4 best fixes for Mac not starting in recovery mode

There could be several reasons why your Mac won’t start if it experiences an unnoticed power surge or a corrupt startup file. Fortunately, Apple offers recovery mode to diagnose the problems and even reinstall macOS in extreme situations. Can’t start your Mac in recovery mode? Throughout this guide, explore four (4) ways to resolve the problem.

To boot your Mac into Recovery Mode, you’ll need to hold down Command + R as soon as you turn on the device. If this doesn’t produce the result you want, see the solutions below.

Before proceeding, we recommend that you shut down your Mac and try again. This is because the problem of your Mac not starting in Recovery Mode is sometimes temporary. If after several tries, you get stuck, there are four things you should try.

1. Troubleshooting the keyboard

First of all, check that your keyboard is working properly. macOS sometimes does not recognize keystrokes immediately at startup.

Normally, clicking the power button on your MacBook should light up the screen and keyboard. On some MacBooks, the keyboard lights up immediately; on others, it takes 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 keyboard shortcut to boot into recovery mode.

If you’re using a wireless keyboard, Apple recommends it Switch to a wired keyboard – specially designed keyboards for Mac. You should also check that the external keyboard is properly connected to your Mac’s USB port / hub.

2. Reset the system management controller

If you can start 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 supplies power to certain hardware such as the keyboard (and keyboard lighting), fans, batteries, and so on.

Mac won't boot recovery mode image 02

Resetting the SMC will help resolve issues that are causing the processes related to the hardware above to malfunction. Some startup problems on Mac can also be resolved by resetting the SMC.

If you can’t start recovery because the Mac’s keyboard is not working, please follow the steps below to reset the SMC.

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

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

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Your Mac will start up and turn off again. Next, turn on your Mac and see if you can boot into Recovery Mode using the Command + R keyboard shortcut.

3. Boot into Safe Mode

Mac won't boot into Safe Mode in Recovery Mode

If the startup drive is corrupted or damaged, you may experience problems booting your Mac normally or in Recovery Mode. Fortunately, booting into Safe Mode can perform a directory scan on your Mac’s startup drive and fix any problems it diagnoses. Learn more about Safe Mode on Mac and when to use it.

So here is the order in which to troubleshoot Recovery Mode issues on your Mac using this method: Boot into Safe Mode> Start Normally> Turn off your Mac> Try starting in Recovery Mode again.

Turn off the affected Mac and follow the steps to boot in Safe Mode.

Step 1: Press the power button and hold down the Shift key as soon as you hear the startup tone – or when the keyboard and screen light up.

Mac won't boot in recovery mode

Step 2: Release the Shift key when the login window appears on the screen. Sign in to your Mac and macOS will automatically scan your startup disk.

Exit Safe mode and try booting into recovery mode again.

4. Use Internet Recovery

If your Mac doesn’t start normally or doesn’t go into Recovery Mode, chances are that you accidentally deleted the recovery partition on the hard drive. This can happen when trying to fix your Mac’s hard drive problems or when installing a different operating system on your Mac.

Mac won't boot into recovery mode

If so, you will need to boot into Internet Recovery to reinstall macOS from the Apple server on your device. To do this, turn off your Mac and wait for it to shut down completely. Now press the power button and immediately hold down the Option + Command + R keys until a spinning globe icon with a progress bar appears on the screen.

You can also use this shortcut (Shift + Option + Command + R) if the above shortcut won’t start your Mac into Internet Recovery.

Your Mac must be connected to a strong Internet connection (via Wi-Fi or Ethernet) to install macOS using Internet Recovery.

Get help from Apple Support

These were the top four ways to fix the issues your Mac won’t boot into recovery mode. However, if you have a MacBook with damaged memory, we cannot guarantee that any of the above solutions will fix the problem. Take your MacBook to a nearby Apple Service Center.

Next Up:

Is your Mac stuck on a black screen when it boots up? If so, check out the solutions in this guide linked below to fix your Mac and revive it without breaking all hell loose.

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