OSX Black Screen no Login screen but with working cursor on boot [fixed]

I'm just posting this, to maybe help others who get the same problem.

I had an OSX 10.10.2 update on my 2011 Macbook Air, and left the laptop open last night.  This put it in Hibernation mode which breaks the auto-installation, so when I tried to use the laptop this morning, it booted to the Apple logo, but then the screen went totally black without the option to login.  The cursor was still live though.

The fix below will let you login again.  It will only work in the above scenario, if its your backlight broken or something else keep searching :)

Before the below fix I tried:

  1. Pressing the increase brightness buttons (duh)
  2. Restarting in safe mode (doesn't complete login)
  3. Resetting SMC and PRAM (pusing CTRL+OPTION+POWER+other buttons on powerup - see here: https://discussions.apple.com/docs/DOC-3603 )
  4. Letting it boot, waiting, then pushing first letter of your username, pushing enter and typing in password (the most popular fix on the web)

But finally, the solution was found at this forum called Jamfnation via some Google-wu:

  1. Perform a PRAM reset ( Cmd+Option+P+R ) on boot – let chime 3 times and let go
  2. Boot to Single User Mode (hold Command+S immediately after powering on)
  3. Verify and Mount the Drives - Once in Single user mod, run the following commands:
  4. /sbin/fsck -fy
  5. /sbin/mount -uw /
  6. After the disk has mounted in step 5, run the following commands:
  7. rm -f /Library/Preferences/com.apple.loginwindow.plist
  8. rm -f /var/db/.AppleUpgrade
  9. After deleting the files, restart.

Hope it helps if you get this far.

