15 problems with the MacBook Air and how to fix them

Having trouble with your MacBook Air? Whether it’s an older model or the latest, most ephemeral Air yet, sometimes things just go wrong. This guide will help you make things right again.

Check out the list below for common problems many Air users have experienced to get the fix you need fast.

Problem: I can’t turn my MacBook Air on

Solution:

  • Check to see if the MacBook is powered off or just the screen: Does the Caps Lock key still light up? Does pushing the power button make a chiming noise? Can you hear the fan running? If “yes” to the above, then the issue is probably with the screen. Move on to the next problem on our list.
  • Check for power issues: If it’s truly off and refuses to turn on, cover the basics first. Is the battery charged? Does your laptop work with the power cord plugged in? Does a different power cord work? This indicates a problem with the battery or power cord. Try disconnecting everything (mouse, mobile devices, etc.) to see if that helps fix the problem.
  • Hard restart your MacBook: Hold down the Power button for at least 10 seconds. Push the Power button again to see if the Mac turns on.
  • Remove any manual upgrade(s): Sometimes, an upgrade like new memory can freeze a laptop in permanent “uh-oh” mode. This is rare for the Air, which is compact and not mod-friendly. However, if you have added memory or other capabilities via external or internal work, removing upgrades may solve the problem.

Problem: My screen isn’t working

Solution:

  • Try a hard restart: Do this if the laptop appears to be working but the screen won’t turn on. Hold down the Power button for at least 10 seconds. Push the Power button again to see if the screen turns on.
  • Update your MacBook: Use this solution when encountering issues with an external display. With the cable still attached, click System Preferences on the Dock and choose Software Update. If your Mac is out of date, then install any update you see for firmware, MacOS, or other related operations.
  • Use Apple adapters: The MacBook Air doesn’t always play well with third-party second screen adapters.
  • Contact Apple: If your MacBook Air is clearly on (sounds, backlighting, etc.) but the screen is completely dark (powered off, no mouse cursor movement), then this may be your only option.

Problem: My MacBook Air’s battery won’t charge anymore

Solution:

  • Check your adapter and charging cable type: If you have a MagSafe charger, L-style and T-style adapters can work on the same computer, but MagSafe 2 connectors can’t work with those computers. However, L or T adapters can be used on MagSafe 2 ports, as long as you use an extra adapter to connect them. Apple has a visual guide to help you decipher the different connector types.
  • Check your adapter cable and ports for damage: If you are using the right cable on the right MacBook Air, make sure there is no damage to the adapter cable or the port.
  • Try switching electrical outlets: Unplug the adapter for a minute and then plug it back in. If it magically starts charging after this break, then you have line noise on the circuit. Recharge the Mac on a different circuit or unplug appliances on the current circuit to see if this fixes the issue.

Problem: My battery is draining too quickly

Solution:

  • Update your Mac: Click System Preferences on the Dock and choose Software Update. If your Mac is out of date, install any and all updates. Once done, restart by clicking the Apple icon on the menu bar and choosing Restart. See if this makes a difference.
  • Check your apps: Click the Battery icon to see a list of applications that are currently using power. You may find that an app constantly appears on the list. If so, shut it down to see if the issue resolves.
  • Reset the SMC (no T2 Security Chip): This may be necessary after an SMC update. Click the Apple icon on the menu bar and select Shut Down. Once it powers off, press and hold the Shift + Control + Option keys and the Power button simultaneously for 10 seconds, then release. Press the Power button to finish.
  • Reset the SMC (T2 Security Chip): Click the Apple icon on the menu bar and select Shut Down. Next, unplug the power cord from the wall, wait 15 seconds, and then plug it back in. Wait another five seconds before turning the Mac back on.

