3 Things You Can Do When You Cannot Boot Safe Mode in Mojave

Booting into safe mode is the best way to isolate any issues that you might be experiencing with your Mac. By turning off third-party processes and running only the basic ones, you can immediately determine whether the issue is app or system-related.

Aside from troubleshooting, booting into safe mode also allows you to wipe out drives or clean up your system efficiently because there are no other unnecessary processes running. This mode only loads the necessary kernel extensions, deletes system cache files, prevents startup items from launching automatically, and tries to repair directory issues if needed.

The easiest way to boot into safe mode is to just hold the Shift key when restarting your Mac, then release it when the Apple logo appears.

But what do you do when you can’t start safe mode in Mojave?

Several users reported that they cannot boot into safe mode in Mojave for no apparent reason. Pressing the Shift key during startup only brings up the regular startup mode. You will know when you have successfully booted into safe mode when you see “Safe Boot” in the upper-right corner of the screen. If you don’t, then you’ve probably booted into normal mode.

While some affected users are booted into normal mode, others get stuck in the startup screen and won’t proceed. There are also those who are stuck with a frozen gray screen with a progress bar.

Not being able to boot into safe mode can be stressful, especially if you’re already dealing with an existing issue. This problem needs to be fixed first before you can fix your previous problem.

Let’s look at some of the possible reasons why you cannot boot into safe mode in Mojave:

  • Defective keys or keyboard
  • Overprotective security settings
  • File system structure problems

This article will show you what to do when you can’t start safe mode in Mojave using the traditional Shift key. We will also discuss another method of booting into safe mode that most Mac users don’t know about.

How to Fix Safe Boot Issues in Mojave

Booting into safe mode should be pretty easy with the Shift key. However, there are times when your Mac can’t boot into safe mode because of the issues listed above. Here are some of the things you can do when you encounter problems when accessing safe mode.

1. Check Your Keyboard.

The most common way of getting into safe mode is by holding down the Shift key while your computer is restarting. Check if your Shift key is working by running a keyboard diagnostic. There are a lot of keyboard checker tools online to help you determine whether your keys are working or not. You might also want to check your keyboard settings to make sure all features are enabled.

If you are using a wireless keyboard, you won’t be able to boot into safe mode when you hold the Shift key at startup because macOS’ controllers will only activate after the startup sound. If you pressed the Shift key before that, the action will not be recognized. So wait for the startup chime before pressing the Shift button.

You should also check your battery level to make sure your wireless keyboard has enough power for it to function properly.

2. Check Your Security Settings.

Some macOS security settings may prevent your system from booting into safe mode. If you have enabled Apple’s FileVault encryption feature, or if your system is protected by a firmware password, you will not be able to boot into safe mode. You need to disable these security settings first for safe mode to work.

To disable FileVault, follow the steps below:

  1. Access System Preferences by clicking the Apple logo.
  2. Choose Security & Privacy.
  3. Click on the FileVault tab.
  4. Click the golden lock icon at the bottom of the window to be able to make changes to your settings.
  5. Type in your admin name and password, then hit OK.
  6. Click Turn Off FileVault to disable this security feature.
  7. Restart your computer.

To disable your firmware password, follow these steps:

  1. Restart your computer, then enter Recovery mode by holding down Command + R.
  2. Click Utilities, then choose Firmware Password Utility.
  3. Toggle the Firmware Password to OFF.
  4. You should receive a confirmation message saying that password protection has been turned off.

Once these security settings have been disabled, try booting into safe mode to see if these steps worked.

3. Run Disk Utility.

Another issue that might be preventing your Mac from booting into safe mode is a damaged file system structure. When macOS boots into safe mode, it also runs various maintenance tasks, as indicated by the gray progress bar.

One of the tasks being run when you boot into safe mode is fsck_hfs. This task checks the file system structure to make sure that all disks and other indexing databases are in good condition. If there is anything wrong with these disks, the startup will fail and you’ll be stuck with a gray screen, an Apple logo, and a progress bar.

To fix this error, you need check your disks for errors. To do this:

  1. Do a hard-reset by holding the Power button for five seconds.
  2. Hold down the Command + Option + P + R keys during startup to clear the PRAM/NVRAM.
  3. Launch Disk Utility from the Utilities folder.
  4. Click on the drive you want to repair, then click on First Aid.
  5. Click Run to start the verification and repair procedures.

Once the diagnostic has ended, it will show you the result. If the disk is in good condition, you should see a green checkmark. If there are errors on the disk, Disk Utility will automatically attempt to repair them.

Here’s a tip: Deleting your junk files regularly with Outbyte MacRepair can keep your disks healthy and error-free. A regular clean up can also boost your system processes and enhance the overall performance of your Mac.

How to Boot into Safe Mode in Mojave via Terminal

If the common method of booting into safe mode does not work for you, there is another way to boot into safe mode in Mojave without using the Shift key.

If your keyboard or Shift key is defective, you can start in safe mode by executing a command via Terminal. To do this:

  1. Open Terminal by going to the Utilities folder under Finder.
  2. Type in this command to restart into safe mode, then hit Enter: sudo nvram boot-args=“-x”.
  3. If you want to start in verbose mode, use this command instead: sudo nvram boot-args=”-x -v”.
  4. To go back to normal startup, enter this command: sudo nvram boot-args=””.

Final Thoughts

Safe Mode provides a clutter-free environment in which you can isolate and resolve problems with macOS. If you can’t access safe mode for some reason or another, just follow the solutions above to resolve your startup issues. If booting into Shift key is not possible, you can use command lines instead to start into your preferred mode.

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