Spice up OS X’s loading with Verbose mode

FinderIconYosemiteXWhen starting up an old Mac running the Classic Mac OS, you would see a number of installed system extensions loading along the bottom of the screen, but when you start up OS X, you are shown a fairly bland image of a gray background with an Apple symbol that appears. During this time, a number of background processes are starting up to allow you to use your system; however, you are not shown these and instead are shown either a progress bar or spinning wheel of sorts that simply indicates to you that something is happening, but does not say what.

Even though in most instances you will not need to know what is happening during bootup, such information may help troubleshoot odd startup problems, or even just be fun to see for geeky aesthetics. If you would like to see at least part of the progress of your Mac’s bootup, then you can do so by using Verbose Mode.

Verbose mode does not change how OS X runs but simply, as its name suggests, causes the OS to be a little more descriptive about what is going on, including logging the boot process to the screen before the graphic interface is loaded.

In general, you invoke Verbose Mode by holding the Command-V keys down when you hear the boot chimes at startup, so such interaction requirements prevent this from being a convenient approach; however, these keys just pass a boot argument flag to the OS X kernel, and this can be otherwise given to the kernel by way of the system’s PRAM, which is checked for boot- and other loading arguments. To save the boot arguments in the PRAM for loading your Mac in Verbose Mode, simply run the following command in the Terminal:

sudo nvram boot-args="-v"

This will require you be running in an administrative account, and supply your password when prompted (it will not show when typed), and then you will need to shut down and restart your Mac.

To undo this mode, you have two options. First you can run the following version of the command to empty the boot-args variable, followed by restarting your Mac:

sudo nvram boot-args=""

The second option you have is to reset the PRAM, which can be done by restarting your Mac and holding the Option-Command-P-R keys down when you hear the boot chimes. Hold these keys down until the system restarts automatically, and then release them again. This will result in the system clearing all PRAM variables and setting them up with default values (most systems run at all times with default values).

8 thoughts on “Spice up OS X’s loading with Verbose mode

  1. B. Jefferson Le Blanc

    I don’t see how using Command-V upon startup is any more inconvenient than writing arguments to PRAM using Terminal – and then reverting those arguments once you are done using Verbose mode. Indeed, unless you’re a Unix geek for whom remembering such code is a simple matter, taking note of the procedure to invoke Verbose mode and looking it up again when you need to revert to the normal boot procedure would be more work than using Command-V. Unless, of course, you want to boot in Verbose mode repeatedly for some span of time. I think it would be more accurate to say the Terminal app provides an alternative method for booting in Verbose mode when you wish the setting to stick for awhile. Otherwise, Command-V is the more straightforward way to do it, say, as a one-off or two.

    Sorry, Topher, for being argumentative once again (you’re probably getting tired of it by now), but using the Terminal, except for the aforementioned Unix geeks, may sometimes be the only way to do something, but it’s rarely the easiest or most convenient way to do the many things for which there are more accessible alternatives.

    There is, certainly, nothing at all wrong with using Terminal if that’s your bag. But for most of us Terminal is the last resort when there is no other way to get something done. Indeed, I’ve used your tips from time to time when an issue of that sort comes up. Otherwise, I prefer an app like TinkerTool System, which provides a GUI for a wide variety of system tweaks and maintenance routines. Other popular utilities like Onyx can do a lot of the same things – and, unlike TinkerTool System, Onyx is freeware. In fact, TTS provides a Verbose mode option in the Startup pane, as does Onyx in the Parameters tab. You could set it with either app if you wanted the mode to remain in effect for a time, just as you can with Terminal.

  2. MaX

    “such information may help troubleshoot odd startup problems”.

    Indeed, it would be awesome to have something like Conflict Catcher
    to troubleshoot booting issues on Mac OS X.

    Why nobody has developed such tool yet?

    1. msadesign

      umm–do you REALLY remember the nightmare that was startup and extension conflicts? We don’t have CC because we don’t need it anymore. Long live CC!

    1. Topher Kessler Post author

      That is correct. Firmware Passwords lock your Mac’s ability to boot from alternative volumes, and otherwise pass boot arguments that could change how the system loads.

      1. tingo

        Yes, I found this out this morning, when I tried to run the command. Question, then: if I deactivate the firmware password, run the command, then re-activate the firmware password, will the PRAM retain the verbose setting or not?

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