Mac Recovery Mode not working? Try these simple solutions

By Connie | Posted to Home > Mac Data Recovery Tips, updated on October 14th, 2021 |

Summary: This article helps you troubleshoot the Mac Recovery Mode not working issue with testified solutions. More importantly, it helps reinstall macOS even if Recovery Mode not working.

Boot your Mac in Safe Mode

Mac Recovery Mode can be a lifesaver when your MacBook won't turn on. But the damn macOS Recovery mode is not working at this critical moment. How can you get your Mac computer running again?

You are in the right place. This article will tell you how to fix the Mac Recovery Mode not working issue. And also, it helps you restore your Mac or reinstall macOS when Recovery Mode not working.

Mac won't boot into Recovery Mode, what to do:

How to check if recovery partition is working on Mac

Commonly, after you press the Command + R keys during your Mac re-startup, you'll see the macOS utilities or Mac OS X utilities.

Reinstall macOS in macOS Recovery mode

However, you run into one of the following situations this time, which also indicates that the recovery partion on your Mac is out of work:

  • You've booted into the normal mode and see your familiar desktop.
  • macOS utilities in macOS Recovery mode have frozen up.
  • A blank or black screen has occurred on your Mac.

Mac Recovery Mode not working, how to fix it?

All the above situations manifest that the macOS Recovery Mode is not working. You can reboot your Mac into Recovery Mode once again. If there are no changes, try the following solutions.

Check if your Mac has the recovery partition

macOS Recovery is launched in 2010 with OS X 10.7 Lion. For Mac machines run Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard and older, they are not delivered with a recovery partition.

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

Check if Command R not working

Command R keys are vital for entering Recovery Mode. If your Command R not working, you can't start in Mac Recovery Mode.

So, you'd better check if your Command R keys work well. If not, find out the reasons, or if necessary, change a keyboard.

Fix Command R not working

How to restore your Mac if Recovery Mode not working

If the macOS Recovery Mode still doesn't work, your recovery partition is probably corrupted. In this situation, how can you restore your Mac or reinstall macOS?

Mac Internet Recovery mode is the best alternative. The 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, 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 Internet Recovery Mode, you should follow these operations:

  • 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.

  • When you see a spinning globe and the message "Starting Internet Recovery" appears on the screen, release the keys.
  • Wait for the progress bar to load. Then, you'll see the macOS Utility window on the screen.

Start Mac in Internet Recovery

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

For an M1 Mac, if the Recovery Mode is not working, it always auto-boot in Internet Recovery Mode. The precondition is that your Mac is connected to the Internet well.

Internet Recovery on Mac not working, what to do?

If unfortunately, the Internet Recovery on your Mac still cannot work, 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 M1 Mac, it has the second Recovery Mode that 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 do 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.

Use Time Machine backup

The precondition to use 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.

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 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 the detailed steps.


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 of 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 chip (Check in 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\ --volume /Volumes/MyVolume

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

  • 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 installer:

For an Apple Silicon M1 Mac and Intel-based Mac, the operations are different.

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

For an Apple M1 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 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, the macOS Recovery Mode not working issue is not rare, which brings a lot of troubles for you.

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

FAQs about Mac Recovry Mode not working

1. Why is Recovery Mode not working on Mac?

Here are the possible reasons:

  1. The temporary bugs in your Mac OS.
  2. Your keyboard is faulty.
  3. The way to enter Recovery Mode is wrong.
  4. Your Mac has no recovery partition.
  5. The recovery partition on your Mac is corrupted or damaged.

2. What you can do with macOS Recovery Mode?

In Mac Recovery Mode, you can do the followings:

  1. Use the Restore from Time Machine Backup utility to retsore your unbootable Mac, or recover the lost important files.
  2. Utilize the Reinstall macOS feature to reinstall the system when the current one has something wrong like frequent system crashes, running slowly.
  3. Use the Terminal to do some tasks like checking the conditions of your Mac and fix some errors.
  4. Take advantage of the Disk Utility First Aid to check and repair internal and external disk issues.