regularly so you can restore it if you encounter issues like the Gray Screen at startup.