Have you accidentally deleted your Mac's recovery partition? Do you have a macOS version older than Lion that didn't have a recovery partition when you bought your Mac? Don't worry; you can create one and safeguard your system.

Learn why and how to create a recovery partition on a Mac before diving into the steps to restore your Mac in macOS Recovery and recover lost or deleted partitions.

In this article
    1. Update the Software (Mac OS X Lion and newer)
    2. Use the Recovery Partition Creator (OS X Mavericks or older)
    3. Reinstall the System From a Bootable USB Drive (OS X Yosemite and newer)
    1. Intel-Based Mac
    2. Apple Silicon Mac

Why Create a macOS Recovery Partition

macos recovery partition startup

A recovery partition on your Mac is a hidden component with a copy of your operating system. Apple introduced it in Mac OS X 10.7 (Lion), helping users restore their systems to factory settings in case of drive or system failure. Every subsequent version includes it as a safety net to reinstall macOS, restore it from a Time Machine backup, or fix various issues in Disk Utility.

Those benefits are why you should create a macOS recovery partition. Here's how to do it, regardless of the macOS version.

How to Create a Recovery Partition on a Mac

Creating a recovery partition on a Mac doesn't require advanced skills or experience. Follow the steps below to make one according to your Mac OS X, OS X, or macOS version.

Update the Software (Mac OS X Lion and newer)

The most straightforward way to create a recovery partition on your Mac is to update the software. That way, you reinstall a lost or deleted recovery partition.

However, this method only applies to Mac OS X 10.7 (Lion) and newer versions because older systems don't have a recovery partition.

Here's how to update your Mac to create a recovery partition:

  1. Go to the Apple menu > System Preferences.
    system preferences
  2. Go to General > Software Update and click Update Now (if available).
    macos software update
  3. Launch Terminal and run the following command to check for the recovery partition: diskutil list.
    disks in terminal

If no software update is available, follow the steps below for the method applicable to your operating system.

Use the Recovery Partition Creator (OS X Mavericks or older)

Mac OS X 10.7 (Lion), OS X 10.8 (Mountain Lion), and OS X 10.9 (Mavericks) support a free tool for creating a recovery partition after accidentally deleting or losing it due to system or drive failure.

The Recovery Partition Creator is still available, so download it, unzip the file, and install it on your Mac. Then, follow these steps to create a recovery partition:

  1. Launch the Recovery Partition Creator. Mac OS X Lion requires right-clicking the tool and selecting Open.
    open the recovery partition creator
  2. If your Mac refuses to launch the tool, go to the Apple menu > System Preferences > Security & Privacy and click Open Anyway.
    allow the app to open
  3. Click OK to confirm downloading the necessary files.
    recovery partition creator check
  4. Heed the advice to back up vital files (just in case) and click OK to proceed.
    a warning message and backup recommendation
  5. Choose the drive that will have a recovery partition and hit OK.
    choose the recovery partition drive
  6. Let the program check your drive for errors and click Continue.
    drive error check
  7. Click OK to confirm the recovery creation.
    create a recovery partition on mac
  8. Choose your operating system's version.
    choose the operating system version
  9. Find your OS installer in Applications, select it, and click Choose.
    choose your operating system installer
  10. Once you see the success message, click OK to exit the program.
    the success message

Reinstall the System From a Bootable USB Drive (OS X Yosemite and newer)

OS X 10.10 (Yosemite) and newer versions don't support the Recovery Partition Creator. Therefore, you can create a recovery partition by reinstalling your system. You'll need a bootable drive with the correct file system and installation file, but make a backup of personal files beforehand to avoid data loss.

Here's how to create a recovery partition on macOS Catalina (the steps are identical for all versions after 10.10, including Yosemite):

  1. Insert a blank USB drive of about 19 GB of space (macOS Catalina requires 18.5 GB) into your computer.
  2. Go to Disk Utility > View > Show All Devices.
    show all devices in disk utility
  3. Select your USB drive in the left sidebar and click Erase to format it. Choose the Mac OS Extended (Journaled) format and GUID Partition Map as the scheme and click Erase.
    erase and format a usb drive
  4. Search for macOS Catalina in the Mac App Store and click Get > Download.
    download a macos installation file
  5. The installer will launch once the installation file downloads, but you don't need it yet. Close it with the Command + Q keyboard shortcut and move the file from Applications to your USB drive.
    exit macos installation
  6. Launch Terminal and run the following command to make your USB drive bootable:

    sudo Applications/Install\ macos\ Catalina.app/Contents/Resources/createinstallmedia --volume /Volumes/USBdrive.

    Replace the "USBdrive" parameter with your USB's label, and ignore the application path from the screenshot below unless your Mac currently runs on macOS Sierra or older.