Problem: I think my Macbook Air is overheating

Solution:

  • Look for hidden or unexpected apps: Find the Activity Monitor by clicking Go on the menu bar followed by Utilities. Once open, the first tab is CPU, which shows the amount of CPU time and energy each open app uses. If anything strange is using a lot of CPU percentage, shut it down by clicking its name, then click the Stop button in the top-left corner of the app (it’s an “X” inside an octagon).
  • Check the fan: If the fan isn’t working, then the Mac will get hot. Listen for noise to determine if it even spins. You may not hear it, so don’t panic — it’s likey running, but not at its maximum noisy speed. However, if you’re running a compute-heavy application, like a Steam game, and you don’t hear a fan, then you may need to run diagnostics (see below) or contact Apple.
  • Check the vent: The vent is located on the back in the hinge area. Given its location, debris can collect and prevent proper heat exhaust. You can always clean it out using a can of compressed air.
  • Run Apple Diagnostics (newer Air models): Fully shut down the Mac and disconnect all secondary devices, like external drives. Next, press the Power button and then immediately press and hold the D key. Do this until the Apple Diagnostics check begins. This will include a progress bar and eventually produce a report. If there’s an error, carefully read what it says, and write down any error codes and instructions. Click Restart to return to MacOS.
  • Remove the case or shell: Third-party cases and shells typically have vents along the bottom portion to allow proper heat dissipation. While it’s unlikely to cause overheating issues, remove it to see if the problem disappears. The build quality of that specific shell or case may be the culprit and require a replacement.

Problem: I don’t have any sound on my MacBook Air

Solution:

  • Update your Mac: Click System Preferences on the Dock and choose Software Update. If your Mac is out of date, install any and all updates. Once done, restart it by clicking the Apple icon on the menu bar, followed by Restart. See if this makes a difference.
  • Reset the PRAM/NVRAM: Click the Apple logo on the menu bar and select Shut Down. Next, push the Power button to restart and then immediately press the Command + Option + P + R keys at the same time. Hold these keys down for about 20 seconds — your Mac may restart during this time. If it normally plays a startup chime, you can release the keys once it sounds a second time. If it has a T2 Security Chip, release the keys once the Apple logo has appeared and disappeared for a second time. This process will typically remove any customized login settings.
  • Go to an Apple Store or Authorized Service Provider: This applies to models from early 2010 and older. In the first Air models, hinge problems caused serious sound malfunctions. This can be repaired by technicians, but it may take some pricey replacements.

Problem: My trackpad isn’t working properly

Solution:

  • Clean and dry the trackpad: Moisture, grime, and dust can confuse the trackpad. This causes it to stop working or act strangely, like jumping around because it doesn’t know where your fingers are. Be sure the Mac is powered down before cleaning.
  • Reset the PRAM: Follow our instructions in the step above to see if resetting the PRAM helps.
  • Run Apple Diagnostics on newer Air models: Fully shut down the Mac and disconnect all secondary devices, like external drives. Next, press the Power button and then immediately press and hold the D key. Do this until the Apple Diagnostics check begins. This will include a progress bar and eventually produce a report. If the report finds an error, carefully read what it says, and write down any error codes and instructions. Click Restart to return to MacOS.

Problem: An app has frozen

Solution:

  • Restart the app: If it’s completely unresponsive, go to the Dock and right-click the app to bring up the Force Quit option, which should be able to shut it down. If you only see the Quit option, hold the Option key, and Quit should change to Force Quit. Restart the app to see if this fixes the problem.
  • Check for an update: Click the App Store on the Dock and then select Updates listed on the left. Choose to install any updates related to the app.
  • Shut down the Mac entirely: This is one of your best options if the entire computer has frozen up. Hold the Power button down for 10 seconds, and then release it to force a shutdown.
  • Wait for a patch: If you recently updated MacOS, the app may no longer cooperate with the new version. This requires an update on the app developer’s end.

Problem: I can’t use AirPrint

Solution:

  • Check for updates: AirPrint can be tricky to use because it depends on third-party devices, which may not always cooperate. Click the App Store on the Dock and then select Updates listed on the left. Choose to install any updates related to the app.
  • Update the printer’s firmware: Look up your exact printer model online, preferably on the manufacturer’s website. If there are any firmware updates or warnings about AirPrint, you can find them there. Download and update as necessary. Remember that not all printers are compatible with AirPrint, even if they have wireless capabilities.
  • Check the connection: Printers need to be connected directly and wirelessly to AirPrint. If they are connected to an AirPort device instead, for example, that doesn’t mean they can automatically use AirPrint.
  • Restart everything: Inconvenient, we know,  but if nothing else works, this may be the only solution. Turn off the router, printer, and MacBook, then turn them all back on again, one at a time in that order. Sometimes a hard restart is the only way to clear the road.

