How do I repair my MacBook Pro

Repair and restore a broken Mac - Here's how

Glenn Fleishman, Kris Wallburg

If your Mac from any of the newer generations won't boot, you can try repairing or restoring it.

EnlargeIf your Mac doesn't start anymore, in the worst case scenario, you'll have to restore it.

Despite our best efforts, sometimes a macOS update goes wrong, e.g. B. if the power fails in the middle of the process. Other glitches can occur, including those that are undiagnosed.

If your Intel Mac with a T2 security chip or an M1 Apple Silicon Mac doesn't start normally or through recoveryOS, you can try to fix it. To do this, you need to fix the aspects of the firmware that are responsible for security and startup management. Your data will be retained.

If that fails, you can opt for a recovery that will completely erase the computer, but get it working again. Both processes are intended for system administrators, but anyone can use them.

(You start recoveryOS by starting or restarting an Intel Mac while holding down Command-R, or by completely shutting down your M1 Mac and then holding down the power button for about 10 seconds until the options cog appears).

This repair or recovery process only works on Intel Macs with the T2 chip, which includes all Intel models shipped from 2018 plus the 2017 iMac Pro, and the three M1-based Macs launched in 2020 came. Of all these models, only the 2019 Mac Pro offers a visual indication that something is wrong with its firmware or the startup process: its status light glows yellow and flashes SOS in Morse code (three short, three long and three short) when it is revived got to.

Apple provides complicated instructions for suitable Intel Macs and all M1-based Macs aimed at computer professionals in schools and businesses. That's a lot for "normal" users, so here's a simplified guide to help you get through. The only time you need to refer to Apple's more detailed instructions is to look up the Thunderbolt port images described below.

First, you'll need to download Apple Configurator 2, a free utility from Apple designed for provisioning and managing Apple devices (requires macOS Catalina or higher).

Next, you need to make sure you have the correct cables. Apple requires the Mac being resuscitated to be plugged in, including laptops, and that power cannot be provided by another Mac over USB-C. However, you also need a USB-C data cable to connect the two Macs, and it has to be a simple USB-C cable designed for USB 3.1 Gen 2 or higher, not a Thunderbolt 3 cable.

You can now set up the recovery process.

Repair your Mac

In none of the cases below will you see anything on the screen until the Configurator has started working. Follow these steps:

  1. Install Configurator 2 on the Mac that you will be using to revive your unresponsive computer.

  2. Unplug your unresponsive Mac, whether it's an AC-powered iMac, iMac Pro, or Mac mini, or a laptop that's plugged into an AC adapter. For a laptop, press and hold the power button for about five seconds to make sure the device is turned off. If it's a Mac mini or iMac Pro, make sure you have a monitor connected so you can see the progress later during the wake-up (or recovery) process.

  3. Connect the Mac that is restoring the other to a specific port on the unresponsive Mac. A Thunderbolt port on every Mac that supports this technology is specially designed for resuscitation or recovery. See the list at the end of this article to find yours.

  4. Turn on the unresponsive Mac as follows:

  • Intel Mac mini, iMac, or iMac Pro: Hold down the power button, plug it in, and hold it down for an additional three seconds.

  • Intel Mac laptop (any model): Press and hold the power button and left control button, left option button, and right shift button at the same time for about three seconds.

  • M1 Mac mini: Make sure the power has been off for more than 10 seconds, press and hold the power button, connect the computer to the power source, and release the button. Its status light should now glow yellow.

  • M1 MacBook Air or 13-inch MacBook Pro: This is similar to the Intel models, but note the differences. First press the power button, then immediately hold the power button along with the left control button, left option button, and right shift button for about ten seconds. Release Control, Option, and Shift, but continue holding the Power key until the Configurator appears on the connected Mac.

Now you can try repairing the firmware which will keep all of your files intact:

  • On the Mac that is running Configurator, your other Mac should appear in its device window if you've connected the cables correctly. Select the Mac you're connected to, then choose Actions> Advanced> Repair Device and click Repair.

  • The unresponsive Mac temporarily displays an Apple logo while it is being repaired. If successful, it will be restarted.

  • MacOS may still not work properly even after the repair works. In this case, however, the Mac is now responsive and has recoveryOS installed correctly. You can reboot into recoveryOS as described above and then reinstall macOS without deleting your files.

  • You can disconnect the cables from the other Mac

Restore the Mac

If this process fails, you may not be able to recover data from this Mac and it will require a full recovery that will reset the Mac and erase its contents. This is a very last resort, and if you have unique data that has not been backed up, you should look for another way to rescue data from this Mac before proceeding.

To restore your Mac's firmware after making sure you've extracted all of the files you need:

  • On the Mac running Configurator, select the Mac you are connected to in its Devices window, then choose Actions> Advanced> Restore and click Restore.

  • The unresponsive Mac displays an Apple logo while the restore is in progress. If the restore is successful, it will restart.

  • On an Intel Mac: Now hold down Shift-Option-Command-R to install the version of macOS that came with your Mac or the oldest version still available. After the reinstallation, you can upgrade to a later macOS.

  • With an M1-based Mac: The macOS Setup Wizard will appear to guide you through installing Big Sur.

  • You can disconnect the cables from the other Mac.

Which connector to use

Apple has smuggled in a special feature for one of the Thunderbolt ports on every Mac covered by this repair and recovery feature. Here is the listing, which you can also see graphically in the support document for Intel Macs and M1 Macs. When it comes to things to the left and right, always assume that they are facing the side of the device with the connections.

  • Intel Mac Mini: Thunderbolt port on the far right

  • Intel Mac Laptops: When looking at the left side of the laptop, the Thunderbolt port is on the right

  • Intel 2020 iMac or iMac Pro: the rightmost Thunderbolt port on the back of the device, regardless of whether there are four (iMac Pro) or two (iMac)

  • Intel 2019 Mac Pro (Tower): the Thunderbolt port farther from the power button on the top of the computer

  • Intel 2019 Mac Pro (rack mount): the Thunderbolt port is closer to the power button

  • M1 Mac Mini: the Thunderbolt port on the left, furthest from the HDMI port

  • M1 Mac Laptops: The Thunderbolt port on the left side of the laptop (there is no Thunderbolt port on the other side of these models).

This guide was translated from our sister publication