  7. Provide your admin password, type Y, and hit Return. Remember that the command is identical for other OS versions; you only need to replace Catalina with the correct name.
    create a bootable drive in the terminal
  8. Once you see Copy Complete and Done, close Terminal and restart your Mac. Immediately long-press the Option key (Intel-based Mac) or the Power button (Apple silicon) until you see the Startup Manager screen. Click Install macOS Catalina and follow the on-screen instructions.
    install macos from the bootable drive

How to Restore Your Mac From a Recovery Partition

Restoring your Mac from a recovery partition is a walk in the park. You have multiple options in macOS Recovery, which differ slightly depending on your Mac's processor. The chip also defines how you enter macOS Recovery. Here are the steps for devices with Intel and Apple silicon chips.

Intel-Based Mac

If your Mac has an Intel processor, follow these steps to restore it from a recovery partition:

  1. Go to the Apple menu > Restart.
    restart your mac
  2. Immediately long-press the Command + R key combination.
    command and r keys
  3. Choose the desired option from macOS Utilities. You can restore from a Time Machine backup (if you've previously created one), reinstall macOS, repair a disk or restore a volume from another in Disk Utility (erasing the destination one), or use Terminal. You can also launch Safari to access Apple Support documentation. Once you select a utility, click Continue and follow the on-screen instructions.
    macos utilities

Apple Silicon Mac

If your Mac has an Apple silicon chip, follow these steps to enter macOS Recovery and restore your system:

  1. Go to the Apple menu > Shut Down.
    shut down your mac
  2. Once your Mac turns off, long-press the Power button until you see the system volume and Options on the screen. Click Options > Continue.
    startup options
  3. Choose the desired option from macOS Utilities, click Continue, and follow the instructions. You can restore from Time Machine (a previous backup is a prerequisite), reinstall macOS, use Safari to browse Apple Support documentation, restore a volume or repair a disk in Disk Utility, access Terminal, or share a disk to transfer files to another Mac.
    macos utilities in recovery mode

Bonus: How to Recover Lost or Deleted Partitions on a Mac

You don't have to go through the trouble of reinstalling macOS to get a lost or deleted partition back where it belongs. You can use data recovery software like Wondershare Recoverit. That way, you can recover a missing partition with all your data, regardless of how you lost it (e.g., formatting, deletion, system failure, disk corruption, malware, etc.).

It supports 2,000+ devices and 1,000+ file formats and can retrieve data in 500+ unexpected scenarios.

Free Download
Free Download

You can download the Mac version to your computer, install and launch the software, and follow these steps to recover your partition:

  1. Go to Hard Drives and Locations and select the storage with a lost or deleted partition to initiate an automatic scan.
    data recovery sources
  2. Use filters like type and size to find specific files.
    scanning for lost storage and files
  3. Preview and select the recoverable files and click Recover.
    an image preview
  4. Choose a file path and click Save.
    data recovery destination

Conclusion

A recovery partition on Mac devices is excellent for restoring or reinstalling the system in case of unexpected failure. However, older OS versions don't have it, and you may lose it in many scenarios, including accidental deletion.

Fortunately, you can create a recovery partition on your Mac if the device supports Mac OS X Lion or newer. You can update the software, use the Recovery Partition Creator (OS X Mavericks and older), or reinstall the system from a bootable USB (OS X Yosemite and newer).

If you've deleted or lost a partition due to a sudden problem, restore it with data recovery software like Wondershare Recoverit.

Free Download
Free Download

FAQ

  • Does every Mac have a recovery partition?
    Since Mac OS X 10.7 (Lion), every Mac has had a recovery partition. It's hidden and contains OS settings and files necessary for restoring the system in recovery mode.
  • How do I create a recovery disk for my Mac?
    Updating your Mac may create a recovery partition (if you've lost or deleted it). Otherwise, you can use the Recovery Partition Creator on OS X Mavericks or older or reinstall your OS from a bootable USB drive on OS X Yosemite or newer.
  • How can I restore a Mac without a recovery partition?
    If your Mac doesn't have one, you can use macOS Internet Recovery, which lets you reinstall macOS or restore it from a Time Machine backup. However, it's only available on Intel-based Macs. You can access it by restarting your computer and immediately long-pressing Option + Shift + Command + R to reinstall the original macOS or Option + Command + R to upgrade to the latest compatible version.
    If your Mac with Apple silicon has no recovery partition, you can restore or revive Mac firmware in Apple Configurator or Finder. It's a lengthy process, so check out the instructions on Apple Support.
  • How can I create a macOS recovery partition without reinstalling the macOS itself?
    The only two ways to create your recovery partition without reinstalling macOS are to use the Recovery Partition Creator or update or upgrade the software. The former works only on Lion, Mountain Lion, and Mavericks systems. The latter is only available on devices compatible with the recovery partition (Lion and newer).
  • Can you delete a recovery partition on a Mac?
    You can delete a recovery partition on a Mac, but we don't recommend it. It's your safety net in case of system failure or other problems because it contains your OS copy.
Sue Wayne
Sue Wayne May 14, 24
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