www.makeuseof.com How to Fix the Mac Folder With a Question Mark Error

www.makeuseof.com How to Fix the Mac Folder With a Question Mark Error

Do you keep seeing a folder with a question mark as you boot up your Mac? It's an indication that the computer is having trouble locating an operating system on the startup disk.

Sometimes, your Mac will boot into macOS soon after, and a couple of fixes can take care of the issue for good. But if you get stuck at the screen indefinitely, that requires some advanced troubleshooting. Here are all the different fixes you can use.

1. Reset Your Mac's NVRAM

If your Mac boots into macOS despite the folder with a question mark error, it's best to perform a quick reset of your Mac's NVRAM (also called the PRAM).

The NVRAM consists of non-volatile memory that holds system-critical information, and resetting it usually helps resolve startup issues. However, that is only possible on Macs running Intel chipsets. Apple silicon Macs automatically reset the NVRAM without any manual intervention whenever they detect problems at boot.

But if you use an Intel Mac, here's what you must do to manually reset the NVRAM:


If resetting the NVRAM didn't help, reset the SMC (System Management Controller) before moving on to the next fix.

Related: How to Do an SMC and PRAM/NVRAM Reset on Your Mac

2. Specify the Startup Disk in the System Preferences

After resetting the NVRAM and the SMC, try specifying the correct startup disk for macOS (if you have multiple startup disks set up). Skip this fix if your Mac doesn't ever move past the folder with a question mark screen.

To specify the startup disk:

www.makeuseof.com How to Fix the Mac Folder With a Question Mark Error

3. Try a Force Shut Down

If you can't proceed beyond the folder with a question mark screen, perform a force shutdown of your Mac and follow that with a reboot:

4. Select the Correct Disk at Startup

If a force shutdown and reboot didn't help, try picking the correct startup disk by accessing the Startup Options screen as you boot up your Mac. The procedure is different for Intel and Apple Silicon Macs.

For Intel-based Macs, follow these steps:

For Apple silicon Macs, follow these steps:

5. Run First Aid via macOS Recovery

The next fix involves checking your Mac's internal storage for errors. To do that, you must boot your Mac into macOS Recovery. This is a special recovery environment that provides access to the Disk Utility app without having to boot into macOS. Again, the process is different depending on the chipset inside your Mac.

For Intel-based Macs, follow these steps:

For Apple silicon Macs, follow these steps:

Once you enter macOS Recovery, here's what you must do:

Once First Aid finishes checking for and repairing any disk errors, select Disk Utility > Quit Disk Utility from the menu bar. Then restart your Mac (open the Apple menu and select Restart).

6. Reinstall macOS on Your Mac

If none of the fixes above worked, you need to take the time to reinstall macOS. You'll lose all your data doing this, but if you had Time Machine set up previously, you can recover data from your last backup.

Again, boot into macOS Recovery on your Intel or Apple silicon Mac, but this time select the Reinstall macOS option. Then, pick the startup disk you want to install the operating system onto and follow all onscreen instructions to set up macOS from scratch.

Related: How to Install macOS From USB

Once you finish reinstalling macOS, you can choose to import your data via Time Machine as you work your way through the setup screens. Or, you can use the Migration Assistant (which you can open via Launchpad > Other > Migration Assistant) to get your data back after you've finished setting up your Mac.

Failing All That, It's Time to Visit Apple

If your Mac continues to get stuck at the folder with a question mark screen (or if you have trouble performing any of the fixes above), then it's likely that you're dealing with corrupt or defective internal storage. It's best to book an appointment at your nearest Apple Store and get an Apple Genius to take a look at it.

How to Make an Apple Store Appointment at a Genius Bar Read NextShareTweetShareEmail Related TopicsAbout The AuthorDilum Senevirathne(49 Articles Published)

Dilum Senevirathne is a freelance tech writer and blogger with over three years of experience contributing to online technology publications. He specializes in topics related to iOS, iPadOS, macOS, Windows, and Google web apps. Dilum holds an Advanced Diploma in Management Accounting from CIMA and AICPA.

MoreFrom Dilum Senevirathne

Join our newsletter for tech tips, reviews, free ebooks, and exclusive deals!

Image placeholder

George Washington

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Ducimus itaque, autem necessitatibus voluptate quod mollitia delectus aut, sunt placeat nam vero culpa sapiente consectetur similique, inventore eos fugit cupiditate numquam!