When I open System Preferences and click on an item it says 'Loading Users & Groups' at the top of the window, but will not load the pane.

I've tried deleting the property list file:


I also tried clearing the PRAM and booting in Safe Mode.

  • I'm adding the text "Could not load Time Machine preference pane.", copied verbatim from the sheet I see on System Preferences when this happens to me. I hope that will help people searching. Oct 8, 2016 at 7:31
  • I can't remember why this post popped up, probably in the review queues for a first post and I saw the original question had a typo, I did consider removing the stuff you did but felt light touch was better. @ankii Feb 2, 2020 at 2:35
  • 1
    @unknowndomain Okay I guess it was apple.stackexchange.com/a/381022/313842 .. nvm I thought you bumped it
    – anki
    Feb 2, 2020 at 2:37
  • No worries @ankii! Feb 2, 2020 at 2:40
  • The same happened to me with software update, I got the message "Could not load Software Update preference pane." ... check my answer below, which has always helped so far.
    – LarS
    Aug 10, 2020 at 23:13

5 Answers 5


Have you looked in the console? Maybe you'll find some error messages there which can narrow the problem down. You can view log files in Console, located in /Applications/Utilities.

Have you tried to check (and maybe repair) the file rights. You can do this with disk utility.

About Disk Utility's Repair Disk Permissions feature

  • yes rean disk utility first fixed all sorts of problems there gonna look at console now
    – mcgrailm
    May 23, 2012 at 20:37
  • logs says "PreferencePanes folder is missing" I guess that can't be fixed without re install ?
    – mcgrailm
    May 23, 2012 at 20:46
  • To be honest i am not sure. Haven't tried to delete my prefs folder :). Maybe you can use Time Machine to restore the folder?
    – Pfitz
    May 23, 2012 at 20:50
  • ha good point , doubt they had time machine running but thats a good thing to try thanks for your help
    – mcgrailm
    May 23, 2012 at 20:52
  • just checked: directory for system PrefPanes is : /System/Library/PreferencePanes
    – Pfitz
    May 23, 2012 at 20:54

Sometimes it's just enough to quit the System Preferences app. Check if the process was ended well, i.e. use Activity Monitor (also to quit "System Preferences" app). In my recent case it was not necessary to force quit, just select the process and quit was enough.

Alternatively Force Quit if System Preferences is open and in the Doc, just do a secondary click on the System Preferences icon, hit [alt] key "Quit" will change got "Force Quit" and click that.

After restarting the app the preference pane (in my case time machine pane) could be loaded as expected.

Lately it happened, that the described method didn't work, after force quit I still couldn't open the preference pane. I found that waiting a little (few minutes) before reopening helped, because when I was not able to reopen the pane I searched for a different solution, coming back to System Preferences – without doing anything else – was able to open the desired pane.


Boot in single user mode (Hold down SHIFT key right after hitting the power button until the Apple Logo appears), Login, Launch System Preferences, Load the Preferences Pane that is not working, Restart Mac OS X. That worked for me when nothing else did.

  • 1
    Shift is actually Safe Mode, but the rest is certainly worth a try.
    – Tetsujin
    Apr 15, 2015 at 6:40
  • Edited to explain single-user mode based on content from Mac Help. Oct 8, 2016 at 8:43

What I've done is just simply open every pane from the left upper corner to the right lower corner. After that, the "security and privacy" pane resume normal.

No need for even a reboot.


Restart, Hold Shift key right after your screen shut down to run safe mode, go to display preferences again to check if is can be opened, and then restart -> Done, I tried and it worked on OS 10.12.3. p/s: I found out this solution of Claeton in this post. Thanks a lot!

  • While I was able to get back into the preference panel the issue returned again but a few moments later I tried and was able to open Time Machine Preferences. So I can't say this is a resolution.
    – Tunes
    Jul 11, 2017 at 0:26

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