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Tech Tip: How to Force Restart a MacBook Pro with Touch Bar & 2018 MacBook Air

I have a very embarrassing admission to make: after 33 years of being a Mac user, I was completely stumped when I recently tried to force quit and restart my 2017 MacBook Pro with Touch Bar. Fortunately, I was able to figure it out so I thought I’d pass along this tip to readers of the Rocket Yard who might also run into this situation. [Update: October 2018:] This tip is also compatible with the new 2018 MacBook Pro with Touch Bar and the 2018 MacBook Air.

This all happened while I was upgrading the MacBook Pro to macOS 10.13 High Sierra beta 8. During the installation process, my MacBook Pro restarted several times, and at one point I was asked to log in. I did so, and then followed the prompt to log into iCloud. So far, so good.

The next time I looked at the MacBook Pro screen, it was black except for a progress bar that didn’t seem to be making any progress. I waited about a half hour, and finally decided it was time to force quit the laptop, reboot, and see if that solved the problem.

On just about every recent Mac I’ve ever owned, there’s a simple method of doing a force restart — just hold down the power button until the machine reboots. On old Macs, the power button was useful for a similar method — shutting off the Mac, and then turning it back on. So I started searching for the power button on the MacBook Pro…

The (nearly) invisible power button of the MacBook Pro with Touch Bar
(The (nearly) invisible power button of the MacBook Pro with Touch Bar.)

Do you see it in the picture above? I didn’t. And believe it or not, in the months that I had owned the MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, I had never needed to use a power button. The login screen was always there when I flipped the display up, and the MBP always went to sleep when I flipped the screen back down.

What I didn’t realize is that the Touch ID button at the far right end of the Touch Bar is actually a button — the power button. I had placed my finger on it plenty of times to log in, but never actually pushed it. All it takes to force a restart of a frozen MacBook Pro with Touch Bar is to press down on the Touch ID button until the device reboots.

This is one case where I think Apple carried its simplistic design a little bit too far. Would it have been that much of a bother to just put a small power button graphic above the Touch ID button? The only clue that the Touch ID button is also a power button is at the very bottom of this Apple support page in a discussion on Touch Bar accessibility features:

Press Touch ID Power Button

Sigh.

Steve Sande
the authorSteve Sande
Contributing Author
Steve is the publisher of Apple World Today, a website providing news, reviews and how-tos for the world of Apple, as well as an author on The Rocket Yard. He's an avid photographer, an FAA-licensed drone pilot, and a really bad guitarist.
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232 Comments

  • This was super helpful!!! Had no idea how to force restart. Felt like a dope because I didn’t see the power button either. Thanks for the great resource!

  • In the same boat – well described and now my frozen screen has departed. Agreed that what should be intuitive is quite disguised.

  • There used to be a MUCH easier and better way to force reboot a Mac….ctrl-cmd-powerkey…instant reboot. Holding down the power key for 10 seconds does in fact force shutdown the Mac, and you then have to press it again to start it up again. Waste of 10+ seconds IMO. I want the old key combo back (that only just disappeared on this POS touchbar Mac. I’ve owned a Mac continuously and exclusively since September 1984 when I got my first original 128K Mac, and, IMO, this touchbar one is the worst one I’ve ever had.

  • Hi! Like you I’ve been using Mac computers since the mid -80es and have never been so embarrassed, when I had to beg my youngest son for help, when my 2 weeks old MacBook Pro froze. I knew there was a way to lock it up but how? There was no start button but of course I could have read the manual but as a mac owner you normally can do without it!
    But my son found your article and then . . . .3 seconds, and I was going strong again, thank you!

  • THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU who’d have thought to press the Touch ID spot!!! Yay for you and sharing this!!!! Hooray

  • Thank you for the tip. My new MacBook Pro froze when opening my browser and I was at a loss also as to how to get it to re-boot without a power button. I followed your advice and it worked like a charm!

  • So the so-called usability experts in the industry have no knowledge of the concept of affordance?

    Very nearly tossed this P.O.S. out the window, and missed a meeting because of it. But oh, the design is oh-so-simplistic!

  • Wow. I would not have thought of this. Now I know it it is easy.
    Thanks for the tip. I needed it today when reboot kept on showing the progress icon

  • Thank you SO much! I’ve been pulling out my hair because everywhere says use your power button but never tells you WHERE it is! Thank you Thank you!!

  • Wow I literally feel so dumb. I didn’t know you could do that. My Mac was showing a black screen and it wouldn’t turn on so I looked through dozens of websites on how to fix it but this one helped a lot.

  • Thank you!!!

