OS X Recovery

OS X Lion, Mountain Lion, and Mavericks include OS X Recovery. This feature includes all of the tools you need to reinstall OS X, repair your disk, and even restore from a Time Machine backup without the need for optical discs.

Recovery System

OS X Recovery includes a built in set of utilities as part of the Recovery System. To start your computer from Recovery, restart your Mac and hold down the Command key and the R key (Command-R). Press and hold these keys until the Apple logo appears. This indicates that your Mac is starting up. After the Recovery System finishes starting up, you should see a desktop with an OS X menu bar and a “Mac OS X Utilities” window.

Note: If you see a login window or your own desktop and icons, it’s possible that you didn’t hold Command-R early enough. Restart and try again.

In order to reinstall OS X, you need to be connected to the Internet over an Ethernet or Wi-Fi network. The Wi-Fi menu is in the upper-right corner of the screen. Click the icon to select from available Wi-Fi networks. Choose your preferred network name and, if needed, enter a username and/or password.

OS X Internet Recovery

Mac models introduced after public availability of OS X Lion include the ability to start up directly from an Internet-based version of the OS X Recovery system. OS X automatically uses this feature when the Recovery System on the hard disk isn’t available (such as when your hard disk encounters an issue, or when your hard disk has been replaced or erased). OS X Internet Recovery lets you start your Mac directly from Apple’s servers. Starting up from this system performs a quick test of your memory and hard drive to check for hardware issues.

OS X Internet Recovery presents a limited interface at first, with only the ability to select your preferred Wi-Fi network and, if needed, entering a passphrase. Next, OS X Internet Recovery downloads and starts from a Recovery System image. From there, you are offered the same utilities and options as a local Recovery System.

Some computers that did not ship with OS X Lion or later installed may be able to add the ability to use Internet Recovery by applying a software update.

Restoring iLife applications after Internet Restore of OS X

If your computer came with OS X Lion or later and you erase your hard disk and install OS X, you can download iPhoto, iMovie, and GarageBand from the Mac App Store.

  1. After installation, start (up) from OS X.
  2. Choose App Store from the Apple menu.
  3. Enter your Apple ID and password when prompted.
  4. Click Purchases.
  5. If you haven’t previously accepted your bundled iLife applications within the Mac App Store, you should see your iLife applications appear in the Accept portion of the screen. Click Accept.
  6. You may be asked for your Apple ID and password once again. Your iLife applications now move to the Purchased section. These applications are part of the software that came with your computer. Your account will not be charged for them. Click Install to complete installation of your applications.

Requirements for reinstalling OS X using Recovery

Reinstalling OS X using OS X Recovery requires broadband access to the Internet via Wi-Fi or an Ethernet connection. OS X is downloaded over the Internet from Apple when OS X Recovery is used for reinstallation.

OS X Recovery requires that DHCP is enabled on your chosen Wi-Fi or ethernet network, If you bought OS X from the Mac App Store, you will be prompted to enter the Apple ID and password you used to purchase OS X.

The time required to download OS X varies, depending on the speed of your Internet connection and the version of OS X you are installing. If your usual or current Internet connection has requirements or settings not supported by OS X Recovery, either change the settings to a supported configuration for the duration of your OS X reinstall, or seek out acceptable networks from which you are permitted to access the Internet (such as friends, family, Internet “cafe” establishments, or possibly your place of employment with appropriate permission).

Supported network configurations and protocols

WEP Yes No
WPA/WPA2 Yes Yes
WPA-Enterprise Yes No
PPPoE (where there is no router handling the PPPoE connection) No No
Captive-Networks (where you click an “Agree” button to access the Internet) Yes No
Proxies (where specific proxy servers must be configured in network preferences) No No
Certificate-based authentication / 802.1x No No

Which version of OS X is installed by OS X Recovery?

  • If you use the Recovery System stored on your startup disk to reinstall OS X, it installs the most recent version of OS X previously installed on this computer.
  • If you use Internet Recovery to reinstall OS X, it installs the version of OS X that originally came with your computer. After installation is finished, use the Mac App Store to install related updates or later versions of OS X that you have previously purchased.

What to do if the installer warns that no Recovery System can be created

Some disk partition configurations may result in the OS X installer reporting that it could not create a Recovery System. In these situations, even if you are permitted to continue the install, you may want to quit the installation and create an external, bootable OS X hard drive with a Recovery System, first. You can continue your OS X upgrade on your computer’s startup drive after creating an external Recovery System.

  • Your storage device must have at least 13 GB available (after formatting) to install OS X Lion or later and a Recovery partition.
  • These steps erase and reformat the storage device. This article instructs you on setting up a storage device to use the GUID partition scheme and the Mac OS Extended (Journaled) format, which are required to install OS X and a Recovery partition on your external storage device. You should back up any important files that are on the device to a different drive.
  • This procedure installs a version of OS X that is compatible with the Mac it was created with. Using this OS X system with a different Mac model may produce unpredictable results.
  • Your computer’s serial number is sent to Apple as part of this process to help authenticate your request to download and install OS X Lion.

Additional Information

Please note that OS X Recovery must be present on the computer’s startup volume in order to use FileVault 2. Using RAID partitions or a non-standard Boot Camp partition on the startup disk may prevent OS X from installing a local Recovery system.

OS X Recovery includes a version of Safari with links to resources on www.apple.com. This version of Safari can be used to access help resources at Apple’s website and elsewhere on the Internet. The network requirements listed above also apply to the version of Safari included with OS X Recovery. Plugins and Safari Extensions cannot be added to the version of Safari included with OS X Recovery.


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OS X Recovery Disk Assistant v1.0


Built right into OS X, OS X Recovery lets you repair disks or reinstall OS X without the need for a physical disc.

The OS X Recovery Disk Assistant lets you create OS X Recovery on an external drive that has all of the same capabilities as the built-in OS X Recovery: reinstall Lion or Mountain Lion, repair the disk using Disk Utility, restore from a Time Machine backup, or browse the web with Safari.

Note: In order to create an external OS X  Recovery using the OS X Recovery Assistant, the Mac must have an existing Recovery HD.

To create an external OS X Recovery, download the OS X Recovery Disk Assistant application. Insert an external drive, launch the OS X  Recovery Disk Assistant,  select the drive where you would like to install, and follow the on screen instructions.

When the OS X Recovery Disk Assistant completes, the new partition will not be visible in the Finder or Disk Utility. To access OS X Recovery, reboot the computer while holding the Option key. Select Recovery HD from the Startup Manager.