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For whatever reason, one of our macs didn't make a recovery partition when it upgraded to Lion.

Is it possible to add a recovery partition after the fact?


To be clear - on a normal mac, the recovery partition is hidden in both the Startup Disk system preference and the Disk Utility. You can only see it from the command line with a direct command, diskutil list or enabling the debug menu in Disk Utility. It also shows up if you boot with the option key held or if you successfully boot to recovery with Command-R a.k.a. +R during boot.

Warning - this question and answer ONLY APPLY to 10.7.x Lion - using the Lion installer to recreate recovery on newer OS can and will cause problems due to drivers not being present for newer OS and hardware.

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By any chance, was Lion installed onto a RAID volume on that Mac? The recovery partition isn't supported for RAID volumes. Some more detail can be found here. You can always install Lion to an external device to get a recovery partition that way. It might be possible to clone this partition, but I haven't tried. This article goes into some more detail. –  Gauzy Jul 29 '11 at 0:29
    
@gauzy - thanks for the heads up. I need to delve into this - what does the partition look like? is it hidden from view from df and diskutil list and Disk Utility or is it plainly visible there? Also - should it show up in startup disk system preferences? (mine is a iMac / single 1TB internal HDD - nothing remotely exotic about it( –  bmike Jul 29 '11 at 3:27
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It won't show up in Disk Utility or Startup Disk, but <pre>diskutil list</pre> is able to see it. –  Gauzy Jul 29 '11 at 13:43
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I should not offer this as an answer until after I have tested with FileVault 2, but for your information: in a private forum, someone drew attention to Removing and rebuilding a malfunctioning Recovery HD partition « Der Flounder — as I understand it, allows creation without use of a full installer. –  Graham Perrin Dec 11 '11 at 13:54
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Another place the Recovery HD partition is visible is the System Information utility (aka System Profiler). It won't be listed in the overview (the Storage tab of the "About This Mac" window), but it will appear in the full report you get by choosing File > Show System Report, then selecting your HD's attachment bus in the sidebar. BTW, you can open System Information directly into the full report by holding the Option key, and choosing System Information from the Apple menu. –  Gordon Davisson Dec 30 '11 at 17:21
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7 Answers 7

First, open a Terminal.

Status before:

$ diskutil list
/dev/disk0
  #:                       TYPE NAME                    SIZE       IDENTIFIER
  0:      GUID_partition_scheme                        *128.0 GB   disk0
  1:                        EFI                         209.7 MB   disk0s1
  2:                  Apple_HFS Macintosh HD            127.8 GB   disk0s2

Get Lion Recovery Update v1.0 (431.91 MB)

Mount RecoveryHDUpdate.dmg

$ hdiutil attach ~/Downloads/RecoveryHDUpdate.dmg

Extract data from RecoveryHDUpdate.pkg

$ pkgutil --expand /Volumes/Mac\ OS\ X\ Lion\ Recovery\ HD\ Update/RecoveryHDUpdate.pkg ~/Desktop/RHD

Mount RecoveryHDMeta.dmg (in the RecoveryHDUpdate.pkg package)

$ hdiutil attach ~/Desktop/RHD/RecoveryHDUpdate.pkg/RecoveryHDMeta.dmg

Run tool that will finally resize current partition and create recovery

$ ~/Desktop/RHD/RecoveryHDUpdate.pkg/Scripts/Tools/dmtest ensureRecoveryPartition / /Volumes/Recovery\ HD\ Update/BaseSystem.dmg 0 0 /Volumes/Recovery\ HD\ Update/BaseSystem.chunklist
Creating recovery partition: finished

Status after:

