If your Mac won’t boot, there’s a hidden “Recovery Mode” that you can use to diagnose and fix issues or reinstall macOS completely.

The first thing you’ll need to do is boot into Recovery Mode. Fortunately, that’s easy. Turn off your Mac and then restart it, holding down Command+R while it starts. This should get you into Recovery Mode, where you’ll see the macOS Utilities window. Recovery Mode provides four services. You can restore from a Time Machine Backup, get help online from the Apple Support site, try to fix disk problems with Disk Utility, and reinstall macOS. We’re going to be focusing on those last two options in this article.

RELATED: How to Fully Restore macOS From a Time Machine Backup in Recovery Mode

Run First Aid From Your Recovery Partition

The Recovery Partition on all Macs comes loaded with Disk Utility, which can run “First Aid” on a drive that may be corrupted, and attempt to fix some of the issues. This

Warning: If the Disk Utility tells you that your drive is about to fail, take it seriously. We recommend backing up your Mac (if you’re not already doing it) and replacing the disk. Disk Utility won’t be able to fix a failing disk.

After it’s done, try booting into macOS again. If Disk Utility wasn’t able to fix all your problems, you could try running it again. If often can fix more on the second run-through.

However, if Disk Utility reports that it can’t fix some errors, it’s probably a good time to back up anything you can and replace your disk.

If All Else Fails: Reinstall macOS

Sometimes, you just have to start over. Luckily, you won’t lose your files when reinstalling macOS, as it uses the same process as upgrading. This assumes, of course, that your drive is still working and isn’t completely corrupted, which may cause issues. Still, it’s best to make a backup first, which you can do in Disk Utility without loading into macOS.

On the Recovery Mode splash screen, select “Reinstall macOS,” which will bring up the installer.

You’ll have to agree to the terms of service and choose the drive to which you want to install. Go ahead and choose your main drive.

The installation process will run, and once it’s done, you should boot into a fresh copy of macOS, with your files hopefully intact.


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Anthony Heddings is the resident cloud engineer for LifeSavvy Media, a technical writer, programmer, and an expert at Amazon's AWS platform. He's written hundreds of articles for How-To Geek and CloudSavvy IT that have been read millions of times.
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