A Full Information to macOS Restoration: Eight Methods to Use It

Apple's macOS recovery mode serves many purposes. In this boot mode, you can reinstall the operating system (macOS), restore a Time Machine backup, reset an administrator password, perform hard drive maintenance and much more. The recovery partition is also a viable way to isolate software or hardware problems, and tools like Terminal, Disk Utility, and Safari make troubleshooting easier.

Here we are going to discuss the main features of macOS Recovery and explain why each one is useful.

How to boot into macOS recovery

Boot methods vary depending on the type of chip your Mac has – Intel or Apple silicon – but in either case the process is simple.

To boot to macOS Recovery on an Intel Mac, do the following:

  1. Turn on your Mac.

  2. Briefly press and hold Command + R until recovery begins.

Related: A quick guide to macOS startup modes and startup key combinations

To boot to macOS Recovery on an Apple Silicon Mac, do the following:

  1. Turn on your Mac and continue to hold the power Press until the startup options screen appears.

  2. Choose Options.

  3. click Keep going.

1. Reset the FileVault password

If you've forgotten your FileVault password, you can use macOS recovery as a reset method. To do this, proceed as follows:

  1. Start with macOS recovery.

  2. Choose Forgot all passwords.

  3. Follow the instructions.

Based on the method you chose when you enabled FileVault, you will be given the option to reset the password using either your Apple ID or your recovery key. If you do not regain access to your administrator account, you may need to wipe the hard drive from Internet Recovery or some other startup disk.

2. Reinstall macOS

Some Mac issues require a complete reinstall of macOS in order to fix them. For example, your Mac may not boot, or you may not have been able to use a more targeted approach to troubleshoot another system-wide error.

You have two options for a new installation: You can either reinstall the current operating system or erase the hard disk for a complete restart. Before doing either of the above, it is a good idea to back up any important data.

To reinstall the operating system from macOS Recovery, do the following:

  1. Start with macOS recovery.

  2. Enter your admin password if necessary.

  3. Start Disk Utility and erase the hard disk if necessary.

  4. Select the Reinstall macOS Option and follow the instructions.

3. Restore a Time Machine backup

Time Machine offers another option if you need to restore your entire system. In general, you shouldn't use snapshots that may contain the problem you are trying to fix. However, if your backup is clean or you want to restore your operating system to a previous state, a full Time Machine restore can be ideal.

To restore your system from a Time Machine backup, do the following:

  1. Start with macOS recovery.

  2. Enter your admin password if necessary.

  3. Choose Recover from Time Machine.

  4. Follow the instructions.

4. Use Disk Utility

Disk Utility can perform disk maintenance or prepare a disk for macOS installation, and macOS Recovery gives you access to this important tool. To start Disk Utility, do the following:

  1. Start with macOS recovery.

  2. Enter your admin password if necessary.

  3. Choose Disk utility and click Keep going.

Once started, you can use Disk Utility to provide first aid, erase or reformat your hard drives, and more. When preparing a drive for macOS installation, remember to use a Mac-friendly file system like APFS and the GUID partition scheme.

5. Use the terminal

Terminal is a versatile command line interface with limitless functionality that makes inclusion in macOS recovery a logical step. Knowing the correct commands can help you reset administrator passwords, change your operating system, and perform other advanced tasks.

To start Terminal from macOS Recovery, do the following:

  1. Start with macOS recovery.

  2. Enter your admin password if necessary.

  3. click Utilities from the top menu bar.

  4. Choose terminal.

Related: Mac Terminal Command Cheat Sheet

If you need to research terminal commands on recovery, you can do so using Safari, which we will discuss in the next section.

6. Use Safari

Safari is another invaluable macOS recovery tool. While the application does not directly help you fix a problem, accessing the Apple browser allows you to search for problems and solutions without starting the operating system. Additionally, using Safari in macOS Recovery is a great way to troubleshoot internet connection issues outside of the main operating system.

To start Safari, do the following:

  1. Start with macOS recovery.

  2. Enter your admin password if necessary.

  3. Choose safari and click Keep going.

Safari feels a little clunky in macOS recovery, and you don't have access to your plugins or extensions, but the application is functional and handy in many situations.

7. Use the Startup Security Utility or the Firmware Password Utility

If you are using an Intel Mac, you have the option to set a firmware password as an additional layer of security. While Apple silicon devices have a similar feature in FileVault, older Macs can really benefit from the added protection. Setting a firmware password prevents unauthorized users from accessing the macOS recovery partition and most other boot modes, preventing malicious operators from tampering with your computer using these methods.

Proceed as follows to set a firmware password:

  1. Start with macOS recovery.

  2. Enter your admin password if necessary.

  3. click Utilities from the top menu bar.

  4. Choose Boot Security Utility or Firmware password utilitywhatever fits.

  5. Follow the instructions.

Hopefully you've kept your operating system up to date and can use the Boot Security Utility Opportunity; however, older software versions use the Firmware password utility.

8. Enter target disk mode and split the disk

MacOS Recovery can switch your Mac to a mode where you can share files with another device, which, depending on the model, is connected with a USB, USB-C, FireWire, or Thunderbolt cable.

To enter Target Disk Mode on an Intel Mac, do the following:

  1. Start with macOS recovery.

  2. Press the Apple in the top menu bar.

  3. Choose Startup disk.

  4. click Target disk mode.

  5. click Start anew.

Alternatively, you can boot into target disk mode by pressing and holding the button T Button during startup.

The process for an Apple Silicon Mac is a little different. To share your hard drive through macOS Recovery, do the following:

  1. Start with macOS recovery.

  2. click Utilities from the top menu bar.

  3. Choose Share hard drive.

  4. Follow the instructions.

Target Disk Mode and Share Disk make your Mac appear like an external volume and give you access to files in the Finder on a connected device.

macOS recovery makes maintenance easy

Long gone are the days of using discs or USB drives to reinstall operating systems or perform system maintenance. Now Apple recovery partition makes these tasks easy.

MacOS Recovery Mode lets you reinstall macOS or restore your system from a Time Machine backup, and useful tools like Terminal and Disk Utility provide additional assistance. You can also set a firmware password if necessary, share your Mac's hard drive with another connected device, and launch Safari to research and troubleshoot. Even if booting to recovery fails, Internet recovery is still an option, so you always have a way to repair or reconfigure macOS.

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