How to force-reboot your Mac, iPad, iPhone, or Apple Watch

PowerIconDo you know how to force-reboot your Apple device if it is not responding to your input? Every now and then you may run into an issue with your Mac, iPhone, or Apple Watch where the device will hard-freeze otherwise become unresponsive. In these cases, its often a good idea to give your system some time to recover from its hangup, but if after waiting for a while you still cannot use it, then a quick forced-restart may be your only option.

Given that a forced reboot is done by essentially cutting power to the device, it is fairly simple to do and only requires you press a few buttons. Furthermore, Apple’s devices all support a level of workflow autosave and resume, so while some tasks may be interrupted, forcing a reboot should have you up and running with the same apps, tasks, and documents you had open previously.

Mac OS devices

Locate your Mac’s power button and press it for about 5 seconds. The screen will go black when the power is cut, and you can then press the button again to turn it back on. While you can cut power to your Mac, using the power button should give you the same results with less risk to your system’s power supply.

iOS devices

Press and hold both the power button and the home button until the screen goes blank. You may see the Apple Logo appear showing the system is rebooting, but if not then you can press the Power button to start it back up.

Apple Watch

Press and hold both the digital crown and side buttons until the screen goes blank and the Apple logo appears.

Apple TV

Point your Apple remote at the Apple TV and press the Menu and Down buttons for 5-10 seconds. If this does not work, then unplug the system for 5-10 seconds.

5 thoughts on “How to force-reboot your Mac, iPad, iPhone, or Apple Watch

  1. Paul Bergsagel

    Topher i think you may have missed one important way of forcing a Mac to reboot when pressing and holding the power button fails to power down the Mac.

    I have had a few instances when pressing the power button and waiting 10 seconds fails to shut down my iMac. If tthe power button fails to shut down the Mac you should attempt to reset the System Management Controller. To do this follow the steps listed on this page:

    For my iMac:

    To reset the SMC on Intel-based Mac Pro, iMac, and Mac mini computers, as well as Xserve:

    Shut down the computer.
    Unplug the power cord.
    Wait fifteen seconds.
    Attach the power cord.
    Wait five seconds, then press the power button to turn on the computer.

    In my case since the computer was unresponsive and the power button failed to force the Mac to shut down, the only option to shut down the Mac was to unplug it. (BTW only unplug the Mac to shut it down IF ALL OTHER METHODS FOR SHUTTING IT DOWN HAVE FAILED!!!) I unplugged my iMac. After waiting 15 seconds I plugged the Mac back in and waited 5 seconds more. The Mac now was able to boot up when the power button was pressed.

  2. mdewakanton

    If I’m not wrong the old shortcut ctrl-Command-power button will force reboot your Mac, not just force shutdown (at least it works on my mid-2010 13″ MacBook Pro). After forcing shutdown or restart, it’s highly recommendable to boot in single user mode and perform a fsck, as detailed here

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