How to troubleshoot dead USB-C ports on your MacBook

USB-C port
(Image credit: iMore)

The USB-C ports on the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro absolutely need to work. This becomes even more important if you're using a USB-C hub so you can connect other peripherals and accessories to your Mac.

Sometimes things happen, even on the best MacBooks, and your USB-C ports stop working. Luckily, you can try a few things to remedy the problem before you need to hit up the Genius Bar.

First, you can properly shut down to "shock" the Mac into working correctly. If that doesn't work, you can escalate the issue and try resetting the System Management Controller (SMC), which affects the power, battery, fans, and a few other things on your MacBook. Here are the steps you'll take.

Try doing a soft reset

First, try doing a "soft reset" of your MacBook. This won't cause you to lose data or files; it's just a way to reboot your Mac in a way that's a little more useful than just restarting it. You can perform these steps on a MacBook Air or MacBook Pro from 2018 or later. These are Macs that have Apple T2 security chips.

  1. Click on the Apple menu in the top left corner of your screen.
  2. Click Shut Down.

(Image credit: iMore)
  1. Next, press and hold the power button for 10 seconds.
  2. Release the power button.
  3. Wait a few seconds.
  4. Press the power button again to turn on your Mac.

Once your Mac is loaded up, see if your USB-C ports are functioning. If they are working, that's great! If not, you can escalate the issue by resetting the SMC.

Reset your System Management Controller

The SMC, or System Management Controller, is responsible for several aspects of your MacBook or MacBook Pro. Most importantly, it's in charge of how the power in your MacBook is distributed, including to the USB-C ports. So, if one or more of your ports aren't working, resetting the SMC will hopefully rectify the problem.

How to reset your Mac's SMC varies depending on your MacBook model.

On non-Apple silicon MacBooks

These first step of instructions work on MacBook models since 2018 that DON'T have Apple silicon. 

  1. Click the Apple menu in the top left corner of your screen.
  2. Click Shut Down.

(Image credit: iMore)
  1. Press and Hold Control-Option-Shift for 7 seconds. Your Mac may turn on doing this process — don't stop holding down the keys.
  2. Press and hold the power button as well as the other keys. If your Mac is on, this will turn it off.

(Image credit: Apple)
  1. Hold all four keys for another 7 seconds.
  2. Wait a few seconds.
  3. Press the power button to turn on your Mac.

Now you can check all your USB-C ports to see if they are functioning.

On Apple silicon Macs

If you own an Apple silicon MacBook, such as the MacBook Air (2022) or MacBook Pro (2022), the steps to resetting the SMC are oh-so-easy! Those models include:

  • MacBook Air (2020, 2022)
  • 13-inch MacBook Pro (2020, 2022)
  • 14-inch MacBook Pro (2021)
  • 16-inch MacBook Pro (2021)

Here are the easy steps:

  1. Click the Apple menu in the top left corner of your screen.
  2. Choose Restart

(Image credit: iMore)

That's correct! On Apple silicon machines, all you need to do to reset the SMC is to restart the computer. 

What if none of this works?

If you've done everything listed above in this troubleshooting guide, and your USB-C ports are still not working, then it's time to contact Apple support.

If you have AppleCare+ on your device, it should be covered, and depending on the actual issue with your ports; it could even be a free repair. 

Luke Filipowicz
Staff Writer

Luke Filipowicz has been a writer at iMore, covering Apple for nearly a decade now. He writes a lot about Apple Watch and iPad but covers the iPhone and Mac as well. He often describes himself as an "Apple user on a budget" and firmly believes that great technology can be affordable if you know where to look. Luke also heads up the iMore Show — a weekly podcast focusing on Apple news, rumors, and products but likes to have some fun along the way. 

Luke knows he spends more time on Twitter than he probably should, so feel free to follow him or give him a shout on social media @LukeFilipowicz.

With contributions from