- Kernel Panic is when a MacBook gets stuck in a loop of rebooting due to a fatal error in MacOS.
- Reducing the number of startup items and updating MacOS can help resolve the issue.
- Incompatible hardware or insufficient memory can also cause Kernel Panic on MacBooks.
- Reinstalling MacOS on a clean hard drive is a last resort solution to fix the problem.
MacBooks are widely known to just work, oftentimes better than many PCs, but what do you do when your MacBook keeps restarting?
The hardware and software installed on all MacBooks are made from high-quality materials and go through a rigorous manufacturing process to ensure it meets Apple’s high standards.
However, this doesn’t mean your MacBook will never have any issues. Just because the hardware is well-made doesn’t mean it will work well with the software 100% of the time.
From time to time, you might notice some inconsistencies in the way it operates, but most of the problems you encounter as a MacBook owner can be solved easily with the right knowledge at your fingertips.
Today, we’re going to discuss what you need to do when your MacBook keeps restarting—and what might be causing this problem. You’ve come to the right place if you’re looking to fix this problem as soon as possible. One of these issues will give you the solution you need:
- Too many start-up items affect the performance
- Out-of-date operating system
- Unstable apps or software
- Hardware conflicts
- Lack of available memory
- The operating system needs to be reinstalled
Troubleshooting “Kernel Panic” on Your MacBook
When your MacBook gets stuck in a loop of rebooting, it’s known as “Kernel Panic.” It’s what happens when macOS encounters a fatal error and reboots to recover.
However, when that problem persists with each new reboot, it never quite fixes with a reboot. That behavior alone tells us there’s something in our system—in the hardware or software—that still needs to be fixed, and we can go through a set of steps to troubleshoot where the problem lies.
Your next best step is to ask yourself a series of questions to find out what’s causing the problem. We’ll start with the quickest and easiest fixes first.
Fix #1: Check How Many Startup Items are Loading
It requires a lot of resources when you have a lot of software or services that load up every time your MacBook does.
You might not even be aware of how many items are loading when you reboot, so we recommend checking these out occasionally whenever you notice your system slowing down.
Step 1: Open the Apple Menu and click System Settings
Step 2: Click on Login Items
Then, once you click on that menu item, you’ll see an entire list of items that load upon rebooting. We’d recommend disabling all of them to see if this affects your MacBook’s performance. Once you disable them, reboot your system and make note of the difference, if any.
However, if this doesn’t solve your “Kernel Panic” problem, keep going down this list until you find something that makes a difference.
Fix # 2: Check Your Updates to Ensure Your Software is Current
Technology is in a constant state of evolution, and the software on your MacBook is no different. Every day, some software engineer is working on making improvements to the programs you use regularly. Often, these improvements are due to bugs reported by other users.
This is why performing regular updates of MacOS is so important. Not only do you have access to the bug fixes, but you also receive all the critical updates affecting your system’s security.
Here’s how you can check what version of MacOS you’re running.
Step 1: Open the Apple Menu
Step 2: Click on “About This Mac”
It will tell you the exact version you’re running in the section titled “MacOS.” (For reference, the most updated version of MacOS as of the publication of this article is 13.3.1.)
If you have a much older version of MacOS installed, we highly recommend upgrading to improve your system’s performance.
However, you might be challenged to complete this step if you haven’t yet resolved any issues with limited memory or storage on your MacBook. You’ll need at least 25GB of available space on your hard drive to do this.
If you’re unable to upgrade your memory or storage right now, you can delete programs you think you can live without. You can always reinstall them later once you’ve upgraded your hardware.
Fix # 3: Check to Ensure Your Mac is Not Loading Malfunctioning Apps
If upgrading MacOS doesn’t solve your “Kernel Panic” issue, there could be other software installed on your MacBook causing problems.
Just like MacOS is constantly being upgraded for improvements and bug fixes, so is the other software installed on your hard drive. However, that can cause potential problems if your current version of MacOS doesn’t support the software upgrade.
Here are some steps you can take if you suspect this might be causing the problem:
- Is upgrading MacOS an option? Try that first if you haven’t yet.
- Think back to the past couple of weeks or months for any new software you installed on your MacBook.
- Uninstall one software package at a time.
- Reboot to measure your MacBook’s performance after each uninstall.
When you don’t upgrade your software regularly, you not only expose yourself to serious security risks, but your system also becomes vulnerable to data loss or corruption when that software fails. The best way to protect yourself from this happening in the future is by making sure all your regularly used software gets updated. You can easily set your MacBook up for success here by ensuring your software updates automatically. Getting in the habit of this will help you prevent any vulnerabilities in the future.
Fix # 4: Have you recently installed new hardware on your Macbook?
Whenever you encounter an issue with your MacBook, one of the first things you should look at is what—if anything—has changed over the past several days. Just like your body can get exposed to problematic bacteria out in the environment, your computer can get exposed to issues that can cause an array of problems. Some possible hardware issues that could cause “Kernel Panic” are the following:
- Hardware not supported by MacOS.
- Older (or newer) hardware that isn’t yet supported by your version of MacOS
- Malfunctioning hardware
- Improperly installed hardware
MacBooks and iMacs are particularly sensitive to incompatible hardware because the operating system is designed to protect you from any potentially damaging equipment.
The easiest way to test for this issue is through trial and error. We recommend starting with any new hardware that’s been recently installed. If you haven’t installed any hardware recently, we still recommend going through this process in case any of your hardware lies at the root of the problem.
Follow these steps:
- Remove any new internal or external hardware one at a time.
- You can also check to ensure the hardware is installed properly.
- Reboot between each removal.
- Remove external hardware one at a time.
- Reboot between each removal.
- Note any differences you see in how your machine performs after each removal.
If you’ve been through these steps and your machine is still in “Kernel Panic” mode, it’s likely your problem lies elsewhere.
Fix # 5: Do you have enough memory available on your MacBook?
Not all MacBooks have the same amount of resources available out of the box. Some of the more affordable MacBooks have to sacrifice something to justify the lower cost, and random access memory (RAM) and hard drive space are normally the first upgrades to go.
You might not notice these limited resources when you first receive your new machine, but as you add more applications and software, you will notice slight differences in performance.
You might notice some of the following things:
- You’re unable to upgrade MacOS because there’s not enough hard drive space.
- You can’t install any other additional software.
- You receive warnings when surfing the web that warn you the website is using too many resources.
- Applications just start closing randomly.
- Your system, in general, runs a lot slower than it used to.
And, yes, if these problems don’t get resolved, your MacBook can also experience “Kernel Panic” as a result. Here are some tips and tricks you can use to solve this problem on your MacBook:
- Use the Activity Monitor graphs to see how your memory is performing. (Link in sources section at the end of this article.)
- Note how much storage you have available on your hard drive.
- Upgrade your memory and/or your hard drive if your MacBook is capable of it.
- You should notice a distinct difference in your MacBook’s performance.
Fix # 6: Reinstall Mac OS
But what if this doesn’t solve your “Kernel Panic” problem?
There is one last-ditch effort to save your MacBook, and we saved it for last because you could potentially lose a lot of important data. If you’ve gotten to this point with no real change in your MacBook’s performance, you know you’ve tried everything before getting to this point.
The last solution on the list is reinstalling MacOS on a clean hard drive. We like doing this from time to time when we have issues because it gives us an opportunity to clean the slate and start over with a MacBook that runs like the well-oiled machine it was designed to be.
For a full video walkthrough on troubleshooting your Mac, check out the following video: