How to use Mac Recovery Mode - Intel or M1

By Connie | Posted to Home > Mac Data Recovery Tips, updated on September 7th, 2021

Summary: This article introduces macOS Recovery Mode, including how to boot to macOS Recovery and use macOS Utilities to solve your problems.

How to boot Mac to macOS Recovery Mode

This article explains information about macOS Recovery Mode, including:

What is Mac Recovery Mode?

macOS Recovery mode is a special mode that starts your Mac from a built-in Recovery HD partition. This recovery partition contains an image of the macOS installer, macOS Utilities ( Mac OS X Utilities for older Macs), and some other recovery tools.

You can perform basic troubleshooting and recovery activities such as startup disk verification, OS reinstallation and startup security modification from this recovery partition if your MacBook won't turn on to the desktop.

How to start an Intel Mac in macOS Recovery Mode?

Booting into Recovery on an Intel-based Mac requires a keyboard combination. Different keyboard combinations will bring you to a standard Recovery or Mac Internet Recovery Mode.

Follow the steps below to see how it works:

1. Completely shut down your Mac and press the power button or Touch ID button to power on your Mac.

2. As soon as Mac starts or you hear the startup chime, hold down the Command + R together.

Mac recovery mode keys

3. Keep holding down the keys for a few seconds until you see an Apple logo and release the keys to start you Mac in Mac Recovery Mode.

4. You successfully boot into macOS Recovery until you see the utilities window with a few recovery and troubleshooting features.

How to start an M1 Mac in macOS Recovery Mode?

M1-powered Macs ask for a different set of operations. Before booting your Apple Silicon Mac from recovery partition, your Mac must be connected to Internet.

Step 1:Completely shut down your M1 Mac.

Step 2: Press and hold the Touch ID button for a few seconds until you see "Loading startup options".

Step 3: Click Options next to the Mac's Macintosh HD disk and then click Continue.

Start M1 Mac in Mac Recovery

Step 4: Enter your admin name and password if asked and you will arrive at the macOS Utilities screen.

What are recovery utilities?

When you are in Mac Recovery, the normal desktop and often-used apps are not available. You are limited to a few tasks and options through the macOS Utilities, called Mac OS X Utilities on some older Mac OS versions, and tools in the top menu bar.

Depending on which Recovery Mode you boot in, the utilities on your Mac may vary. Read below to see what functions you can perform in Recovery Mode.

Mac recovery mode

Restore From Time Machine Backup

If you have set up Time Machine to back up files and the system with an external hard drive before, you'll be able to restore Mac from Time Machine. The APFS snapshots of local startup disk before macOS update could also be available for system restoration through this feature.

Reinstall macOS (or Reinstall OS X)

This function will allow you to download a fresh copy of Mac's operating system and reinstall Mac OS on your computer. The thumbnail shows which operating system will be installed on your Mac.

Disk Utility

Disk Utility in Mac Recovery Mode is a tool to verify, repair and erase connected disks including Mac's internal SSD. You can use this utility to format Mac startup disk or use Disk Utility First Aid.

Get Help Online/Safari

It allows you to visit Apple support pages or other web pages for information, but bookmarks and browser plug-ins and extensions are not available.

Except for macOS Utilities, several other recovery tools are accessible from the menu at the top of the page.


You can choose Utilites > Terminal to open it and run commands to change settings or ask Mac to finish some certain task. For example, you can run command to disable SIP in Recovery.

Startup Security Utility

You can click Utilities > Startup Security Utility to set up the security protocols for your Mac. That is the utility you will rely on if you need to set a firware password on Mac, allow Mac to boot from external USB installer, or enable system extensions on M1 Mac.

Network Utility

It provides information and troubleshooting tools to help you with your network, including check network connection and test DNS server.

Share Disk

This is the Apple Silicon Mac version of Target disk Mode. You can access it from Utilities > Share Disk on M1 Mac to share your disk with another Mac for file transferring.

Startup Disk

You can set the startup disk for the Mac from Apple logo > Startup disk. On Intel Macs, Target Disk Mode is available from there as well.

How to leave Mac Recovery Mode?

Qiutting Mac Recovery Mode is easy - you just restart the Mac from the Apple logo and select "Restart" in the menu.

If you have made any changes, repairs, reinstallation or erasures in Recovery, they will take effect during the rebooting. If you just boot your Mac in Recovery and nothing is performed, your Mac will stay unchanged and reboot to the normal login screen or desktop.

What to do if macOS Recovery Mode is not working?

If you can't start your Mac in Mac Recovery Mode, your recovery partition might be corrupted. As a result, Your Mac failed to boot from the recovery partition. Another reason could be that your Command R not working and won't response correctly from your press.

To solve the Mac Recovery Mode not working issue, you can try to use Command + Option + R key combination to start your Mac on Intel Mac, or start your M1 Mac into Fallback Recovery OS, the second copy of macOS Recovery.

FAQ about Mac Recovery Mode

Does Recovery Mode delete everything on Mac?

No, starting your Mac in Recovery Mode won't delete anything. Recovery Mode is just a special boot mode on your Mac and it won't erase your data.

What is Recovery on Mac?

macOS Recovery is the built-in recovery system on your Mac. After your Mac boots from the recovery partition, you can use the limited functions to troubleshoot problems especially related to booting.

How long does it take to boot into Mac Recovery Mode?

It varies from Mac to Mac. It usually takes a couple of munites before you see the macOS Utilities window. On newer M1 Macs, booting to Recovery Mode is much faster.

boot Mac in Safe Mode

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