Tips to Fix Mac Recovery Mode Not Working Issue

Whether you are trying to fix a stubborn problem, repair/erase a hard disk or reinstall the latest macOS version, macOS recovery (launched in 2010 with OS X 10.7 Lion) is the right way to go. While this official troubleshooter works well most of the time, it has had its fair share of issues. So, if Mac recovery mode is not working and you can’t figure out why the usual Command () + R process has gone south, you are at the right troubleshooting guide to cut the chase.

Mac Recovery Mode Not Working? Here’s Troubleshooting Guide

Possible Reasons Why Command + R Process May Not Be Working on Your Mac

First and foremost, it would be better to ensure you are using the right keyboard shortcut. While Command (⌘) + R key combination works on most Macs for entering macOS Recovery, it’s not the only option. That aside, there are many other reasons why macOS recovery won’t work. So, getting a close look at the possible snags first up would be apt.

Have Mac With T2 Chip? Try A Different Keyboard Shortcut

Command (⌘) + R shortcut may not work on your Mac with a T2 Security Chip. If it’s the case, try Option/Alt + Command (⌘) + R to enter the macOS recovery mode.

For the uninitiated, T2 Chip is the second generation custom silicon for Mac. It endows an advanced level of security by leveraging enclave coprocessor.

Following Macs Comes With Apple T2 Security Chip:

  • iMac Pro
  • Mac Pro 2019
  • Mac mini 2018
  • MacBook Air 2018 or later MacBook Pro 2018 or later

Side Note: There is also an option to check whether your Mac has a T2 chip or not. Click on the Apple () menu at the top left corner of the screen. Now, press and hold the Option key and select System Information. Next select Controller or iBridge in the sidebar. Now, you should see the Apple T2 chip on the right if your Mac supports it.

Ensure That The Keyboard is Not Faulty

Another thing worth keeping in mind is ensuring that the keyboard is not faulty. Yeah, if the keyboard is not working properly, the Mac may have a problem connecting to it via Bluetooth. In this case, try another keyboard. I would recommend you to choose the one that can plug in your Mac directly.

If you need a new Mac keyboard, check out this extensive roundup.

Did You Accidentally Delete Recovery Partition?

Maybe you had accidentally deleted Recovery partition while installing Windows via Boot Camp or replacing the hard drive on your Mac. Also, ensure that the Recovery partition is not corrupted.

Restart your Mac again and immediately press Command (⌘) and R to enter macOS Recovery.

If Command (⌘) + R didn’t work for you, try out the Option/Alt + Command (⌘) + R when you boot up to activate Internet Recovery Mode.

Now, you can access an Apple server to download the latest macOS version. Do note that if your Mac is not running Sierra 10.12.4 or later, it will install the macOS version that came preinstalled with the Mac.

Sticky Note: You can also use the Shift + Option/Alt + Command (⌘) + R on your Mac running Sierra 10.12.4 or later to install the macOS version that came preinstalled.

Keep This in Mind If Your Mac is Running Older macOS Than Sierra

It’s worth keeping in mind that the Mac running older macOS version than macOS Sierra introduced in 2016 doesn’t have all the Recovery options. This could well be the reason behind the ill-functioning of the macOS recovery.

What If Your Older Macs Running macOS X Snow Leopard or Earlier

Does your Mac support recovery partition? If your Mac computer is running OS X Snow Leopard or older, it won’t be equipped with a Recovery partition. In this scenario, you need to use the original discs that came preinstalled with your Mac to get the work done.

Just in case you don’t have those discs, you can purchase Snow Leopard ($25) from Apple.

How to Check if Recovery Partition is Working on Mac

At times, macOS recovery partition just doesn’t seem to kick in, even when you follow all the right rules. So, if you have got everything right but still can’t activate or use it, be sure to check if the recovery partition is functioning properly.

Step #1. Shut down your Mac [Simply click on the Apple () menu and select Shut Down]. Now, you need to hold down the Command (⌘) + R keys and press the Power button.

Step #2. Now, make sure to hold down the Command (⌘) and R keys until the Apple logo shows up on the screen. After that, release the keys.

Step #3. Next, allow the Mac to enter recovery mode.

Note: On the latest macOS versions, you will see macOS Utilities; while in the old macOS versions, OS X Utilities will appear.

If this screen has appeared, there is no problem with your Mac. Now, go ahead and reinstall the macOS as usual.

But just in case a blank screen appears on the screen or the Mac boots up to a normal screen, the Recovery partition is not working.

Use Terminal to Check If Your Mac Has Recovery Partition

With the help of Terminal, you can quickly check out if your Mac has Recovery partition or not.

