How to start Mac in Recovery Mode [2023 Updated]

How to Start your Mac in Recovery Mode

Hit a patch of trouble with your Mac and left with no way to troubleshoot? Wondering how the experts fix your MacBook and revive them back to normal?

Well, you’re on the right page. Recovery Mode was launched in 2010 with the release of OS X 10.7 Lion to let users play geek when their Macs need it most.

Let’s walk through this step-by-step guide to start your Mac in recovery mode.

What is Mac Recovery Mode?

In layman’s terms, it’s a built-in recovery system for your Mac. The feature operates through various utilities from a particular disk partition that’s set apart during macOS installation.

The tool can be of immense help in accomplishing numerous tasks. Let’s take a look at them:

  • Erase your computer before passing it over to someone. To delete your data and remove Apple ID.
  • Completely erase your disk.
  • Restore the older macOS version.
  • Fix a startup failure issue.
  • Scan and repair a disk.
  • Set up your Mac to boot from an external drive.
  • Fix a Network Connectivity Error.

Note: There are times when Recovery Mode fails to work. Under such scenarios, you can use Internet Recovery Mode.

How to boot a Mac in Recovery Mode?

  1. Restart your Mac.
  2. Press and hold Command (⌘) + R. 
  3. Release the keys once you see the Apple logo, spinning globe, or another startup screen.
  4. You should be asked to enter your Mac password.
  5. Once entered, you’ll be on the recovery mode screen that should look like this!
    Use Mac in Recovery Mode

If you couldn’t boot Recovery Mode or the Apple logo didn’t appear, make sure you press and hold the keys in combination together when your Mac restarts. The press and release of the keys have to be in a certain manner. If you still couldn’t use it, shut down your Mac, switch it on, and try again by holding down the same keys at the moment the screen awakes.

When your Mac finally boots in recovery, there will be four major tools on your screen.

  • Restore From Time Machine Backup: If you have a Time Machine backup available, you can restore your Mac using this feature.
  • Reinstall macOS: This can help you download and reinstall macOS as per the key combination you use.
  • Get Help Online: Using this mode, you can browse the web in Safari and get help online. There are built-in Apple Support links you can access to resolve your error. However, a point to be noted here is you can’t use plug-ins and extensions in the recovery mode.
  • Disk Utility:  This option can help you repair or completely erase your disk and other compatible storage devices.

Apart from these major tools, there are additional options available in the menu bar. In the Utilities Menu, you can use Startup Security Utility, Network Utility, and Terminal.

Does Recovery Mode delete everything on a Mac?

Loading Recovery Mode doesn’t delete anything from your Mac unless you go one step ahead to reinstall macOS or use Disk Utility without having a backup.

Otherwise, you can comfortably boot your Mac in Recovery Mode without worrying about your data loss while stuck with a major technical issue.

How to exit Mac Recovery Mode

Before moving forward with one of the macOS recovery tools, make sure you have a basic understanding of each tool. It’s also necessary to have your Mac’s data backed up if you’re proceeding with reinstallation.

If you don’t know much about these macOS recovery tools and don’t want to proceed without backing up your data, it’s safe to exit.

  1. Click on the Apple logo at the top left corner.
  2. Choose Restart or Shutdown to go back to the desktop or switch it off accordingly.

You can also choose a different Startup Disk option if you want to switch to another disk from the menu.

How to open Terminal on Mac in Recovery Mode

You can run a terminal using Recovery Mode:

  1. Run your mac in Recovery Mode as outlined above.
  2. Click Utilities in the top menu bar.
  3. Click Terminal.Select Utilities and Click on Terminal on Mac in Recovery Mode

What to do if Recovery Mode doesn’t work on Mac?

Due to some odd reason, you may not be able to boot macOS in Recovery Mode. However, finding the exact reason can be tricky; you can consider these workarounds and get it fixed quickly.

Signing Off

A massive “thanks!” to macOS X 10.7 which introduced Recovery Mode and made disk repair and macOS reinstallation process easier. As you’ve learned in the tutorial, starting your Mac in Recovery Mode isn’t harmful to your data in any way. It’s made for providing technical support when it’s needed.

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The founder of iGeeksBlog, Dhvanesh, is an Apple aficionado, who cannot stand even a slight innuendo about Apple products. He dons the cap of editor-in-chief to make sure that articles match the quality standard before they are published.


  1. Didnt work because i deleted every single file and then when I tried reinstalling macos high sierra, it said; “The installer information on the recovery server is damaged” every article i read say to use backups but i didnt have enough storage to even make the backup so i cant do anything now please help

    1. Yikes, this sounds like it might be one for Apple Support. You can’t start your Mac in Recovery Mode at all (Command + R at startup)? Your Mac’s certificate may be outdated (Apple Support can help further). The main fix for “The installer information on the recovery server is damaged” comes from starting your Mac in Recovery Mode.

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