Does Recovery Mode Delete Everything on Mac?

9 minutes read

This comprehensive article will answer all questions regarding the macOS recovery mode. Right from what is it, what can you do using the Recovery Mode, and the most important question “Does the Recovery Mode delete everything on Mac?”. We will also answer questions like “How and why do Mac user lose their data after using it? We will also go through various ways to help you recover your lost data after using the Recovery Mode.

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Mac Recovery Mode is an in-built feature in both Intel-based Macs as well as Silicon-based Macs. 

Apple Support forum explains, “Recovery Mode as a built-in tool to help users repair internal storage, reinstall macOS, restore their files from a Time Machine backup, transfer files between different Mac systems, boot Mac is safe mode, set security policies for various volumes, etc.

But, it is incredibly crucial to understand how to use Recovery Mode safely. To make sure you never lose your data. 

If you want to boot into the Recovery Mode, you first need to find out what system you are using: is it an Intel-based Mac or Apple Silicon Mac?

  1. Choose the Apple menu option, and click the About This Mac option.
  2. The next screen contains the information you need to determine the type of Mac you are using.
  • Silicon-based Macs: You will see an item labeled chip, after which the chip's name is displayed.
  • Intel-based Macs: You will see an item labeled processor, after which the name of the Intel chip or processor is displayed.

How Do I Boot Mac in Recovery Mode?

If you wish to restart your MacBook with an Intel Chip in recovery mode, then-

  • Reboot the Mac.
  • Hold Command + R during the startup window. 
  • Release the keys when you see the macOS Recovery window.

If you wish to restart your Macbook with an M1 or M2 Chip in recovery mode, then-

  • Turn off your MacBook
  • Press and hold the power button until “Loading Startup Options” is displayed on the Screen,

What Can Recovery Mode Do?

You can do various things like reinstalling macOS, restoring Time Machine Backups, repairing minor and significant issues and problems with the disks, and running diagnostic tool.

Reinstall Mac

Reinstalling macOS is a process of completely erasing and installing a new or fresh copy of the operating system on your Mac system. This replaces all the system files and settings with a new one. This leaves your system in a squeaky-clean state.

Here is how to reinstall macOS in Recovery mode:

Enter the Recovery Mode by following the steps mentioned earlier and follow these steps.

  • Select the Reinstall macOS option.
  • Click the Continue button.
click on the reinstall macOS option to reinstall the mac OS from the Mac Recovery Mode
  • Again, opt Continue and select Agree twice.
  • If the Installation setup asks you to select Macintosh HD or Macintosh Data, select Macintosh HD.
  • Provide your Apple ID and password if you are prompted.
  • Click the Install button.

Now, your Mac machine will undergo standard macOS installation and then restart.

The key combinations you choose determine the version of macOS you would like to install on the Mac system when you select the Reinstall macOS option.

Here are the 3 different key combinations available:

  • Command + R -> Installs the latest macOS version installed on your Mac system.
  • Options + Command + R-> Upgrades your OS to the latest compatible macOS version.
  • Shift + Option + Command + R-> Installs the same version of OS X that your Mac got 1st or the closest version.

Access and Restore Time Machine Backup Data

Recovery Mode on Mac provides users a safe way to access and restore their Time Machine backups, even if your main macOS installation or booting up is experiencing issues and errors like corruption, unusability, etc.

When you use Time Machine backup while in recovery mode, you will be given two options

  • Restore files from the Time Machine backup
  • Restore both Mac OS and files using Time Machine backup.

How to Restore from Time Machine Backup Using macOS Recovery Mode?

Restore Time Machine Backup From the Mac Recovery Mode
  • Carefully go through the Restore Your System page and Continue.
  • Connect and select your Time Machine backup drive and hit the Continue button.
  • Select the most recent backup of your hard disk among the shown backups and proceed.

Now, your Mac will restore the hard drive from the Time Machine backup.  Once the process is completed, your Mac will be rebooted.

Note: In case, you have accidentally deleted or lost your Time Machine Backup. Then follow the methods mentioned in this article to help you recover deleted Time Machine Backup.

