You won't use it very often, but recovery mode is a powerful component of macOS that will come in handy for various scenarios that involve fixing issues with your Mac in some form. Called macOS Recovery, it has its own partition and you or the Mac doctor will use this utility from time to time to recover from certain software issues or take other actions on the machine.
What Can You Do With macOS Recovery?
Recovery Mode gives users total control over their Mac. The utilities window that appears after booting into the Recovery environment allows users to:
- Restore from a Time Machine backup.
- Reinstall macOS (OS X for earlier versions of Apple's desktop operating system).
- Use Safari to get help by browsing Apple support websites to find a solution to the problem.
- Repair or erase the startup disk or other connected disk using Disk Utility.
It's within the Recovery Mode that users can set a firmware password for their Mac, but this environment also includes two other utilities: Network Utility and Terminal. Network Utility shows detailed information about each of the network connections, including the hardware address of the interface, the IP addresses assigned to it, its speed and status, a count of data packets sent and received, and a count of transmission errors and collisions.
How to Start up the Mac in macOS Recovery
- In the Apple menu select “Restart”, or just turn on your Mac if it is already switched off.
- As the machine restarts (on earlier models you'll hear a chime) press and hold the Command + R keys until you see the Apple logo or a spinning globe.
- At this point your Mac will have booted into the Recovery environment once you see the utilities window as shown below:
- Select the utility you need, and let the macOS Recovery do its job.
macOS Recovery is the perfect utility if you are selling or giving away your Mac, as it is here where the machine can be cleared of anything that could be associated with you: every piece of data or trace of your Apple ID.
It can also be used to resolve an issue that Disk Utility can't repair, or in cases where the macOS installer encountered a problem and cannot install the operating system on the machine’s disk. In these cases it is highly recommended that users erase and format the startup disk using Disk Utility and then reinstall macOS.
macOS Recovery Hot Keys to Speed Up macOS Reinstall
This may sound like a solution for advanced macOS users, but it is neat and easy to do once you get the hang of it. The Recovery Mode will install different versions of macOS depending on what key combination you use while the machine boots into this special environment. As a result, if you know what you are doing then the macOS install process can be sped up quite significantly. The key combinations are listed below:
- To install the latest macOS installed on your Mac without upgrading to a later version and to remove any trace of your Apple ID, press the Command + R keys as the Mac restarts.
- To upgrade to the latest macOS that is compatible with your machine, press and hold the Option + Command + R keys.
- To install the macOS that was on your Mac when you got it or the closest available version, press Shift + Option + Command + R. You will need to be running at least macOS 10.12.4 or later, though.
Install macOS Without the Need for a Bootable USB Drive
If you are selling or giving away your Mac, for security reasons it is highly recommended that you erase the startup disk. macOS Recovery is the best way to prepare the machine, since with this you can format the startup disk and install a new, clean macOS.
Contrary to what many existing tutorials state, you don't need a bootable USB drive containing the macOS installer app: the Recovery environment gives you superuser powers by allowing you to erase and format the startup disk, and then perform a clean install of macOS that removes any trace of data that could connect the Mac with your Apple ID. Of course, this also means you should remove the device from the list of trusted devices in your iCloud account.
To install a clean operating system, just format the disk and then, from the macOS Recovery environment, select the “Reinstall macOS” option and let the software do its job. That's about it.
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