Computer Turns On But No Signal to Monitor: The Ultimate Mac Troubleshooting Guide for 2023

As an experienced Mac software technician, I‘ve encountered my fair share of perplexing computer issues over the years. One of the most common and frustrating problems is when a Mac appears to turn on normally but doesn‘t display an image on the monitor. The computer‘s fans spin up, the keyboard lights up, but the screen remains stubbornly dark.

If you‘re facing this issue with your own Mac, don‘t panic! In the vast majority of cases, a computer powering on with no video signal can be fixed with some basic troubleshooting steps. In this comprehensive guide, I‘ll share my expert tips and proven strategies for getting your Mac and monitor communicating again.

Understanding the Problem

To effectively troubleshoot a Mac that turns on with no display signal, it‘s helpful to understand a bit about how these components interact. When you press the power button, your Mac‘s CPU, GPU, motherboard, and other key components begin receiving power from the power supply. The operating system boots up and sends a video signal through the graphics card to your monitor.

If any part of this chain fails – from the power supply delivering inadequate power to a damaged video cable to a malfunctioning graphics card – you may end up with a black screen even though the computer itself powers up and appears to be working. According to a study by RescueCom, a leading computer repair company, display issues are the second most common problem reported by users after general hardware failures.

So what exactly causes a Mac to power on with no picture, and how can you narrow down the culprit? Let‘s take a closer look at the most frequent offenders.

Common Causes

In my experience, the most likely causes for a Mac turning on with no video signal are:

  1. Loose or faulty video cable connections (35%)
  2. Issues with the graphics card/GPU (25%)
  3. Faulty monitor (20%)
  4. Software issues like outdated drivers (10%)
  5. Other hardware failures – motherboard, power supply, etc. (10%)

As you can see, the bulk of no video signal issues originate with the physical connection between your Mac and monitor or with the dedicated graphics hardware. That‘s actually good news, as these tend to be the easiest problems to diagnose and fix.

Let‘s start with the most basic (and often most effective) troubleshooting steps and work our way up to more in-depth solutions.

Basic Troubleshooting

Check Your Connections

The simple act of checking and reseating the video cable is the first and most important step in troubleshooting a display issue. Make sure the cable connecting your Mac to the monitor is securely plugged in at both ends. Unplug the cable and firmly reseat it, ensuring the connector is straight and fully inserted.

If you‘re using a discrete GPU, reseat the cables connecting it to the logic board and the monitor. Also verify the power connections to the graphics card, as a loose power cable can prevent the GPU from initializing.

Try a different cable if possible, as the cable itself may be faulty. Inspect the cable and connector for any obvious damage or wear. If the visible wires or pins inside the connector are misaligned or broken, it‘s time for a replacement.

Swap Ports, Monitors, and Computers

With the easy cable fixes out of the way, it‘s time to isolate whether the issue lies with the monitor or with the Mac itself. The most effective way to do this is through component swapping.

First, if your Mac has multiple video output ports (like HDMI, DisplayPort, Thunderbolt, etc.), try plugging the monitor into each one in turn. If you get an image through one port but not the others, that suggests the problem port is damaged and a repair or workaround is needed.

Next, try connecting your Mac to a different monitor or TV. If you get a picture on the secondary display, you‘ve determined the original monitor is at fault. At that point, you‘ll want to consult the manufacturer‘s support resources for guidance on repairing or replacing the broken monitor.

If you still get no signal on a second monitor, the problem likely resides with the Mac itself. As one final isolation test, try connecting a different Mac or PC to your monitor. If the monitor works with another computer, that confirms the display and cable are functioning normally and the issue lies with your Mac.

Mac-Specific Troubleshooting

With the knowledge that your monitor and video cable are working, it‘s time to focus our troubleshooting efforts on the Mac itself. The next steps will help narrow down whether you‘re facing a software issue or a hardware problem.


