How to Use OS X Boot Options to Troubleshoot Your Mac

Open Terminal (several ways)

On the Mac, the Terminal app is kinda buried, probably perhaps because those who use a MacOS laptop just for social media probably won’t need a Terminal.

But if you’re a developer, it’s hard to get away from using a CLI.

There are different ways to open a Terminal command line.

My preferrence is a way that doesn’t require reaching for a mouse and using the least number of keystrokes:

  1. Press command+space keys (at the same time) to bring up Apple’s Spotlight universial search, then
  2. Type “termin” so “” appears.
  3. Press the space bar to select it.

Alternately, if you prefer moving your mouse:

  1. Click the Finder icon on the app bar.
  2. Click Applications on the left pane.
  3. Click Utilities.
  4. Click Terminal.

PROTIP: If you are at the Finder program (since Yosemite) you can open a Terminal to a folder listed within Finder by pointing your mouse on it, then tapping with two fingers on the touchpad/mousepad. To enable that:

  1. Click the Apple icon, System Preferences….
  2. Press K and select Keyboard.
  3. Click Shortcuts, Services.
  4. Scroll to the Files and Folders section.
  5. Check on New Terminal at Folder.
  6. Close the dialog by clicking the red dot at the upper left corner.


Create a Terminal shortcut

If you decide to start using Terminal more often, creating a shortcut for it in your Dock is convenient. With the Terminal icon in your Dock already, from recently opening it, do the following. 1) Hold Control and click the Terminal icon in the Dock or right-click it. 2) Mouse over Options in the pop-up menu. 3) Click Keep in Dock.

Which keys to use for macOS Recovery Mode

Depending on what you want to do with macOS Recovery there are a number of key combinations to use during start up – these options work on an Intel-powered Mac:

Command + R

Use this if you want to install the latest version of macOS that you had installed on your Mac (it won’t install a newer version if you hadn’t upgraded). Note that if you’re selling or giving away a Mac that is using OS X El Capitan or earlier you should also use Command + R – this will make sure that the installation isn’t associated with your Apple ID.

Option/Alt + Command + R

Use this if you want to upgrade to the latest version of macOS that is compatible with your Mac.

Shift + Option + Command + R

This will install the version of macOS that came with your Mac, or the one closest to that version if it isn’t available as a download.

Part 5. How to Recover Data from Unbootable Mac:

The Mac becomes unbootable when the BIOS which is a firmware that is used to perform hardware initialization during the booting process fails to recognize the startup process. It usually happens when there is a failed system update, system crash, damaged MBR, or when the drive becomes corrupt.

Recoverit Mac Data Recovery tool is the most efficient option to recover all the lost data when Mac becomes unbootable. Developed by Wondershare, Recoverit is one of the most preferred recovery tools in the world. The tool provides an instant preview of what is recovered after a detailed scan. It allows you to connect almost every type of portable device and recover data from them. Data can be restored by performing the recovery and repair process. The process involves the installation of the Recoverit software that offers users the chance to get back the important data that they had lost.

First of all, the user is required to download the Recoverit software on the Mac system from the official website. Here are the following step required to recover data from an unbootable computer:

Download | Mac Download | Win
  • Installation: Please Install Recoverit by clicking on the icon.
  • Select the folder: Select the “Recover from Crash Computer” option.
  • Initiate Recovery Process: Click on “Start” for the recovery process to launch.

  • Create Bootable Drive: Select the “Create USB bootable drive” option and click on “Create”.

  • A pop up will appear that will prompt the user to format the USB drive.
  • Format the Drive: Click on “Format” Now.
  • The process will start that will create a bootable flash drive.

  • Recover Data: After the boot is completed, click on the “View Guide” option to recover data.

 Start Recoverit: Launch the Recoverit software ag

  • Start Recoverit: Launch the Recoverit software again.
  • Recover Data: Scan the drives for lost data.

All hope gets lost when the computer becomes unbootable and the data gets deleted. Recoverit recovery software is the most convenient program when it comes to retrieving lost data from the computer.

Text Command Line Bash Shortcuts

These come from the bash terminal on Linux machines here: Press control with your pinkie, then …

  • control + C = Close processing
  • control + L = cLear screen
  • control + A = Go to Beginning of line (as in A to Z)
  • control + E = Go to End of line (hit E using longest finger)
  • control + F = Forward cursor
  • control + B = Backward
  • control + H = Backspace left of cursor
  • control + D = Delete right of cursor
  • control + K = Kill line from under the cursor to the end of the line.
  • control + U = “U get out of here” – Clear entire line
  • control + P = Previous line
  • control + N = Next line
  • control + Y = Retrieve line
  • control + ` = cycle through session windows
  • control + left = previous session
  • control + right = previous session

4. Press Option During Startup

Holding down the Option key during startup will show you a boot screen with all bootable devices listed. You can use the mouse or the keyboard to select a device to boot into. This is great for those times when your main installation of OS X isn’t working correctly and you need to boot into a bootable mirror of your OS X install.

