Summary: This page helps you login to your MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, iMac, Mac mini. It fixes 'Mac stuck on the login screen' issue after (or before) entering the right password.

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Admittedly, Mac computers are powerful and reliable. But macOS is not immune to errors and corruption. Many users have reported the same problem: Mac stuck on a login screen.

Chances are that Mac won't let you log in with right password. Or you can't enter the password at all because the Mac freezes at login screen and the mouse won't move. Most of the time a force reboot might fix the problem, but it might be worse if the Mac computer won't boot after the latest macOS update.

In this post, you can unfrozen the iMac or MacBook from the login screen by:

  • Disabling Login items at startup
  • Booting into Safe and Verbose Mode
  • Resetting NVRAM/PRAM
  • Troubleshooting Mac in macOS Recovery mode
  • Reinstalling macOS

Two situations your Mac gets stuck on login screen

Before you go further, you should know there are two kinds of Mac OS X signin problems. It depends on if you have enabled FileVault to encrypt your startup drive.

1. Mac won't load past login screen after entering password

It happens to users who encrypt the system drive. You'll be asked for a password before you see the progress bar. Siri download for macbook air. In this case, the password is usually accepted, but Mac is stuck on the loading bar. The loading bar may stop somewhere between 50% and 75%, or even 100%.

You can't login to your Mac in this situation because of a Kernel program incompatibility, file system corruption, or some core data lost.

2. Mac won't accept password or you can't enter password in sign in screen

Another case is that the startup is not encrypted by FileVault or APFS feature. Assuming that you use a MacBook Pro, you'll see the loading bar first. But the MacBook Pro's login screen may not appear or gets stuck. MacBook Pro won't accept password but freezes with a spinning wheel or you are unable to type in password.

This MacBook login problem is usually caused by software conflicts, frozen software, or configuration errors.

What to do when Mac stuck on login screen?

Anyhow, these methods would help Mac boot past frozen login screen.

Solution 1: Bypass Login items at startup

In some cases, it's software that stops you from getting to your Mac. Then, you can try these steps to sign in your iMac or MacBook.

  1. Start your MacBook normally.
  2. On the sign in page, enter the admin account and password if you can, but DON'T click on Log in immediately (in case of a login loop).
  3. Press and hold the Shift key to stop frozen apps launching. And then, you can click on the Login button.

Solution 2: Boot your Mac in Safe Mode

Booting Mac into Safe Mode will only launch necessary programs. It's efficient to isolate incompatible software and repair some errors when Mac login window not responding.

To boot into Safe Mode:

  1. Press and hold the Shift key while tapping the power button to restart your Mac.
  2. Release the Shift key till you see the Apple logo and loading bar.
  3. If your Mac loads successfully in Safe Mode, try to uncheck login items in Users & Groups.

Sometimes Apple computer won't let you login to Safe Mode because FileVault is enabled. You could decrypt your startup drive temporarily by booting Password Reset Assistant. This makes Safe Mode be able to check and repair errors before the login window appears.

If you succeed in turning off FileVault, you can restart your Mac normally. Then you can see if it brings up the login window. But if the progress bar is stuck underneath the Apple icon, you can try Safe Mode again after turning off the FileVault.

Solution 3: Reset NVRAM / PRAM

NVRAM, as well as PRAM, is a small amount of memory that your Mac uses to store certain settings and access them quickly. Thus, whenever your Mac won't boot, you can try to reset the NVRAM / PRAM.

Now, restart your Mac and simultaneously press Command + Option + P + R keys for about 20 seconds until your Mac restart automatically.

Solution 4: Boot your Mac into macOS Recovery mode

Mac could freeze on the login screen in a normal boot. But if you can boot into macOS Recovery Mode, you could troubleshoot this issue more easily. Recovery mode, sometimes called sigle-user mode, is a lite built-in macOS utility to check and repair some system issues.

To boot into macOS Recovery Mode:

  1. Press and hold the power button until the Mac turns off.
  2. Restart the Mac and immediately press and hold the Command and R keys.
  3. Release those keys when you see the loading bar.

If you successfully boot into macOS Recovery Mode, you'll see a macOS Utilities screen. (In some old system, it's called Mac OS X Utilities.) Then, you can do several things to fix the Mac stuck on login screen issue.

