Macbook pro black screen and restart problem

Tags: apple, python

Note: updated instructions (as he did it again).

This morning I took my macbook pro (a very nice late 2014 retina 15” one) out of my backpack, opened it and plugged in the external monitor. But it stayed black. The macbook’s own screen also stayed black. Ouch? It didn’t seem to wake up…

Some standard things I checked/tried:

  • The battery couldn’t be empty yet. The apple logo on the back of the screen was illuminated, right? Of course I had already attached it to the power cord. Which showed its LED, so power wasn’t the problem.

  • Screen brightness. Perhaps I dialed it down to zero by accident? No.

  • Close/open again. Take out external display. Etc. Nope.

Ok, time to press the power button. No reaction that I could see/hear. Press it 10 seconds. No. Problem with such a new macbook is that it doesn’t have a harddisk. The noises a harddisk makes tend to provide pretty good feedback on what’s happening normally :-)

I just couldn’t get the macbook to reset (or shut down)! If the power button doesn’t work… Googling turned up two additional tricks:

  • Resetting the “SMC”, the system management controller. One of the things it does is monitor the power button… Press shift-option-control-power and release them all at the same time.

    Sure enough the LED indicator on the power cord switched from red to green and back again, so the SMC reset worked.

    Only… the computer still didn’t respond to the power button as far as I could notice.

  • Resetting the PRAM/NVRAM, some sort of special memory with, amongst others, video settings. Sounds good! Press command-option-p-r when your macbook boots. AAARGH! That’s the whole problem! The macbook refuses to listen to the power button, so it won’t restart. So I can’t get at a potential fix for the restart-problem because the computer won’t, well, restart.

I asked my mac-using colleague to help me. Different google searches sometimes help. And a double-check whether I had not missed anything obvious is always handy. He also tried pinging/ssh’ing my machine. Weird thing that we started to notice that there were brief periods where the mac was pingable! Did some of the power button reset attempts work, perhaps, despite not seeing/hearing any feedback?

Because I had removed the macbook from its regular stand and placed it directly on my desk I suddenly noticed that the logo illumination was off. Hey! Perhaps one of the resets did work. Despite not resulting in the regular “peep” from the speakers. Of course the problems I was having might have disrupted the speakers also.

Ok, if it is off, time to do the PRAM reset mentioned above. Power button, press command-option-p-r, PEEEEEP! Bingo! The startup sound was suddenly audible and lo and behold, I saw the login screen.

Back in business!

Now… my only guess as to the original cause is that I plugged in the external monitor too quickly after waking my macbook. Of course this isn’t something that should cause a mac any problems, but apparently it can. I’ll just have to wait a couple of seconds next time.

VERY glad that it works again… logo

About me

My name is Reinout van Rees and I work a lot with Python (programming language) and Django (website framework). I live in The Netherlands and I'm happily married to Annie van Rees-Kooiman.

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