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Mac Won't Boot Into macOS Recovery Mode? Try These Solutions

Updated on Friday, June 14, 2024

iBoysoft author Connie Yang

Written by

Connie Yang
Professional tech editor

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Jessica Shee

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Summary: This article helps you troubleshoot the Mac Recovery Mode not working issue with testified solutions. More importantly, it helps restore your Mac or reinstall macOS even if your Mac won't boot into Recovery Mode. - From iBoysoft

Mac Recovery Mode not working

macOS Recovery Mode can be a lifesaver when your MacBook won't turn on or perform improperly. It can help you reinstall macOS, fix errors on the startup disk, restore a Mac, factory reset a Mac, etc.

What should you do now? Thankfully, you are in the right place. This article will tell you how to fix the Mac won't boot into macOS Recovery Mode issue. And also, it can help you restore your Mac or reinstall macOS when Recovery Mode is not working.

Guide to fixing Mac Recovery Mode not working:

Why won't your Mac go into macOS recovery mode?

The possible reasons are not unique. Here we summarized all the possible reasons why your Mac Recovery Mode is not working.

  • The way to boot your Mac to macOS Recovery Mode is incorrect.
  • Your keyboard is faulty, like hardware damage or poor connection with your Mac.
  • No built-in recovery partition on your Mac at all.
  • The recovery partition on your Mac is mistakenly deleted or corrupted.
  • System glitches.

What happens when Mac recovery mode doesn't work?

If your Mac won't go into macOS Recovery Mode, you can't check and fix the errors that make your Mac won't boot up or run well via the utilities in this special mode. You may enter into normal mode rather than the Recovery Mode. Or, you indeed run into macOS Recovery Mode but the Mac OS utilities are not showing up or the screen shows blank or black.

Mac Recovery Mode not working, follow these ways

Commonly, after you press down the Command + R keys during your Intel-based Mac startup, you'll see the macOS utilities or Mac OS X utilities. Or on an M1 or M2 Mac, you press down the Touch ID (power button) until the startup disk shows up, you choose Options > Continue to enter Recovery Mode and see the four macOS utilities. That means your Mac starts in Recovery Mode successfully.

If your MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, or M1/M2 Mac fails to boot into macOS Recovery Mode, you can troubleshoot the possible issues with the following solutions. Then, you can start your Mac in macOS Recovery successfully to reset or restore your Mac.

Solutions to fix Mac (including M1, M2 Mac) Recovery Mode not working:

  1. Check if your Mac has the recovery partition
  2. Check if your way to entering into macOS Recovery is correct
  3. Check and change your keyboard
  4. Reset SMC
  5. Try Internet Recovery Mode

macOS Utilities in Recovery Mode

1. Check if your Mac has the recovery partition

macOS Recovery is launched in 2010 with OS X 10.7 Lion and runs on later macOS versions. If your Mac runs Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard and older, it isn't delivered with a recovery partition. In other words, it doesn't have a recovery mode at all.

That's why you fail to start in Mac Recovery Mode. You can upgrade your Mac to use macOS Recovery for reinstalling macOS or trying other recovery utilities.

2. Check if your way to entering into macOS Recovery is correct

Perhaps, there are no issues with the macOS Recovery. The booting failure is due to your wrong way to access Recovery Mode.

It is worth noting that the way to boot an Intel-powered Mac into Recovery Mode is different from that of an M1/M2 Mac. And the steps to enter macOS Recovery look similar to that of Fallback Recovery OS. If you find that you can't change the security settings in Recovery Mode, you are actually in Fallback Recovery.

So, those may be the cases why your M1/M2 Mac Recovery Mode is not working.

Here's the correct way to enter macOS Recovery Mode, you can take it as a reference.