$ diskutil list
/dev/disk0
  #:                       TYPE NAME                    SIZE       IDENTIFIER
  0:      GUID_partition_scheme                        *128.0 GB   disk0
  1:                        EFI                         209.7 MB   disk0s1
  2:                  Apple_HFS Macintosh HD            127.2 GB   disk0s2
  3:                 Apple_Boot Recovery HD             650.0 MB   disk0s3
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This is a very useful hint. I have just applied this to two disks and it appears to have done the job just fine. The only thing that concerns me is that one does not need administrative privileges to run dmtest… Thank you! –  simonair Jun 14 '12 at 20:08
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This is the best answer, since it actually only recreates the Recovery HD and nothing else, by using Apple's own program for doing so. Thumbs up! –  Adam Lindberg Jul 1 '12 at 9:31
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Thumbs up, this worked flawlessly. –  Nick Forge Jul 19 '12 at 10:32
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Any idea on how to achieve the same with Mountain Lion? –  pgb Nov 27 '12 at 11:54
    
This worked for me, but only using the Lion Recovery BaseSystem.* files. Using the ones from the latest Moutain Lion installer caused an error. Is there a problem if I'm running Mountain Lion, but my recovery partition is the one from Lion? –  nwinkler Feb 27 '13 at 7:07
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up vote 17 down vote accepted

Rerunning the Installer works for OS X 10.7, 10.8 and 10.9 - running the recovery disk assistant isn't a good idea if you are running 10.8 or newer OS as well as hardware that ships with newer builds of OS.

The Lion Recovery Disk Assistant can make a backup copy of the recovery partition.

The Lion Recovery Disk Assistant lets you create Lion Recovery on an external drive that has the same capabilities and limitations as the built-in Lion Recovery. Just as a backup copy of a good file needs to be made before the file comes upon it's demise, this tool will not help if you start with a partition that is missing or broken.

Re-running the Lion installer will create a workable recovery partition.

To get the Installer (since we didn't save it and it deletes itself on running the first time).

  1. Start the App store and pick any view except Purchased.
  2. Hold the option key while selecting Purchased.
  3. Download the Lion Installer

It took a good 35 minutes to run the installer again. Disk Utility hides the Recovery HD (and other partitions by default) unless you enable a debug menu. You can use the diskutil list to see the Recovery HD if you don't mind terminal.app commands.

mac:~ mike$ diskutil list
/dev/disk0
   #:                       TYPE NAME                    SIZE       IDENTIFIER
   0:      GUID_partition_scheme                        *1.0 TB     disk0
   1:                        EFI                         209.7 MB   disk0s1
   2:                  Apple_HFS Macintosh HD            999.3 GB   disk0s2
   3:                 Apple_Boot Recovery HD             650.0 MB   disk0s3

The debug menu looks as follows - selecting show every partition will let you see whether your Recovery HD is on your drive.

enter image description here

http://apple.stackexchange.com/users/8527/z4mba pointed out these hidden commands from this MacWorld article. I only needed to turn on/off the one command:

  • defaults write com.apple.DiskUtility DUDebugMenuEnabled -bool true

I don't know if you can move a Recovery HD around like a normal partition or need the other defaults write command to roll your own recovery HD, running the Lion installer a second time was fine for my needs. As many have pointed out, it appears that the recovery contents are not universal and instead customized for the specific hardware, so recreating it from the official tools is much preferred unless you wish to test well and are saving time by automating tens or hundreds of macs and can control for hardware differences in your process.

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"The Lion Recovery Disk Assistant lets you create Lion Recovery on an external drive that has the same capabilities and limitations as the built-in Lion Recovery." Not quite - with 10.7.2 you won't be able to enable "Find My Mac" if you don't have an "internal" revovery HD –  Guy Oct 18 '11 at 6:03
    
True enough. The recovery partition contents are the same - but FMM needs it to be on the same physical volume as the boot volume to work its magic. I'd call it a limitation of the FMM system as implemented to be exactingly precise but perhaps that's splitting hairs too finely. –  bmike Oct 20 '11 at 15:20
    
Re-running the Lion installer: This will erase my data, right? (P.S. No internal recovery HD means no FileVault either) –  Enrico Susatyo Nov 22 '11 at 10:55
    
