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How To Use Recovery Mode On Mac

8 min read

In this article, we are looking at Mac recovery mode and how to use it on your device. We overview Apple recovery mode functionality, see the difference between M1 and Intel-based Macs in terms of macOS Recovery features as well as ways to enter recovery mode on these Macs.

What Is Recovery Mode On Mac?

Recovery mode on Mac is officially called macOS Recovery. The tool is helpful for a number of situations and may help you solve some of the issues you might face without having to take your computer to service.

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.

Why use macOS Recovery

There are a number of uses for macOS Recovery tool. Among other uses, you may employ this handy recovery assistant on Mac to help you:

  • repair internal disk on your device,
  • reinstall macOS,
  • bring back the files that you’ve saved in a Time Machine backup.

Additionally, macOS Recovery mode can help set security options for an Intel-based Mac, while on an M1 Mac you can transfer files between two Macs, set security policy for disks on your device, as well as load your Mac in safe mode.

How to restart Mac in recovery mode

Now, let’s boot your Mac in recovery mode. You will first need to know if you are using an Intel-based or Apple silicon Mac since the steps for these two types of Mac devices differ.

Here’s how to start your Intel-based Mac in recovery mode:

  1. Click the apple logo at the top left corner of your screen and then find and click Restart...
  2. Press and hold Command and R keys until you see the startup screen.
  3. Enter password for your Mac, if required.
  4. If you have several volumes, select the one you want to recover.
  5. If there are multiple accounts on your device, select an admin one and enter the password for it to proceed.

Reboot M1 Mac in recovery mode

Now, let’s see how to restart your Mac in Recovery mode if you are using an Apple silicon machine.

  1. Shut down your Mac.
  2. Press the power button on your device. Hold until you see Loading startup options on your screen.
  3. Click Options > Continue.
  4. Enter password for the admin account on your Mac.

How to start Macbook Pro in recovery mode over the internet

And if you want, you can actually reboot your Mac in recovery mode over the internet.

There are two ways of starting your Macbook Pro or other Mac in recovery mode over the internet — one allows you to reinstall the latest macOS compatible with your device, while the other helps you reinstall the macOS your device came with (or the version that’s closest to it).

Let’s see how to do that. Note that this applies to Intel-based Macs.

  1. Click the Apple logo at the top left corner of your screen and then find and click Restart...
  2. To reinstall latest macOS compatible with your device: press and hold Option, Command, and R keys until you see the startup screen. To reinstall the macOS your device came with (or version closest to it): press and hold Option, Shift, Command, and R keys until you see the startup screen.
  3. Enter password for your Mac, if required.
  4. If you have several volumes, select the one you want to recover.
  5. If there are multiple accounts on your device, select an admin one and enter the password for it to proceed.

Tips on how to keep your Mac optimized

As you know, prevention is the best policy. So to avoid having to deal with any potential issues on your machine, you can use a few handy apps to keep your Mac in tip-top shape.

Get Backup Pro is a solution for easy backups of any information you want to keep extra safe. This app helps you make incremental and compressed backups that you can use to recover your info to both your or other Macs. You can also schedule your backups and don’t worry about having to regularly back up your data manually.

Get Backup Pro Mac recover

Moreover, Get Backup Pro is a smart backup manager, meaning you don’t have to create copies of your cat memes or dozens of copies of that presentation you were trying to get just right for the previous quarterly report. You can tell the app exactly the folders and files you want to backup and save space while keeping your important data backed up.

iStat Menus is another must-have for a Mac. The app is perfect for keeping up to date with what’s up on your device — it provides real time data on your Mac’s CPU and GPU usage, various internal stats like temperature for battery, SSD, CPU core, and others (may vary depending on your device), upload and download speeds, memory status, which apps are using significant battery energy, your battery health (our is 93%, what’s yours?), and a number of other handy info that can help you keep a close eye on how your system is faring.

iStat Menus monitor Mac

Plus, you can even add weather to your menu bar monitoring kit. Convenient, right?

All the stats you choose are available in your menu bar:

CleanMyMac X is our final recommendation. The tool is easy to recommend with so many Mac users enjoying its handy features from cleaning out junk and old files to uninstalling apps or extensions to malware removal. This versatile Mac cleaner is an amazing solution that can keep your device free from system junk, apps you forgot you installed, and even leftovers from removed apps that linger around somewhere in system files taking up space on your hard-working machine.

CleanMyMac X optimize Mac

Run a quick scan here and there and clean out unwanted stuff off your machine easily!


Now that you know how to put your Mac in recovery mode as well as troubleshoot some of the possible arising issues, we hope you feel more at ease with the process and can tackle using macOS Recovery in the future without any snags.

If you want to keep your Mac in tip-top shape, make sure you don’t overload your device with too many tasks. You can keep an eye on the workload your Mac is experiencing in real time with the help of apps like iStat Menus. You can also do routine cleanups with helper apps like CleanMyMac X that can help you get rid of junk files, uninstall apps you no longer want, and even spot and remove malware.

Additionally, make sure your most important files are backed up — as you can see from our guide above, sometimes you have to reinstall your macOS which means any info you haven’t backed up may end up wiped. You can use apps like Get Backup Pro to help you with selective or incremental backups, as well as scheduled backups so you don’t have to do your regular backups manually.

You can find these apps — iStat Menus, CleanMyMac X, and Get Backup Pro — in Setapp. Setapp is a suite of tools to help boost your productivity and make your workflow and daily routines more efficient, saving you time and energy. Explore the apps we mentioned along with numerous other tools under a single Setapp subscription. What’s more, you can try out Setapp and the tools in it with a 7-day free trial and see if it fits your needs!


How to exit recovery mode on Mac?

To exit macOS Recovery, just restart your device. You can also just shut down your device. If you need to select a different startup disk, click on the Apple menu, then select Startup Disk and choose your desired startup disk. Click Restart. If your device restarted as part of the Time Machine restoration or macOS reinstall, the restart will exit recovery mode as well.

Can I restart a Mac into recovery mode without a keyboard?

Since the process requires you to press key combinations to enter macOS Recovery, you’ll need a keyboard to perform this action. If your laptop’s keyboard isn’t working, you can try to attach an external keyboard to see if that would help.

What to do if my Mac won’t boot into recovery mode?

If your Mac is too old and doesn’t have a recovery mode or your keyboard is not working, you might not be able to boot your computer in Recovery. We’ve found a few solutions you can try:

  • Restart your Mac and try to enter Recovery again as outlined above.
  • Check if your keyboard is working or try connecting an external keyboard and booting your device in Recovery that way. If you are using an external keyboard, make sure it’s connected properly.
  • Load your Mac in Safe mode, restart, and try to boot in Recovery again.
  • If your system is damaged for some reason, but you happen to have a Time Machine backup, you can try to restore it to your device and see if your system works well enough to enter Recovery after a Time Machine restoration.
  • In the case of your Mac’s Recovery partition being damaged or absent (e.g. on older Macs), you may want to try and create a bootable installer to reinstall a macOS on your device from there.
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