How to Get Rid of The Gray Screen of Death on Mac

As an Amazon Associate and affiliate of other programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.

It doesn’t matter if you get a gray screen of death at startup or a black one the main issue is that your Mac won’t start up like it did before. This is a problem you’re most likely to see on Macs with a built-in Retina display. For example, there are the Retina iMac models that lack a power on indicator.

How to Fix Gray Screen of Death on MacBook

If you have a newer Mac, then you’re going to get the black screen of death. Those users with much older Macs are more likely to get a gray screen at startup. First, you’ll see a blue screen that will later turn into a gray screen, or you can only see the gray screen itself.

What Causes a Gray Screen of Death at Startup on Mac?

Let’s start with the most common causes that’s a faulty peripheral cable or peripheral. This bad peripheral prevents your Mac from continuing the startup process and causes it to stall while it waits for the peripheral to react to a command.

Most of the time the problems is when a bad peripheral or the cable causes one of the signaling pins of one of the ports to get stuck in a particular condition. This can either be set to a shorted out to ground or positive voltage, set high, or set low.

How to Fix The Gray Screen on Mac at Startup

The first thing you need to do is to turn off your Mac. What you’re going to be doing is disconnecting all the external peripherals, and hopefully, this will get rid of this nightmare. Once your Mac is off, make sure you’ve disconnected all of the peripherals.

You can keep ones for the display, mouse, and keyboard in. The ones you can unplug are the Ethernet cable, headphones, audio in our out cables and so on. When you’re done, turn your Mac back on. If your Mac turns on normally, then a bad peripheral is the problem.

To see which one is the bad one, you’ll need to plug them in at a time, and then boot your Mac until the last one you plugged in causes the gray screen to appear. If you’ve done everything mentioned and you still get the gray screen, try disconnecting or replacing the mouse and keyboard. Since you never disconnected those, they could be the culprit.

Determine The Cause Using The Safe Boot Process

I know you’re probably tired of doing this, but go ahead and disconnect all the peripherals again but leave the ones for the Keyboard and mouse. Startup your Mac again but this time use the Safe Boot process.

While your Mac is starting in Safe Boot, it’s going to do a directory check of the startup drive. If everything is OK with the drive directory, the startup process will continue by loading only the necessary number of kernel extensions it requires to start.

Did your Mac boot in Safe Boot? If so, try restarting your Mac again in normal mode. You’ll need to verify that your startup drive is working just fine if you see that your Mac has made it all the way to the login screen. There’s a good chance that there is something wrong with the drive and that it needs some fixing.

There are always the Disk Utility First Aid tools you can use to check and fix your drive. Hopefully, you have a recent backup or at least you should. Won’t your Mac start in Safe Boot or normally? You can try resetting PRAM and resetting SMC.

Don’t forget that resetting the PRAM and the SMC will bring back the default settings. For example, your Mac’s internal speakers will be the source of audio output; Sound levels will be at default, brightness and display options will also be reset.

If you’re OK with this and you’ve reset them, start your Mac up again. You should still have the peripherals other than the mouse and keyboard should still be disconnected. If your Mac starts normally plug in your peripherals again one by one and restarting your Mac after each. This is to make sure that they are not the problem.

Also Read: 9 Features of New MacBook Pro Touch Bar

RAM Problems

If you’ve added any RAM after you purchased your Mac that could be what’s causing the problem. Take out all but the minimum amount of RAM and start your Mac. You should be able to continue working if your Mac starts after you’ve removed the additional RAM. Replace the RAM as soon as you can, and you should be OK.

Boot Your Mac Into Safe Mode

The reason why your Mac is booting into a gray screen of death could be because it’s experiencing problems with a third-party extension. To boot your Mac into Safe Mode, you’ll need to hold the Shift key down immediately when you hear the chimes at boot.

What this is going to do is bypass all but necessary system software. Safe Mode is going to get rid of some caches and other temporary files. It’s also going to run a fixed routine on the boot drive that can sometimes resolve the problem.

What Safe Mode mainly does is that it simply bypasses issues and doesn’t solve them. But, it’s still useful to get things up and running to be able to make any configuration changes or uninstall any software you may have recently added.

Also Read: 7 Free Cleaning Apps for Mac


Having to deal with the Gray screen of death can be a real headache, but it’s something you need to do. Hopefully, some of the tips I mentioned have helped you pinpoint and solve the problem. Did I miss something you’ve tried? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Leave a Comment