How to Fix a Kernel Panic on a Mac

Introduction

Most crashes on a Mac computer only affect one application. However, there is a type of system wide crash that can prevent you from being able to use your Mac altogether: a kernel panic. When this occurs, there’s usually no warning and no way to save your work or do anything else with your machine. A message simply appears that tells you that "You need to restart your computer." Because kernel panics can have many different causes, diagnosing the problem and preventing its recurrence can be difficult.

In this guide, we'll help you reboot your machine and attempt some things that may resolve your issue with kernel panic errors. If your kernel panic errors continuously re-occur or do not go away, your machine will require service.
Mac restart screen. Screenshot

1 Force Restart

This works nearly the same on any modern Mac, with the difference being whether the Mac has a physical power button on the back of the machine or if it is a MacBook, where the power button is a part of or slightly above the keyboard.

  1. Hold down the Power button on the Mac until it shuts down completely, this may take 5-10 seconds or so.
    iMac rear-facing power button.
  2. Wait a few seconds then press the Power button again to boot the Mac.
    MacBook power button on the keyboard.

? Were you able to reboot without getting another kernel panic error?

  1. Yes
  2. No

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Most crashes on a Mac computer only affect one application. However, there is a type of system wide crash that can prevent you from being able to use your Mac altogether: a kernel panic. When this occurs, there’s usually no warning and no way to save your work or do anything else with your machine. A message simply appears that tells you that "You need to restart your computer." Because kernel panics can have many different causes, diagnosing the problem and preventing its recurrence can be difficult.

In this guide, we'll help you reboot your machine and attempt some things that may resolve your issue with kernel panic errors. If your kernel panic errors continuously re-occur or do not go away, your machine will require service.
Mac restart screen. Screenshot

This works nearly the same on any modern Mac, with the difference being whether the Mac has a physical power button on the back of the machine or if it is a MacBook, where the power button is a part of or slightly above the keyboard.

  1. Hold down the Power button on the Mac until it shuts down completely, this may take 5-10 seconds or so.
    iMac rear-facing power button.
  2. Wait a few seconds then press the Power button again to boot the Mac.
    MacBook power button on the keyboard.
  1. Select the Apple menu, then App Store.
    macOS Mojave Apple Menu with App Store highlighted.
  2. You will now see the app store pull up. Select Updates.
    If Your Mac is Running 10.14 Mojave or Later App Store side bar with Updates highlighted.
    If Your Mac is Running 10.13 High Sierra or Earlier App store menu bar with Updates highlighted.

Any version of macOS 10.7 (Lion) or older can check for available updates through the Apple Menu and Software Updates.

  1. Select the Apple Menu and then System Preferences.
    macOS Mojave Apple Menu with System Preferences highlighted.
  2. Select Users & Groups.
    macOS Users and Groups Preferences
  3. Select Login Items at the top, then your Username on the left. Finally, select the lock in the bottom-left corner to unlock these settings.
    Users and Groups Preferences with Login Items, User, and Lock highlighted.
  4. Enter your macOS password, and select Unlock.
    System Preferences unlock prompt with password and Unlock button highlighted.
  5. Look through the list on the right. If you see an item you don't recognize, or an item you don't use frequently, highlight it by clicking its name, then click the Remove (–) button below to remove it.
    Users and Groups Login Items with an item and minus button highlighted.
  1. From the menu bar across the top of the screen, select the Apple menu, then Restart...
    macOS Mojave Apple Menu with Restart highlighted.
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