How to Force Restart Mac Laptops: 3 Easy Methods

Macs are known for their simplicity and ease of use. In fact, many people will buy a Mac because they “just work.” Like iPhones, Macs are known to be easier to operate overall. However, just because they’re easier to use doesn’t mean they’re perfect or never fail.

Like any other computer, a MacBook can fail for one reason or another. If your cursor suddenly turns into the spinning beach ball of doom, meaning your Mac isn’t responding, don’t worry because there are quite a few things you can do to salvage the situation. For example, you can try force quitting your Mac apps. But if nothing you try works, you can try the one that will: a forced restart.

Although a forced restart isn’t the best solution, sometimes it may be the only solution to unfreeze your Mac so you can fix the underlying issue.

If you’re wondering how to force restart Mac computers, read on for our step-by-step guide. We also discuss other steps you can take before your force restart!

What’s the Difference Between a Regular Restart and a Forced Restart?

If you need to restart MacBook Air or Pro, there are a couple of ways in which you can do it. There’s the regular or standard way of doing it, and there’s the forced restart method. But what’s the difference?

When you enter the Mac command to restart during regular restarts, your apps have time to save their progress, and your operating system has the time to perform the necessary routines and tasks to ensure a safe restart.

On the other hand, a forced restart allows for a quick fix for frozen apps or systems. However, forced restarts should always be the last resort — meaning you should try every other possible solution before you finally force your Mac to restart.

Forced restarts are a bit of an “extreme” solution, and they shouldn’t be done regularly. Forcing a restart is an effective way to unfreeze your Mac, but it comes with its own risks. For example, you can lose any unsaved progress or get corrupted system files. And if you restart or shut down forcibly while installing system updates, you’ll probably brick your computer.

Related Reading: How to Change a MacBook Name

When and Why Should You Do a Forced Restart?

Because of the risks involved with forced restarts, it’s a good idea to only do them when no other methods work. But what can you try first?

First, check if the issue is a frozen app. If one of your apps isn’t responding, you can try to close the Mac app in a normal way. If that doesn’t work, you can force quit it using the activity monitor or by pressing the Command, Option, and Escape keys to bring up the force quit window.

If the problem isn’t an app and nothing you try is making your Mac respond, then it’s time to force a restart.

Before you do, try to save any open files if at all possible. If you use Time Machine, you can also attempt to make a new backup. But if that doesn’t work, you can at least take a photo of your screen so you can recreate what you were working on later on. Not ideal, but better than losing it all!

Now that we’ve discussed all of that, let’s talk about how to restart a Mac when frozen.

How to Force Restart Mac: Step-by-Step Guide

How to Reboot MacBook Pro or Air Forcibly with the Power Button

One of the best ways to force restart your Mac laptop is by using the power button. Each model has one — you just have to know what and where it is.

Here’s how to restart your MacBook using the power button:

  1. Locate your power button. Press and hold the power button until the display turns black and the laptop powers off.
  2. Wait a minute or two, or allow the laptop to cool down (if too hot), then press the power button to turn the laptop on again.

Here’s where to find your power button:

  • The power button on the MacBook Air is the same as the Touch ID button. It’s on the top right corner of your keyboard, right beside the F12 key and above the delete key. Below,  you’ll see the MacBook Air (M2) keyboard and its power/Touch ID key.
force restart mac
  • On any MacBook with a touch bar, you’ll find the power button all the way to the right of the touch bar. On newer models, the power button may be separated from the touch bar, like on the newer 13” M2 MacBook Pro.
  • On older models, the button may be the eject key, still on the top right corner of the keyboard.

Use the Keyboard Shortcut

Want to use the restart Mac command? Here are two shortcuts to know:

  • Press (but don’t hold)  Command,  Control, ⌥ Option, and the Power Key to safely shut down your Mac.
  • If the previous shortcut doesn’t work, restart your MacBook Pro or air by force shutting down with the  Command,  Control, and Power Key. Hold for a few seconds to shut your Mac down.

Once your MacBook is off, press the power button to turn it back on.

Note that you can also simply press and hold the power button until your MacBook powers off. Press again to turn it back on. This is one of the easiest methods for how to restart your MacBook Air or Pro.

Drain the Battery or Unplug Your Computer

We do not recommend this method as you risk damaging your computer. Your MacBook’s battery health may suffer, and you may suffer unsaved data and corrupt files that can lead to more trouble. Or if you have a wired Mac (iMac, Mac Studio, Mac Mini, Mac Pro, etc), unplugging may cause similar issues and cause component damage.

However, allowing your battery to drain and powering it back on later on can help if no other methods do.

Again, although this is an effective method for how to reset a MacBook Pro, only do this if no other method works! Remember the potential risks involved with allowing your battery to drain or completely unplugging your Mac desktop from power.

Is Force Restarting the Same on the MacBook Air or MacBook Pro?

No matter which type of MacBook you have, you’re probably here wondering how to restart your Mac. But is the method for how to force restart MacBook Air the same as how to restart MacBook Pro?

The answer is yes. You can follow the same steps no matter which model or type of MacBook you have. All that’s different is the location of the power button, so once you know where that is, you can follow all of the steps above.

So, where is the power button on the MacBook Air? What about the Pro?

Your MacBook’s Touch ID button is also its power button, regardless of the type or model. On Macs with the touch bar, the power button is all the way to the right side of the touch bar.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I force an unresponsive Mac to restart?

There are a few ways you can force restart MacBook laptops. You can use the force restart shortcut by pressing and holding  Command and  Control plus the power button. Depending on your MacBook’s model, it can be the Touch ID button or the Eject button. Alternatively, force your Mac to shut down by holding down the power key until the screen goes black and the machine powers down. Press power again to turn it back on.

How do I manually restart my Mac with my keyboard?

If you need to hard reset a MacBook Air or Pro, there are a couple of ways to do it:

  • Press (and continue to hold) the  Command and  Control keys along with your Mac’s power button (Touch ID or eject). Let go when the Mac restarts.
  • Press and hold your Mac’s power key (Touch ID or eject) until your Mac shuts down and the screen goes black. Restart the MacBook by pressing the power key again.

Why is my Mac not restarting?

If you are trying to do a regular restart, but your Mac is frozen or unresponsive, the commands you have input may not have been read by your system. If you have tried everything and your Mac still isn’t reading or responding to your commands, it may be time to hard restart your MacBook. Ensure that you note what you were doing or what was happening when the problem occurred (especially if it happens again) so you can figure out your next steps!

What do you do if a Mac computer is unresponsive?

One of the first things you should do is to check whether it’s just an app that’s not responding or if it’s your entire system that’s the problem. If it’s an app, force quit it using the steps above. If it’s your Mac’s dock, you can follow the steps to restart it here. You can also try a full fresh restart (the regular kind), but if it still doesn’t work then it may be time for a force restart following the steps in our guide above.

Conclusion

No matter why anyone has to force restart Mac computers, it’s important to remember that force restarts should always remain the last resort.

Although restarting your computer forcibly is a quick way to solve a frozen or lagging computer, it won’t always fix the underlying issue. Sometimes, it may even exacerbate the problem by making you lose valuable unsaved work or causing corrupted files and operating systems.

We hope that this guide has helped you figure out how to force restart your MacBook Pro or Air. Good luck!

Managed to force restart your computer? Learn how to fully uninstall apps from your MacBook to get rid of unused or problematic software!

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Chriselle has been a passionate writer for over 10 years, working with many publications worldwide. She currently writes for Productivity Spot, The Grad Cafe, and Hackr.io, among others.

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