How to Fix Mac Folder with Question Mark [Full Guide 2022]

Updated to Troubleshooting Tips by William on June 23, 2022 | Approved by Christian Cawley

MacBook has a folder with a question mark. What can I do? Your Mac computer has always responded when you switch it on but for some reason, all you could see is a folder with a question mark? What could this mean? What can you do about it?

First, when you see a Mac air folder with question mark, it means that your startup disk does not contain a functional Mac operating system or it is no longer available. If this happens, do not fret about it. In this post, we will look at different methods that you can use to resolve the issue.

Quick Navigation
Part 1. 4 Ways to Fix Mac Computer Folder with Question Mark
Part 2. How to Recover Files Lost While Fixing Mac Showing a Folder with a Question Mark

Part 1. 4 Ways to Fix Mac Computer Folder with Question Mark

The issue of OSX folder with question mark can occur with different versions of Mac computers, including MacBook, Mac Pro, Mac Mini, and iMac. Different reasons may be responsible for you seeing the folder with a question mark but you do not have to worry.

You can resolve the issue and get your computer working again. This post looks at four different methods that you can use to fix the issue of the Mac computer folder with question mark. Let us go into the details.

Method 1. Reset NVRAM

NVRAM is a small volume of memory used by Mac to store specific settings and quickly access them when necessary. Different settings are stored in NVRAM, including startup disk selection, recent kernel panic information, display resolution, time zone, and more.

If you have the issue, ‘iMac showing a folder with a question mark’, resetting NVRAM should be the first step to take to resolve it.

  1. Shut down the Mac computer and turn it on.
  2. As soon as it comes up, press and holds the ‘Option + Command + P + R’ keys together for about 20 seconds.
  3. Release the keys after 20 seconds and wait as the system attempts to restart. If your Mac system plays a startup sound, release the keys at the second startup notification. For Mac computers with the Apple T2 Security Chip, release the keys when the Apple logo appears and disappears the second time.
  4. Wait for the Mac startup process to complete and click to open ‘System Preferences’ and adjust the settings to your preference.

Method 2. Choose Preferred Startup Disk in Startup Disk Preference

Mac allows users to make their Mac startup from a different disk, a network volume, another operating system, a DVD, or a CD. If you are experiencing the issue of ‘Mac showing a folder with a question mark, you can choose another startup disk to start your computer. To do this, you need to change the startup disk.

  1. Turn off your Mac computer.
  2. Press and hold the ‘Option’ key as you click to start up your Mac system.
  3. A list of available startup disks will be brought up. Choose a preferred option and click the ‘Up’ arrow. If your Mac computer is with Apple silicon, click the ‘Continue’ button.

When you restart your Mac, it starts up from the preferred disk you selected in System Preferences.

Method 3.Use Disk Utility to Repair Startup Disk

If you continue to experience the Mac is showing a folder with question mark issue, the next step is to reboot your Mac in Recovery Mode and then use Disk Utility to repair the Startup Disk.

  1. Press and hold the power button for about 10 seconds and wait until the Mac computer turns off.
  2. Startup your Mac and immediately press and hold the ‘Command (⌘)+ R’ to start up the system in macOS Recovery.
  3. When prompted, select a user and click the ‘Next button. Enter the administrator password.
  4. Select ‘Disk Utility’ and click the ‘Continue’ button
  5. Select ‘View’ and ‘Show All Devices’ from the toolbar or menu bar in Disk Utility.
  6. Select the last volume of your startup disk and click the ‘First Aid’ button. Click ‘Run’ to check the selected volume for any errors.

Any error found would be repaired by Disk Utility automatically. If Disk Utility cannot repair any found error, you may have to erase the disk with Disk Utility.

Method 4. Backup Files with Time Machine and Reinstall macOS

If the Disk Utility cannot find any error or after repairing all errors, you still experience ‘Mac turn on folder with question mark’ the next step is to backup files with Time Machine and reinstall macOS.

  1. If your Mac is with Apple silicon, turn on your system and press and hold the power button until the startup options window comes up. Click the ‘Options’ menu and click ‘Continue’. If your Mac is with an Intel processor, ensure that the system is connected to the internet.
  2. Next, turn on your Mac computer and press and hold Command (⌘)-R immediately until the Apple logo comes up. You may be asked to select a user and provide the administrator password, do this and continue with the next step.
  3. The first step brings your Mac system into macOS Recovery mode. Now, select ‘Reinstall macOS’ from the ‘Utility’ window in macOS Recovery. Next, click ‘Continue’ and follow the promptings on your screen.

Before your reinstall macOS, remember that you must back up your files to avoid data loss, we will look at how to backup files and documents in the next part.

Part 2. How to Recover Files Lost While Fixing Mac Showing a Folder with a Question Mark

While trying to fix the issue of the MacBook has a folder with question mark, you may lose data in the process. You do not have to fret though. You can recover your lost data in two ways. Let us look at both options.

Method 1. Restore Files from Time Machine Backup

If you have backed up your files and documents with Time Machine on your Mac, you can restore lost items easily or even recover older file versions. Here are the easy steps to recover lost files from Time Machine backup on your Mac device:

  1. Open a new window for items you would like to restore. For instance, if you have lost data from the Document folder, click to open the Document folder.
  2. Click the Time Machine icon in the menu bar and select ‘Enter Time Machine’.
  3. Use the timeline and arrows to browse through the local backups and snapshots.
  4. Select the items you want to restore and click ‘Restore’.

You can find the restored items in their original location on your Mac system.

Method 2. Recover Lost/Deleted Files with iBeesoft Data Recovery for Mac

Another way you can recover lost/deleted files while fixing the OSX folder with question mark is to use an advanced data recovery tool. We highly recommend iBeesoft Data Recovery for Mac for this process. iBeesoft is a professional data recovery tool that helps to locate and restore deleted or formatted data from Mac in three simple steps.

This tool is very reliable and 100% safe. To use the tool, the first thing is to visit the official website of the iBeesoft Data Recovery for Mac and download and install the software on your Mac device. You do not have to worry because the software is fully compatible with the latest operating system on Mac. It is also virus-free. When you have installed the app, launch it and start to recover lost files on Mac.

  1. Select the file types you want to recover on your Mac. Usually, all files are selected by default. Therefore, you should deselect all and select the specific file types that you want to recover. Next, click the ‘Start’ button to start the recovery of files process.
  2. Select the directory you want to scan. When the next window pops up, you will see the volume of the Mac system. Select the drives that you want to recover lost files from and click ‘Scan’ to prompt the software to start scanning for lost files.
  3. Preview and recover your lost files on Mac. When the scanning process is complete, you can check the directory on the left side to preview the files. When you are satisfied that all files have been found, click the ‘Recover’ button to save all files to your Mac.

iBeesoft Data Recovery for Mac has two scanning modes. The default mode it uses is the ‘Quick Scan’. However, if you are still missing some files, you can use the ‘Deep Scan’ mode to search further. This may take longer as the software will scan every inch of your Mac device to locate the lost files

This post has provided different methods on how to fix the Mac folder with question mark. It has provided four different options to resolve the issue as well as two methods to recover lost data in case you lose some while trying to fix the issue.