    Catalina upgrade on my Macbook Pro 2018, close the lid, get home from work, open the lid and the touchpad and keyboard are completely unresponsive.

    Logged in using the Touch ID button on the Touch Bar just to find a bluetooth discovery dialog saying that it kept trying and failing to connect my external keyboard and mouse!

    Nevar have, and never thought to actually press the Touch ID button!

    Again, Thank you!!! :)

  • Thank you!! Just been sat at my MacBook Pro which has frozen and just whirring/ so can’t go to system preferences – nor is the Touch Bar appearing and I was totally baffled- how on earth do I just turn the thing off!
    Apple really are quite crazy with their designs..

  • OH MY GOD!
    I was just resting my finger on that fricking button for the last half hour!!
    Thank you so much, you cured my black screen of death.

  • THANK YOU!! The power button thing threw me for a wild loop!! I couldn’t find it after being a Mac person for twenty years either!!!

  • Hot Damn – it works! LOL Just held that button down and my MacBook Pro is once again up and running! Thanks a lot. (plan B was to call Apple support) Bookmarked your website on my toolbar!

  • Thank you! You saved me! I have owned Macs forever – and I could not, for the life of me, figure this one out. You are a champion! Love my Mac but sometimes I think it should come with flashing neon instructions on every button

  • This explanation saved my life. I just purchased this laptop a month ago, it froze on me.. definitely Apple should explain that the ON/OFF button to reboot
    is right there in our fingertips.
    Thank God all is back to normal now!

  • Thank you Steve! You also saved me a lot of time! I read elsewhere about using Option, Command and Touch ID to force quit the MBP. BUT the advice didn’t say to Press Down on the Touch ID! Had no idea that it was also a mechanical button, until I pressed it harder.

  • THank you Steve. Your humility saved me a trip to the apple store today. I am no novice wither, but could not for the life of me restar my new MacBook Pro. Only lost 1 hour instead of the better part of the day, thanks to you !

  • Thank you, my screen was completely grey for some odd reason and I got scared thinking it was a virus but this really helped me fix it. I was about to go to the apple store to see if I needed a new one. This blog was very helpful and I thank you for that.

  • Usability has been at the bottom of Apple’s priority list (if it hasn’t fallen completely off) for years now, ever since the sidebar lost its color and custom icons. A goth sensibility has taken over the macOS, usability be damned. This is just another case in point. And, no, most people don’t read the manual. After all, a Mac just works—until it doesn’t.

  • “Would it have been that much of a bother to just put a small power button graphic above the Touch ID button?”

    Apple’s graphic designers have finally achieved minimalistic perfection — you’ll find it printed in the exact same shade of silvery-gray as the background surface. /sarc

    Every Apple artiste should be forced to spend a month in a telephone support facility, asking senior citizens to read them the serial numbers of their unbootable machines.

  • God bless you! I was just faced with this exact problem and could not figure it out. I googled it on my iPhone. Found your article. I was holding my finger on that touch place but I was not pushing down on it. Thank you!!

  • Purchased my MacBook Pro and never needed to reboot. Never thought about “On – Off” button until I read this article. Thank you for this “heads up” information.

  • I went thru the same discovery process this week when I appeared to be locked up and had not noticed for last year plus, that I had no idea where the power button was. Once I finally noticed that the button existed, I just held it down until the restart occurred. This is really a good testimony of how reliable the laptop is!

    I’m 76 and have had apples around since the original Apple II (not a plus model either). Seems like it had 4 digit serial number that began with a zero. I had problems with the original mother board and had to replace it with new mother board with a plus prom on it.

  • Thank you!! I’ve been staring at my keyboard for 30 minutes, feeling like an idiot, trying to figure this out!!

  • It is a very inconspicuous power button indeed – Your blog certainly helped me unfreeze my macbook pro:) Thank you!

  • I was in Mac App Store and my MacBook Pro froze. The cursor moved but all else was frozen. I had been having trouble typing for a week. Words became jumbled and page would jump up or down to other topics (Facebook).
    Computer is squirrely.

  • If I have any problems with my laptop are usually go on the Internet but I could not do that because all I had was a black screen. Thank you so much for sharing that information. says:

    OMG, I could just kiss you! I have been pressing everything and going a little crazy because I thought I would have to make a trip all the way to the Apple Store to see what was wrong with my MacBook Pro. If I have any problems with my laptop are usually go on the Internet but I could not do that because all I had was a black screen. Thank you so much for sharing that information.

    • Then how did you come here to find the answer as this page is on the same internet where you’d normally turn, is it not? ; )