Fixing a Black Screen on Wake from Sleep on Mac

Apr 2, 2017 - 35 Comments

Mac Black screen on wake from sleep

Sometimes, Mac users may encounter a black screen when they wake their Mac from a sleep state. The issue is quite obvious if you experience it; when you attempt to wake a Mac from sleep or open your MacBook lid, the screen stays black, although the computer is obviously awake as often indicated by the keyboard being lit up or even alert sounds triggering from the computer. This black screen upon sleep wake issue can happen at random, I encountered the black screen on wake issue after updating my MacBook Pro to the latest version of MacOS, so although it’s not particularly common it’s also not exceedingly rare.

Don’t panic! If you experience an unresponsive black screen when waking your Mac from sleep, you’ll likely be able to resolve the problem with the following troubleshooting steps.

Resolving a Black Screen on Mac When Waking from Sleep

We’ve broken down this troubleshooting guide into sections from the easiest and most obvious solutions to the more complicated, follow along as needed.

1: Check the Obvious: Screen Brightness & Power

Before anything else, check the obvious possibilities:

  • Turn the screen brightness all the way up
  • Make sure the Mac is actually powered on
  • If the Mac is using an external display, make sure that display is powered on
  • Check to make sure the Mac is plugged in to a power source (even a laptop, the battery could be drained)

Often the brightness is just turned down low or the computer is actually off and not in sleep mode. Simply turning the brightness up or turning the Mac on will resolve those type of issues quickly.

2: Power the Mac Off and Back On

The next step is to turn the Mac off, then turn it back on again. This will typically allow you to regain access to the computer, and it is usually sufficient to resolve the black screen on wake problem completely. You can force reboot with the following simple instructions:

  1. Hold down the Power button on the Mac until the computer shuts down
  2. Wait a few moments and then hold down the Power button on the Mac again until it boots back up again

Sometimes just rebooting the Mac will be sufficient to remedy the issue completely, this is often the case if you encounter the black screen on wake after updating Mac system software.

3: Reset SMC, NVRAM

If the Mac repeatedly gets stuck on a black screen when waking from sleep, you should reset the onboard power management and NVRAM.

For modern MacBook Pro machines, the steps to perform both SMC and NVRAM reset are as follows:

  1. Turn off the Mac
  2. Disconnect the Power cable
  3. Hold down Shift + Control + Option and Power button at the same time for 12 seconds
  4. Release all keys at the same time, then reconnect the Power cable and turn the Mac back on again
  5. Next, reboot the Mac again and this time hold down Command+Option+P+R keys concurrently for about 20 seconds, this resets the NVRAM

For other Macs you can read how to reset SMC on Macs here, and how to reset NVRAM / PRAM on Macs here.

Resetting SMC and NVRAM is a common troubleshooting trick for many odd power and display issues, and similar to the black screen on wake it will also fix most occurrences when a Mac boots to a black screen and is unresponsive on system start too.

4: Still having trouble? Reinstall MacOS

If you reset SMC, NVRAM, turned up the brightness, and insured the computer is connected and powered on, yet the Mac still wakes to a black screen continuously, you may need to reinstall MacOS Sierra (or whatever version is on the Mac). You can reinstall Mac OS without formatting the computer though it’s always a good idea to backup first.

5: Black Screen on Wake Still Appearing? Contact Support

If you have done all of the above and the Mac is still getting stuck on a black screen when waking from sleep, it’s time to call the official Apple Support line or bring your Mac to an Apple Store for service. Although rare, it’s possible that a hardware issue is the cause of the problem, or perhaps some other issue that has been overlooked is causing the problem. Remember to always contact an official Apple Support channel via Apple.com, or authorized support or repair center for best results.

Did this resolve your black screen on wake issues for your Mac? Let us know what helped or what didn’t in the comments below, and if you have another solution then share that too!

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in Mac OS X, Tips & Tricks, Troubleshooting

35 Comments

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  1. AJ says:

    I too have experienced this before throughout the years with MacBook Pro, often just closing the lid and waiting about 30 seconds or a minute then opening it again fixes it for me. I think what that does is force the Mac into a sleep state to create a new sleep image, then wakes it up again, and all is usually well.

    Rebooting and the SMC/NVRAM reset also remedy the issue but I think it’s the task of rebooting or re-sleeping and re-waking that actually solve the problem.

    Like you, I seem to encounter this after or soon after updating system software. I would venture to guess that the sleep image cache gets distorted and basically the solution is to make the Mac generate a new sleep image cache, but that’s just my best guess.

