Or, anywhere outside "userspace?" For example, the login screen, or in Single User Mode.

  • Highlighted Terminal text can be exported with SHIFT+CMD+S. May need to mount "Macintosh HD" disk if you want to save to your Documents or Desktop folders.
    – samus
    Sep 11, 2020 at 18:41

2 Answers 2


You most definitely can do a screen capture from Recovery.

  1. Boot into Recovery
  2. Open the Terminal from the Utilities menu
  3. In Terminal type:

    /Volumes/name_of_HD/usr/sbin/screencapture -s /Volumes/name_of_HD/Users/name_of_user/Desktop/name_for_file.png

You will get crosshairs so you can select what you want a screenshot of (like CMD-Shift-4)

name_of_HD=whatever the name of the HD is
name_of_user=any user on the system
name_for_file.png=whatever you want to name the file

When you login as that user, the screen capture will be waiting on your Desktop.

  • 1
    This use of Terminal automatically mounts the filesystem as read/write which prevents the saving of files using the default keys.
    – bmike
    Oct 12, 2015 at 22:28
  • Under macOS Sierra, it seems that all you can screenshot is the contents of the Terminal window. There does not appear to be a way to interact with the interface whilst the screenshot crosshairs are present nor does multitasking appear to be possible whilst booted to the Recovery System. Jan 10, 2017 at 17:34
  • 1
    You can't leave the terminal window, to screenshot anything else tho. Jul 6, 2017 at 20:47
  • May need to mount "Macintosh HD" drive first. Even so, in Catalina 10.15.6 I was unable to successfully run screencapture ("could not find image").
    – samus
    Sep 11, 2020 at 18:37

Where OS X is booted but you can't take a screenshot because you're not logged in (e.g. the login screen, lock screen) you can take a screenshot over SSH. Connect over SSH to your Mac and run…

sudo screencapture /path/to/screenshot.png

Where OS X isn't displaying a GUI (e.g. single user mode, boot sequence), you can't take a screenshot. This doesn't apply to virtual machines though, if you're determined to get a screenshot.

  • 1
    In Recovery, the filesystems are mounted read only, which makes the key shortcuts not work. See the Terminal utility to mount a writeable filesystem and save the pictures from the command line.
    – bmike
    Oct 12, 2015 at 22:29

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