Boot Into Recovery Mode to Repair Your Mac

Recovery mode is a special version of the Mac operating system that, when you boot into it, allows you to: repair your boot disk, replace the operating system, and other emergency maintenance.

The problem is that it is hidden by default and, with the release of M1 Macs, Apple changed how we access it.


To access Recovery Mode on an Intel Mac:

BIG NOTE: Cmd + R requires using a wired, not wireless, keyboard.


To access Recovery Mode on an Apple silicon Mac:


Once you are in Recovery Mode, both Intel and Apple Macs have several on-screen options:

Several additional options are hidden in the Utilities menu at the top, depending upon your computer and the version of macOS you are running:

For both computer systems, Disk Utility is the option I use the most.


(This screen shot is from macOS Monterey running on an M1 MacBook Pro.)

(This is from macOS Big Sur.)

When Disk Utility starts, on the left side, you’ll see either a Macintosh HD container (see top screen shot) or two hard disks in the sidebar: Macintosh HD and Macintosh HDData (lower screen shot). Apple changed the way the operating system is stored when it moved to APFS. The Macintosh HD partition is read only, to prevent damaging the parts of the OS that don’t change. The bottom partition is where all your data is stored. (There may be others storage drives on your computer, but these are the only two we are concerned about here.)

Things should now be working better.

My recommendation is to run Disk Utility whenever you have problems, or every moth or so as preventative maintenance. Running Disk Utility won’t hurt your data.


Something I didn’t know until I was researching this tutorial: Apple created a “Fallback Recovery OS,” for those very unlikely situations where the Recovery disk is corrupt.

To access this, double-press and hold the power button to boot into the fallback.
I’m pleased to report that I’ve never needed the fallback. (Knock on wood.)

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2 Responses to Boot Into Recovery Mode to Repair Your Mac

  1. David Vogt says:

    The cmd-r works only with a wired keyboard that is plugged into a USB port on the computer itself. It doesn’t work through any usb hub that I have tried

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