Fix No Startup Disk on Mac Without Losing Data

Here we collect a round of no startup disk issues happening to macOS Ventura, Monterey, Big Sur, Catalina, Mojave, and each major macOS update! Follow the advice to fix each startup disk error in different situations and recover MacBook data with EaseUS.

Table of Contents

"Hello, I have a MacBook Retina from early 2016. I tried reinstalling the OS, but it told me there was no starting disk. How can I get one or install one? This MacBook has a soldered SSD, RAM, and no disk slot, so I'm guessing it's something I have to install. Thank you for your help." - from iFixit

Startup Disk Not Showing on macOS Ventura/Monterey/Big Sur

unable to verify the startup disk on Mac would undoubtedly make your Mac machine unbootable. And if it's happening while updating a recent macOS like Monterey or Big Sur, the update won't move on without selecting a startup disk. The startup disk is usually an internal hard drive inside your Mac, which installs the operating system and applications. The lack of a startup disk in Mac surely disables you from doing any upgrade or downgrade or accessing the computer. Therefore, when you are in the same boat to see no startup disk or startup disk missing/not showing on Mac, follow our advice to find it, or change to another startup disk that is properly functioning!

no startup disk mac image

Though the symptoms are similar when a startup disk cannot be found, the situations for getting the error are distinct. You can check the table for various scenarios you may encounter no startup disk issue and directly jump to the corresponding solutions.

Workable Solutions Step-by-step Troubleshooting
#1. Repair Startup Disk in macOS Recovery Turn on your Mac and continue to press and hold the power button...Full steps
#2. Make Startup Disk Appear in Disk Utility Shut down your Mac and disconnect all peripherals from your Mac...Full steps
#3. Reset NVRAM on Your Mac Shut down your Mac, turn it on and immediately press and hold...Full steps
#4. Change Another Startup Disk Turn off your Mac, and press and hold the power button to start up your...Full steps
Tip. Recover Data from Unbootable Mac Download EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard for Mac and create a bootable...Full steps

Before proceeding, ensure you have a current backup of your essential files and purchased programs (the activation key/code is quite crucial for reinstalling and activating the second time). Otherwise, you can only rely on third-party Mac data recovery software - EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard for Mac to recover missing files.

EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard for Mac

  • Recover permanently deleted files, documents, photos, audio, music, and emails effectively
  • Recover files from formatted hard drives, emptied trash bins, memory cards, flash drives, digital cameras, and camcorders
  • Support data recovery from sudden deletion, formatting, hard drive corruption, virus attack, and system crash under different situations

Solution 1. Repair Startup Disk in macOS Recovery Mode

Since your startup disk is not showing now, you cannot use the regular way to open Disk Utility by just launching the Applications folder and selecting the Utility folder. You'll enter Disk Utility from macOS Recovery mode this time.

Step 1. Depending on whether you're using Mac with Apple silicon or an Intel processor, you'll use different keys/entries to enter this mode.

  • Apple silicon: Turn on your Mac and continue to press and hold the power button until you see the startup options window. Click the gear icon labeled Options, then click Continue.
  • Intel processor: Turn on your Mac, then immediately press and hold Command (⌘) and R keys until you see an Apple logo or other image.

Step 2. Select a user; later, you'll be asked to enter a password to continue. Next, you'll be invited to the macOS Recovery mode. Choose Disk Utility on the window, and click Continue.

open disk utility in macos recovery

Step 3. In the Disk Utility window, navigate to View > Show All Devices. (None disks are showing? Jump to #solution 2#.)

show all devices in disk utility in macos recovery

Step 4. If you're lucky and the startup disk appears here, select it, click the First Aid button, and then click Run. First Aid will check the selected volume for errors and try to repair it if issues are found. 

run first aid to repair startup disk in macos recovery

Solution 2. Make the Startup Disk Appear in Disk Utility

Disk Utility can check any connected disk and repair problems once it detects them. How to repair a startup disk if it's not showing up in Disk Utility? For those who didn't see a whole disk or any containers or volumes on that disk, try to use the below steps to make it detected.

Step 1. Shut down your Mac and disconnect all peripherals that are connected to your Mac.

Step 2. If you installed macOS on an external hard drive, make sure that its connection cable is alright, and the connection is solid. Turn off the drive and back on.

Step 3. Follow the #Solution 1# guide to entering Disk Utility in macOS Recovery and repair the startup disk. Still can't see any drive in the available devices? The most time-efficient way is to get support from https.// and start with the Mac entry.

contact apple support to fix startup disk not showing in disk utility

Solution 3. Reset NVRAM to Fix Startup Disk Not Showing

When you try to boot your Mac from the startup disk, but it finally starts up with a flashing question mark like this, it means that your startup disk is no longer available or doesn't contain a working Mac operating system. If an issue persists each time you try to boot your Mac, you'll need to repair the startup disk with Disk Utility in macOS Recovery, which #Solution 1# has demonstrated the steps.

boot mac into a flashing question mark

For the case the question mark appears only momentarily before your Mac starts up typically, perhaps resetting NVRAM (nonvolatile random-access memory) will help resolve the problem. As you know, the NVRAM can store the settings of the startup disk selection. 

