MacOS recovery mode: 8 ways you can use it!
MacOS recovery mode: 8 ways you can use it!
MacOS recovery mode: 8 ways you can use it!

MacOS recovery mode: 8 ways you can use it!


If you think that the recovery mode on macOS is just for restoring your Mac, you’re wrong.


There is a lot to explore in this mode besides the function of reinstalling the operating system (macOS). With it, you can also restore a Time Machine backup, reset an administrator password, perform disk maintenance, and fix lots of different problens.

The recovery partition is also a viable way to isolate software or hardware problems, and tools like Terminal, Disk Utility, and Safari make troubleshooting easy.

In this article, we’ll show you the eight main macOS recovery mode features and how each of them can help you.

intro MacOS recovery mode

How to start macOS recovery mode

Boot methods vary depending on your Mac’s chip (Intel or M1). Either way, in both cases the process is simple.

For Mac with Intel chip, follow the step by step:

  • 1. Turn on your Mac;
  • 2. Press and hold Cmd + R quickly and recovery mode will start.

For Mac with M1 chip, follow the step by step:

  • 1. Turn on your Mac and keep pressing the Power button until startup options appear;
  • 2. Select Options;
  • 3. Click Continue.

1. FileVault Password Reset

If you forgot your FileVault password, you can use recovery mode to reset it.

To do this, follow the step by step:

  • 1. Start macOS recovery mode;
  • 2. Click Forgot all passwords?;
  • 3. Follow the instructions.

Based on the method you choose when enabling FileVault, you will be given the option to reset the password using your Apple ID or recovery key. If you are unable to regain access to your administrator account, you may need to erase the recovery disk from the Internet or another boot volume.

2. Reinstall macOS

Some Mac issues require a complete reinstallation of macOS to resolve. For example, your Mac might not be booting or you might not have been able to fix a system crash.

When reinstalling, you have two options: you can either reinstall over the current operating system or erase the hard drive to start all over again.

Important: Before performing any of these actions, you must back up all important data.

To reinstall the operating system from recovery mode, follow the step by step:

  • 1. Start macOS recovery mode;
  • 2. Enter your administrator password if necessary;
  • 3. Launch Disk Utility and erase the hard drive, if available;
  • 4. Choose the Reinstall macOS option and follow the instructions.

3. Restore from Time Machine backup

Time Machine offers another option when you need to recover your entire system. Generally, you should not use local snapshots that might contain the problem you are trying to fix.

However, if your backup is clean or if you want to return your operating system to an earlier state, a full Time Machine Restoration may be the right option for you.

To restore your system from a Time Machine backup, follow the step by step:

  • 1. Start macOS recovery mode;
  • 2. Enter your administrator password if necessary;
  • 3. Choose Restore from Time Machine;
  • 4. Follow the instructions.

4. Disk Utility

Disk Utility can perform disk maintenance or prepare a hard disk for macOS installation. Recovery mode grants access to this important tool.

To start Disk Utility, follow the step by step:

  • 1. Start macOS recovery mode;
  • 2. Enter your administrator password if necessary;
  • 3. Choose Disk Utility and click Continue.

Once started, you can use Disk Utility to perform “first aid”, erase or reformat your hard drives, and much more.

When preparing a drive for macOS installation, remember to use a Mac-compatible file system, such as APFS, and the GUID partition scheme.

5. Terminal

The terminal is a very versatile command-line interface that has unlimited functions, making its inclusion in the recovery mode a sensible one.

If you know the correct commands, you can reset administrator passwords, modify your operating system, and perform many other tasks.

To start the Terminal in recovery mode, follow the step by step:

  • 1. Start macOS recovery mode;
  • 2. Enter your administrator password if necessary;
  • 3. Click Utilities on the top menu bar;
  • 4. Choose Terminal.

If you need to search for Terminal commands in recovery, you can use Safari, which we’ll cover in the next tip.

6. Safari

Another vital recovery mode tool is Safari. While the app doesn’t directly help fix a problem, Apple’s browser access allows you to search for problems and solutions without booting the operating system.

Also, using Safari in recovery mode is an excellent way to troubleshoot Internet connectivity issues outside of the main operating system.

To start Safari, follow step by step:

  • 1. Launch macOS recovery mode;
  • 2. Enter your administrator password if necessary;
  • 3. Choose Safari and click Continue.

Safari looks a bit clunky on macOS recovery and you won’t have access to its plug-ins or extensions, but the application is functional and handy in many situations.

7. Use Boot Security Utility or Firmware Password Utility

If you’re using an Intel-based Mac, you have the option of setting a firmware password as an extra layer of security.

While M1 devices have a similar feature built into FileVault, older Macs can really benefit from the added protection.

When you set a firmware password, unauthorized users cannot access the macOS recovery mode partition and most other boot modes, preventing malicious people from tampering with your machine using these methods.

To set a firmware password, follow the step by step:

  • 1. Launch macOS recovery mode;
  • 2. Enter your administrator password if necessary;
  • 3. Click Utilities on the top menu bar;
  • 4. Choose Boot Security Utility or Firmware Password Utility, whichever is applicable;
  • 5. Follow the instructions.

Fortunately, you’ve kept your operating system up-to-date and you can see the Startup Security Utility option; however, older versions of the software use the Firmware Password Utility.

8. Start target disk mode and share the disk

In macOS recovery mode, your Mac may enter a mode that lets you share files with another device connected via a USB cable, USB-C, FireWire, or Thunderbolt, depending on the available models.

To enter destination disk mode on Mac with Intel chip, follow the step by step:

  • 1. Boot macOS Recovery Mode;
  • 2. Click Apple on the top menu bar;
  • 3. Choose boot disk;
  • 4. Click Target Disk Mode;
  • 5. Click Restart.

Alternatively, you can boot into target disk mode by holding the T key while booting.

Did you like our macOS recovery mode tips?

Have you been able to take advantage of our macOS recovery mode tips guide? So, leave in the comments if this guide was useful to you and if you already knew about this tool. And don’t forget to also check out the best MacBook Pro apps as well as our guide on how to play games on a Mac!


By Equipe Apptuts
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