I would not recommend, as a habit, copying an existing Recovery OS to anything other than a disk that hosts a clone of the original Mac OS. Not all recovery systems are equal. –  Graham Perrin Dec 11 '11 at 14:01
    
Will this work even after I upgraded to Mountain Lion (or beyond)? Will this downgrade my OS, then? Maybe you'll want to re-accept @lloeki's answer as the recommended way as that procedure will exactly solve the problem without any side-effects. –  Olfan Nov 7 '12 at 11:50
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If you reinstall OS X from App Store, it also recreates a recovery partition. I just tried it on a VM. First I removed the Recovery HD partition. Then I reinstalled OS X from App Store:

It took about two hours, and after that I had a working recovery partition again.

Reinstalling OS X over an existing installation is similar to upgrading to a new major version of OS X, or it keeps user files and settings in place but replaces system files with new versions. Apple should call it something less scary like "repairing OS X", because it is the solution to a lot of issues like this, and it is not such a drastic operation especially if you have backups.

Upgrading to a new major version of OS X will also add a missing recovery partition.

Reinstalling OS X is also recommended by SuperDuper's developer:

Actually, you can easily recreate the recovery partition by simply reinstalling Lion from the App Store. (This has the additional benefit of updating the recovery partition with the most recent data, too.)

Carbon Copy Cloner has an option to add a recovery partition, but it needs to copy the recovery partition from another disk or a backup archive. If your Mac doesn't have a recovery partition, Carbon Copy Cloner recommends reinstalling OS X:

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Alternatively, you can use Carbon Copy Cloner (it has free 30 day trial). From CCC, follow these instructions:

  1. Click Window -> Disk Center.
  2. In Disk Center, click the Recovery HD tab.
  3. Click "Create a Recovery partition for this volume".
  4. Done!
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You should be able to access and inspect an existing recovery partition from the disc utility's debug menu. This is a hidden menu which can be revealed using these commands:

Enable hidden disk image formats and debug menu in Disk Utility

Hope this helps...

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The defaults write com.apple.DiskUtility DUDebugMenuEnabled -bool true command lets me see all the partitions (including recovery ones) - it's not clear how to create them, copy them, make them hidden yet, but I'll poke around if the installer doesn't create one for me by running it a second time. Awesome find! –  bmike Jul 29 '11 at 16:47
    
This answer didn't help create the partition - the installer did create the partition and write the data into the partition to make it workable - it just needed to be run again. –  bmike Aug 9 '11 at 14:40
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Nice article above and reminds me to create an image of recovery partition as well as a backup.

if you don't have recovery HD or if that has been deleted for any reason:

Ref: to my discussion: https://discussions.apple.com/message/22563466#22563466

I have just tested it by re-installing Mac OSx, which worked like a charm. Here are the steps

if you have existing Mac partition with data, please create a backup or image of that partition (because that will be erased)

  1. I used a Mt Lion dvd and booted the mac from it and started the disk utility

  2. I created 2 partitions -> one with 1 GB space and named "Recovery HD" and second with all the remaining space and named " Macintosh HD", applied the changes, run disk repair on both partition (to be safe)

  3. then back to disk utility and re-installed OSx from DVD to Macintosh HD partition.

  4. after finish and reboot with Option key, you will get your recovery partition working

  5. now if you wana restore your old HD image just go to disk util and restore image

Ref: http://support.apple.com/kb/ht4718

sanjay

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Are you sure it's not there? The recovery partition doesn't show up in disk utility, to view it you have to reboot and press option (alt) to get a list or drives you can boot from and you should have one called Recovery HD or if you want to access it directly just press Command-R at startup.

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I was fairly sure - but not certain when I asked the question. In hindsight, it certainly was not there - I used diskutil list before the reinstall and it wasn't on the partition map. I kept asking myself the same question, though - how can I know if it's there if I don't know what it looks like. Thanks! –  bmike Jul 29 '11 at 17:06
    
It wasn't there until I re-ran the installer. –  bmike Aug 9 '11 at 14:41
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