How to Restart a Mac in Recovery Mode

Fix your Mac woes easily by restoring or reinstalling the OS

What to Know

  • Restart your Mac and hold down the Command and R keys to boot into Recovery Mode.
  • On an M1-based Mac, press and hold the power button and wait for a relevant prompt.
  • Recovery Mode lets you restore or reinstall your Mac.

This article teaches you how to restart your Mac into Recovery Mode and explains what Recovery Mode means for you and your data.

How Do I Boot Into Recovery Mode?

Booting into Recovery Mode is only a few steps away, providing you know what to press. Here's how to boot into Recovery Mode on an Intel-based Mac.

  1. Click the Apple logo on your desktop.

    MacOS desktop with Apple logo highlighted
  2. Click Restart.

    MacOS desktop with Restart highlighted on Apple Menu
  3. Immediately hold down the Command and R keys until you see an Apple logo or spinning globe appear.

  4. Choose from the Recovery Mode utility options. These include Restore from Time Machine Backup, Reinstall macOS, Get Help Online or Disk Utility.

How Do I Boot an M1 Mac Into Recovery Mode?

If you have a newer Mac with an Apple-based processor such as the M1 CPU, like the Mac mini, the process is slightly different. Here's how to start your M1-based Mac in Recovery Mode.

  1. Turn off your Mac.

  2. Press and hold the Power button.

  3. A message stating you'll be able to access startup options soon will appear. Keep holding the button down.

  4. Click Options > Continue to open up Recovery.

Why Won't My Mac Go Into Recovery Mode?

If your Mac doesn't go into Recovery Mode through conventional means, try these steps to force it.

  1. Reboot your Mac.

  2. Hold down Option/Alt-Command-R or Shift-Option/Alt-Command-R to force your Mac to boot into macOS Recovery Mode over the internet.

  3. This should boot the Mac into Recovery Mode.

Does Recovery Mode Delete Everything on a Mac?

Yes and no. Solely booting into Recovery Mode won't delete everything on your Mac. Still, if you choose to either reinstall macOS or erase a disk via Disk Utility, you will delete everything on your Mac.

It's a sensible move to reinstall macOS before selling your Mac to someone. Alternatively, use Restore from Time Machine Backup to restore your system to an earlier build. You may lose some files depending on the age of your backup. 

What Else Can I Do Via Recovery Mode?

It's also possible to access the Terminal via macOS Recovery Mode. Here's how to do it.

  1. Boot into Recovery Mode.

  2. Click Utilities.

  3. Click Terminal.

    It's also possible to use the Startup Security Utility app and Network Utility app from here.

Why Would I Need to Boot Into Recovery Mode?

If you're wondering why it's helpful to be able to boot into Recovery Mode, here's a quick overview of the reasons why. 

  • You're selling your Mac. If you're selling your Mac, it's important to wipe all your data, including your Apple ID. Recovery mode is a valuable tool for making this happen.
  • You're troubleshooting an issue. Like Windows's Safe Mode, Recovery Mode makes it possible to boot into your computer with the minimum resources, enabling you to troubleshoot any problems.
  • You need to use Disk Utility. If there's a problem with your Mac's hard drive, you can use Recovery Mode to boot into Disk Utility to repair it.
  • To restore from a Time Machine backup. Recovery Mode makes it simple to restore your system from a Time Machine backup. 
FAQ
  • How do I restart a Mac in Recovery Mode with a Windows keyboard?

    On a Windows keyboard, the Windows key is equivalent to the Mac keyboard's Command key. So if you're using a Windows keyboard, restart your Mac and then hold down the Windows key + R key combination to boot into Recovery Mode. Alternatively, use a Terminal command. Open Terminal and type sudo nvram "recovery-boot-mode=unused" followed by sudo shutdown -r now. Afterward, the computer will revert to normal bootup after you restart it from Recovery Mode.

  • How do I restart a Mac into Recovery Mode without a keyboard?

    Unfortunately, you'll need a keyboard to be able to restart your Mac into Recovery Mode. If you don't have a Mac keyboard, try to locate a Windows keyboard and use the Windows key + R key combination, as mentioned above. Or, consider investing in a quality Mac keyboard for your device.

  • How do I hard reset my Mac?

    To force a restart, go to the Apple menu and select Restart. If the Mac isn't responding, try pressing and holding the Power button. Or, use the keyboard combination Control + Command + power button (or the TouchID or Eject button, depending on your Mac model.) If things are direr (or if you're selling it), you may need to factory reset your Mac, which wipes your system clean.

  • How do I fix my Mac startup problems?
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