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Internet Recovery Mode on Intel and M1 Mac Explained

Updated on Thursday, June 16, 2022

iBoysoft author Jessica Shee

Written by

Jessica Shee
Professional tech editor

Approved by

Connie Yang

How and when to start your Mac in Internet Recovery Mode?

Summary: Tell you how to enter Mac Internet Recovery Mode when you can't boot into Recovery Mode on Intel or M1 Mac. Plus what to do if Internet Recovery is unavailable.

Start Mac into Internet Recovery Mode

Your startup disk contains a hidden recovery partition called Mac Recovery Mode you can boot from to reinstall macOS, check the connected disks, and more when MacBook won't turn on.

If the local recovery partition is corrupted due to file system or partition map damages or Command R not working, you can enter Internet Recovery Mode (Network Recovery Mode), an Internet-based version of Recovery Mode. It loads recovery utilities from Apple's servers over the Internet.

Table of Contents:

How to start Mac in Internet Recovery Mode?

When your Command + R keys can't bring you to macOS Recovery Mode on an Intel-based Mac, your Mac computer will automatically boot into Mac Internet Recovery Mode.

You can also enter Internet Recovery to solve Mac Recovery Mode not working by following the steps below:

  1. Completely shut down your Mac.
  2. Press the power button or Touch ID button and immediately hold down Command + Option + R or Command + Shift + Option + R key combination.
  3. Hold the keys until you see a spinning globe appears on the screen with the message "Starting Internet Recovery. This may take a while."
  4. Select a Wi-Fi and enter your Wi-Fi password if asked when a Wi-Fi menu appears. Starting your Mac in Internet Recovery Mode requires a network connection to load tools from Apple's servers.
  5. Wait until the Mac boots to Internet Recovery. It may take minutes or even hours depending on your Internet speed, so make sure your Mac is fully charged.

Mac internet recovery mode

You will see the same macOS Utilities window as in standard macOS Recovery with all tools available.

How to start an Apple Silicon Mac in Internet Recovery Mode?

In fact, on Apple silicon Macs, M1 Mac Internet Recovery Mode has been combined with standard macOS Recovery. To boot an M1, M1 Pro or M1 Max MacBook Pro to macOS Internet Recovery has no difference from entering a normal macOS Recovery.

Unlike on an Intel Mac, booting to M1 Mac Internet Recovery and macOS Recovery both requires an internet connection.

Power on the Mac by pressing the Touch ID button and then hold it down for a few seconds. Click the Wi-Fi icon to ensure network availability. Then click Options and Continue to enter M1 Mac Internet Recovery Mode.

What you can do in Internet Recovery Mode?

Like in standard Mac Recovery Mode, Mac Internet Recovery allows you to:

Difference between standard macOS Recovery and Internet Recovery

In addition to the different key combinations to enter, the biggest difference between standard Recovery and Internet Recovery lies in the Mac OS version they will install on your Mac.

Mac's recovery partition contains the latest macOS installer that was previously present on your Mac. It means that you can only install or reinstall the macOS you had from standard Recovery.

However, starting up with Command + Option + R keys in Internet Recovery Mode will automatically upgrade your Mac to the latest compatible macOS. The other set of key combinations will download the version of macOS that was factory-preloaded on your Mac in Internet Recovery.

Reinstall macOS in Internet Recovery Mode

After arriving at the Internet Recovery Mode on Mac and macOS utilities window, you can tell which version of macOS you will install on your Mac via a thumbnail next to the Install or Reinstall macOS option.

To ensure a smooth and successful macOS installation, you should:

  1. Format Mac startup disk first to fix the possibly corrupted Mac's hard drive, so the macOS installer can recognize it.
  2. Select Install macOS or Reinstall macOS in the recovery menu and click the Continue button.
  3. Follow the prompts to install macOS.

What to do if Mac Internet Recovery Mode is not working?

If you can't access Mac's built-in Recovery Mode and Internet Recovery is unavailable as well, the last method to boot Mac from the USB bootable macOS installer.

After creating a bootable macOS installer on a USB thumb drive, you connect it to the Mac and start your Mac with the Option key pressed down. You can select the external device to load the operating system instead of your Mac's internal SSD.

This will create a recovery partition on the external storage device and then follow the onscreen instructions to reinstall macOS.

FAQ about Mac's Internet Recovery

A

If you use Command + Option + R keys to enter Internet Recovery Mode, the latest Mac OS that is compatible with your Mac will be installed. But if your Mac model is too old, like Macs released before 2013, it is possible that the latest macOS Big Sur is not supported.

A

Performing Internet Recovery does not delete any of your user data. Internet Recovery just loads recovery tools from Apple's servers when regular Recovery Mode is not working, so it won't affect your data unless you format Macintosh HD - Data volume in Disk Utility from Internet Recovery.

A

Apple first offered Mac Internet Recovery as part of OS X Lion in 2011.