No matter how reliable Macs are built, they are bound to be plagued by different issues and errors. After all, they are still machines that function depending on how a user operates it. Anything you do to your Mac will have an effect on it sooner or later, whether you intend it or not.
Typically, a crash will affect just one program or an application. However, you may encounter a form of a system-wide crash that could bring down your Mac system entirely and this is what we call a kernel panic.
A kernel panic is characterized by repetitive restarting of your laptop, the screen will go black and give you warning messages along the lines of You need to restart your computer. When you get such messages, it means you’re dealing with a kernel panic and not just any type of Mac-related crash.
When you encounter this kind of problem, do not panic. In this article, you will find ways on how to fix a kernel panic on your Mac OS X.
What is a Kernel Panic?
A kernel panic is essentially Mac’s version of Windows’ blue screen of death. You can consider kernel panic as your Mac’s way of running away from issues that are too much for it to handle, think fight or flight response. When your computer encounters a critical error that it can’t seem to fix in the background, it responds by automatically shutting down.
If a kernel panic happens a few times, once or twice, there shouldn’t be a reason for you to panic. A basic restart will solve the problem. However, if it happens regularly and during the startup process, it might be because of a more serious system issue.
What Causes a Kernel Panic?
Your Mac is a system composed of a lot of interconnecting circuits, hardware, and software. There could be tons of reasons that can trigger a kernel panic but most of the time software issues and incompatibilities are to blame. Below are the most common culprits behind a kernel panic:
- Insufficient RAM and hard drive space
- Outdated plugins and drivers
- Conflicting programs and apps
- Broken disk files and permissions
- Hardware and peripheral issues and incompatibilities
While it’s true that there’s a lot of aspects to consider when dealing with a kernel panic, there’s no need to worry as there are solutions for each of them.
Fixing Software-Related Kernel Panic Issues
Below are some tips to help you address a kernel panic caused by software errors:
- Update your apps.
Launch the App Store through the Apple menu or Spotlight. Once in the App Store, click Updates to see all updates available for all apps installed on your Mac. If some programs haven’t been updated for quite a long time, they pose incompatibility problems.
- Search for corrupted apps.
If your Mac is equipped with OS X 10.8 or later, it will show a dialog box immediately after a restart. This dialog box will ask if you want to reopen the apps that were running before your Mac crashed. Go ahead and click Open. If a kernel panic happens again, there is a high probability that one of those apps is causing the problem.
Another way to know if a certain app is causing a problem is when your Mac crashes while an app is up and running. When this happens, try these following steps:
- See if an update is available for the app and update the app. Once the app has been updated, restart your Mac.
- If there are no updates available, delete and uninstall the app. Decide if you still need it. If you do, reinstall it.
However, uninstalling an app is not as easy as deleting a file or moving the app itself to the Trash. You need to delete all of the files associated with it. It will be easier if you use a program with an app uninstallation feature, such as the Outbyte MacRepair.
- Update drivers.
If your Mac crashes randomly, look into deep-seated drivers, particularly those bundled with peripherals such as video cards and adapters. These drivers also need to be updated every once in a while.
- Repair broken disk permissions.
When there are broken disk permissions on your Mac, there will be times when applications fight against each other as they attempt to get access to folders and files on your disk. If your Mac crashes when you try to run applications, fixing those broken disk permissions could help. If you’re Mac is equipped with OS X Yosemite or any older OS, follow these steps:
- Restart your Mac, be ready to press and hold down Command + R while your computer restarts.
- Click on Disk Utility.
- Click on First Aid > Repair Disk Permissions.
Unfortunately, you can’t repair disk permissions through Disk Utility if you have OS X El Capitan or higher. You will likely need a third-party app like Outbyte MacRepair to conduct the repair.
- Disable startup apps.
If your Mac restarts immediately after bootup, there could be startup apps and items causing the kernel panic. It is also possible that there are a lot of startup programs trying to run all at once and it’s too much for your Mac to handle. To disable items that you don’t really need to run upon startup, follow these steps:
- Go to System Preferences > Users & Groups.
- Click on your Username.
- Go to the Login Items tab.
- Select a startup item you want to disable and click [-].
- Repeat the last step to disable other items.
- Restart your Mac to apply changes.
Fixing Hardware-Related Kernel Panic Issues
Any hardware connected to your Mac can also be responsible for the occurrence of a kernel panic. To get rid of these issues, consider the tips listed below:
- Turn all peripheral devices off.
You need to take the long and winding road on this one. To figure out which external device is messing up with your Mac, you need to plug off everything: external video cards, hard disks, flash drives, network adapters, and printers among others. Then restart your Mac and connect one device. If nothing happens, disconnect that device and then restart your Mac, again. Next, plug in another device and repeat the process until all external devices have been tested.
If none of the devices seem to be causing the problem, good for you. But if you find the culprit, you might need to update its software or driver.
- Launch Apple Diagnostics or Apple Hardware Test.
These utilities are designed to check peripherals and find issues. Here are steps to run them:
- Disconnect or turn off all peripherals.
- Go to Apple Menu, then Restart.
- Press and hold down D while your computer restarts and wait.
Apple Diagnostics or Apple Hardware Test will launch automatically to test the condition of your hardware. If it detects any problems, it will give you a detailed report you can hold on to should you need to seek the help of an Apple Support specialist.
Did any of these tips work for you? Did you find out what causes a kernel panic on your Mac? Let us know in the comments!