Essential Guide to Boot Options for Mac Users

Recently, we’ve received several inquiries on Ask TUAW regarding boot options, which presents a perfect opportunity for a Mac 101 session. With the introduction of Boot Camp, dual-booting has become a prominent feature for Mac users, but there are several other boot options available that can enhance your interaction with the device before the operating system loads.

One key feature is the ability to select the boot partition by simply holding down the option (⌥) key after you restart your computer. This action displays a menu of all bootable drives, including any external USB or FireWire drives and even optical discs.

  • To boot from an optical disc, hold down the C key.

  • Activating FireWire Target Disk Mode, which allows another Mac to access the hard drive as if it were an external drive, requires holding down the T key.

  • If your Mac is acting up, booting into Safe Mode might help, which you can do by holding down the Shift key.

    This is particularly useful if your Mac is misbehaving.

For those interested in exploring more, Apple provides a comprehensive list of boot time key combinations that are handy to keep at your fingertips.


Jacob is a dedicated writer for TUAW, bringing readers the latest and most insightful news about Apple products. With a keen eye for detail and a deep understanding of the tech world, Jacob covers everything from the newest iPhone releases to the latest updates on macOS. His articles are known for their clarity and depth, making complex topics accessible to all. Whether it’s the Apple Watch, iPad, or MacBook, Jacob’s expertise ensures that TUAW readers are always well-informed.