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
    Commented 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
    Commented 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. Commented Jan 10, 2017 at 17:34
  • 1
    You can't leave the terminal window, to screenshot anything else tho. Commented 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
    Commented 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
    Commented Oct 12, 2015 at 22:29

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