6 Best Fixes for Mac Not Booting in Recovery Mode

There could be several reasons why your Mac won’t boot. And they could be hardware or software-related. Thankfully, Apple offers a Recovery Mode on Mac to diagnose the issues and even reinstall macOS. But, what if your Mac won’t boot into Recovery Mode either? It may sound scary but don’t worry, we’ll suggest a few fixes to tackle the issue.

Booting your Mac into recovery mode requires you to press and hold the Command + R keys immediately after you power on the device. If doing this doesn’t yield the desired result, check out the solutions listed below to fix the Command R combination not working.

Why Is Mac Recovery Not Working

Your Mac’s Recovery Mode may not work as expected due to several reasons. There could be something wrong with your keyboard or the macOS version you’re running. The recovery partition may also be affected.

Before we get to the actual fixes, here’s some basic context on why won’t your Mac go into Recover Mode.

1. You Might Be Using the Wrong Key Combination

The standard key combo to boot into Mac’s Recovery Mode is Command + R. However, if you have a recent Mac with Apple silicon, you need to press an extra key. Along with Command and R, you also need to hold down the Option key on your keyboard.

So, try using the Option + Command + R key combo and see if your Mac boots into the Recovery Mode.

2. Not All Macs Support the Recovery Partition

All Macs released prior to 2011 don’t have a Recovery partition. Even if you have a more recent Mac, it’s possible that the Recovery partition has been overwritten or corrupted. If that’s the case, you won’t be able to boot into Recovery.

Even after considering these points — if your Mac’s Recovery isn’t accessible — let’s head to the solutions.

How to Fix Mac Recovery Not Working

1. Ensure Your Keyboard Is Working Fine

First, check that your Mac’s keyboard is working correctly. macOS sometimes fail to promptly recognize keyboard input on startup. This is especially true if you have a Mac desktop or a MacBook with butterfly switches.

Typically, clicking the power button on your MacBook should light up the screen & keyboard. Some MacBook keyboards light up immediately, while some take a second or two. Some even flash a fleeting light at startup. The point is, wait for your keyboard to light up before using the Command + R shortcut to boot into recovery mode.

If you’re using a wireless keyboard, Apple recommends switching to a wired keyboard — specifically keyboards made for Mac. Also, you should check whether the external keyboard is properly plugged into your Mac’s USB port/hub.

2. Reset the System Management Controller

If you can boot into recovery with an external or wired keyboard, you should reset your Mac’s System Management Controller (SMC) to fix the built-in keyboard. The SMC is a chip that powers certain hardware like a keyboard (and keyboard backlight), fan, batteries, etc.

Resetting the SMC helps to fix issues causing the processes related to the aforementioned hardware to malfunction. Some startup-related issues on Mac can also be resolved by resetting the SMC.If you’re unable to boot into recovery because your Mac’s keyboard isn’t working, follow the steps below to reset its SMC.

Note: You can only reset SMC on MacBooks with a T2 security chipset using the method below. For context, only MacBook Airs and MacBook Pros launched in 2018 or later have the Apple T2 security chip.

Step 1: Power off your Mac and wait for about 10 seconds for it to shut down completely.

Step 2: Now, hold the power button for 10 seconds and release it.

Your Mac will boot and go back off in the process. Afterward, power on your Mac and check if you’re able to boot into recovery mode using the Command + R keyboard shortcut.

3. Boot Into Safe Mode

You might experience trouble booting your Mac normally or into recovery mode if the startup drive is corrupt or damaged. Thankfully, booting into Safe Mode can perform a directory check on your Mac’s startup drive and repair any issue it diagnoses. Learn more about Safe Mode on Mac and when to use it.

So, here’s the sequence to fix recovery mode issues on your Mac using this method: Boot into Safe Mode > Boot normally > Turn off your Mac > Try booting into Recovery Mode again. Power down the affected Mac and follow the steps to boot into Safe Mode.

Step 1: Hit the power button and hold down the Shift key immediately after you hear the startup chime — or when the keyboard and screen light up.

Step 2: Release the Shift key when the sign-in window appears on the screen. Log in to your Mac, and macOS will automatically run a check on your startup disk.

Note: You will be required to sign in twice if the data on your Mac’s disk is encrypted or secured using FileVault. The first authentication decrypts the disk, while the second lets you into Safe Mode.

Exit Safe Mode and try booting into Recovery Mode again.

4. Try Connecting Your Mac’s Charger

It has been observed that a Mac can fail to boot into Recovery if it is low on power. So, try plugging in your charger for a while and allow your Mac to get juiced up. Then, try booting it into the Recovery Mode using the key combo.

5. Use Internet Recovery

If your Mac won’t boot up normally or into recovery mode, there’s a possibility that you have accidentally erased the recovery partition on the hard drive. This can happen when trying to fix your Mac’s hard disk issues or when installing another operating system on your Mac.

If that’s the case, you’ll have to boot into Internet Recovery to reinstall macOS to your device from Apple’s server. To do that, power off your Mac and wait till it shuts down completely. Now, hit the power button and immediately hold the Option + Command + R keys till a spinning globe icon with a progress bar appears on the screen.

You can also use this shortcut (Shift + Option + Command + R) if the one above doesn’t boot your Mac into Internet Recovery. Your Mac must be connected to a strong internet connection (via Wi-Fi or ethernet) to install macOS from Internet recovery.

6. Contact Apple Support

If nothing works, your last resort is to head over to the closest Apple Store. Hardware issues leading to the Recovery not loading will need to be attended to by Apple Store executives since you won’t be able to fix them at home. If your Mac is under warranty, you should ideally get a free repair or replacement.

FAQs for Mac Not Booting in Recovery Mode

1. Can I reset my Mac without going into the recovery?

If you have a Mac with Apple silicon running macOS Big Sur or above, you can reset your Mac via the Settings app itself.

2. What is the difference between local recovery and internet recovery?

If your Mac’s local Recovery partition cannot be accessed, macOS tries to load an internet-based Recovery that can help you download macOS from the web to reinstall on your Mac.

3. What’s the format to select when wiping my Mac’s SSD?

APFS or Mac OS Extended (Journaled) are the preferred formats if you wish to wipe your hard drive before reinstalling macOS.

Restore Your Mac

The macOS Recovery helps you format partitions, fix issues with the software, and even reinstall macOS. If you want to perform any of the above functions, it would be a bummer if your Mac won’t boot into Recovery Mode. However, the above solutions should help you fix the issue with ease.

Last updated on 05 July, 2023

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