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Why will MATLAB not start up properly on macOS?

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Accepted Answer

MathWorks Support Team
MathWorks Support Team on 21 Mar 2024
Edited: MathWorks Support Team on 21 Mar 2024
If MATLAB is not launching properly, and you are not receiving any License Manager Errors, then you may perform the following solutions:
  • Check System Requirements
  • Disable Security Software
  • Regenerate Preferences
  • Start MATLAB from the Installation Folder
  • Provide MATLAB with Full Disk Access
  • Conflicts with Cloud Storage
  • Start MATLAB in Debug Mode

Check System Requirements

Ensure that your macOS meets the system requirements for the release of MATLAB you are attempting to launch. If you have recently updated to a new version of macOS, you may need to update to a newer version of MATLAB.

Disable Security Software

The security software on the machine may be interfering with MATLAB.  To troubleshoot, try disabling any security software or reboot in safe boot. 

Regenerate Preferences

One of the most common reasons for MATLAB to fail to launch is due to corrupted preferences. To regenerate your preferences, remove or rename your preferences directory then relaunch MATLAB:
  1. Open the Finder, the blue face on the dock
  2. In Finder, click on the “Go” menu and select “Go to Folder”
  3. Go to this folder: ~/Library/Application Support/MathWorks/MATLAB
    1. For R2016a and earlier: ~/.matlab
  4. Locate the folder that corresponds to your MATLAB version and delete/rename it. For example, rename “R2021a” to “R2021a_old”.
Note: Do not delete any folders that contain the word licenses in the folder name, e.g. R2021a_licenses. These folders contain important license information.
Once the folder has been renamed, try restarting MATLAB to regenerate the preferences.

Start MATLAB from the Installation Folder

The shortcut generated during the installation of MATLAB may be corrupted or broken. To troubleshoot if this is the cause of MATLAB's failure to launch, start MATLAB from the installation folder:
  1. Open the Finder, the blue face on the dock
  2. In Finder, click on the “Go” menu and select “Go to Folder”
  3. Go to this folder: /Applications/
  4. Double click matlab
Note: The R20XXx must be edited to correspond to your install release of MATLAB, e.g. R2021a.
If MATLAB launches, you may create a new alias from the matlab executable in the /bin.
For some installations of MATLAB on Mac, the /Application shortcut does not work on the initial installation. A reinstall will resolve this but you can alternatively run the below .sh script which is included in any MATLAB installation:
This script should rerun post-installation tasks such as fixing the /Applications shortcut.

Provide MATLAB with Full Disk Access

If MATLAB does not have the required access permissions it may not start, such as access to the Documents folder. To ensure that MATLAB has the appropriate access permissions, please provide MATLAB with Full Disk Access:
  1. Open macOS's System Preferences application.
  2. Open Privacy & Security tab on the left side. You may need to scroll down to see the item.
  3. Select Full Disk Access on the right. You may need to scroll down to see the item.
  4. Click the '+' symbol on the bottom of the list.
  5. Type in your administrator password.
  6. Click Applications.
  7. Select MATLAB.

Conflicts with Cloud Storage

If you have MATLAB in cloud storage or have its working folder in cloud storage, then you may need to grant full disk access to that cloud storage platform. Otherwise, move MATLAB or its working folder to a different location that is not using Cloud Storage.

Start MATLAB in Debug Mode

To start MATLAB in debug mode, launch MATLAB without the desktop environment. To do so, open a Terminal window (/Applications/Utilities/ and run the following command:
$MATLAB/bin/matlab -nodesktop
Where $MATLAB is the path to your MATLAB directory. For example, if you are using MATLAB R2021a and have installed MATLAB in the default directory, the command will be:
/Applications/ -nodesktop
If MATLAB starts, it will start in the Terminal window itself. The title of the Terminal window will change to say “MATLAB_maci64 -nodesktop.”
From the Terminal window, run the command “desktop” to attempt to start the MATLAB desktop environment. This will produce an error message which may help you to identify the problem. If you would like assistance in interpreting the error, please contact Installation and Licensing Support.

More Answers (1)

Dwobble on 24 Mar 2020
Possible workaround for running dual monitors:
I've been running MATLAB R2019b on macOS Catalina and am currently using a larger secondary monitor in addition to my native mac screen. I originally set the external monitor to be my primary display, but was unable to load MATLAB beyond the splash screen. By setting the built-in display as the primary display, I was able to successfully load MATLAB beyond the splash screen.
System Preferences > Displays > Arrangement > Drag menu bar to built-in display
Note: While the menu bar on mac appears by default on all connected displays, placement of the menu bar on a display within the system preferences determines which screen is the primary.


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