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How to reinstall macOS if Recovery does not work

The macOS operating system is quite reliable, which is why Mac users often forget that sometimes problems can arise. The appearance of a serious problem may cause you to reinstall the macOS operating system.

There is a simple way to do it using the Mac recovery partition or through Mac Internet Recovery. You can access the recovery mode through the keyboard combination Command + R. But, what do you do if this does not work?

Next, we will discuss the best solutions to these problems. If what you want is to know how to make a clean macOS installation, see all the details in this article in which we talk about each of the versions of the operating system.

What is Mac Recovery?

The vast majority of people do not think of their disks or SSD in terms of partitions. They simply see the whole album as a unique thing. A hard drive is usually a single volume, but then it is divided into multiple areas, known as partitions or volumes.

Although you may be accustomed to seeing a single volume where you have your desktop, folders and applications, there are really four different partitions and one of them is used for extreme cases in which you need to completely reinstall the macOS operating system.

Even if you completely erase your Mac and start over from scratch, the recovery partition will remain there so that it is possible to reinstall macOS, restore from the Time Machine backup, and repair or erase your hard drive.


Without a doubt, you may have a problem if you need to reinstall the operating system from scratch and you are missing the recovery partition for some reason, or you cannot access it. Fortunately, there are alternatives to this situation.

In versions prior to the arrival of Mac OS X Lion in 2011, there was no recovery partition. Instead, you needed to have a physical hard drive with the software and an optical drive to insert and read.

In the current era, it is rare to find a Mac with optical drive, much less find someone who has the original disks that in their day come with the computer. So, let's see what alternatives we have to this situation.

R command does not work

There are some reasons why Command + R may not work and your Mac will not start in recovery mode:

  • If your Mac is something old and runs on an earlier version of macOS, running Mac OS X Snow Leopard or earlier, you won't have a recovery partition. Then, the only way to reinstall the operating system is to use the disks included with the Mac. We will see later.
  • If your Mac is running a version of macOS before Sierra (which was launched in 2016), then you won't have all the recovery options available.
  • The keyboard may be defective or your Mac may not connect to it via Bluetooth, in which case, try using other wiring.
  • It is possible that something has damaged your recovery partition or deleted it by replacing your hard drive or installing Windows through Boot Camp.

The first thing you should try is to restart your Mac and press Command + R again while booting. There are other alternative ways you can try and here we explain:

It is possible to use the Internet recovery mode, an option that we will analyze in more detail below. This method downloads a version of macOS from the Internet, which could be a solution if you cannot access the recovery partition of your Mac.

  • Press Option / Alt + Command + R when you start to enter Internet Recovery Mode.

Once you enter this mode, you can access an Apple server to download the macOS version. This will be the last macOS compatible with your Mac. Note: If you are not running Sierra 10.12.4 or later, the version that comes standard with your Mac will be installed.