When you boot up your Apple Macbook, Macbook Pro, Mac Pro, or iMac with one of the Mac OS X operating systems installed all you see is a grayish white screen with the Apple logo and a spinning progress icon. Sometimes this screen stays a few seconds, other times it seems to take forever for Mac OSX to load up.


So what is the purpose of this loading screen and why does it take so long?


When Apple designed the OS X operating systems they wanted to have a clean, sleek user experience. A boot sequence, while fascinating, isn’t very visually appealing to most users and to most users is just a jumble of text and code in black and white. So in essence the loading screen for the mac operating system is like a digital curtain hiding the boot sequence and loading system files text lines from view. 


But if you need to troubleshoot your Mac because it isn’t moving beyond the grayish-white start up screen yet no other error symbol appears, seeing the actual boot up process can help you identify errors or where your Apple is getting “stuck” in the boot up sequence process. In some cases the computer won’t boot up at all and that is where seeing the text of the boot process is helpful. And even if you are just curious to see behind the Apple logo and learn about how your Mac launches from off to OS X desktop  in under a minute, well you can do that too.

Apple Macbook ProsCredit: By Benjamin Nagel (originally posted to Flickr as MacBook Pros) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Turn off the Mac if it is running. Next you’ll want to locate the “V” key and the “Command” keys on the keyboard. The “Command” key on most models says command and has a small symbol on it. Some models have an Apple logo on the command key. If you are using a non-Apple keyboard this will be the “Windows” key.


Press the power button on your Mac and as soon as you hear the start up tone press and release both the “V” and “Command” keys at the same time. You may need to attempt this multiple times to get it to work properly. If this method doesn’t work, restart and try to press both keys at the same time right before the start up tone. What this will do is change the screen view over to what Apple calls “Verbose Mode.”


If done properly the grayish-white screen will disappear and be replaced with a black screen with small white text moving quickly at times. This is showing the Mac’s boot up process and may reveal any boot up problems. For example if the system hangs, or becomes stuck on a line of text in the boot sequence this may be your problem. Sometimes the line is easy to decipher if it has words like “disc error” or “hard drive” it is a problem with the hard drive. If you see things like “Bluetooth” it is the bluetooth and so forth. You can also use the internet to type in part or all of the last line of text that appears on screen. But be patient, sometimes it can appear to be stuck but is really just a slow boot up. 


Some additional things to consider. If the Mac flashes a small folder icon with a question mark inside of it on the grayish screen this is a sure sign of a hard drive failure. Also if when you start the Mac you do not hear the start up tone this is a sign of possible logic board failure. Remember, if your Mac is still covered under Apple Care you can simply take it to the nearest Apple store for troubleshooting and repairs.

Example of Mac starting up in Verbose Mode