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How to Fix Jumbled and Distorted Picture on a Mac

Authored by:
Support.com Tech Pro Team
This Guided Path® was written and reviewed by Support.com’s Tech Pro team. With decades of experience, our Tech Pros are passionate about making technology work for you. We love feedback! Let us know what you think about this Guided Path® by rating it at the end.

Introduction

You may be getting a distorted picture on your Apple Mac screen similar to the one above. This can happen due to a bad connection between your Mac and its display, due to corrupted software or drivers, or even due to faulty hardware. This guide will take you through some troubleshooting steps you can take on your own to attempt to resolve this type of issue.
Scrambled screen.

1 Make Sure Your Monitor is Connected to My Mac

With a Mac that connects to an external monitor you'll need to check and make sure the monitor is properly connected and powered. A monitor that is disconnected can make it seem like your Mac is not turning on.

  1. Examine all cables and connectors for visible damage. If they are damaged, they may need to be replaced.
  2. Make sure one end of the power cable is firmly connected to the back panel of the monitor and the other end into a power socket.
    Monitor being connected to power and video source.
  3. Make sure one end of the video cable is firmly connected to the back panel of the monitor and the other end into video source device, such as a computer, gaming console, media player, etc.
  4. If the monitor has an external power supply, make sure all connectors are firmly plugged in:
    • One connector (1) plugs into the monitor
    • The other connector (2) plugs into a power socket
    • And sometimes, a third (3) connector plugs into the supply itself
    Monitor power supply connectors annotated.
  5. Monitors can be connected to video source devices through a variety of connection types. The most common ones are shown below:
    Video connector types.
  6. Make sure the monitor is powered on and set to the video input source matching the connection type. This varies greatly by brand and model. If you're unsure how to do this please refer to the monitors documentation.

2 Check Display Menu Resolution on a Mac

Make sure your monitor is being seen by your Mac and chosen to display. You can do this by selecting it for the default display.
  1. Choose Apple menu > System Preferences.
    Apple menu with system preferences highlighted
  2. Choose Displays.
    system preferences with displays highlighted
  3. Place a dot next to Default for display, or choose a different resolution under Scaled.
    Display preferences with resolution highlighted

3 Reset NVRAM on a Mac

NVRAM (nonvolatile random-access memory) is a cache of settings specific to your Mac. Resetting NVRAM is safe, however you will need to reset some of your minor customizations, such as volume, time zone, or screen resolution.

If an improper setting has been chose and it is causing the issue, you can solve it by resetting the NVRAM.
  1. From the menu bar across the top of the screen, select the Apple menu (1), then select Shut Down... (2).
    Apple menu icon highlighted with menu beneath highlighting the shut down option.
  2. Wait for your computer to shut down, and turn off.
  3. Turn your Mac back on by pushing the Power button.
    Macbook power button highlighted on the keyboard.
  4. Immediately push and hold the option, command ⌘, P, and R keys on your keyboard.
    option keyPluscommand keyPlusP KeyPlusR Key
    • If your Mac plays a startup sound, release the keys after the second time it plays.
    • If there is no startup sound, release the keys after the second time the Apple logo disappears.

4 If It Still Doesn't Work

Please contact the product manufacturer for further assistance.

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You may be getting a distorted picture on your Apple Mac screen similar to the one above. This can happen due to a bad connection between your Mac and its display, due to corrupted software or drivers, or even due to faulty hardware. This guide will take you through some troubleshooting steps you can take on your own to attempt to resolve this type of issue.
Scrambled screen.

With a Mac that connects to an external monitor you'll need to check and make sure the monitor is properly connected and powered. A monitor that is disconnected can make it seem like your Mac is not turning on.

  1. Examine all cables and connectors for visible damage. If they are damaged, they may need to be replaced.
  2. Make sure one end of the power cable is firmly connected to the back panel of the monitor and the other end into a power socket.
    Monitor being connected to power and video source.
  3. Make sure one end of the video cable is firmly connected to the back panel of the monitor and the other end into video source device, such as a computer, gaming console, media player, etc.
  4. If the monitor has an external power supply, make sure all connectors are firmly plugged in:
    • One connector (1) plugs into the monitor
    • The other connector (2) plugs into a power socket
    • And sometimes, a third (3) connector plugs into the supply itself
    Monitor power supply connectors annotated.
  5. Monitors can be connected to video source devices through a variety of connection types. The most common ones are shown below:
    Video connector types.
  6. Make sure the monitor is powered on and set to the video input source matching the connection type. This varies greatly by brand and model. If you're unsure how to do this please refer to the monitors documentation.
Make sure your monitor is being seen by your Mac and chosen to display. You can do this by selecting it for the default display.
  1. Choose Apple menu > System Preferences.
    Apple menu with system preferences highlighted
  2. Choose Displays.
    system preferences with displays highlighted
  3. Place a dot next to Default for display, or choose a different resolution under Scaled.
    Display preferences with resolution highlighted

NVRAM (nonvolatile random-access memory) is a cache of settings specific to your Mac. Resetting NVRAM is safe, however you will need to reset some of your minor customizations, such as volume, time zone, or screen resolution.

If an improper setting has been chose and it is causing the issue, you can solve it by resetting the NVRAM.
  1. From the menu bar across the top of the screen, select the Apple menu (1), then select Shut Down... (2).
    Apple menu icon highlighted with menu beneath highlighting the shut down option.
  2. Wait for your computer to shut down, and turn off.
  3. Turn your Mac back on by pushing the Power button.
    Macbook power button highlighted on the keyboard.
  4. Immediately push and hold the option, command ⌘, P, and R keys on your keyboard.
    option keyPluscommand keyPlusP KeyPlusR Key
    • If your Mac plays a startup sound, release the keys after the second time it plays.
    • If there is no startup sound, release the keys after the second time the Apple logo disappears.