Step 1. Shut down your Mac, turn it on, and immediately press and hold the keys together: Option, Command, P, and R.

restart mac

Step 2. When your Mac boots up, check that your preferred startup disk is selected in Startup Disk preferences.

Solution 4. Change Another Startup Disk

We cannot exclude the chance that your current startup disk has failed somehow. The macOS can longer recognize it. If these options are available to you, like a CD/DVD, a network volume, or a different physical disk, you can try to change your startup disk with a working one.

Change a Startup Disk at One Time

Step 1. Turn off your Mac

Step 2. Press and hold the power button to start your Mac if you're using Apple silicon, and press and hold the power button until the "Loading startup options" appear.

Step 3. Click the Up arrow on Mac or the Continue button on Mac with Apple silicon to select the new startup disk when you see all the available startup disks showing up. 

Change a Startup Disk for Every Startup

Step 1. Open your Mac and navigate to the Apple menu and then System Preferences. Click "Startup Disk".

Step 2. Choose the wanted disk by clicking the icon of it and clicking "Restart".

Can You Recover Data from Unbootable Mac Hard Drive?

One big concern of finding no startup disk on Mac is losing access to data. Is this a new round of trouble making you upset? Don't worry. Whenever you're confronted with data loss on an inaccessible Macintosh HD, ask EaseUS macOS Ventura data recovery software for help. You'll boot your Mac from its bootable version and perform the below steps to recover desired data and transfer it to a safe location.

Step 1. Install and run EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard for Mac on another Mac computer, and select "Unbootable Mac > Start".

Launch EaseUS Data Reocvery Wizard for Mac and select unbootable Mac

Step 2. Then, choose a prepared USB drive to create the bootable disc. Select "Next" to start creating the bootable disk.

Install and run EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard for Mac to Create Bootable USB

The creator will prompt to erase the drive to reallocate the space; then it can write the bootable files to this drive. Please back up all USB files before processing "Eraser".

Step 3. The program starts to create a 2GB space and save the boot files. The rest space on the USB can be still used for storage.

 create a 2GB space

Step 4. Once it completes, please follow the guide to boot the corrupted Mac from the bootable disc and start the recovery. We suggest you restore the data to an external hard drive.

boot the corrupted Mac from the bootable disc

Step 5. After booting the Mac, launch EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard for Mac. Select the disk location (an internal HDD/SSD or a removable storage device) where you lost data and files. Then, this recovery tool will scan for lost files automatically.

Note: Before data recovery, you'd better create a backup of your Mac to avoid further data loss. After backing up, the software can recover data from the Mac backup, and your computer can wirte new data again.

select a location and scan for lost Mac data


If you still can't fix the startup disk error, you can try to run a factory reset on macOS Ventura/Monterey/Big Sur or MacBook to fix the error. During the process, run EaseUS Mac data recovery software to recover data from any device.

Mac Startup Disk Not Showing FAQs

To get further help, read the frequently asked questions below.

1. How to fix and choose startup disk Mac not Loading?

Solutions to fix choose startup disk mac empty:

  • Repair Startup Disk in macOS Recovery
  • Make Startup Disk Appear in Disk Utility
  • Reset NVRAM on Your Mac
  • Change Another Startup Disk

2. How to fix Mac stuck on Apple logo?

To fix Mac stuck on Apple logo:

  • Wait longer
  • Force restart Mac
  • Boot in Safe Mode
  • Reset PRAM/NVRAM
  • Reset SMC
  • Repair startup disk with First Aid
  • Run Apple Diagnostics
  • Clean install macOS from USB...

3. How do I reinstall macOS without losing data?

To reinstall macOS without losing data:

  • Format the external drive
  • Download the macOS installer
  • Create a bootable USB disk
  • Boot your Mac from a USB drive

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Updated by Cedric

Cedric Grantham is a senior editor and data recovery specialist of EaseUS. He mainly writes articles and how-to tips about data recovery on PC and Mac. He has handled 10,000+ data recovery cases and is good at data recovery of NTFS, FAT (FAT32 and ExFAT) file systems, and RAID structure reorganization.

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Written by Jean

Jean is recognized as one of the most professional writers in EaseUS. She has kept improving her writing skills over the past 10 years and helped millions of her readers solve their tech problems on PC, Mac, and iOS devices.

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