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Mac Recovery Mode Not Working, What to Do? (Full 2022 Guide)

Updated on Wednesday, June 22, 2022

iBoysoft author Connie Yang

Written by

Connie Yang
Professional tech editor

Approved by

Jessica Shee

MacBook Won't Boot Into Recovery Mode? Try These Simple Solutions

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 Recovery Mode not working on MacBook or M1 Mac.

Mac Recovery Mode not working

macOS Recovery Mode can be a lifesaver when your MacBook won't turn on. It can help you factory reset a Mac, restore a Mac, fix errors on the startup disk, etc. But the damn macOS Recovery is not working at the critical moment when you need it. What should you do now?

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

Table of Contents:

What is Mac Recovery Mode?

Mac Recovery Mode is a special mode on a Mac computer that relies on the recovery partition on your Mac. Even your Mac won't boot, it still can start the problematic Mac from the recovery partition and offer the recovery utilities to help you solve the internal hard drive (SSD) issues.

This special mode can help you reinstall OS, wipe a MacBookfactory reset your Mac, check and repair the errors on the startup disk, restore your Mac from Time Machine backup, and more.

So, when you face problems like the Mac boots into a black screenmacOS Monterey cannot be installed on Macintosh HDMac stuck on login screen, etc., troubleshooting the possible glitches with Recovery Mode is the prior measure.  

What happens when Mac recovery mode doesn't work?

Commonly, after you press down the Command + R keys during your Mac startup, you'll see the macOS utilities or Mac OS X utilities. That means your Mac starts in Recovery Mode successfully.

macOS Utilities in Recovery Mode

However, if you run into one of the following situations, it means that the Recovery Mode probably doesn't work on your Mac.

  • Your Mac boot into the normal mode - the familiar Desktop appears.
  • macOS utilities in macOS Recovery Mode are frozen up.
  • A blank or black screen occurs on your Mac after you follow the way to enter into macOS Recovery.
  • You receive the error code -2003F on the screen.

MacBook won't boot in Recovery Mode, what to do?

If your MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, or M1 Mac fails to boot into 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.

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 your way to enter into macOS Recovery is correct

Perhaps, there's no any 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 Mac. So, that may be the case why your M1 Mac Recovery Mode is not working.

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

To boot an Intel-based Mac into Recovery Mode:

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

To start an M1 Mac into macOS Recovery:

  • Turn off your M1 Mac and wait a few seconds.
  • 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 power button.
  • Select Options gear icon and click Continue.
  • Type in your admin password if required to enter into M1 Mac Recovery Mode.

Check if Command R not working

Command R keys are vital for entering an Intel-based to enter into Recovery Mode. If the Command R not working and you fail to start your Mac into Recovery Mode, you'd better have a carefully check.

fix Command R not working on Mac

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 reconnect 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 a keyboard.

The recovery partition not working, use Internet Recovery to restore Mac

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

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, 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 OS, 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 Mode not working either, how to reinstall macOS

If unfortunately, the Internet Recovery on your Mac still 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 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.

Solution 1: 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.

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.

 Create a bootable macOS installation disk 

Or, the following part will offer the 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 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\ 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:

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, a MacBook that won't boot into Recovery Mode is not a rare problem, which brings a lot of troubles 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.

FAQs about Mac Recovery Mode not working

A

The possible reasons include the temporary bugs in your Mac OS, your faulty keyboard, the wrong way to enter Recovery Mode, no built-in recovery partition on your Mac, or the mistakenly deleted or corrupted recovery partition on your Mac.

A

If the Recovery Mode is not working, you can try these solutions to restore your Mac:
Check if your way to boot into Recovery Mode is correct.
Change a keyboard to ensure that the Command and R keys are workable.
Use Internet Recovery Mode.
Use the latest Time Machine backup.
Create a bootable installer and use it to restore your Mac.

A

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