1. Repair the startup drive in Disk Utility

Probably, the Mac won't past the Apple logo or login screen because of file system or disk errors. Fortunately, you can check for and repair errors with the built-in tool First Aid.

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2. Reset password

Mac could be stuck on the login screen after you forget the Mac's password. If you've entered the wrong password too many times, the system could be locked. Then the Mac won't accept the password even it's the right one.

In this case, you may want to reset your Mac's login password by:

  1. 1. Entering your Apple ID
  2. 2. Providing recovery key if you have created on before.

Mac Lock Screen Command

You can also do this via Terminal.

  1. 1. In macOS Recovery mode, open the Terminal by clicking Utilities > Terminal in the top menu bar.
  2. 2. At the Terminal prompt, type resetpassword, and then hit Enter.
  3. 3. Follow its onscreen wizard to reset the password.

With the password hint, you can change the password of a non-encrypted account. Then you can restart your Mac and log in to your Mac again.

3. Check and fix user preference settings

Sometimes, the .plist files related to user preferences could be changed. Then, your login information would not be accepted.

In this case, you can use the mv command in Terminal to rename the preference folder. And you can troubleshoot and nuke the problematic .plist file easily.

The other times you can't log in to the Mac just because the access to the user directory was changed. You can run chmod to change the access permission.

4. Reset launch services database

If the Mac gets stuck on the login screen and won't accept the password, you can remove the .csstore file ( a launch services database) in Terminal and fix the problem.

  1. 1. Open Terminal in macOS Recovery mode.
  2. 2. At the Terminal prompt, type find /private/var/folders grep com.apple.LaunchServices grep csstore, and then hit Enter.
  3. 3. Remove every .csstore file you can find by rm command.

Hopefully, you can log in to your Mac after a rebooting.

5. Reinstall macOS in macOS Recovery mode

If you are not one of the situations above but see a folder with question mark on the Mac, you can simply reinstall the macOS to reset your Mac.

This will be helpful especially if you need to downgrade from a recent macOS Big Sur update to macOS Catalina.

How to prevent data loss when you can't log into the Mac?

Probably, you have tried out all the solutions above, but the Mac keeps getting stuck on login screen. Then, you might want to erase your disk to reinstall macOS.

Before heading to erase the Mac hard drive, please make sure you have backed up your data. If you don't have backups, you can use Mac data recovery software like iBoysoft Data Recovery for Mac. It would be helpful to recover lost data from the unbootable Mac.

To recover data from unbootable Mac, you need to run iBoysoft Data Recovery in macOS recovery mode.

Circle with a line through it

Learn what to do if your Mac starts up to a circle with a line through it (prohibitory symbol).

Question mark

Learn what to do if your Mac starts up to a question mark.

Options with a gear icon

Learn what to do if your Mac starts up to Options with a gear icon.

Blank (empty) screen

Learn what to do if your Mac starts up to a blank screen, such as an empty gray, black, or blue screen.

Apple logo

Learn what to do if your Mac starts up to an Apple logo or progress bar.

Globe with alert symbol

A globe with an exclamation point means that your Mac tried to start up from macOS Recovery over the Internet, but couldn't. Learn what to do if your Mac can't start up from macOS Recovery.

Lock icon

If your Mac is using a firmware password, the lock icon appears when you try to start up from another disk or volume, such as an external drive or macOS Recovery. Enter the firmware password to continue.

System lock PIN code

Your Mac asks for a PIN code when it has been remotely locked using Find My. Enter the four-digit or six-digit passcode to continue.

Login window

At the login window, enter your user account password to log in to your Mac. If FileVault is turned on, this also unlocks your disk. You might see a default desktop picture in the background, which might change to your chosen desktop picture when you select your account.

Thunderbolt, USB, or FireWire symbol

A large Thunderbolt , USB , or FireWire symbol against a dark background means that your Mac is in target disk mode.

Change Mac Lock Screen

Learn more

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  • Learn what to do if your Mac displays a message that it restarted because of a problem.
  • When starting up from Windows using Boot Camp, your Mac doesn't show an Apple logo or the other macOS screens in this article.