  2. Grumby Grumbus says:

    Other possibilities of problems are third party display software:

    – third party drivers

    – third party apps like AirDisplay and ParrotDisplay, things that expand the screen to an iPad or the like via software solutions

    – HDMI cable or display port connected to nothing

    Check software as well, if rebooting into safe mode fixes it then it’s some running software.

    • Tom says:

      I have been experiencing lockups that require SMC resets. I took my 2015 Air to the Apple store today. I told the “Genius” that I had the HDMI cable connected but the TV off when it happened most recently and he said that would not be the cause. I suspect that you, and not he, are correct.

  3. Dot says:

    How did you know? I had a black screen, for the first time ever, this morning when I woke my MacBook Pro. It was before reading this article! A forced reboot resolved it. No idea what caused it.

  4. G says:

    Open the lid, keyboard lights up, caps lock will go on and off, screen remains unlit.

    This started happening to me when I switched from using an Nvidia-based vpu MacBook to an Intel-based vpu Macbook Air sometime around 10.10. I’ve personally filed at least 10 bugs including sysdiagnose data collected by SSH-ing into the machine after the video has crashed. I honestly don’t think Apple give a hoot or they would’ve made some effort to solve it.

    If this happens to you, you can do do the following:
    1) SSH into your mac (Remote Login under Sharing in Sys Prefs)
    2) run: sysdiagnose -f ~/Desktop -A Video-Wake-Crash_$(date +%Y-%m-%d.%H_%M)
    3) run: reboot
    4) wait for about 2 minutes, then hold the power button until the system forcible shuts down
    5) hit the power button to start back up
    6) Open “Feedback Assistant” (cmd+space type it in)
    7) Choose “New Feedback”
    8) Fill in the blanks, choose “Continue”
    9) At the “Attached files” delete the files there and drag your Video-Wake-Crash_(date/time) file and drop it in the attachment section, click Continue and submit.

    • Tristan Hubsch says:

      For me, entering my Apple ID and passwords brings up the response: “You are not enrolled in any beta software programs. Please visit the AppleSeed home page for more information on the seed program and joining seeding projects.” :-(

  5. Doug says:

    Simplest solution is…
    1)Switch off machine
    2)Switch on machine

    • John says:

      Doug, simplest solution is to leave it open all the time. That’s the solution I use with my iMac for last 5 years.

      • Schwantz says:

        How do you close an iMac?

      • ywvideopro says:

        Hi John, I just want to know how long have you been leaving your Mac on? I am trying to fix the problem by letting it on for a while now, however, I always worry that I am over stressing my mac.

    • Richard says:

      I find that if I wait (anything from 5 – 20 seconds) it comes on automatically. Maybe some are too impatient?
      On the very few occasions that it doesn’t, than I tap the ON power button very briefly. I also noted a few times that when it came on that my Mac was doing an automatic backup, and so maybe that is one of the causes.

  6. Denham says:

    I tried all the suggested remedies with no success.

    • Joe Krepps says:

      Try hitting the enter/return button.
      My MBP does this more often than I’d like but not frequently. I’ve found hitting the enter/return button will finally wake it.

    • Joe Krepps says:

      Try hitting the enter/return button.
      My one year old, 13″ w/Retina MBP does this more often than I’d like but not frequently. I’ve found hitting the enter/return button will finally wake it. It seems to be more likely to happen if the charger isn’t attached when I wake it. Perhaps those who’ve suggested reseting the Energy Saver preferences are on to something. I also confess I don’t reboot it very often.

      (I have WAY too many windows/tabs open in Safari…but enough about my mental instability!)

      I tried resetting the pram, using the stated procedure. It immediately booted normally….and I got a million “PR” in the Password field. No idea what I did wrong. Maybe I’ll try it next time I reboot.

      (MacBooks not up to snuff in 2017? Has anyone else noticed that 98% of laptops shown on TV shows have our beloved white Apple lit up on them? You’d think there was nothing else out there. The last time I saw a non-Apple laptop on TV, it was a boxy black thing, with a floppy disc slot on the side.)

  7. Ted says:

    The simplest solution is… don’t buy a Mac. Let’s face it, in 2017 things like this should be the thing of the past. The last time I had so many issues with Windows was back in the age of Windows XP. The fact that the Mac has a TON is problems is a sign that OS X is a major fail.