Step #1. Launch Terminal app on your Mac and then enter the diskutil list. Now, a list of all the volumes and partitions will appear on your computer.

Step #2. Next, the first drive (/dev/disk0) should feature a partition. Now, try using the Command (⌘) + R key combination again to see if have resolved the macOS recovery issues on your Mac.

Try Out This Hack to Force Recovery Partition to Appear

Some times, macOS recovery partition seems to have completely disappeared without any reason what-so-ever. If you are staring at this scenario, reset the PRAM. To do so, shut down your Mac. After that, hold down Command (⌘) + Option + P + R during the booting process.

When you hear the chimes sound, release the keys. Now, use the Command (⌘) + R process to see if the macOS Recovery has appeared. If it has, you are good to go!

If none of the tricks have worked, it’s time to get on with the possible solutions to reinstall macOS without the recovery partition. But before getting started, ensure that you have backed up your Mac using Time Machine.

Restore a Mac Without Recovery Partition

There could be more than one reason why recovery mode may not work on your Mac. For instance, it could be due to sudden freezing, if Recovery partition is missing/broken or the disc is completely damaged. Fortunately, you can restore your Mac even without the Recovery partition. On newer Macs, the process is a little easy as compared to the older ones.

There are a couple of straightforward ways to restore a Mac without recovery partition.

  • Use Internet Recovery to reinstall macOS on Mac
  • Create a bootdrive to install a copy of macOS from

Solution #1. Use Internet Recovery to Reinstall macOS

Probably the best way to reinstall macOS on Mac even without recovery partition is to use internet recovery. Moreover, modern Macs can boot directly from an internet connection without relying on the recovery partition.

Step #1. Turn down your Mac. Then, hold down Command(⌘) + Option/Alt + R keys and press the Power button.

Step #2. Now, make sure to press these keys until a spinning globe or the message “Starting Internet Recovery” appears on the screen.

Step #3. When the macOS Utilities screen shows up, click on Reinstall macOS. After that, go through the installation process.

It’s worth reiterating that it only supports the networks using WEP and WPA security. You may face issues if you are using a proxy/PPPoE network.

Solution #2. Create a macOS Bootable Installer on a Flash Drive

Just in case, you are unable to access Internet Recovery, create a bootable installer from a flash drive. There are a couple of major requirements for making a bootable install drive.

  • #1. A 128GB Flash Drive (Minimum Requirement): Make sure the flash drive is at least 12GB in size). Keep in mind that it will completely wipe out the USB flash drive. So, don’t fail to save all the files upfront
  • #2. Installation File: The process of getting the installation file varies based on a macOS version

How to Get macOS Installation Files

The process of getting installation files slightly differs from one macOS version to the other. So, follow the below steps to get them with ease.

Get Catalina Installation File If Your Mac is Already Running Catalina

Just in case, your Mac is already running Catalina, you will need to get the installation file from the Mac App Store. To do so, launch Mac App Store → head over to the Catalina page. Then, click on Get. Now, you will get the option to download the installers. Make sure not to click on install as you will require the installation file later.

Get Catalina Installation Files If Your Mac is Running Mojave

On your Mac running Mojave, head over to System PreferencesSoftware Update.

Now, wait for some time until your Mac has searched for the latest update to macOS.

When it shows the operating system updates available for download, download the installation files. Make sure to copy the installation file before installing so that you can have access to it to create a bootable installer.

Make a Bootable macOS Installer

Creating a bootable installation of macOS has become pretty straightforward (since OS X Mavericks) now as it requires a single command in Terminal. What’s more, createinstallmedia command also lets you make a bootable copy of an installer on any drive connected to your Mac.

Again, it’s worth keeping in mind that createinstallmedia command will erase everything on your external disk. So, make sure to save your important files without any fail.

Step #1. To get going, plug in an external drive. Make sure it has at least 8GB space. (12GB would be a preferred option).

Step #2. Now, open Disk Utility. Simply, press Command (⌘) + spacebar and type Disk Utility.

Sticky note: If your Mac is running macOS High Sierra or later, click on the View drop-down and select Show All Devices from the options. Now, you can view the external root drive along with the volume.

Step #3. Now, you need to choose the root drive in the sidebar and hit Erase. After that, be sure to select Mac OS Extended (Journaled) as the Format and GUID Partition Map as the Scheme.

Step #4. By default, the drive will be named “Untitled”. However, you can choose to give it a suitable name.

Sticky note: In the Terminal command, simply replace the term USB with the name you have just given to your drive.

Step #5. Make sure to click on Erase again. Now, you need to wait for some time until Disk Uitlity has successfully created partition and set up the drive. After that, click on Done.

