How To Use Recovery Mode On Mac

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Most of us would agree that Macs are very reliable machines. You could spend years using your Mac every day and not face any significant issues with software or performance.

Occasionally, though, problems do occur. Your Mac could become unresponsive, some malware file could corrupt your macOS installation, you might delete an important system file by mistake, etc. It might even be that you just need to wipe your Mac clean to sell it, or do the same thing after you’ve bought a used one. 

All the above is possible to do in Mac Recovery mode, a powerful built-in feature which most people are not familiar with. So let’s dive into what is Recovery mode, how to restart Mac in Recovery mode, and how do you get out of Recovery mode once you’re done.

What Is Recovery Mode On Mac?

Apple Recovery mode is a default set of tools in your macOS created to offer you safe Mac boot options to recover your Mac from software issues. First introduced in 2011 with the release of Mac OS X Lion, the ability to boot Mac in Recovery mode greatly simplified macOS reinstallation while giving users more control. 

MacBook Recovery mode also makes using your Mac more secure. For example, if your Mac has a T2 security chip and you want to use macOS from an external drive, then your only option is to boot into Recovery Mac mode.

From a user’s perspective, MacBook or iMac Recovery mode is simply a window you get to using Mac startup keys when restarting your Mac that presents you with four main options:

  • Restore From Time Machine Backup

  • Reinstall macOS

  • Get Help Online

  • Disk Utility

While getting a backup from Time Machine in case your hard drive crashes is self-explanatory, reinstalling macOS has an option to get the latest or an older version, getting help online just means using Safari (with extensions disabled) to troubleshoot your issue, and Disk Utility can help you identify the exact problem with your hard drive. 

Here’s how to reboot MacBook Pro Recovery mode at any time. 

How to restart Mac in Recovery mode

Apple Recovery mode is accessible wherever you’re on your Mac. To enable it: 

  1. Restart your Mac

  2. Immediately press and hold Apple Recovery keys (⌘ + R)

  3. Release the keys when you see an Apple logo

  4. Enter your admin password if prompted

The window with Mac boot options should appear. In most cases, you should start with Disk Utility, since it can repair quite a lot of issues and probably even decrease the need for macOS reinstallation. You can also use it to delete all data from your hard drive and, as an option, boot into Recovery Mac mode to restore data from your Time Machine backup. 

If Disk Utility can’t help you, move on to reinstalling your macOS. You can choose to reinstall the latest version from the Mac Recovery mode menu. Another option is to reinstall the macOS that your Mac came with, or the closest one available to it. To do that, restart your Mac and press Shift + Option + ⌘ + R. 

In case you find your Mac hard drive physically damaged and you can’t reinstall macOS through the MacBook Recovery mode, you could try pinging Apple’s servers to do so over the internet.

How to reboot MacBook Pro over the internet

It’s not widely known, but as a matter of last resort you can request a MacBook Pro Recovery mode macOS reinstallation online. In fact, if you’ve ever tried getting the original macOS that your Mac came with, it would be done via the internet.

This process is less stable as it relies on your WiFi connection, so it’s only recommended if your Mac is damaged and nothing else seems to work. 

To boot Mac in Recovery mode online: 

  1. Restart your Mac

  2. Press Shift + Option + ⌘ + R until you see a spinning globe in place of an Apple logo

In general, you should try to avoid getting your Mac into the situation where using Mac startup keys for Recovery mode is necessary. To do so, equip yourself with a few apps that make preventative care for your Mac easy.

How to keep your Mac optimized

Most of the time, you use MacBook or iMac Recovery mode to reinstall macOS when it can’t cope with the amount of trash weighing it down, be it user logs, app caches, malware, hidden processes, etc. Cleaning all of it up manually is nearly impossible — what you need is a good automated optimization solution instead.

CleanMyMac X is by far the best app to clean, optimize, and protect your Mac. Not only does it scan your Mac in seconds for any junk, it also features some options to accelerate its performance and protects it from any known malware. Some other options include uninstalling software completely, without leaving any satellite files hanging, as well as scanning your drives for old files that have been taking up lots of space. Essentially, CleanMyMac X is your one-stop-shop for keeping your Mac in top shape.

CleanMyMac X optimize Mac

How to identify issues on Mac

While CleanMyMac X can help you fix almost any issue, how do you know when something has gone wrong? Or how can you predict and prevent something bad from happening to your Mac? 

iStat Menus is a user-friendly monitoring tool for any aspect of your Mac, from CPU, GPU, and RAM to WiFi, fans, and battery life. This utility quietly lives in your menu bar, always showing you the latest stats you need to make informed decisions about your Mac. You can even use iStat Menus to show hyperlocal weather forecasts!

iStat Menus monitor Mac

How to back up your Mac often

Even with the most advanced monitoring and optimization tools at your disposal, you need to have a plan B in case something unpredictable happens. No one thinks their hard drive is going to fail, but it does occur from time to time. The only way to shield yourself from a disastrous outcome is to have a complete backup solution in place.

Get Backup Pro is the most advanced backup manager on the market today. Not only does it let you control the type of backup you should get — simple copy, clone, incremental, or versioned — it makes it easy to save data to an external drive and boot Mac in Recovery mode later to recover your data. Besides, you can use Get Backup Pro to sync a few different Macs completely or just specific folders. 

Get Backup Pro Mac recover

How to recover lost data on Mac

If worst comes to worst and you end up losing some of your data with no backup to rely on, don’t panic just yet. There are professional recovery tools that could help you get your data back. 

Disk Drill is a popular data recovery tool for Mac. It scans your hard drive (or external drive like a USB) right after data loss and is able to put back together missing or damaged files. Disk Drill is also able to analyze your disk and preemptively alert you if something is about to go wrong, protecting your data even before you might lose it. 

Disk Drill recover data Mac

So now you know how to use Apple Recovery keys to boot into Recovery Mac and reinstall your macOS when you need to. In addition, try optimizing your Mac with CleanMyMac X from time to time, monitor all processes with iStat Menus, save backups frequently with Get Backup Pro, and recover your data with Disk Drill if needed. 

Best of all, CleanMyMac X, iStat Menus, Get Backup Pro, and Disk Drill are all available to you absolutely free for seven days via the trial of Setapp, a platform with more than 190 essential apps for your Mac and iPhone. Try them all today and discover your new favorites at no cost!

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