  8. Tarry says:

    Often, I simply change the Screen Saver & Energy Saver settings and for good measure, Reboot. That causes their previous (maybe defective) settings to be overwritten.

  9. donisgood says:

    I tried holding down Command and R at start-up which took me to Utilities window. After clicking on Disk Utility, Hard drive and then First Aid, all worked fine!

  10. Ogles of Kansas says:

    A reboot does the trick for me. This problem has been happening a while now in macOS

  11. Phred says:

    This happened to my sister in law. I pulled the bottom cover, disconnected the battery for 15 sec. Then I reset the SMC. Her macbook was back to life.

  12. Steve says:

    Hi,
    just one thing, why do you keep calling it the “Option” key ?

    Unless in the US Mac’s have the Option key, it’s not the same for every where else, it’s called the “Alt” key.

    Not every Mac user understands that the Alt key use to be the Option key.

    Why Apple did this is anyone’s guess ?

    So please either use Alt or at least mention both.

    Steve ( UK )

  13. Alexandre says:

    It Just happened to me, but I haven’t updated my OSX yet.
    What I did was type my password, as I usually do when I can see the login screen, and then hit “Enter”
    Note: the first attempt didn’t worked, I had to repeat the procedure twice.

  14. Art says:

    Install a VNC client on your mobile device. Log into your Mac. The screen usually comes back. If it doesn’t, reboot gracefully from the VNC session.

  15. Coolidge says:

    I have experienced a blank screen after updating macOS before this worked for me:

    Boot up and press Command and S keys, to get you into the single-user mode

    Run these commands exactly, one by one after each complete:

    /sbin/fsck -fy

    /sbin/mount -uw /

    rm -f /Library/Preferences/com.apple.loginwindow.plist

    rm -f /var/db/.AppleUpgrade

    reboot

    It checks the file system, mounts the drive, removes a preference file, removes an upgrade cache file, then reboots.

  16. Bailey says:

    This usually happens if a software update is installed while the mac is sleeping, usually I just hard restart the computer and it proceeds to finish installing the update which usually takes 10-15 min. It is a bit annoying though

  17. Lis says:

    My iMac was doing this from both wake and start up and there is another solution under Fixing Black screen on iMac start up. I tried everything else but only this one worked.

  18. Steve Steele says:

    This sometimes happens on a Mac Pro if you’re using a 3rd party USB 3.0 PCIe card. It’s the manufactures driver (according to the manufacturer). Plus every port has something connected to it and that can cause the problem too. (What a cable nightmare).

    I never put my Mac Pros to sleep. I bump up the speed of all the fans when I step away and shut down most nights (other nights are for maintenance). I’d like to save money on my electric bill and not overuse components, but I don’t like turning these machines on and off everyday.

    Oh well. At least a new Mac Pro is on the way!!’

  19. Adriana says:

    Thanks. You’re a genius!!! For me, this problem started after I did a Mac OS Sierra update. Checked all the obvious & still didn’t work. Then, did what you suggested & now problem is resolved. Thanks again.

  20. SE says:

    I have a 2016 MBP and occasionally have this issue and have tried all of the usual suspects. Yet it still seems to be intermittent.

    This is also one of the reasons I purchased an extended warranty.

    My question to the fray is if the laptop feels warm or hot to the touch when it won’t come out of sleep. I haven’t heard of this from anyone else. After a forced shutdown to get it back, the fans howl for a bit on a restart, and I have had a kernel panic as a result of the heat. (My stupid guess..)

    My hope is that this gets settled sooner rather than later..

  21. Anonymous98 says:

    The simplest way I have found on my late 2009 iMac iCore5 running the latest MacOS software is to just type in the password. You won’t see the password box as you type, but when you hit “enter,” the screen becomes visible.

  22. C. A. Golden says:

    I have a mac book pro 2009
    I’d have to take the bottom of the computer to reach the battery
    I’m running 10.6.8
    I too leave my computer running, until it dies because I forgot to plug it back in!
    The keyboard is lit, caps key goes on and off & I can hear the fan (but much quieter now :)
    I really need some help, out of warranty and money too! I’ve now tried everything suggested except:
    1. Unscrewing the back and removing the battery
    2. SSH this is beyond me.
    3. VNC is also beyond me.

    I tried the following and only got a black screen in response:
    1. Resetting the SMC, NVRAM, PR
    2. Turning on and off
    3. Single user but couldn’t see to do anything else
    4. Waiting patiently
    Anything else, anybody might suggest?

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