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I've done some searching online without luck, hoping that one of you Mac virtuosos might know the answer. On Intel Macs, I know I can hold Command + R but I'm looking for a terminal command to initiate this without keys being pressed.

Is there a command that will reboot a Mac into recovery mode?

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36

You can do that using the following command:

sudo nvram "recovery-boot-mode=unused"
sudo reboot

This sets a firmware variable in nvram indicating that you want to start in Recovery mode on the next boot, and then reboots the machine.

When done in Recovery mode, run the following from the Terminal in Recovery mode:

nvram -d recovery-boot-mode

This deletes the firmware variable so that the next boot is a normal boot.

If Recovery boot fails and you cannot progress, you could also remove the firmware variable by holding down the keys Command, Option, P, and R during boot. This resets the nvram and thus the firmware variable.

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    That worked, sudo nvram recovery-boot-mode=unused and sudo reboot does indeed boot to recovery. I did not run sudo nvram -d recovery-boot-mode to reset nvram, I just simply rebooted the machine and it put me back into the OS. – as134_user3693277 Aug 23 '19 at 17:08
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None of the above solutions worked for me in Big Sur. But this one did.

Internet:

sudo nvram internet-recovery-mode=RecoveryModeNetwork

or Disk:

sudo nvram internet-recovery-mode=RecoveryModeDisk

when done

sudo nvram -d internet-recovery-mode
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I have tried all provided solutions without success on M1 mac mini (Big Sur 11.0)

Ended up with those two steps:

  • Power off mac
  • Press and Hold Power button until you see Apple logo with options

This is not direct answer but only one worked way to get into recovery that worked for me

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  • This is the only thing that worked for me. I tried Command R, Command shift R, Command Option R, internet recovery, bmike's answer, and jkosegaard's answer. None worked except this – Josh Wolff Jan 18 at 17:09
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With Big Sur and the Intel / M1 chip changes, I'm using a tool to manage this for me.

This is open source, so you can look at how it works under the hood for each iteration of the OS and various nvram settings.

Not all invocations work on all OS and hardware: For example, on my Mac Pro 2013 (the shiny black cylinder Mac Pro) the only command that worked for me was

sudo nvram internet-recovery-mode=RecoveryModeDisk
sudo reboot

Now that Big Sur and the Apple Silicon M1-based Macs have shipped - we can retest this on the 2020 hardware.

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That was working fine for me up to High Sierra. From Mojave and beyond I get a slashed circle symbol indicating that's no recovery partition, so I have to manually do Option ⌥ + R + Power.

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