While it may sound like popcorn-related anxiety, kernel panic is a common issue with computers, especially with MacBooks.

Does anyone else panic when they see ominous messages on their computer? Windows users fear seeing the infamous ‘blue screen of death’ and its robotic message it displays.


For a MacBook user, turning on their device was thought to be working just fine, and seeing the phrase “You need to restart your computer. Hold down the Power button for several seconds or press the Restart button” on a dark gray background just looks, well, menacing.

This is what Kernel Panic (or KP) looks like on a MacBook.

“What is ‘Kernel Panic’?”

To the non-technical, the phrase kernel panic would make anyone scratch their head. After all, saying those two words out loud even sounds strange. However, the simplest way of describing KP is a defense mechanism against specific actions taken by the user or system.

In a more in-depth explanation, kernel panic refers to a variety of safety measures taken by a computer’s core (or kernel) when it receives commands in a format the system is not familiar with or if it is mishandled. KP can also occur when an OS cannot recover data from an unexpected and clashing internal fatal error without risking any more significant data loss. Another instance of Kernel Panic is when memory is trying to get accessed and cannot or should be accessed.


What the Kernel Panic screen looks like on macOS.

“What are the causes of this issue?”

Usually, kernel panic happens due to a software-related problem, but it can occur because of internal and external hardware issues. That said, there are more than several causes of kernel panic related to both categories.

  • Malfunctioning or outdated macOS firmware or app updates.
  • Opposing apps trying to access memory at the same time.
  • Malware from malicious websites or emails.
  • Random software bugs and glitches.
  • Too many apps running at the same time.
  • Software drivers that are not working.
  • Too many apps or programs starting up when the computer is turned on.
  • Apps no longer working.
  • Lack of sufficient hard drive or RAM space.
  • Corrupted data on the hard drive or RAM.
  • Incompatible external devices.
  • Liquid spills affecting individual components.
  • Conflicting or inconsistent drivers with devices or software.

“What can I do to fix this issue?”

Removing and shutting off devices
  1. Unplug any external devices and accessories from the MacBook (headphones, external hard drives, network adapters, etc.).
  2. Turn the MacBook back on and plug-in each device one at a time.
  3. Repeat the above step with each device until the Kernel Panic screen shows up again with a specific device.
  4. Once the user figures out which external device causes the issue, either uninstall or reinstall it.
Run Apple Diagnostics
  1. Disconnect all devices on the MacBook.
  2. Turn off your computer.
  3. Turn your computer back on and hold down the D key. This will start the Apple Diagnostics process.
  4. Wait for Apple Diagnostics to run, and it will automatically figure out if there are any hardware issues.
  5. When the diagnostics process is finished, the user will receive a detailed report on the issue.
Update your OS and all software apps
  1. Click on the App Store to launch it.
  2. From the main menu, click on the Updates tab. This menu will show when each app has been updated.
  3. If there have not been any updates within the last six months or so, please update them.

Isolate the specific app that is causing the issue
  1. Open the app in question and try to update it.
  2. If the app is up-to-date and is still giving a person trouble, delete and reinstall it.
Check your hard drive space
  1. Click on the Apple icon.
  2. On this menu, click on About This Mac and find the Storage tab.
  3. The Storage window will display how much is left on the hard drive.
  4. If it looks like there is not a lot of space left on it, start clearing it of unused apps, documents, pictures, videos, etc.
  5. Alternatively, if you can, a third-party app can be installed that will assist in deleting other apps, pictures, and more. Examples: Hazel, CleanMyMac, or AppCleaner.
Launch Disk Utility
  1. Shut down your MacBook.
  2. Hold down the Command and R keys on your keyboard and start the computer up again.
  3. This will bring up the Recovery menu and click on the option Disk Utility.
  4. From the Disk Utility menu, click on the First Aid tab.
  5. Follow the next few onscreen prompts, which will troubleshoot any issues going on with the disk.
Disable startup items
  1. Click on the System Preferences tab and click on the Users & Groups option.
  2. Find your username and click on it.
  3. In this menu, select the Login Items tab.
  4. Choose which apps and services start up.
  5. Restart your computer to see if there are any changes.
  6. If there is, repeat the process until there are no apps that start after logging into the Mac.
Reinstall macOS
  1. Restart the MacBook, and hold down one of the three key combinations: Command and R, Option and R, or Shift-Option-and-R.
  2. If needed, enter your password.
  3. When the Utilities menu pops up, click on the Reinstall macOS option and start following the prompts.
Seed Fear…Morsel Hysteria…Bit Horror and other synonyms of ‘Kernel Panic.’

Sure, seeing a snake or a spider can be scary. But for a MacBook owner who just bought a new device, seeing “You need to restart your computer. Hold down the Power button for several seconds or press the Restart button” on a dark gray background is pretty scary too. Thankfully, knowing that Kernel Panic can be fixed will ease the fears of certain MacBook users. Unless the problem is caused by a literal ghost in the machine…then not only will that be scarier, but most technicians will not be able to fix that.

At MicroReplay, we know a thing or two about MacBooks and how to repair these devices. With over twenty plus years of experience, our company specializes in repairing liquid damaged MacBooks and other high-end laptops.

In need of a liquid spill or cracked screen repair? Book a repair with us today!

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