MacBook Air Stuck in Recovery Mode: What to Do

Quick Fix

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If your MacBook Air is stuck in Recovery Mode, here are some expert tips to help you out. Recovery is a set of essential maintenance tools that can help you recover from a critical issue, but it has its limitations. If your Mac cannot recover from Recovery Mode, read on for advice on what to do next.

What Is Recovery Mode?

macOS Recovery belongs to the built-in recovery system of your MacBook or computer. The different utilities in macOS Recovery help you:

  • Get help online
  • Reinstall macOS
  • Restore stuff from Time Machine, and
  • Repair or erase a hard disk

Without much difficulty, you can start up from it and use its utilities to recover from software issues or take other actions.

To use Recovery, just turn on your Mac and immediately press and hold Command + R. You may also use one of the other designated key combinations on your keyboard. Continue to hold until the Apple logo or a spinning globe appears.

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Once you have started up successfully from Recovery, choose from the different utilities and then click Continue:

  • Reinstall macOS or OS X – Download and then reinstall the Mac operating system.
  • Restore from Time Machine – Restore your Mac from a Time Machine backup of your computer.
  • Disk Utility – Repair or erase your startup disk or another hard disk.
  • Get Help Online – Using Safari, you can browse the web to find help for your computer, including Apple Support. The system, though, disables browser plugins and extensions.
  • Other Available Utilities – Firmware Password Utility, Network Utility, and Terminal are also available from the Utilities menu in the menu bar.

If you want to quit Recovery, you simply need to hit Restart or Shut Down from the Apple menu.

How to Get Out of Recovery Mode

There are times, however, when you get stuck in Recovery Mode for an unclear reason.

Newer Macs and certain older ones automatically attempt to start up from macOS Recovery over the internet when they fail to start up from the built-in recovery system. In this instance, a spinning globe shows up instead of an Apple logo when it’s startup time.

Some MacBook and Mac users have reported that they got stuck in Recovery Mode. One was in the process of installing macOS High Sierra on his MacBook Air. Suddenly, his computer restarted and couldn’t boot up. He was then trapped on the Recovery page and couldn’t reinstall any operating system at all.

According to the system, there isn’t enough storage on his hard drive. To make matters worse, he didn’t have any Time Machine saved OS either.

The main problem here is when you are stuck, you cannot re-download an operating system. Relax, though, because we just might have an expansive list of potential solutions for you.

Before getting to work with these solutions, make sure to always clean up your Mac using a reliable Mac optimizer tool. This will help avoid junk files and other space hogs from getting in the way of your Mac’s processes and causing errors.

Try the fixes we listed below to get out of the Recovery rut:

Restart Your Mac

Shut down your machine, wait 30 seconds, and then restart it. You may also start your computer in Safe Mode, and then restart normally afterwards. Note that this is slower than your standard computer startup.

Create a New User Account

Follow these steps:

  1. Open Users & Groups Preferences.
  2. Click on the lock icon. Afterwards, enter your Admin password once prompted.
  3. On the left side under Current User, you’ll find an Add [+] button under Login Options. Click on it.
  4. Create a new Admin user account.
  5. Once done, log out of your current account and log into the new one.

If the problem stops, you might want to try migrating to the new account, transferring your files there.

Reset Your PRAM and NVRAM

Nonvolatile random access memory (NVRAM) is a small amount of memory. Macs use it to store settings and access them right away. Settings stored in NVRAM include sound volume, time zone, display resolution, and startup-disk selection.

Parameter RAM (PRAM) stores similar information. Take note that you need to follow the same steps to reset both.

Here are steps to reset your NVRAM properly:

  1. Shut down your Mac.
  2. While turning it on, immediately press and hold the Option, Command, P and R keys together. Release these keys after 20 seconds. During these times, your computer might appear to restart.
  3. Once your Mac has started up, open System Preferences. Adjust any settings that have been reset, such as sound volume and display resolution.

Reset the System Management Controller

The System Management Controller (SMC) is responsible for a number of functions on Intel-based Macs. These functions include responding to power button presses, battery management, thermal management, and ambient light sensing. They also include keyboard backlighting, battery status indicator lights, and Sudden Motion Sensor (SMS).

There are several indicators that it’s time to consider resetting the SMC. These include your Mac not responding when you press the power button. A reset is also potentially helpful in certain situations, such as when your Mac:

  • Sleeps or shuts down unexpectedly
  • Performs unusually slowly
  • Gets stuck in Recovery

On a Mac notebook with a removable battery, restart the SMC with these steps:

  1. Shut down your MacBook.
  2. Remove the battery.
  3. Press and hold the power button for some five seconds.
  4. Reinstall the battery.
  5. Press the power button again to turn on your machine.

On a MacBook with a non-removable battery:

  1. Select Apple menu > Shut Down.
  2. Once your machine is off, press Shift-Ctrl-Option on the left side on the built-in keyboard. Press the power button simultaneously. For 10 seconds, hold the keys along with the power button. If you’re using a MacBook Pro with Touch ID, Touch ID also serves as the power button.
  3. Release the keys.
  4. Press the power button once more to switch on your Mac.

Find other instructions for resetting the SMC here.

Erase and Install OS X

Here are steps you should follow:

  1. Restart your computer.
  2. Immediately after the chime, hold down the Command + R keys until you see the Apple logo.
  3. Once the Utility Menu appears, select Disk Utility. Click Continue.
  4. When Disk Utility loads, choose the drive (out-dented entry) from the Device list.
  5. In Disk Utility’s toolbar, click on the Erase icon. You will see a drop down panel.
  6. Set the Format type to Mac OS Extended (Journaled).
  7. Click Apply, and then wait for the Done button to activate. Click on it.
  8. Quit Disk Utility.
  9. Return to the Utility Menu.
  10. Choose Reinstall OS X. Click Continue.

If you find the compelling need to reinstall macOS, you may also use a bootable installer. Here, you can use an external drive or secondary volume as a startup disk from which you can install the operating system. Follow the steps straight from Apple Support.

Final Notes

Recovery is a set of tools that aids you through an emergency. These dire situations include a critical problem that you need to recover from. MacBooks and other Mac machines, however, can get stuck in Recovery Mode and encounter boot-up problems. Use the solutions above to find the best fix for your specific case.

Have you ever come across this fairly common issue with Recovery Mode? Let us know more about your experience!

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david gouveia
1 year ago

went through recovery mode but it wants an old id which I don’t remember.
Every time I restart it goes to recovery mode regardless of all the keys I have tried.
suggested on the web.
It will not come out of recovery mode