Use the bootable installer

Determine whether you’re using a Mac with Apple silicon, then follow the appropriate steps:

Apple silicon

Plug the bootable installer into a Mac that is connected to the internet and compatible with the version of macOS you’re installing.  The macOS version that came with the Mac is the earliest version it can use.  A bootable installer doesn’t download macOS from the internet, but it does require an internet connection to get firmware and other information specific to the Mac model. Turn on the Mac and continue to hold the power button until you see the startup options window, which shows your bootable volumes. Select the volume containing the bootable installer, then click Continue. When the macOS installer opens, follow the onscreen instructions.

Intel processor

Plug the bootable installer into a Mac that is connected to the internet and compatible with the version of macOS you’re installing. The macOS version that came with the Mac is the earliest version it can use.  A bootable installer doesn’t download macOS from the internet, but it does require an internet connection to get firmware and other information specific to the Mac model. Press and hold the Option (Alt) ⌥ key immediately after turning on or restarting the Mac. Release the Option key when you see a dark screen showing your bootable volumes. Select the volume containing the bootable installer. Then click the up arrow or press Return.  If you can’t start up from the bootable installer, make sure that Startup Security Utility is set to allow booting from external or removable media. Choose your language, if prompted. Select Install macOS (or Install OS X) from the Utilities window, then click Continue and follow the onscreen instructions.

Open Terminal using Launchpad

You can open Terminal using Launchpad in two ways, depending on if you have organized Launchpad a different way or not. By default, Launchpad contains a folder labeled Other that contains Terminal. 1) Open Launchpad from your Dock, with the keyboard shortcut F4, or tap the six-square-icon button on the Touch Bar. 2) Locate the Other folder and click it. 3) Choose Terminal.

If you have arranged your Launchpad items differen

If you have arranged your Launchpad items differently and removed the Other folder, you can still find Terminal easily. 1) Open Launchpad. 2) Type “Terminal” into the search box at the top. 3) When the Terminal icon displays, click it.

Part 3. How to Create Bootable USB on Mac:

There are a few general guidelines that can help get your machine started which are mentioned above, regardless of the OS the user prefers.

Here are the methods to create a bootable USB drive on Mac.

  • Creating a Bootable USB Using Terminal.
  • Create a Bootable drive with the help a third party compression software, which is available for free.

Creating a Bootable USB Using Terminal:

The terminal is the default gateway to the command line on a Mac. It is just like the Command Prompt feature works for MS Windows. The Terminal feature ensures a hassle-free experience for the Mac user without the conventional pointing and clicking, the user just has to type the commands and the computer does the rest. The user can find Terminal in the Applications>Utilities folder or it can be checked in the finder utility.

Using the Terminal feature is the most simple way

Using the Terminal feature is the most simple way to create the bootable USB drive. The user just needs to follow one easy step which is renaming the MyVolume portion of the command with the name of the drive. The name of the drive can be changed using the Disk Utility of Mac.


Here are the steps required after opening the Terminal feature to create a bootable USB drive.

  • Copy and paste the command which is suited for the version of the operating system into the Terminal window.
  • The command for macOS Mojave is as follows:

sudo /Applications/Install\macOS\ –volume/Volumes/MyVolume

  • Press the Return key.
  • Enter the password.
  • Confirm to erase the USB drive by typing Y followed by the Return key.
  • The terminal will erase all the data inside the drive and create the bootable USB drive.

If there is a need to install a different version of the operating system then the user just has to replace the above-underlined command with their desired version of OS. For example, if the user wants to install Mac OS Sierra instead of Mojave then they would have to replace “” with “” inside the command line.

What to do if macOS Recovery doesn't work

What to do if macOS Recovery doesn’t work

If you can’t start up in macOS Recovery,there are a couple of options, but again, they are different depending on whether you are on an M1 Mac or an Intel Mac.

M1 Macs

If there is a problem with Recovery Mode on the M1 Mac there is a new ‘fallback Recovery mode’, that is detailed by Apple here. In this case you double press the power button: first press it, release, and then press and hold down the power button.

Fallback recovery mode accesses a second copy of the recoveryOS on the SSD of the Macs with M1 Chip. Apple says the second copy is there for resiliency.

Intel Macs

If yours is an Intel Mac then you could try forcing it to boot in macOS Recovery over the Internet. Note that there is no Internet Recovery for M1 Macs – for M1 Macs you need to use fallback recoveryOS as detailed above. 

If you are running an Intel Mac Internet Recovery Mode allows you to download a new copy of macOS over the internet so that you can reinstall it on your Mac. This only works on Macs that are from 2011 or later, and you will need OS X Lion or later installed.

Here’s how to do that:

  • On a Intel Mac hold down Option/Alt-Command-R or Shift-Option/Alt-Command-R at startup to force macOS Recovery to boot over the Internet.

We have more tips for booting without a Recovery partition.

If you still can’t boot then you could try booting via an external Mac startup disk.