How to Access and Use Internet Recovery on Mac

If you’re having booting issues with your Mac and are looking to reinstall macOS, you can do so from your Mac’s Recovery partition. But in the case that the Recovery partition also fails to launch, you can use Mac Internet Recovery instead, which loads recovery tools from Apple’s servers.

In this guide, we’ll cover how to load and use macOS Internet Recovery.

About macOS Recovery Mode

macOS is a relatively stable operating system that works nearly all the time without any issues. However, you may occasionally face some troubles, some of which might require a software reinstall. This could be due to boot issues or damage to the macOS partition. This is where macOS Recovery mode enters.

Related: A Complete Guide to macOS Recovery

The basic macOS Recovery mode is a partition on a Mac’s internal drives that allows you to recover and reinstall macOS. In addition, you can use it to restore your system from your Time Machine backup and repair or erase your storage disk.

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The macOS Recovery partition works 99% of the time, and since it’s based entirely on a separate partition on the hard drive, it doesn’t require you to download any troubleshooting tools from the internet.

What Is Internet Recovery Mode on a Mac?

In the rare case that the Recovery partition is damaged or isn’t working, macOS switches to Internet Recovery mode. This is a backup mode present on your Mac that allows the system to download repair tools from the internet, which allows you to then troubleshoot your Mac. It can save the time and effort of taking your Mac to a repair center to get the software reinstalled.

Older Macs used to ship with an additional installation disk for reinstalling Mac OS X if the recovery partition was damaged and didn’t work. However, since newer Macs don’t come with optical disk drives, macOS features Internet Recovery mode for this purpose, which makes sense, since nearly everyone has a stable internet connection these days.

Related: How to Repair Your Mac Disk Using Safe Mode, fsck, and More

Internet Recovery mode allows you to recover your Mac by downloading and installing the latest version of macOS that is compatible with your Mac. In addition, Internet Recovery will automatically run a quick test of your Mac’s memory and internal disks to check for hardware issues.

If both your Mac’s startup volume and its recovery partition have become corrupted or physically damaged, your Mac will automatically enter Internet Recovery mode.

Is Internet Recovery Compatible With Your Mac?

Internet Recovery mode is only available on Apple computers made after 2009. This includes all Macs, regardless of being a MacBook or a desktop computer.

However, if your computer was released in 2010 or 2011, you may need to update to the latest version of macOS to enable Internet Recovery.

We recommend installing macOS from a bootable disk if Internet Recovery does not work for you.

How to Enter Internet Recovery Mode

Internet Recovery mode can be launched by holding a specific key combination on startup, similar to the standard Recovery mode. The key combination is slightly different on Intel and M1 Macs, which we’ve covered below.

Intel Macs

On Intel-based Macs, power on your Mac (or restart if already on), and press and hold the Cmd + Option + R keys immediately on hearing the startup chime.

Keep the keys pressed down until you see the Internet Recovery message on the screen: Starting Internet Recovery. This may take a while.

Once Internet Recovery has launched, follow the steps outlined in the next section.

M1 Apple Silicon Macs

On M1-based Macs, the process will only work if the Mac is powered off. Thus if it’s on, power it off (don’t restart it). Hold down the Power key to start up your Mac, and keep it pressed down to load the startup options.

Once the startup options page loads up, select Options using the arrow keys and press Return.

Startup Options on M1 Macs

Note: M1 Macs will not enter Internet Recovery mode if the macOS Recovery partition is functional and working. You can restore or reinstall macOS from the Recovery partition instead of using the Internet Recovery mode.

Using Internet Recovery Mode

Once you’ve loaded Internet Recovery mode, follow the steps below to use it:

  1. You’ll need to enter in internet details (Wi-Fi) for Internet Recovery to load the recovery tools from Apple’s servers. Click the menu to display the available Wi-Fi networks and then select one to connect to. You won’t need to enter any Wi-Fi details if you have an Ethernet connection.
  2. Once your Mac is connected to the internet, it’ll download a recovery system image from Apple’s servers and boot up from it, allowing you to use the recovery tools. Depending on your internet connection, this may take a few minutes or up to an hour. Make sure your Mac is connected to power so that it doesn’t run out of battery while downloading the tools.
  3. Once downloaded, you should see the macOS Utilities window. Here you’ll have the option to restore your Mac from a Time Machine backup, reinstall a new copy of macOS (downloaded from Apple’s servers), or use Disk Utility.

    macOS Recovery Options

Related: How to Delete (or Restore) Your Mac’s Recovery Partition

If you’d like to do a fresh install of macOS to solve any issues you might be facing on your Mac, you’ll need to first erase the drive from Disk Utility and then choose the option to install macOS. This will be downloaded from Apple’s website and subsequently installed on your Mac. A successful install should resolve any software issues you might be facing.

What to Do if Internet Recovery Isn’t Working

If the macOS Internet Recovery mode also fails to work for you, we recommend using an alternate method to boot macOS. You can choose to do this from a bootable disk (such as a USB), or choose to take your Mac to an Apple Store or an Apple Authorized Service Provider to get them to do it for you.

However, this is very rare, and Internet Recovery should be able to do the trick most of the time.

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