Starting your Mac in Recovery Mode provides the tools you need to solve various problems, and is typically your last chance to repair the startup disk, reinstall macOS or restore from a backup after a fatal failure that prevents your Mac from starting up properly. In this tutorial, you’ll learn how to enter Recovery Mode at boot time and use the built-in recovery tools to bring your Mac in perfect working condition.

Our prior tutorials educated you on the ways to start up your Mac from a bootable media, pick a startup disk at boot time or after the fact, mount another Mac’s startup drive on your desktop in Target Disk Mode and boot your computer in Safe Mode or Verbose Mode.

macOS’ startup modes can be quite helpful. For instance, you may use them for troubleshooting complex issues that might require more than fixing disk permissions. However, the aforesaid startup modes aren’t very helpful if the startup disk has become corrupted or damaged. And that is where knowing how to start up your Mac in Recovery Mode can come in handy.

What is Recovery Mode

Recovery Mode is a special mode that loads macOS’ built-in recovery tools from a special disk partition that holds a recovery image along with a copy of the macOS installer.

If your Mac cannot be recovered in any other way, use Recovery Mode to diagnose disk problems, get help online or install the version of macOS that previously ran on this Mac.

Use Recovery Mode to:

How to enter Recovery Mode on your Mac

1) In the Apple menu choose Restart, or power on your Mac.

2) As your Mac restarts, hold down the Command – R combination immediately upon hearing the startup chime. Hold the keys until the Apple logo appears. If you own a Mac notebook, press the keys on its built-in keyboard as the keystroke might not register on external keyboards.

Command R to begin recovery mode

If you see a login window or your own desktop, you didn’t press the keyboard combination early enough and have booted in regular macOS mode. Restart your Mac and try again.

3) If asked, type in your administrator username and password. After a few seconds (or minutes, depending on your setup), the macOS Utilities window will appear.

macOS Utilities after starting Mac in recovery mode

At that point, you can do any of the following:

  • Restore from a previous Time Machine backup
  • Reinstall macOS
  • Access Safari to get help online
  • Launch Disk Utility

How to exit Recovery Mode

To exit macOS Recovery Mode, click on the Apple   icon in the Menu Bar, and select Restart or Shut Down. Additionally, you may also select Startup Disk from the Apple menu to chose a different startup disk before exiting.

Standard Recovery vs. Internet Recovery

If the recovery partition itself is damaged and you cannot use Recovery Mode, enter Internet Recovery Mode by pressing Command – Option – R at boot time.

Internet Recovery basically starts up your Mac directly from Apple’s servers and performs a quick test of its memory and hard drive to check for hardware issues. For example, if the boot sector is missing on the startup volume, or the recovery partition itself has become damaged or corrupted, your Mac will automatically enter Internet Recovery Mode.

Check out our tutorials on how to start up your Mac in Internet Recovery Mode for complete details about the process.

Related tutorials

Check out these resources that cover a myriad of ways you can start up your Mac:

For even more how-tos, browse our complete archive of Mac tutorials.

Need help? Ask iDB!

Not sure how to do certain things on your Apple device? Let us know at [email protected] and our future tutorials might cover your specific problem and provide a solution.

Submit your how-to suggestions at [email protected].