The macOS Recovery Mode isn’t working: How to fix it

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In most cases, you won’t need to use your Mac’s recovery mode very often. However, macOS can sometimes malfunction in ways that are hard to fix without it. In such cases, recovery mode can be very useful.

So, what should you do when you can’t get the Mac to boot into recovery mode? What are your options for restoring the Mac to its original state? Let’s take a look at some causes for recovery mode to fail in this guide, and how to hopefully fix them.

Here’s why your Mac’s recovery mode may fail

In recovery mode, you might notice two major problems. Either your Mac won’t boot up into recovery mode at all, or, if it does, it doesn’t work properly. It’s impossible to recover macOS either way, which should prevent you from using your Mac if it’s infected with a serious issue.

You may not be able to use recovery mode for a variety of reasons. In addition, recovery mode was not introduced until after OS X Snow Leopard, so if your computer is older than that, you must reinstall OS X from your original OS X DVD.

However, you can also use Mac Optimizer Pro software for automatic optimization of your Mac. This application also assists you in tackle recovery related issues.

Use the appropriate shortcut for entering recovery mode

Apple’s M1 processor Macs are different from Intel Macs in the way they enter recovery mode. As a result, if you choose the wrong method, you will be unable to enter recovery mode. The solution is as simple as selecting the right shortcut.

 Steps for starting Intel Mac’s recovery mode:

  1. Sign in to your Mac
  2. Once it has powered on, press and hold Cmd+R
  3. If your Mac has internet recovery, you can enter it by holding down Shift+Opt+Cmd+R or Opt+Cmd+R

However, Cmd+R will not work on Apple’s M1 line of Macs. Booting into recovery mode will require a totally new method.

Recovery mode on an M1 Mac can be started as follows:

  1. Turn your Mac off and press and hold the power button
  2. When the startup options appear, release the power button
  3. Next, click on Options
  4. After that, click Continue

Make sure your keyboard is working

To enter recovery mode on an Intel Mac, you need to use a keyboard shortcut. Hence, if the keyboard isn’t working, you won’t be able to enter the shortcut and your Mac won’t enter recovery mode. If your keyboard isn’t working, plug it into a computer and test it in applications like a word processor or web browser.

Using a Bluetooth keyboard could also cause problems. If you’re having difficulty getting into the program, try a wired keyboard instead of a Bluetooth one.  The macOS Accessibility Keyboard can also be used to test your keyboard. You can highlight any key that you press on your physical keyboard during the use of this on-screen keyboard.

This is how you use the Accessibility keyboard in macOS:

  1. Open System Preferences, and select Accessibility
  2. Scroll down to the left, and select Keyboard
  3. Click on Accessibility Keyboard
  4. After that, select the box > Enable Accessibility Keyboard
  5. In the end, press a few keys on your keyboard again and see if they are highlighted in red

Ensure that your recovery partition is visible and accessible

On some Macs, the macOS recovery image is sometimes stored on the disk partition, which further helps the users in speed up Mac’s recovery. This generally works fine, but sometimes it can be accidentally deleted or corrupted. If that happens, your Mac might not be able to enter recovery mode.  Internet recovery is available on some Macs, which can be done by using the shortcut we mentioned earlier. This will allow you to download the macOS version that came with your Mac. If you have upgraded since then, you will need to reinstall this later.

It’s also possible to create a bootable USB drive and install macOS from there. If you can’t access your Mac, you’ll have to use another computer to do this. You can also recover from your Time Machine backup, if you have one.  If you are able to boot into recovery mode, you can look for the recovery partition with the Disk Utility.

Here’s how you can check which partition you have in macOS recovery mode:

  1. Go to recovery mode of Mac
  2. Open the Disk Utility application from the list of macOS utilities
  3. Locate the OS X Base System or Recovery HD

Check for problems with internet connectivity

As Internet recovery requires internet access to work, a bad or intermittent internet connection could cause difficulties when trying to retrieve your Mac. In particular, this is crucial when it comes to M1 Macs, which only provide internet recovery.  Ensure your Mac is connected properly to your router, preferably via an Ethernet cable, to rule out internet issues. Make sure your router is functioning properly, and check your network for other devices using a tool such as SpeedTest.

If you are using Wi-Fi, make sure it is connected during the recovery process:

  1. Go into recovery mode on your Mac
  2. If you don’t see a Wi-Fi symbol at the top right, click it and check your network settings
  3. It will be gray. if it’s gray, click on it to connect to your network
  4. Now, retry the recovery process

Make sure your hard drive or SSD is working properly

Hard drives and SSDs, as well as other computer storage devices, will not last forever. If you’re experiencing problems with your Mac but are also unable to boot into recovery mode, there may be a hardware problem.  If this happens to you, your options will be determined by the model of your Mac and whether it is still protected by its warranty. If your drive fails, it’s advisable to let Apple fix it, especially if it’s still covered by a warranty.

If it’s not, you might want to consider replacing the drive yourself. On older Macs, you could replace hard drives or boot from external drives – though Apple made it less convenient with later models. However, with Apple’s latest M1 range, neither of these is currently available.

You can check the health of your disk with the Disk Utility if you can boot into your Mac. To do so, follow these steps:

  1. Select Applications > Utilities, and launch Disk Utility
  2. Navigate to the First Aid menu
  3. Press the Run button
  4. Click on Continue, and then wait for the scan to complete
  5. Click Show Details and check to see if any items were flagged
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