Gif of a cartoon Macintosh on Fire

WARNING: This will not be a very interesting read for anyone who isn’t facing the problem of a Mac that won’t boot…

But anyway…

I have a late 2011 MacBook which suffered a spill and now has a dodgy shift key.

Occasionally the shift key will get stuck on, and no amount of pressing and fiddling will get it to go away. The key feels like it’s up, but the Mac thinks the key is getting pressed constantly.

This isn’t much of a problem, I can just plug in an external keyboard. However, when I reboot I get stuck loading into safe boot. Then I try to restart, and it goes straight back to safe boot. It’s quite annoying.

Override the safe boot command by holding some other keys down too

Since shift is the key you hold when you want to boot into safe mode, and since my shift key decides that it is going to stay on, permanently, I figured out that the only way to get the mac to boot normally is to hold a load of other keys down during the boot, so the mac doesn’t recognise the safe boot command.

This has been working quite well for me, but occasionally it takes a couple  of attempts to successfully avoid safe mode. Since it’s unlikely that your damaged keyboard is behaving exactly the same as mine, you might not have any luck with this approach.

Trying the firmware password

There is another approach I came across but it has caused me some hassle. The idea is, if you enable the firmware password on the mac, the startup key combinations all get disabled, apart from the Option key. This should in theory help you bypass the shift key causing a boot into safe mode.

How To Enable the Firmware Password

To enable the firmware password, you need to:

  1. Boot into recovery mode (by holding CMD + R after the startup chime).
  2. Once you’re in recovery mode, click on utilities in the menu bar and find the Firmware password utility.
  3. Set a password.
  4. Reboot.

Oh No I shouldn’t have done that.

Taking this approach on my Mac wasn’t a good idea however.

Once I clicked reboot, I started seeing that dreaded folder with the question mark.

Question Mark Folder

This means that the Mac can’t find the startup disk.

The Apple recommended solution to this is to hold the option key during startup, and then to select a startup disk.

My Mac’s internal keyboard has lost its mind somewhat, so this doesn’t work for me, sadly.

I’ve tried an external keyboard, but it’s not an apple keyboard, and the keyboard drivers aren’t loaded quickly enough for startup key combinations.

Oh well, I’ll try an apple keyboard once I get my hands on one.

Hopefully that helps you if you have a Mac that is stuck in safe boot like mine. If that didn’t help, well then I’m sorry. I know how you feel.

Drop me a line if you’d like. Good luck!