My friend's Mac has lost its dock.

It boots up, apparently fine, she logs in, but is then confronted with a blank screen - as in a desktop background image but no desktop interaction elements.

The dock does not appear, nor does the bar at the top. The problem is similar to Windows when Explorer crashes and you get no OS chrome.

By randomly pressing keys we've been able to make iTunes appear and from there we can get into settings etc. but still no Dock.

Spotlight doesn't work either!

Why might this have happened and how do we fix it?

Specs: MacBook7,1, Mac OS X 10.6.8 (10K549), Darwin 10.8.0.

It would be useful know if there are any default keyboard shortcuts that handle things like 'launch Finder' or 'open Applications folder' - this would be extremely useful as it would make the Mac usable should this happen again.

  • In answer to your last question, no, there aren't any global keyboard shortcuts for that. There's no shortcut for opening Finder from anywhere, and the only shortcut for opening the Applications folder requires Finder to be the frontmost application.
    – grg
    Apr 5 '15 at 11:03
  • Try ⌘⌥D, maybe it got hidden? Nov 11 '17 at 10:45

You can use spotlight (⌘-Space) to do most anything. ⌘⇧A opens Apps folder, ⌘⇧H opens Home folder.

To fix your problem: Try opening the Terminal app (launch via Spotlight). Then type killall Dockand press return. That will attempt to kill the Dock process and relaunch it.

If that doesn't work you can check Activity Monitor (launch via Spotlight) and search for the Dock process to see if it's running at all, and if so, if it's hanging.

  • Excellent, I too faced this problem and "killall Dock" helped me to resolve this issue. Thank you very much!!! Upvoted.
    – Karpak
    Jul 13 '17 at 10:49

cmd-tab will toggle you between applications. use this to get to the finder. once in the finder alt-cmd D will show or hide the dock

  • edited OP to reflect that finder is not running on start-up so cmd tab has no effect
    – Toni Leigh
    Apr 5 '15 at 8:24
  • If finder is not running then something has been removed from the system folder or the startup routines have been corrupted. I'd say reinstall the OS and make sure that user doesn't have admin access unless they know what not to do. I've used Macs and Unix for 30 years and haven't seen this. Comparing it to Windows is like comparing fish to golf balls.
    – amergin
    Apr 5 '15 at 22:10
  • it's their computer so they kind of need full access, also, the Windows error I mentioned was more to help visualise the problem as from a user perspective the problems are basically the same, though true, the solution will be different ... however, I'll see about the startup routines, thanks for the tip!
    – Toni Leigh
    Apr 7 '15 at 7:54

Safest bet would be reinstalling OS X or creating a second user and see if the problem persists there. The finders Go To menu shows you all the shortcuts.

Cmd + A for Applications for example.


I have a few ideas:

  1. Look into the preferences - maybe it's something trivial such as dock hiding on the side or on a second monitor.

  2. log in with guest account and see if it is normal there (you can activate it in the preferences)

  3. when you are logged in as guest you could try to look in the "console" for errors.

  4. i suppose you could also fire up a terminal there and do some stuff in her account - but that might be dangerous so report back before trying anything.


Some things to consider:

  • Finder is designed to re-launch itself always. If you can kill the process via ssh or terminal or Activity Monitor, do that one time
  • Dock will restart itself, so try killing it too - one time.
  • collect system diagnostics if you expect is to be something that persists - you will need that to work with support and engineering - sudo sysdiagnose Dock
  • Spotlight should always run, so try the keyboard shortcut to open Activity Monitor. If that fails, more than the dock and menu bar are wedged.

Now, unless you have ssh or Remote Desktop enabled, your practical next step is to power down the Mac and hope you don't need to wipe it and restore from a backup. If you don't have a back up that's current, don't power on the Mac until you've gotten some help on how to do a back up.

Once you have a back up or have decided you can risk losing your work, you can try starting the machine back up. In the vast majority of cases where the UI gets hung like this, it was an unlikely event that caused to hang and you won't be able to reproduce it. (i.e. your Mac should fix itself in most cases.)

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