Step #6. Next, launch Terminal on your Mac and then copy the below-given text that corresponds to the macOS version you want to install. After that, click Enter/Return. Then, enter your user password and hit the return key.

createinstallmedia Commands for Different macOS Versions

createinstallmedia command will vary based on the macOS version you wish to use. So, make sure to find the right one.

Catalina

sudo /Applications/Install\ macOS\ Catalina.app/Contents/Resources/createinstallmedia --volume /Volumes/MyVolume

Catalina beta

sudo /Applications/Install\ macOS\ Catalina\ Beta.app/Contents/Resources/createinstallmedia --volume /Volumes/MyVolume --nointeraction --downloadassets

Mojave

sudo /Applications/Install\ macOS\ Mojave.app/Contents/Resources/createinstallmedia --volume /Volumes/MyVolume

High Sierra

sudo /Applications/Install\ macOS\ High\ Sierra.app/Contents/Resources/createinstallmedia --volume /Volumes/MyVolume

Sierra

sudo /Applications/Install\ macOS\ Sierra.app/Contents/Resources/createinstallmedia --volume /Volumes/MyVolume --applicationpath /Applications/Install\ macOS\ Sierra.app

El Capitan

sudo /Applications/Install\ OS\ X\ El\ Capitan.app/Contents/Resources/createinstallmedia --volume /Volumes/MyVolume --applicationpath /Applications/Install\ OS\ X\ El\ Capitan.app

Yosemite

sudo /Applications/Install\ OS\ X\ Yosemite.app/Contents/Resources/createinstallmedia --volume /Volumes/MyVolume --applicationpath /Applications/Install\ OS\ X\ Yosemite.app

Mavericks

sudo /Applications/Install\ OS\ X\ Mavericks.app/Contents/Resources/createinstallmedia --volume /Volumes/MyVolume --applicationpath /Applications/Install\ OS\ X\ Mavericks.app

Step #7. Now, you will get a warning saying it will erase the drive. To continue press Y and hit Return.

Step #8. Next up, Terminal app will copy the installer file to the drive. Once it’s done, you will get the confirmation “Copy complete and Done”.

That’s it! You have created the installer on the external drive, which you can use to install multiple copies of macOS.

Side Note:

  • Once the bootable installer is ready, you can simply plug the external drive into the Mac and start up the Mac by holding down the Option/Alt key while it is booting up
  • When the Startup Manager appears, click on your external drive to choose it as the startup disk. Now, the computer will start up in Recovery Mode. After that, click on Install macOS and hit Continue. Next, the macOS version will begin to install on your Mac

Install macOS from the Bootable Installer

If you had already created a bootable installer, you can use it to reinstall macOS at any time you want. To do so, follow the steps given below.

Step #1. To get going, be sure the bootable installer (USB flash drive) is connected to your Mac.

Step #2. Turn down your macOS device. After that, hold down Option/Alt and press the Power button.

Step #3. Now, the startup device list window would show up featuring a yellow drive with the Install option below it. Click on it and then press Return.

Step #4. Next, select the Disk Utility and choose the drive under the Internal option.

Step #5. Next up, click Erase and then give a suitable name to the drive.

Step #6. Make sure the Format is Mac OS Extended (Journaled) and the Scheme is GUID Partition Map.

After that, click on Erase and hit Done.

Step #7. Up next, click on Disk Utility and choose Quit Disk Utility.

Step #8. Click on Install macOS and hit Continue.

Now, go ahead with the instructions to install macOS options. Along the way, choose Macintosh HD as the installation disk and click Install.

After that, wait for the macOS to be installed peacefully on your hard drive.

After the process is over, you will have a new installation of macOS along with a Recovery partition.

Side Note: Now, you might see an alert. “This copy of the Install [macOS name] application can’t be verified. It may have been corrupted or tampered with during downloading.” Simply, adjust the date and time in macOS to get rid of it.

Wrapping Up…

There you go! Hopefully, you have sorted out the macOS recovery issues and reinstalled the latest macOS version or cleaned up your Mac. Especially when dealing with an issue of such magnitude, it pays to have multiple alternatives so that you don’t get stuck into a limbo, does’t it?

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Did you find this guide helpful? Share your valuable feedback with us in the comment section.

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Nikhil runs iGB’s official YouTube channel. He is the official lensman of iGB and GB’s small studio is Nikhil’s playground, where he does all wonders with his remarkable signature. When Nikhil is not in his studio, you may spot him in a gourmet restaurant, chomping his way through some delicious food. He is a great traveler, who can go for long drives in search of good food.