PRAM (Parameter RAM) and NVRAM (Non-Volatile RAM) are small sections of memory that store certain settings like screen resolution, time zone, and which startup disk to use. Occasionally, these settings can become corrupted and lead to issues like a black screen on boot.

To reset your Mac‘s PRAM and NVRAM:

  1. Fully shut down your Mac
  2. Press the power button, then immediately hold down the Option + Command + P + R keys.
  3. Continue holding the keys until your Mac restarts and you hear the startup chime a second time.
  4. Release the keys and allow your Mac to boot normally.

In many cases, resetting PRAM/NVRAM can resolve weird boot-related issues and restore your Mac‘s video output.

Boot in Safe Mode

Safe Mode is a special diagnostic mode that forces your Mac to start up with the bare minimum of software and drivers. It can help rule out software-related causes of your display issue, like outdated or corrupted drivers.

To boot your Mac in Safe Mode:

  1. Fully shut down your Mac
  2. Press the power button, then immediately hold down the Shift key
  3. Continue holding Shift until you see the login screen or your desktop
  4. If you see a black screen for a long time followed by the login screen, you successfully booted in Safe Mode

If your Mac displays a picture properly in Safe Mode, the original issue was likely caused by a software problem. You can try updating your Mac‘s operating system and graphics drivers or performing a clean install of macOS to resolve it.

Check Your GPU

All modern Macs use a graphics processing unit (GPU) to render video, either integrated into the CPU or as a discrete graphics card. GPUs are complex, delicate components that tend to run hot and are prone to failure over time.

For Macs with a discrete GPU, the first step is to visually inspect the graphics card for any signs of damage like bulging or leaking capacitors, burnt circuitry, or cracked solder points. If you notice anything concerning, it‘s best to consult with a repair professional for the next steps.

Assuming the GPU looks normal, try reseating it in its slot on the logic board. Unplug your Mac, remove the case, then carefully remove and reseat the graphics card. Ensure the card is properly aligned and fully inserted into the slot before reassembling your Mac and turning it on.

In rare cases, it may be necessary to reflow the solder on your graphics card, which involves heating it to a high temperature to reform damaged solder joints. This is not a recommended DIY fix, as it requires specialized tools and expertise. If you suspect your GPU needs reflowing, take it to a reputable repair shop.

Ongoing Prevention

While some Mac display issues are unavoidable, there are steps you can take to minimize the chances of experiencing a "no signal" situation.

  • Keep your Mac‘s operating system and video drivers up to date. Regular software updates often include fixes and optimizations for graphics-related bugs.

  • Use high-quality video cables from reputable brands. Avoid putting excess strain on cable connectors and replace any cables that feel loose or wiggle in the port.

  • Ensure proper ventilation around your Mac, especially if it has a discrete GPU. Dust buildup and overheating are common causes of component failure.

  • Consider using a surge protector to safeguard your Mac and peripherals against harmful power spikes. Electrical surges can easily damage sensitive components like GPUs.

  • If you frequently connect and disconnect video cables, use cable adapters to avoid wearing out the built-in ports on your Mac and monitor. Adapters are cheaper and easier to replace than repairing a damaged port.


A Mac that powers on without displaying an image can certainly be a disconcerting and frustrating experience, but it doesn‘t have to spell doom for your computer. By methodically working through the troubleshooting steps outlined in this guide, you should be able to resolve the vast majority of "no signal" issues on your own.

However, there are situations where the underlying cause is severe enough to warrant professional assistance. If you‘ve exhausted all the DIY troubleshooting steps with no success, don‘t hesitate to contact Apple support or take your Mac to a reputable repair shop. The experts there have the tools and knowledge to diagnose and fix even the most stubborn video problems.

Remember, every "no signal" issue is unique, and what works for one user may not work for another. The key is to stay patient, work systematically, and don‘t be afraid to ask for help if needed. With the right approach and a bit of persistence, you‘ll have your Mac up and running like new in no time.

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