I wanted to test the new recovery mode in Lion and can't find a way to enter that mode using a bluetooth keyboard.

There are steps how to get a single user mode or safe boot using sudo nvram boot-args

I was wondering if anyone has uncovered how to get into recovery mode without having a hard wired USB keyboard. As described in the comments - this iMac is older than the ones that make bluetooth available at boot time which is why I'm looking to write something before the reboot progresses to a point where bluetooth is not available to override the default boot selection list.

  • What computer/keyboard are you using? I can get to single user mode, safe boot, etc. using an Apple Wireless Keyboard and an iMac. Im guessing your mac doesn't detect the keyboard until OSX has loaded completely?
    – kevin9794
    Commented Jul 29, 2011 at 3:26
  • It is a mid 2009 24" iMac - didn't ship with bluetooth KB. I'm using the standard, newest aluminum apple keyboard. I think the newer hardware can drive the keyboard earlier in the boot process and I'm out of luck with this generation, but it's a hunch at this point. My question was a bit vague - great questions - I'll likely edit it later to be more clear.
    – bmike
    Commented Jul 29, 2011 at 3:29

2 Answers 2


This model seems to respect the option key only - so that will get me to the startup manager and I can select the Recovery HD.

I have not had luck getting command R to work but it's clearly meant to work as well - perhaps that's for newer macs with better bluetooth hardware (or my mac is just cranky and not working as designed)


At least, on macbook pros (10.9 -> 10.14.6) you can run the command

sudo nvram recovery-boot-mode=unused

And the macbook pro will boot into recovery when you restart, the flag will be removed from nvram so you boot normal the next time after it.

  • This works on macOS Catalina 10.15 too. Commented Oct 19, 2019 at 3:54

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