Problem: I don’t think my USB port is working

Solution:

  • Perform basic hardware testing: Try switching to another USB device to see if it’s the port or the device. Try using another USB port to see if it’s just one port or all of them. If only one port is misbehaving, there’s a good chance it’s physically damaged. Check to see if the port is loose, bent, or has other physical abnormalities. If something is wrong with the port, take it to an Apple Store.
  • Reset the SMC (no T2 Security Chip): Click the Apple logo on the menu bar and select Shut Down. After that, press and hold the Shift + Control + Option keys and the Power button simultaneously for 10 seconds, then release. Finally, press the Power button again.
  • Reset the SMC (T2 Security Chip): Click the Apple logo on the menu bar and select Shut Down. After that, unplug the power cord, wait 15 seconds, and then plug it back in. Wait another five seconds before turning the Mac back on.

Problem: My MacBook Air won’t shut down

Solution:

  • Look for apps and services that require your attention: Nothing turns the laptop off — it just sits there humming instead of shutting down. Wait for 5 to 10 minutes to make sure that it really has a problem, then take a cursory look around MacOS. Are there warning signs, alerts, or active apps that need your attention before shutting down? Look for subtle signs that show something is happening behind the scenes, like bouncing apps in the Dock.
  • Check for frozen apps: Right-click on an app icon and choose Force Quit to end the app and see if this restores functionality. If you only see Quit, press and hold the Option key, and it should change to Force Quit.
  • Force a total shutdown: Hold down the Power button for at least 10 seconds to make the Mac turn off. However, this can be dangerous if it’s trying to update. Make absolutely sure that everything is stuck and your MacBook isn’t just taking some personal update time.

Problem: My Wi-Fi has stopped working

Solution:

  • Turn Wi-Fi off and on: Sometimes, you just need to reconnect to the local network to get your internet flowing again. Click the Wi-Fi icon on the menu bar, followed by the Wi-Fi toggle on the drop-down menu. Wait a moment and toggle it back on.
  • Restart everything: Wi-Fi problems are common but notoriously hard to diagnose. Turn the router and Mac off, then back on again in that order. This clears (resets) the road between these two devices.
  • Update MacOS: An update could make your Wi-Fi smooth again. Click System Preferences on the Dock and choose Software Update. If your Mac is out of date, install any and all updates.
  • Connect to the 5GHz band if possible: Although shorter in range, 5GHz is less congested. Switching over can help with connectivity issues. To do so, click the Wi-Fi icon on the menu bar and select the appropriate connection. However, this method requires the 5GHz band to have its own SSID, which isn’t available on some routers and kits that automatically balance devices using just one SSID.

Problem: FaceTime isn’t working

Solution:

  • Check the camera: Did you put black tape over the camera so Apple doesn’t spy on you? Is there anything covering the camera? Remove anything that could block the input.
  • Check your FaceTime settings: With the app open, click FaceTime in the menu bar followed by Preferences. Check to see if FaceTime is verified or “waiting for activation.” If it’s waiting, you may need to verify FaceTime through your email to proceed.
  • Check other basic info:  Go into Preferences and verify your phone number, location, and any other pertinent information.
  • Update and restart: Click System Preferences on the Dock and select Software Update. Look for any available updates and install them as needed. When completed, choose Restart in the same menu.

Problem: I’m seeing a lot of user interface lag

Solution:

  • Restart the Mac: You may experience UI lag in your MacBook Air — animations and graphics that get choppy when they start opening apps or resizing windows. Click the Apple logo on the menu bar, followed by Restart to reboot the Mac.
  • Check for updates: Click System Preferences on the Dock, followed by Software Update. Install all available updates as needed.
  • Restore your Mac: User interface lag could mean driver corruption. If updating MacOS didn’t work, reinstalling it from MacOS Recovery may be the only fix. Here’s a separate guide on how to do that.

Problem: Apps are crashing frequently

Solution:

  • Check for an update: Click the App Store on the Dock, followed by Updates listed on the left. Choose to install any updates related to the app.
  • Uninstall and reinstall: Click Finder on the Dock, followed by Applications listed on the left. Select the offending app and either drag it to Trash, or select File on the menu bar followed by Move to Trash. Reinstall the app to see if this resolves the problem.
  • Resolve overheating issues: If your Air feels very hot after working hard for a while, it could be overheating. Cut down on the number of apps running at the same time, and turn off your laptop to let it cool for half an hour or so.

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