To boot an Intel-based Mac into macOS Recovery Mode:

  1. Shut down your Mac and wait a moment.
  2. Press the power button or the Touch ID to restart your Mac and simultaneously hold down the Command + R keys together.
  3. Continue holding down the keys until you see the Apple logo appears. Don't release the Command + R keys too earlier.
  4. You are in Recovery Mode when you see the four macOS utilities showing up on the screen.

To start an M1/M2 Mac into macOS Recovery:

  1. Turn off your M1/M2 Mac and wait a few seconds.
  2. Press down the Touch ID (the power button) for seconds until you see the startup options and the Options gear icon. Otherwise, don't release the Touch ID.
  3. Select the Options gear icon and click "Continue".
  4. Type in your admin password if required to access M1/M2 Mac Recovery Mode.

3. Check and change your keyboard

Command R keys are vital for entering an Intel-based to enter into Recovery Mode. If the keyboard is damaged or isn't connected to your Mac well, the Command - R is also not working. Thus, you can't start your Mac in Recovery Mode.

You can press the Command and R keys separately to identify which one is damaged. If you use a Bluetooth keyboard, you can check your Bluetooth settings in System Preferences and r-pair the keyboard. If you use a wired keyboard, reconnect it to another USB port on your Mac.  

If the Command R still doesn't work, change the keyboard.

fix Command R not working on Mac

4. Reset SMC

SMC (System Management Controller) is used on Intel-based Macs that controls setting management of thermal, battery, hibernation, etc. settings. When your MacBook won't boot into macOS Recovery Mode, you can try to reset SMC to get out of the dilemma.

Here's how:

  1. Press the power button (Touch ID) for about 10 seconds to completely shut down your Mac.
  2. Charge your Mac.
  3. Press down the power button and the Shift (left-side on keyboard) + Control + Option keys for 10 seconds.
  4. Release the keys.
  5. Press the power button to restart your Mac.

5. Try Internet Recovery Mode

If your macOS Ventura, Monterey, or Big Sur still can't boot into macOS Recovery Mode after trying the above fixes, the recovery partition on your Mac is probably not working. You might have mistakenly deleted the recovery partition. Or, the recovery partition on your Mac is already corrupted.

In this situation, you can use Internet Recovery to restore your Mac or reinstall macOS. Mac Internet Recovery Mode connects directly to Apple's server to offer the recovery utilities as Recovery Mode does.

With Mac Internet Recovery, you can restore your Mac from Time Machine backup, reinstall OS, and use Disk Utility to check disk errors. The requirement for using Internet Recovery Mode is the available network. It only supports networks using WEP and WPA security.

To boot into Mac Internet Recovery, you should follow these steps:

Step 1: Press and hold Command - Option/Alt - R or Shift - Option - Command - R keys when rebooting your Mac.

 Note: Using Shift-Option-Command-R during startup, you can get the macOS that came with your Mac or the closest version. Using Option-Command-R at startup, you'll get the latest macOS that is compatible with your Mac model.

Step 2: When you see a spinning globe and the message "Starting Internet Recovery" appears on the screen, release the keys.

Step 3: Wait for the progress bar to load. Then, you'll see the macOS Utility window on the screen.

Start Mac in Internet Recovery

If the Internet Recovery Mac not working, please fix it.

Then, if you want to reinstall OS, select the Reinstall macOS utility and follow the onscreen steps to reinstall a new copy of macOS.

If an Apple Silicon Mac (M1/M2 Mac) recovery mode is not working, it always auto-boots into Internet Recovery Mode. The precondition is that your Mac is connected to the Internet well. 

How to reinstall macOS without macOS recovery mode

If unfortunately, the Internet Recovery on your Mac is not working, your Mac probably won't boot up either.

But don't worry, there still have solutions to start up your Mac and restore your macOS. For an Apple Silicon Mac, it has the second Recovery Mode called 'Fallback Recovery OS Mode', which is a fallback mode just in case Recovery fails.

Or, you can also boot your Mac into DFU Mode (Only available in macOS 10.15.6 and later). It is a state without loading the OS. You can make some slight changes in DFU Mode to make the Recovery Mode back to work and restore your Mac as well.

