Apple How to

What is Mac Recovery Mode and How to Use it

mac recovery mode
Written by Hassan Abbas

Due to the Mac Recovery Mode function, you can resolve a lot of problem and repair the startup disk. Restore from a backup after a fatal failure that avoided it from booting properly, or reinstall macOS. In this article, we are going to talk about What is Mac Recovery Mode and How to Use it. Let’s begin!

We are going to explain what the macOS Recovery Mode is and the necessary steps for using it when diagnosing and fixing any issues, or also reinstalling the macOS completely.

macOS Recovery (mostly referred to as Mac Recovery Mode) was introduced back in 2010 along with OS X 10.7 Lion. This Recovery HD partition consists of the latest version of the macOS you installed on your Mac and then makes it possible to troubleshoot issues with your Mac. It is a useful tool that the majority of Mac users will never need to use until one of the following applies:

Have a Look

  • You need to erase a Mac because you want to sell it or pass it on to a new user. macOS Recovery will permit you to wipe your Mac, erasing all your data, and your Apple ID.
  • You Have to troubleshoot problems, like failure to start up.
  • There is an issue with your disk and you have to use Disk Utility in order to repair it.
  • Or Disk Utility was unable to repair the issue along with your drive…
  • You are encountering problems with a specific version of macOS and want to go back to an older version.
  • Or you need to do a clean install of macOS – this can fix issues that might be slowing down your Mac.
  • Or you want to remove your disk for another reason…
  • If you want to restore from a Time Machine backup.
  • You are having problems and issues with your internet connection.

Start Mac in Recovery Mode

mac recovery mode

  • Boot into Recovery Mode through shutting down your Mac, and then restarting it. When it starts, then you need to hold down the Command and ‘R’ keys in order to enter Recovery Mode.
  • When you see the Apple logo, spinning globe, or any other startup screen, then release the Command and ‘R’ keys. Enter a password (user admin or firmware password) of the Mac if prompted to and then move to the next step.
  • If you are seeing the macOS utility window, then it means that the startup is complete. Here, you will see the four services that Recovery Mode offers: Restore from Time Machine Backup, Reinstall macOS, Get Help Online, and also Disk Utility. There are extra utilities, that include Network Utility, Startup Security Utility, and also Terminal in the utility menu from the menu bar.
  • Exit Recovery Mode by going to the Apple menu and then tap Restart or Shut Down. Before you quit, you can select a different startup disk from the Apple menu.

There are different key combinations to use at startup, that depends on what you actually want to do with Recovery Mode. The Command+R shortcut helps when installing the latest macOS version you had on your Mac before the issue came up. The Option/Alt+Command+R shortcut works while upgrading to the latest macOS version compatible along with your Mac. The Shift+Option+Command+R shortcut works when you are installing the macOS version your Mac had or the closest available version if it is not offered as a download.

Which keys you can use for macOS Recovery Mode

That actually depends on what you want to do with macOS Recovery. There are a number of key combinations in order to use during startup:

Command + R

You can use this if you want to install the latest version of macOS that you had installed on your Mac (it won’t install a newer version if you had not upgraded). Keep that in mind that if you are selling or giving away a Mac that is using OS X El Capitan or earlier you should also use Command + R. Then this will make sure that the installation is not associated with your Apple ID.

Option/Alt + Command + R

mac recovery mode

You can use this if you want to upgrade to the latest version of macOS that is compatible with your Mac or not.

Shift + Option + Command + R

This will then install the version of macOS that came with your Mac, or the one closest to that version if it isn’t available as a download.

Mac Recovery Mode options

When you start up in Recovery Mode then you will see these following options:

1) Restore from a Time Machine backup

If you have a Time Machine backup this is actually an easy way if you want to restore your system

2) Reinstall macOS

This will permit you to reinstall macOS (the version will depend on the key combination used above)

3) Get Help Online

In order to access Apple’s support web pages. This gives you access to Safari so that you can look for the help you need, but some browser features won’t be available.

4) Disk Utility

So you can verify and also repair connected drives.

Choose the option that applies to you and then click Continue.

If you need to restore from a Time Machine Backup also.

Want you to have to Reinstall macOS,

If you want to repair or remove a disk click on Disk Utility.

All other options in Recovery Mode

There are also many options accessible from the menu at the top of the page through the File, Edit, Utilities, and Window tabs. These also include:


Here is how you can access Terminal in macOS Recovery:

  • Startup in Recovery Mode as above.
  • Tap on Utilities in the menu bar.
  • Then press on Terminal.

Startup Security Utility

This will also permit you to make sure your Mac starts up from a trusted startup disk. Macs along with the T2 chip have more options here. That includes Firmware password protection and Secure Boot and External Boot options as well.

It also grants you access to Firmware password protection. A firmware password avoids users who do not have the password from starting up from any disk other than your designated startup disk. Not every Mac has this option actually. Tap Turn On Firmware Password. Enter a password and then click Set Password. Then quit and head to Apple > Restart.

Network Utility

The Network Utility application gives you access to tools and also information that can help you with problems along with your network connections.


Alright, That was all Folks! I hope you guys like this article and also find it helpful to you. Give us your feedback on it. Also if you guys have further queries related to this article. Then let us know in the comments section below. We will get back to you shortly.

Have a Great Day!

Also See: Which iPad model do I Own?

About the author

Hassan Abbas

Tech enthusiast with too many items on his wish-list and not nearly enough money! Specializing in all things tech, with a slight Apple bent he has been writing for various blogs for the best part of (too many) years

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