11 Startup Key Combinations for Intel Macs

Mar 6, 2007 - 19 Comments

Finder icon This is a list of eleven startup key commands that every Intel Mac owner should make note of. From reseting your NVRAM, starting up in safe mode, booting your Mac from a CD or DVD, switching bootable volumes and drives on system start, to forcing media to eject from a superdrive, this list has you covered.

While some of these commands are the same as what worked for PPC Macs, others are slightly different or completely new, and so even longtime Apple users should find something helpful. Great for troubleshooting, system administration, and just furthering your general knowledge about Mac’s.

Intel Mac Startup Key Combos

To use one of these startup key combinations on the Mac, start holding down the key immediately upon boot or reboot, basically right after you hear the system chime you want to begin holding down the key to achieve it’s desired effect.

Press C during startupStart up from a bootable CD or DVD, such as the Mac OS X Install disc that came with the computer.
Press D during startupStart up in Apple Hardware Test (AHT), if the Install DVD 1 is in the computer.
Press Option-Command-P-R until you hear two beeps. Reset NVRAM
Press Option during startup Starts into Startup Manager, where you can select a Mac OS X volume to start from. Note: Press N to make the the first bootable Network volume appear as well.
Press Eject, F12, or hold the mouse (/trackpad) button Ejects any removable media, such as an optical disc.
Press N during startupAttempt to start up from a compatible network server (NetBoot).
Press T during startupStart up in FireWire Target Disk mode.
Press Shift during startupStart up in Safe Boot mode and temporarily disable login items.
Press Command-V during startupStart up in Verbose mode.
Press Command-S during startupStart up in Single-User mode.
Press Option-N during startup Start from a NetBoot server using the default boot image.

Note that newer Macs running Lion or later will also the ability to boot into Recovery Mode by holding down Command+R during startup.

These tricks work on all Intel Macs that have the appropriate hardware, for example, you’d obviously need a SuperDrive to boot from a DVD, but all Macs can boot from a hard drive that’s built-into the device internally.

Some of these features can be made more permanent, for example if you want to always start in Verbose mode, check out this article to learn how to do that.


Related articles:

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


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  1. Glob says:

    How would you unliterally handwrite something?

  2. Marcus kindred says:

    I only get my main drive when I press the option key . I can’t locate the recovery drive

  3. Nathan Johnson says:

    Literally had to hand write all of this because my computer has the Yosemite OS X startup problem!

  4. […] and troubleshooting tricks. Some of these startup keys may be slightly different on PPC and Intel Macs, but many of the features remain the same, whether it’s accessing safe-boot mode, […]

  5. MAC says:

    my macbookpro just can’t show me mac any more. Put it on yesterday morning and all I could see is the parallel Desktop, Windows What specific keys do I press to get it back to Mac

  6. Pat McKenzie says:

    Your table of osX soultions worked. Thanks for the post

  7. bobbers says:

    my school laptop comes up with a lock and a place for a password
    is this a secondary softwhere or is it part of the mac

    i understand that the password it set by the state but i wanted to know if it was something i could do to my mac at home or not

  8. info says:

    I was trying to use the boot commands on an imac running tiger. I had a leopard upgrade boot cd in the drive, and for 3 hours I was unable to get the computer to recognize any boot options whatsoever — it would just boot to the regular login screen no matter what.

    I even tried to use the “menu” button on the apple remote as the computer was booting (as was suggested on another website) — no dice.

    I finally tried pulling off the western digital external hard drive off another usb port (the only other equipment plugged into the mac) and the next time I tried to boot with the “c” key it booted right into the upgrade disk.

    So it appears that having an external hard drive in another usb port can hose the boot options, FYI. I wasn’t getting anything that even looked like the boot option keys were being recognized, but it worked as soon as I removed the external hard drive.

  9. Aaron Cross says:

    Well I just brought a second hand imac, and it has Leopard installed on it. I want to put my copy of tiger on it, but pressing c doesnt work.
    Did you know that Leopard is like a virus? Once its on your computer, you can never get it off? Thats my situation. Its a shame Apple has always had absolutely shocking support for removal of things.(Can you uninstall apple applications as easy as you can on windows?-Hell no)

    If anyone has any idea how I can format a leopard install and put on tiger I’d appreciate that. Thanks

  10. maryl says:

    cmd-s don’t work

  11. So thats why people were saying a wireless keyboard might not be good enough for everything!

  12. Erik says:

    I can’t get cmd-s to work on my macbook!

  13. Mikey says:

    These may all work on Intel systems, but they also work on every OSX Mac. I love a list though, and Eleven is my lucky number, so ..like..YEAH!

  14. Adam Nichols says:

    You need to do it as soon as the machine starts, and you hear the chord. If you reach the login screen, you’ve waited too long…

  15. Does anyone know when exactly you are suppoed to hit these buttons at startup? Maybe I am doing it too late but I am only seeing a smiley logo and login?

  16. archimedes says:

    I printed this out, thanks

  17. ADAM says:

    You can use all of those commands except pushing D to start up the hardware test from the system disk.. Other than that they work

  18. Vladimir says:

    I am pretty sure these do work on PPC systems too, although I no longer have one around to test it out. I know the zapping NVRAM is the same – but it used to be called PRAM? What’s up with that?

  19. MJ says:

    Why wouldn’t these work for the PPC systems?

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