Help! My Mac won't shut down. How do I turn off an Apple Mac, and what happens if my Mac won't shut down properly.

Mac OS X features a handy menu option for turning off the Mac. Just choose Apple > Shut Down and click Shut Down. You can snipe the confirmation message by holding down. Command while choosing Shut Down. Wait until all apps close, and the Mac shuts down.

At least that's the theory. In truth switching off an Apple Mac can sometimes be a real pain. In this feature we look at how to switch off an Apple Mac, and what to do if an Apple Mac doesn't shut down properly.

See also: 10 steps to take when your Mac won't start up and 5 steps (and 8 checks) to help fix a frozen Mac

How to shut down an Apple Mac: give it time

How to Shut Down a Mac

The first thing to do is simply give your Mac a bit of time. Sometimes shutting down can be a long process as OS X sorts through its open files and closes all of the programs. This is especially true if you have a lot of programs and documents open.

All of this should take longer than a minute, but time goes slowly when you're staring at a screen waiting for something to happen. Select Apple > Shut Down and leave the Mac alone for five minutes. Go make a cup of tea while OS X does its thing.

How to send feedback to Apple when its products go wrong, and why you should

Try to close all Mac OS X apps before shutting down

App failed to quit when shutting down

Mac OS X needs to close all apps before it can shut down. Problems in the Shut Down process are sometimes caused by apps that fail to close. This is often because the app has an unsaved document in it. When shutting down check the Dock for bouncing app alerts, and choose Save from the Alert Window for each document. If you choose Cancel it stops the Shut Down process (in which case, save all the files and choose Apple > Shut Down again).

If you find apps with unsaved documents is frequently a problem, try to get into the habit of checking your apps for unsaved documents (Microsoft Office and Photoshop are our likely culprits). Be sure to save and close these apps before choosing Apple > Shut Down.

How to fix a MacBook that won't charge up

Fix a Mac that won't shut down: what to do with a frozen Mac?

What do you do if your Apple Mac freezes up during the Shut Down process? Try to move the cursor around and if it doesn’t move your Mac may have frozen.

Obviously this is going to make choosing Apple > Shut down from the menu problematic. Try this key combination of your cursor is frozen:

  • Press Command-Control-Option-Eject.

This performs the same action as choosing Apple > Shut down.

If your Mac still doesn't shut down you may have to force it to switch off. Press and hold the power button on your Mac until the screen goes black and the power light goes off. Now leave the a Mac for around 30 seconds and press the power button again to switch it back on. It's best not to get into the habit of doing this all the time, because Mac OS X is happier if it gets to shut down properly (it cleans up and stores code properly). If your Mac is routinely refusing to shut down, and you're not leaving apps and documents unsaved, then you should look at what is causing the problem rather than relying on pressing and holding the power button.

Read next: Should I Log Out on my Mac or Shut Down? Power saving/security pros and cons

How to fix an Apple Mac that won't shut down

There's no simple answer to fix a Mac that has problems shutting down. It could be caused by a variety of different problems. Here are some troubleshoooting steps that we advise you to try. Go through each one at a time and see if it solves the problem:

  • Try to determine if one particular app is causing the problem. If one app always freezes when you shut down, and cancels the shut down process then update it (or re-install it).
  • Perform a software update (open App Store and click Updates > Update All).
  • Update any software that you installed outside of the App Store. Typically open the App and choose Help > Update or App > Update Software.
  • Check that you have FileVault turned off (System Preferences > Security & Privacy > FileVault > Turn Off FileVault).
  • Open Disk Utility. Choose the main hard drive and click Verify Disk. If there are any problems click Repair Disk.
  • Choose the main volume in Disk Utility (underneath your main drive) and choose Verify Disk Permissions > Repair Disk Permissions.
  • Reset the SMC. Follow this Apple Support article.
  • Backup and reinstall Mac OS X.

Let other readers know in the comments if you have encountered any shut down problems and the steps you took to resolve it.

See also: How to fix broken iPhone Home button | How to fix a broken Mac keyboard | How to fix a Mac mouse that isn't working