If the mentioned two modes are not available on your Mac, try the following solutions to restore your Mac.

Solution 1: Use Time Machine backup

The precondition to using Time Machine backup is you have backed up your Mac to an external hard drive or USB drive. If you haven't backed up your Mac recently, you can jump to the next solution.

Here's how to restore your Mac with Time Machine backup:

  • Turn off your Mac.
  • Connect the Time Machine backup drive to your computer.
  • Press the power button and simultaneously hold down the Option key.
  • Release the key until seeing the startup options list on your screen.
  • Select the Time Machine backup drive and press Return. 

Then, your Mac will boot from the OS installer on your backup drive.

Solution 2: Create a bootable installer

If you don't have an original disk preinstalled with an OS installer, and the Internet Recovery Mode also not working due to network issues, the last way is to create a bootable USB installer and install macOS from it.

Since this method is complex, here we show a video about how to create a bootable installer for you. You can follow this video carefully.

Or, the following part will offer detailed steps.

Preparations:

1. A USB drive formatted as Mac OS Extended with at least 16GB (For Big Sur installer, 64GB is better) in size.

2. Get macOS installation files. Find a healthy Mac, download the current macOS of the healthy Mac, like Catalina in the App Store. Note that don't click on install at this time. If you want an update on the current system, go to System Preferences > Software Update. Then download the macOS installation files. The installation files are in the Application folder by default.

3. If your Mac with Apple T2 or M1/M2 chip (Check in the Apple menu > About This Mac), you should enter macOS Recovery Mode > Startup Security Utility > check Allow booting from external media.

Next, create a bootable installer:

Create a bootable macOS installer

  • Connect the USB drive to the healthy Mac.
  • Open Finder > Applications > Utilities > Terminal.
  • Type the following commands in Terminal and press Enter. Here the Applications means that the installation files are in the Application folder of the Mac. MyVolume means where the installation files will be saved (the name of your USB drive). Here take macOS Catalina as an example:sudo /Applications/Install\ macOS\ Catalina.app/Contents/Resources/createinstallmedia --volume /Volumes/MyVolume

 Note: The command line is suitable for other macOS versions, only replace /Install\ macOS\ Catalina.app/ to the desired version, like /Install\ macOS\ Big\ Sur.app/.

  • Type your administrator password if required and press Enter.
  • Type Y when warning you that it will erase the USB drive and press Enter.
  • Then, the installation files on the Mac will be copied to the USB drive.

When the copy work is done, it will show "Copy complete and Done". Now, you've created the macOS bootable installer on your USB drive successfully. You can eject the USB drive.

The last, install macOS from the bootable USB installer:

The operations are different for an Apple Silicon Mac and Intel-based Mac.

 Note: Your Mac should be connected to the internet and compatible with the version of macOS you'll install.

For an M1/M2 Mac:

  • Attach the USB drive with the bootable installer to your unbootable Mac.
  • Hold the power button when booting your Mac until the startup options window appears.
  • Select the volume that contains the bootable installer.
  • Follow the instructions to finish the installation.

For an Intel-based Mac:

  • Connect the USB drive with the bootable installer to your unbootable Mac.
  • Hold the Option/Alt key at once after rebooting your Mac.
  • Release the Option/Alt key when you see the bootable volumes.
  • Choose the volume having the bootable installer. 
    Select your bootable USB drive
  • Follow the instructions to finish the macOS installation.

After reinstalling macOS or OS X, you can restore the data from your backup (If had).

Final thoughts

With a set of recovery tools, macOS Recovery plays an important role in restoring your Mac. However, a Mac that won't boot into Recovery Mode is not a rare problem, which brings a lot of trouble for you.

Hopefully, you can try the solutions in this article to fix this issue. Moreover, you can get some alternatives to reinstall macOS and restore your Mac when Mac Recovery Mode not working.

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