fix, how to

Sometimes you might encounter a question mark folder icon right after you turn on your Mac. This icon signifies that your system is not able to find the startup disk and cannot boot into the OS.

This problem usually occurs when your startup disk gets corrupted or the OS installed on it is no longer recognized by the system. In such a case, you have to either fix the underlying disk issue or reinstall the operating system entirely.

Besides, here are all the reasons why you’re seeing a question mark folder on your mac:

  • Hardware failure
  • Incorrect system settings configuration
  • Corrupted NVRAM data
  • Corrupted startup disk

How to Fix Mac Question Mark Folder?

The first thing to do would be to restart your computer and see if the issue persists. For this, hold down the power button until your computer fully turns off. Then start it up again and see if you can log into the OS. If not, then here are the steps to fix this issue.

Set a Correct Startup Disk

If an incorrect disk is labeled as a bootable disk on your System Preferences window, you won’t be able to load up the OS. You will get a question mark folder instead. So, to check and fix this case, you have to access the system settings through the macOS utilities/recovery window.

  1. Enter macOS recovery mode.
  2. From the menu bar, click on Apple > Startup Disk.
  3. Select the correct startup disk from the list and Restart your computer.
    fix, how to
  4. Your system will now startup through the selected disk.

Repair Your Startup Disk

The First Aid feature on your Mac scans your startup disk for any signs of underlying disk issues and can also fix those issues if possible. This can be accessed from the Disk Utility tool.

  1. Enter macOS recovery mode.
  2. Click on Disk Utility.
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  3. Select your startup disk from the left sidebar. By default, it is named Macintosh HD.
  4. Then, click on First Aid.
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  5. On a prompt message, accept to Run the test.
  6. After the process is fully complete, restart your computer.

Update macOS to Prevent Future Startup Issues

Firmware stability issues and compatibility problems can also cause your startup disk to fail. Developers promptly release firmware updates to patch those issues and also to incorporate new and additional security features to your computer. 

So, to prevent any future startup issues, we recommend you update your system to newer firmware as soon as possible.

  1. Log in to your Mac.
  2. Open Finder.
  3. From the menu bar, go to Apple > About This Mac.
    fix, how to
  4. Click on Software Update.
  5. Let your system scan the servers for any available updates.
  6. If an update is found, click on Update Now to upgrade your system firmware.
    fix, how to

Reset the NVRAM

The NVRAM is responsible for making sure that your system software and the related interfaces are up to par. The data stored on the NVRAM are non-volatile in nature. That is, they are not lost even the power is turned off. These data are, however, prone to corruption, which can raise a lot of issues on your system, including the one you’re facing right now.

To fix this, you can simply reset your NVRAM. 

  1. Turn off your computer.
  2. Then, press Power and start up the system again.
  3. Immediately, hold down Command + Option + P + R on your keyboard.
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  4. Keep on holding these keys until your system fully starts up.

Reinstall macOS

If none of the aforementioned steps worked, then you have to reinstall the entire OS from scratch. Note that you’ll need an active internet connection to do so.

Furthermore, you’ll be presented with two options, one to wipe out the entire data before reinstalling the OS and the other to set up the OS without losing any data. No matter what you choose to do, here are the steps to reinstall the macOS:

  1. Enter recovery mode.
  2. Then, click on Reinstall macOS.
    fix, how to
  3. Enter your login password if prompted.
  4. Continue to the installation screen.
  5. Agree with any terms and conditions.
  6. On Select the disk where you want to install macOS screen, choose Macintosh HD to reinstall the OS without losing any data.
    fix, how to

    If you choose Macintosh HD – Data, the system will reinstall the OS by deleting all your previous files and folders.
  7. Hit Install.
  8. After the setup is complete, your system will automatically restart and load into the OS.

Service Your Mac

If reinstalling your operating system doesn’t help, then, unfortunately, hardware issues might be the reason your startup disk is failing. From a faulty hard disk cable or lifeboat connecter to a damaged logic board, anything can contribute to this issue.

However, opening up your computer and checking the hardware defects yourself can be quite risky. So, we recommend you take your Mac to the nearest repair center or Apple service showroom. Apple offers a one-year warranty to cover Mac’s hardware repair, and if your system is still valid for this scheme, you might not have to pay for any repairs.


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