Mac recovery is a special built-in recovery system in your Mac that lets you reinstall macOS, restore files from a Time Machine backup, repair the internal disk, and set security option. This feature was introduced in 2010 with OS X 10.7 Lion. When your Mac cannot be booted, you can use the Command + R combination to go into Recovery Mode and use its options to solve the issue. But sometimes, your Mac won't go into recovery mode. There are many ways to deal with this mac recovery mode not working issue. But first, you have to determine the reasons. Then finding a solution will be not so difficult.
Most of us use Command + R key combination to enter recovery mode on Mac. But your Mac won't go into recovery mode if there are any issues with your keyboard. This is a very common reason for Mac recovery mode not working issue. If you are experiencing this issue, you can go for solution 1.
Macs running macOS versions older than Sierra, which was introduced in 2016, don’t have many Recovery options. If your Mac has OS X Snow Leopard or older, it won’t have a Recovery partition. If your Mac is an old version, you may have to reinstall mcOS using solution 2.
Sometimes, the issue may be with your recovery partition. If it has been accidentally deleted or corrupted, your Mac won't go into recovery mode. There are two main solutions to this issue: reinstalling macOS using internet recovery and creating a bootable installer, you can jump to solution 3 for the detailed steps.
Hardware failure like corrupted hard drives or SSDs is another reason for Macbook pro recovery mode not working. In a case like this, you will have no other option but to replace your hardware. These are the common reasons for ‘Mac recovery mode not working’ issue. The following section will teach you how to fix these issues.
These are the fixes you can try if Command + R is not working on your Mac:
Making sure your keyboard is properly connected to the Mac.
Using another keyboard.
Resetting NVRAM to the Defaults.
Read more about What to Do if Command + R Not Working?
Mac computers running on OS X Snow Leopard or older don’t come with a recovery partition. If your Mac belongs to this category, you will have to use the original OS X DVD to reinstall the operating system.
How to Reinstall MacOS Using the Original OS X DVD
First insert the OS X DVD to the DVD driver.
Restart the Mac.
Press the C key immediately and keep it pressed until the Mac boots from the DVD.
If the Mac doesn't boost, press down the Option key while booting.
Built-in Startup Manager will be displayed on the screen.
Select the DVD-ROM icon in it, and press Return to boot from it.
If you think your Mac recovery mode not working issue is caused by recovery partition, you can check your recovery partition using the Terminal command line.
How to Check for Recovery Partition
First, launch Terminal, and then enter the diskutil list. Now you will see a list of all partitions on your computer. Recovery will be listed as a separate item within the list of partitions for each disk. If you don't see a partition listed under the disk you want in recovery mode, this means recovery has been not installed, or it has been accidentally deleted.
How to Restore Mac without Recovery Partition
If your Mac recovery mode is not working, you can also go to recovery mode without a recovery partition. There are several methods to do this.
First, turn off your Mac.
Next, press Command + Option/Alt + R keys while pressing the Power button. Keep pressing these keys until the message "Starting Internet Recovery" or an icon of a spinning globe appears on your screen.
Then click on Reinstall macOS when the macOS Utilities appears on the screen.
If you are not able to use internet recovery, you can also create a bootable installer to install macOS. To do this, you need a USB device or other secondary volume with at least 14GB space and a downloaded installer for macOS Big Sur, Catalina, High Sierra, Mojave, or El Capitan.
First, connect the USB drive or the volume and open Terminal, which is available in the Utilities folder of the Applications folder.
Type and paste the appropriate command from below:
For Big Sur:
sudo /Applications/Install\ macOS\ Big\ Sur.app/Contents/Resources/createinstallmedia --volume /Volumes/MyVolume
sudo /Applications/Install\ macOS\ Catalina.app/Contents/Resources/createinstallmedia --volume /Volumes/MyVolume
sudo /Applications/Install\ macOS\ Mojave.app/Contents/Resources/createinstallmedia --volume /Volumes/MyVolume
For High Sierra:
sudo /Applications/Install\ macOS\ High\ Sierra.app/Contents/Resources/createinstallmedia --volume /Volumes/MyVolume
For El Capitan:
sudo /Applications/Install\ OS\ X\ El\ Capitan.app/Contents/Resources/createinstallmedia --volum
The above commands assume that the installer is in the Applications folder, and MyVolume refers to the name of the USB drive. Replace MyVolume in the above commands with the name of your USB drive or volume.
Once you have entered the relevant command, press Return to enter it.
Then, type in and enter your administer password.
Now you will be asked for confirmation for erasing the volume – Press Y to accept. Terminal will show the progress as the volume is erased.
Once this is complete, Terminal will ask for access to files on the removable volume. Select OK to proceed.
When the copying is complete, the volume will have the same name as the installer you downloaded. You have now created your bootable installer. Quit Terminal and eject the volume.
This is how you create a bootable installer to solve the problem of Macbook pro recovery mode not working.
Damaged hard drives or SSDs can also cause Mac recovery mode not working issue. If this happens, check whether your warranty is expired. If you still have your warranty, the best solution is to let Apple replace your hardware. If you are no longer under a warranty period, you can replace the drive yourself, especially with older models. But replacing the hard drive of newer Mac models is quite complicated, and you may need expert support for this.
You don't have to try out all the above methods to go to recovery mode and restore data. You can easily restore all your data with a professional recovery tool like AnyRecover. If you want to enter Mac recovery mode to restore your data from Time Machine backup, but your Mac won't go into recovery mode, you can use AnyRecover to restore your data instead of using Time Machine. Even if you successfully reinstalled the macOS, but couldn't save a backup of your data, you don't have to worry – you can easily use AnyRecover to restore your lost data.
Recovering your data with AnyRecover is pretty simple. But the steps you will have to follow to recover your data will vary according to the recovery mode you choose. When your Mac can't boot, you will have to choose Recover from Crashed Computer mode. If you want to use the Recovery Mode to recover data, just select the Disk where the data has been lost, and AnyRecover will scan your Mac and recover the data.
AnyRecover Key features include:
There are many ways to deal with the Mac recovery modenot working issue. But first, figure out the reason for the issue. Is the problem with your recovery partition, Command + R, old Mac version, or hardware? Depending on the root cause of the issue, you can use various solutions to solve your recovery issue, as we discussed above. If all these solutions fail, don’t worry - you can always use AnyRecover to restore your data.
By James Crawford , to Mac Tips
Updated: Jan 14, 2022