DFU Mode on Mac: What it is and How to Enter it

By Jessica | Posted to Home > Wiki, October 13th, 2021

Summary: This article discusses Mac DFU mode, including what it is and how you enter it on your Intel or Apple Silicon Mac.

DFU Mode on Mac

Sometimes your Mac runs into issues, requiring your device to be reset or restored. If you have exhausted a series of checks and fixes but still cannot get your Mac to function normally, you can boot your Mac in DFU mode to revive or restore a Mac.

What is DFU mode on Mac?

DFU mode stands for Device Firmware Update mode. It is a state your Mac can enter without loading the operating system. Since the macOS is not running, you can add slight changes and fix bugs to it, restoring your Mac to a workable state.

It is very rare that you have to enter a DFU mode to fix issues because a plenty of recovery and troubleshooting tools are available in standard Mac Recovery Mode. Entering DFU mode is necessary only in the following situations:

  1. 1. Failed to reinstall macOS Big Sur on an M1 Mac
  2. 2. Failed to reinstall macOS
  3. 3. Failed to finish macOS delta or combo updates
  4. 4. Mac won't turn on
  5. 5. Mac Recovery Mode is not working

Difference between DFU mode and Recovery Mode on Mac

Both DFU and Recovery Mode are designed to recover a non-bootable Mac without loading up the operating system, but they work very differently.

macOS Recovery is part of the operating system and boots from a hidden recovery partition. It can be viewed as a minimal operating system with necessary tools to verify or repair the OS. It will be updated with the macOS update.

DFU, on the other hand, is not software-related but burned into the hardware as part SecureROM. It is not meant for the end users and only used when recovery partition is corrupt.

Setup requirements for Mac DFU mode

To enter DFU mode on Mac, you will need to meet a lot of requirements. If you miss any of them, the device firmware update might fail.

To ensure a smooth and successful booting of DFU Mode, you will need:

  • 1. The troubled Mac (Target Mac) and another healthy Mac (Host Mac).
  • 2. The Host Mac must be on the same OS version as the Target Mac and the OS version must be 10.15.6 or later.
  • 3. The Host Mac and Target Mac must have USB-C ports.
  • 4. A supported USB-C to USB-C cable that supports both power and data. The original Apple white charge cable is ideal. Thunderbolt 3 cables are not supported according to Apple, but it works fine according to Mr. Macintosh.
  • 5. Internet access on the Host Mac.
  • 6. Download the latest version of Apple Configurator 2 software on the Host Mac.
  • 7. Plug the cable in to any ports of the Host Mac, but the Target Mac must have the USB-C cable plugged in a specific port:
    • On an Intel MacBook, you should plug the cable in to the front USB-C port closest to the Trackpad.
    • On an M1 MacBook, you should plug the cable in to the back USB-C port farthest to the Trackpad.

How to Enter DFU Mode on an Intel/M1 Mac?

After you have done all the preparations and configurations, it may still not be easy to enter the DFU mode on Mac. Depending on your Mac models, you have to follow the steps very carefully since a small mistake may fail the booting.

Step 1: Completely turn off the Mac. You either hold down the power button on a MacBook for 5 seconds or unplug a Mac desktop from AC power for 10 seconds.

Step 2: Connect the two Mac computers with a USB-C cable.

Step 3: Open Apple Configurator 2 software on the Host Mac. Do not launch the software before you connect two Macs.

Step 4: Restart the Target MacBook by pressing down the right Shift key + the left Option key + the left Control key while holding down the power button for at least 10 seconds. If the Target Mac is a desktop, you hold down the power button and then connect the computer to power with power button pressed down all the time for another 10 seconds.

Note: You will need somebody to help with the key pressing. You won't see any activity on the screen.

Step 5: Right-click the DFU icon appearing on the Host Mac after you restart the Target Mac. Select Advanced > Relaunch Device or Revive Device for reviving a M1 Mac.

Mac DFU mode

Step 6: Wait for the process to finish. You might see the Apple logo a few times on the Target Mac.