Disk Utility to Fix and Repair Disks

Disk Utility is a powerful built-in tool in Mac systems that helps users manage their disk space, diagnose and troubleshoot issues related to their internal disk.

How do you check the Startup Disk in Mac Recovery Mode?

  • Click Disk Utility from macOS Recovery mode and click Continue.
  • Select your startup drive from the Disk Utility menu.
  • Select First Aid and click the Run button.
  • First Aid will check and verify the health of your Mac startup drive.
  • When the process is completed, click Done.
  • Select Disk Utility from the menu and choose Quit Disk Utility.

You can also refer to this detailed guide by the Apple Support forum.

The tool also lets you repair your startup disk, erase your disk, and create a bootable installer. 

These are the main things that you can do using the Recovery Mode. 

Does Recovery Mode Delete Everything?

Even though the Recovery Mode does not fundamentally erase or delete your data, you can lose your data for specific reasons. 

Users Lose Files In Recovery Mode 

  • Uninstalling or Reinstalling Mac
  • Erasing or Formatting Disk without taking backup
  • Data Corruption after disrupting task
  • Data loss after the Recovery Mode encounters any error

To conclude, the Recovery Mode on Mac is not designed or built to erase files naturally. However, users can lose their files if they modify or set their settings in a specific way.

But, if you have lost data after using the Recovery Mode. Then, worry not. The following section talks about recovering your data.

How To Recover Data Lost After Using Mac Recovery Mode?

The easiest way to recover your files from your Mac is by restoring backups saved on any external device; if you do not have any external backups, you can try any specialized Mac file recovery tool like Remo Recover for Mac. 

Solution 1: External Backups

You can restore and use those files if you have saved multiple copies of your data on various storage devices.

Solution 2: Remo Recover for Mac

You might have erased your data intentionally or lost it accidentally. Purpose-built tools like Remo Recover for Mac are the ultimate solution that can help you recover files that were completely formatted after using the Disk Utility in Recovery Mode or erased using Terminal commands.

Step 1: Download and install the tool on your Mac system. Launch the tool and select the drive or location from the main screen where you want to recover lost data after using the Recovery Mode and click the Scan button.

launch the app,select the drive and click on scan to start recoevring files lost after running recovery mode on mac

Step 2: The tool will start scanning the selected drive. Once the tool is done with the quick scanning process, click the Dynamic Recovery View option to view the data recovery process.

click on Dynamic Recovery View to view the files that were recovered from the selected disk

Step 3: Remo will start displaying the recovered files on your screen.

find the files using smart filters

Step 4: Double-click on any recovered file(s) to preview them for free.

preview the recovered files that were lost due to using the recovery mode on mac

Step 5: Select all the files and folders from the list you want to recover. Click on the Recover button, and you will be prompted to select a location where you want to save the recovered data.

save the recovered files


So, Does Recovery Mode Delete Everything on Mac? The answer is No. As mentioned earlier in the article, the Recovery Mode is not a solution when you want to erase or delete your Mac data; instead, it was designed to help Mac users access and fix the issues with the disk and the system without affecting or damaging the main macOS.

But a lot of Mac users carelessly perform certain tasks in the Recovery Mode, including:

  • Erasing Disk: This action permanently deletes all the saved data on the selected disk.
  • Formatting Disk: This erases all the existing data and installs a new file system on the formatted disk.
  • Reinstalling macOS: This action erases the entire system volume, application, user accounts, data, files, and system settings.

Hence, one should always take a backup of their vital files, folders, and other data before entering Recovery Mode or performing specific actions that might result in permanent data loss.

To conclude, thoroughly understanding the Recovery Mode and using it with great caution can help any Mac user find and troubleshoot problems, check and maintain your Mac’s health, and recover your data in the unfortunate event of data loss. 

Are you curious to know about Internet Recovery mode on Mac? If yes refer to this article to learn what is Internet Recovery on Mac and how it can help you.

About the Author: John Harris

With a decade of experience in data recovery, John Harris, Senior Editor at Remo Software, is your go-to specialist. His focus includes partition management, Windows solutions, and data troubleshooting, delivering insightful content that serves both users and search engines. John's expertise shines through in illuminating blog posts, untangling data loss intricacies across diverse storage platforms.…