Useful Startup/Boot Keys For The Mac 18


Useful Startup/Boot Keys For The Mac


The boot process on a Mac is a magical process, all you see is a grey screen with the magic happening in the background. Did you know that very are various keys which you can use to change how you Mac boots and access certain settings. They are not for every day use, mostly troubleshooting. They are worth knowing if anything goes wrong.

There are a variety of keys which you can use. These have been found by searching the Internet on Apple’s website as well as other peoples sites. I have not tested every single command because I haven’t had time. Although I would take them in good faith.

During boot if you press:

C You start from a bootable CD such as your install DVD in the drive.

D Perform an Apple Hard ware test if you have your install DVD in the drive.

N Boot from a network compatible server. Only useful if you have the server.

T Start up in Target Disk mode. You can usually connect to another Mac through Firewire and do lots of funky things. Gone out of fashion and not used as much.

Option Start up using the Start Up Manager. Here you can pick which drive you want to boot from. Known to people who use BootCamp. You can also boot from a CD which is the same as press C.

Option then N Similar to the item above, except you get given the choice of booting from a network disk.

Option + N Boot from the first network boot image.

Command + V Boot up in Verbose mode, where you see lots of text whizzing by which is not a lot of use to you. I have written about this command here. It will also show Verbose output on shut down.

Command + S Single User Mode. This is where you can run a lot of high level tasks as a single user. Probably not for newbies. You could probably break your computer very quickly in Single User mode. More about it here.

Shift Start up in safe mode. Very useful if you have a problem and need an environment where you don’t want unnecessary things loaded. A good bet if you get Kernel panics during boot.

Option + Command + P + R Reset NVRAM. Although you will probably never need to reset this RAM it contents some useful stuff that can become corrupted. If you are having really bad problems this may be a good lead to follow. More information on Apple’s website.

Hold Eject or F12 or Mouse Eject anything that is in the disk drive. One to follow on from yesterdays topic.

I think that is just about it. I couldn’t find any more that worked with Mac OS X. If you have any more please leave a comment below. Its useful to have a list in case you ever need to use them.

If you want to keep up with the latests post from Mac Tricks And Tips I recommend you subscribe to the RSS Feed.

Where To Next?

  • Subscribe To Mac Tricks And Tips

18 Responses to “Useful Startup/Boot Keys For The Mac”

  1. 1

    Ive been looking around and again different places say different things.
    Does a macbook (older black) support BIOS booting because if it does that would be brilliant for booting DSL (Damn small Linux) from a USB thumb drive.



    Comment By GG on January 5th, at 8:49 pm

  2. 2

    I don’t think they do. I think all Mac’s are EFI which might make a difference.

    Comment By admin on January 5th, at 8:51 pm

  3. 3

    Aww mann!

    Comment By GG on January 5th, at 9:00 pm

  4. 4

    Just a comment about the TDM option:

    I think that this is one of the most useful features for a Mac. I have used this to diagnose so many problems, both hardware and software. I also use it to run disk repair. I don’t think it’s out of fashion, especially in the world of IT. Many people do not know about this function but I’m sure if they did they’d be very happy after using it to repair problems, or even to get data off drives where the computer fails to start.

    Just my two-cents.

    Comment By John Mahlman IV on January 5th, at 9:06 pm

  5. 5

    Concerning the Hardware test, you do not need a disk when you are test an intel based machine. (I’ve only tested this on a MBP (Early 2008), but, reading around, it appears that it works on any intel machine.)

    Comment By MacTipper on January 5th, at 9:21 pm

  6. 6

    Thanks for the tips. I didn’t no that.

    Comment By admin on January 5th, at 10:02 pm

  7. 7

    i don’t know what i did, but somehow i think i held down the F1 or F2 keys and it started with a blinking sun which is on the F1 & F2. Just lettin u know u should try it or put it in this post.

    Comment By c0d3 t3m9i5t on January 6th, at 5:18 am

  8. 8

    Command+Option+P+R is a PRAM reset. This is useful if you are having startup issues or some other funky things are happening during boot. Usually one of the first things a tech will do when diagnosing a problem with your Mac. Command+Option+N+V is an NVRAM reset but only works on non-intel machines. Boots to a sort of single user mode.

    Comment By ACMT GB on January 8th, at 3:31 pm

  9. 9

    Never heard of Command + Opt + N + V. To reset the NVRAM on a Macbook or MacBook Pro, you remove the battery and AC adapter than hold down the power key for 5 seconds, then replace the battery and AC adapter. This is a hardware reset.

    But yes, Cmd + Opt + P + R is a PRAM reset. With newer Macs (Intel-based) it is an also NVRAM reset. For an official Apple description, look here:

    and here:

    Comment By maccmann on January 12th, at 5:04 pm

  10. 10

    Mac OS X keyboard shortcuts

    Includes a few NOT listed above.

    Stephen the Mac-newbie.

    Comment By Stephen on January 13th, at 11:57 am

  11. 11

    great tips thanks allot for this I never even realized the mac had a verbose mode I love picking out exactly whats going on in the boot sequence

    Comment By sealy mattresses on January 14th, at 5:25 pm

  12. 12

    Holding down F1 during boot (after chime) makes a planet appear, which blinks three times. Then it continues booting as usual.

    Comment By jpomsims on February 8th, at 11:40 pm

  13. 13

    Really I didn’t know that.

    Comment By admin on February 9th, at 1:00 am

  14. 14

    if you want all the mac keyboard short cuts go to an download the xcuts widget

    Comment By scoot on February 15th, at 6:28 pm

  15. 15

    Awesome list of hotkeys, must forward on to my tech staff for reference.

    Comment By Brian Wahoff on March 4th, at 6:48 pm

  16. 16

    This is where you can run a lot of high level tasks as a single user.

    it’s a bit pedantic, but you mean ‘low-level’ when referring to single user mode. each ‘level’ describes a level of abstraction from the bare metal; so when you’re in aqua, it’s at a higher level of abstraction than if you avoided loading all of that and just went straight to the root prompt, single user.

    Comment By lowell on April 20th, at 6:20 am

  17. 17

    If you hold down OPTION F: you will get the dialog window that asks “did you ever fart so hard you ended up in another zip code?”

    Comment By Steve Jobs on August 12th, at 2:28 am

  18. 18

    steve — is that only for ppc machines? or am i doing something wrong? no dialog box here. but seriously — what are the command keys similar to cmd-opt-o-f on a ppc for a dual core imac? cant seem to find them posted….

    Comment By nobody you know on July 25th, at 4:17 pm