85 responses
Thanks for the post. Not sure if every step is needed depending on what is causing osx to hang. In my case - I've been using my work computer and my laptop hasn't been used in about a year. Slept due to a dead battery. When it came up -- it was really slow. I rebooted it and then had the black screen. Booting verbose told me a cpu failure and displayed panic kernel error... my uptime was also some crazy long timestamp. Haha I figured the cpu error was incorrect but know my HD isn't in greatest shape. Preformed a pram reset and that fixed the issue for me.
Thanks Andy, hope it helps others who may run into this. I hate IT, thats why I have a Mac as its usually no problem :)
Only the removal of the plist is needed.
Freaking Genius! I know you dug this up somewhere else, but your post got me to the solution. Thanks!!!
Incredible, this worked. Thank you for gathering this info and presenting it in a concise and practical manner. I really appreciate your time spent putting this post together. Here is to all the hacker-Geniuses out there!
Thank God for you. I was about to perform an erase and reinstall. Single user mode did the trick.
Thanks Mark - just to let you know this post is still helping folk!
this saved me!! thank you!
Worked for me in Sierra, thanks!
This works for me. However, my screen still goes back to black after I'm on for too long. :/
This fixed my 2011 MBP, not sure what caused that. Thank you!
Great thanks, this helped me to reanimate my Mac mini with Sierra from black cursor screen. Bad things happened after last update to 10.12.2.
Had the same issue using a Mac mini with 10.12.2. Thanks for the fix!
Thanks!! I thought my machine was toast . happened after update on sierra 10.12.2
This worked and it was incredible. OP thank you for contributing to this thread.
You saved the day! This worked for me. Thanks so much.
I upgraded an iMac to sierra 10.2.2 December 21 2016 and got the BSOD. Tried other supposed fixes, including reinstalling sierra from recovery disk, with no luck. Removing the plist did the trick, thanks so much!
This was so helpfull! Thanks a lot!
Thank you. These steps helped. Both how to get to single user mode and then removing com.apple.loginwindow.plist helped in my case.
This worked perfectly on my MBP 2011. Thanx a lot!
This worked great on my 2013 MBP. Thanks so much!!!!
Thanks for this solution. It has solved the problem on my Mac Mini running OS X Sierra.
Worked on the problem for 3 hours with no luck until I found your post. The single user mode didn't quite work for me because it mounted the wrong drive as root and I wasn't smart enough to mount the right drive. But I knew I could boot with a back-up drive I have and manually delete the plist file. That fixed my issue! Thanks for saving me the additional hours with Apple Support covering the same ground
If you're ever in Chicago, I owe you a couple of beers. This article saved my sanity
This post saved me after updating to 10.12.2 Sierra. Thanks so much!!
Didn't work for me. My wife's iMac is 3 years old, has worked fine since day 1. She said it wanted to install updates and she clicked "later" and the machine tried to reboot... progress bar goes halfway across then all you see is black screen and cursor. Then a few seconds pass and 3 message tabs appear on the right, one saying batteries are low in the keyboard (not, we changed them twice already), next msg says to enter password for her mail account, third says Updates were installed. Then they fade away after 10 seconds. Tried all kinds of reboots, even safe mode... never see any text on the screen, but you can tell its lit. Stumped.
Thank you! I had some sort of power glitch and ended up in the mouse cursor only display. I tried almost everything including re-installing 10.12.2, nothing worked until I followed your sequence of steps.
Thank you!!!
Hi, I had this issue after the last update of Sierra (10.12.2). I was almost ready to restore, until I found your post. Worked perfectly!!! Many thanks!!!! Kind regards, David
I tried so many different approaches, the Mac was down for 2 days, not even the Mac tech chat person could get it going. But after I made a Genius Bar appointment I figured... keep trying. So I powered down for an hour, plugged it back in and tried this approach. Honestly don't know which part of it kicked ass, but I got to the point where I typed the first letter of her login and the screen popped up! After that I cleaned the cache, emptied the trash and rebooted just fine. Have rebooted 4-5 times to make sure and it looks solid so I'll cancel the Genius Bar appointment. Thanks again for posting your solutions. It's people like you that make a great tech community. Happy New Year! Mike
Thank you, thank you, thank you... I was just about to make an appointment with the Genius Bar. You rock, my friend! 👍🏽👏🏾🙌🏾☝🏽✊🏾🙏🏽
Cheers! Plist removal worked for my imac running macos sierra 10.12.2, cant thank you enough!
Just letting you know, this was the only helpful tutorial after pulling my hair off for an hour.. xD
Mark I want to thank you and raise a glass, a toast, in your honor my friend!! It's the few people like you that make this cursed adventure bearable and you deserve more than a 'thanks' so I'd like to give back the only way I know how. A sincere offer, sincerely discounted, of our services @ https://www.procollage.com. This is not a spam message. If you want, remove the link but the offer stands and is 100% legitimate. Many 'thanks' if that is all i can deliver for your efforts. ;)
Thank you! Instructions fixed my issue.
It Works. Thank you
Thank you Mark! Big help. Got me back up and running.
LOVE you. It worked like a charm. Really appreciating you.
You are amazing! Thank you so much! It worked perfectly! I reinstalled os sierra and nothing was helping but this worked perfect! Thanks so much
First solution worked well for me. Black screen with cursor, keyed in password blind and blind my desktop is back.
YOU are the one. None of that b.s about safe mode
Thank you! This just saved me countless time today running back and forth to the city centre to get help. Your tip did the trick, my screen has come back!
Thanks so much!!!!!
Thanks! Saved my home mac mini after 10.12.4 update!
Thankyou so much, you are a beast
Not Working With My Macbook Air 13. Did All The Steps But Macbook Is Still Running Slow :'( . It Was Working Fine Last Night. My Disk Has Almost 50GB Free Space. Did Reset Many Times, Cache Files Cleared. But Still Working Slow. Please Help Me
Thanks for your help on it... but I am getting following error at the end......apple.loginwindow.plist: Permission denied"
Thank you so much! I accidentally only did the plist step 7 before restarting but that did the trick. Thank you so so so much! I was freaking out.
37 visitors upvoted this post.