Fix: Command+R not Working on Mac

Command and R keys may fail to bring out the recovery mode of the Mac due to the wireless keyboard issues or wrong combinations of keys/power buttons used. Moreover, the corrupt NVRAM may also cause the error under discussion.

The issue arises when the user tries to use the recovery mode of his Mac but the system starts in the normal mode. The issue is not limited to a particular model and year of Mac.

Command + R Not Working

Before starting the troubleshooting process to force Mac into the recovery mode, make sure there is no firmware password in place, if so, then remove the password as you will not be able to use the recovery options if the firmware password is in place. Moreover, the recovery options are only available to the Lion macOS or above, so, make sure your system is at least Lino macOS, otherwise, perform a clean install of the macOS by using a DVD or USB drive.

Additionally, it will be better to use a Mac keyboard during the troubleshooting process. Moreover, power off your system and then power it on (not a simple restart) to check if the issue is of a temporary nature.  Also, make sure the keyboard of your system is working fine. If you are trying to factory reset the Mac by using a Windows keyboard, then try different keys to perform the recovery if the usual Windows + R keys are not working.

Solution 1: Switch to a Wired Keyboard

Mac users usually use Bluetooth or a wireless keyboard with macOS. But sometimes wireless/Bluetooth keyboard light shows on very late during the boot process and thus the keys are not pressed in-time which may result in the error under discussion. In this case, switching to a wired keyboard may solve the problem.

  1. Power off the Mac and disconnect the wireless keyboard from it.
  2. Now connect the wired keyboard and power on Mac.
    MacBook Pro Keyboard
  3. Wait for the system to power on completely and then power it off.
  4. Now power on the system and check if you can boot into the recovery mode using the Command & R keys.

Solution 2: Reset NVRAM to the Defaults

NVRAM is responsible for many processes during the startup of your system. You may encounter the error under discussion if the NVRAM of your system is corrupt. In this scenario, resetting the NVRAM to the defaults may solve the problem. This method may not apply to all users.

  1. Power on your Mac and then close all the applications.
  2. Now launch Finder and open Utilities.
    Opening Terminal
  3. Now open Terminal and then enter the following command:
    sudo nvram -c
  4. Now press the Enter key and then key-in your password.
  5. Then enter the following in the Terminal:
    sudo shutdown -r now
    Reset NVRAM of Mac Through the Terminal
  6. Now press the Enter key and the system will restart.
  7. Wait till the system is powered on and then power it off.
  8. Now power on the system and check if the issue is resolved.

Solution 3: Try Different Combinations of Power On Buttons and Command + R Keys

You may encounter the issue at hand if the keys and the power-on buttons sequence to go to the recovery mode is different than the one you are trying to use. In this case, trying the combinations mentioned below may solve the problem.

Perform Multiple Taps on the Keys

  1. Power on your Mac and double-tap the Command + R keys (when the startup sound is heard) to check if the issue is resolved.
    Command + R Keys on the Mac Keyboard
  2. If not, power off the Mac.
  3. Now power on the system and repeatedly press the required keys till the system boots into the recovery mode.

Press and hold the Command + R Keys

  1. Power off your Mac.
  2. Then press the switch on the wireless keyboard to power it off.
    Power Off the Mac Keyboard
  3. Now power on the keyboard and then immediately power on the Mac.
  4. Now quickly hold the Command + R keys and check if the recovery options are shown.

Press the Keys After the Green Light Flashes

  1. Power off your system.
  2. Now power on the system and press the required keys (after the green light flashes). Then check if you can boot into the recovery mode.
    Green Light Flash of Mac

Hold the Keys and Power Buttons

  1. Power off the Mac.
  2. Now, press and hold the power button of your system, Command and R keys for about 6 seconds.
  3. Now release the power button of your system while keeping hold of the said keys and check if you can boot into the recovery mode.

Press the Keys Before Powering on the System

  1. Power off your Mac. Now press the Command + R keys and then hit the power key of your keyboard.
  2. Quickly, power on the Mac and hit the power key of your keyboard again to check if the issue is resolved.

Press the Keys After NumLock Flash

  1. Power off the Mac. Power on the Mac after a while and wait until NumLock flashes. Then press the desired keys and check if you can boot into the recovery options.
    Wait for NumLock Flash on Mac Keyboard

Solution 4: Clean Install the macOS

If the recovery partition is not preset or installed, then you may fail to boot into the recovery mode using the Command + R keys. In this case, you may have to clean install the macOS to wipe the Mac without the recovery mode by using an external media (like a DVD or a USB device). You can confirm if the recovery partition is present by running the following command to launch the Disk Utility in the Terminal:

diskutil list
Check Recovery Partition of Mac in the Disk Utility

If the recovery partition is not there, then follow the steps below to clean install the macOS.

  1. Insert the installation disk into the DVD drive of your system.
  2. Now restart your system and then press the C key during the boot process.
    Press the C Key to Boot From the DVD
  3. Then on the second page of the installation, where the pull-down menu appears, select the Utilities Menu and then either try to perform a repair of your system or reformat it to get rid of the issue.
    Repair Or Reinstall macOS

If you have recently switched your SSD or HDD, then the older disk might have the recovery disk. And if that disk is available, then use that disk to perform the recovery operation.

If nothing has helped you so far, try to perform an Internet recovery (Command + Option + R keys) of your system (plug your system directly to the router). If the issue persists, then visit the Apple store for advanced troubleshooting.

Kevin Arrows
Kevin is a dynamic and self-motivated information technology professional, with a Thorough knowledge of all facets pertaining to network infrastructure design, implementation and administration. Superior record of delivering simultaneous large-scale mission critical projects on time and under budget.

Expert Tip

Fix: Command+R not Working on Mac

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