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What Is macOS Recovery Mode & How to Use It (Intel & M1/M2 Mac)

Mac Recovery Mode is a very useful tool designed to recover your Mac. You can use it to reinstall macOS, perform disk checking and repair with Disk Utility, factory reset your Mac, restore your Mac with Time Machine backup or so.

Especially when your MacBook won’t turn on normally or crashes frequently, macOS Recovery gives you a chance to do some fixes rather than directly taking your computer to service.

This post will tell you how to start Mac into Recovery mode and use it to troubleshoot Mac issues.

What is Mac Recovery Mode?

macOS Recovery is a special mode that starts your Mac from a built-in Recovery HD partition (or called macOS Base System) with a built-in program called Recovery Assistant.

In other words, it is a recovery system that can be loaded up without starting up the Mac operating system, helping you fix or deal with system-related issues on your Mac, like the Mac white screen problem.

With it, you can perform basic troubleshooting and recovery activities on Mac, such as disk verification, OS reinstallation, and startup security modification.

Here’s a video that explains in detail what macOS Recovery Mode on Mac is. Watch it now to learn more.

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How to start your Mac in macOS Recovery Mode?

The steps to enter into macOS Recovery Mode are different depending on the Mac model. Firstly, you need to know if you are using an Intel-based or Apple M1/M2 Mac.

Usually, to check the processor of your Mac model, you can click the Apple menu > About This Mac > Overview. Or, go to support.apple.com to have a check.

Follow the steps below to start your Intel-based Mac in macOS Recovery Mode:

How to start an Apple M1/M2 Mac in macOS Recovery Mode?

Macs with Apple Silicon ask for a different set of operations. This process works for MacBook Pro 2021 with an M1 Pro or M1 Max chip and MacBook in 2022 with an M2 chip.

Before you take action, you’d better keep your Mac connected to the Internet well. Why? The Internet Recovery Mode has been integrated with the regular macOS Recovery Mode on Apple M1/M2 Macs. If your M1/M2 Mac fails to start in Recovery mode, it will automatically enter into Internet macOS Recovery.

Here’s how to boot an M1/M2 Mac in macOS Recovery Mode:

After you have entered your M1/M2 Mac Recovery Mode, you can finish a lot of tasks with the utilities provided.

Key combinations for booting into macOS Recovery Mode

Apart from using the Command-R shortcut keys during startup to boot your Intel-based Mac into macOS Recovery Mode, you can use other shortcut keys to enter macOS Recovery Mode.

Pressing down which key combinations during Mac startup depends on what you’ll do in macOS Recovery. For example, whether you want to reinstall the latest or older version of macOS.

Command + R

The two keys allow your Mac or MacBook to start from the built-in macOS Recovery. And if you prepare to reinstall macOS in MacBook Pro Recovery mode, it offers the version of macOS that your Mac is using.

Option/Alt + Command + R

Using Option/Alt + Command + R keys during startup will boot your Mac in Internet Recovery Mode. But the precaution is that your Mac is connected to the internet well. And if you want to reinstall macOS, it will supply the latest version of macOS that is compatible with your Mac.

start Mac in Internet Recovery

Shift + Option/Alt + Command + R

If you hold down these shortcut keys when pressing down the power button with a good internet connection, your Mac will enter Internet Recovery mode. And the macOS version that you’ll reinstall came with or closest to your Mac.

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What you can do in Mac Recovery Mode?

When you are in macOS Recovery Mode or Internet Recovery Mode, the normal desktop and often-used apps are not available. You are limited to a few tasks and options through the macOS Utilities, called Mac OS X Utilities on some older macOS versions, and tools in the top menu bar.

Depending on which Mac model you use, the utilities on your Mac may vary. Read below to see what you can do in macOS Recovery and Internet Recovery.

reinstall macOS from Internet Recovery

Recover Data from Mac that won’t Turn on

Although macOS Recovery mode doesn’t have this function, but iBoysoft has implemented it via Terminal. iBoysoft Data Recovery software can be launched in macOS Recovery mode to recover data from Mac that won’t turn on, it is very easy-to-use, saving your lots of time to creat a bootable drive.

Restore From Time Machine Backup

If you have set up Time Machine to back up files and the system with an external hard drive before, you’ll be able to restore Mac from Time Machine backup. The APFS snapshots of local Macintosh HD before the macOS update could also be available for system restoration through this feature.

Reinstall macOS (or Reinstall OS X)

This function will allow you to download a fresh copy of Mac’s operating system and reinstall macOS. The thumbnail shows which operating system will be installed on your Mac.

Disk Utility

Disk Utility in macOS Recovery Mode is a tool to verify, repair, and erase connected disks including Macintosh HD and external drives. You can use the Erase feature in the Disk Utility menu to format the Mac startup disk. Also, you can run Disk Utility First Aid to repair the disk.

interface of Disk Utility

Get Help Online/Safari

It allows you to visit Apple support pages or other web pages for information, but bookmarks, browser plug-ins, and extensions are not available.

Except for macOS Utilities, several other recovery tools are accessible from the menu at the top of the page.


You can choose Utilities in the menu bar. And then select Terminal to open it and run commands to change settings or ask Mac to finish some certain task. For example, you can run a command to disable SIP.

open Terminal in Recovery mode

Startup Security Utility

You can click Utilities > Startup Security Utility to set up the security protocols for your Mac. That is the utility you will rely on if you need to set a firmware password on Mac, allow Mac to boot from an external USB installer, or enable system extensions on M1/M2 Mac.

Network Utility

It provides information and troubleshooting tools to help you with your network, including checking network connections and testing the DNS server.

Share Disk

This is the Apple Silicon Mac version of Target disk Mode. You can access it from Utilities > Share Disk on Apple Silicon Mac to share your disk with another Mac for file transferring.

Startup Disk

You can choose the startup disk for the Mac from the Apple icon > Startup disk. On Intel Macs, Target Disk Mode is available from there as well.

How to exit macOS Recovery?

Quitting Mac Recovery Mode is easy – you just restart the Mac from the Apple icon and select “Restart” in the menu.

If you have made any changes, repairs, reinstallation, or erasures in Recovery, they will take effect during the rebooting. If you just boot your Mac in Recovery and nothing is performed, your Mac will stay unchanged and reboot to the normal login screen or desktop.

What to do if macOS Recovery Mode is not working?

If you can’t start your Mac in the macOS Recovery mode, or macOS Recovery Mode is missing, it means that the Command + R not working or won’t respond correctly from your press. Or, your recovery partition might be corrupted. As a result, your Mac failed to boot from the recovery partition, and you may see the error code -2003F on the screen.

To solve the Mac Recovery Mode not working issue, connect your Intel-based Mac to the Internet. And try to hit down the Command + Option + R key combination and the power button to start your Mac in Internet Recovery mode.

For an Apple M1/M2 Mac, it can auto-boot into Internet Recovery when macOS Recovery not working. If it still fails, you can start the MacBook into Fallback Recovery OS, the second copy of macOS Recovery.

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FAQ about Mac Recovery Mode