Force Lion To Start Internet Recovery On Your July 2011 Or Later Mac [OS X Tips]



Apple has introduced new recovery features available through a combination of new hardware and software. One of these new features is called Lion Internet Recovery which will allow you to start your 2011 MacBook Air or Mac Mini directly from Apple’s servers.

The recovery process starts when the Command+R option doesn’t work or when you install a brand new blank hard drive.

Here is a tip that will let you force your 2011 or later Mac to launch Internet Recovery on startup.

If your Mac doesn’t currently exhibit the symptoms required for Internet Recovery to auto-launch like in the two situations mentioned above simple restart your Mac while holding  Command+Option+R until you see a spinning globe appear along with a message about the recovery mode. If you have a Mac with a wireless keyboard you should wait a few seconds before pressing and holding the keys after you first see the light grey boot screen.

This will force your Mac to launch Internet Recovery. You’ll know that you are in Internet Recovery when you see a spinning globe like the one above and a meter running underneath it.

If you see the Lion Recovery HD Mac OS X utilities menu or your Finder desktop then you either didn’t press and hold the correct key sequence or you did not wait long enough for the Apple logo and let the keys go to early. If that happens simply restart and try again.

Let me mention again that this will not work on computers released  prior to the launch of Mac OS X Lion. It only works on the 2011 models of the MacBook Air and Mac Mini. If you have a computer introduced prior to these, like the iMac I purchased in June, then you’ll only be able to access Recovery HD and its Mac OS X Utilities.

Updated on 7/30/2011 at 9:36AM PDT: Added the word July to the title since this feature doesn’t work on any Mac introduced earlier than July 2011.


  • Friends of Mac

    Essentially this re-downloads the entire 4Gig Lion install? More good news for our friends overseas with data limits… They better make a DVD or thumb drive bootable disk ASAP!


  • DavidWMartin

    Allegedly Apple will be releasing a USB stick with OS X Lion on it in August. We’ll definitely have a post announcing its release the moment we know about it. In the meantime you can make your own check COM’s How To section.

  • oakdesk23

    My understanding is the recently released MacBook Air and Mac mini ship with a hardware specific build of OS X. There really is no boot disc those customers could make — a retail build won’t boot those machines.

    Who knows if the rumoured USB drive will boot them. But even if it does, it’s still rather ridiculous to charge $70 for a back-up of an OS you already ostensibly paid for.

    I eventually had DSL installed at my house when I moved, but for a few months I was using a 3G USB dongle. Not only is that unlikely to work for internet recovery the bandwidth caps are low and overage is expensive.

    I doubt any of this will be an issue for 99% of customers, but Apple has created problems for no good reason. 4GB USB drives sell for under $10 online. Apple has huge buying power, the drives probably cost them around a buck. I don’t see how not including one saved them money.

  • Matthew Emmanuele

    Title of article is very misleading, makes it seem like you found a workaround to the superior 2011 MacBook Pro’s, or the 2011 iMacs!

  • dongche70
  • Matt Banner

    Mac OS X lion is technically Apple’s best ever but it disappoints anyway. I am still excited about it’s release though, here is more information if anyone wants to read more:

  • Stefan Ladstätter

    Thanks for the Cmd-Alt-R trick. Where does it put the installer once it has finished downloading? I’d like to create an install DVD or USB stick from it.

  • Defenestrate

    The “new” OS makes one think a bit harder about this Dennis Miller quote:

    “Sure, the lion is king of the jungle but airdrop him into Antarctica & he’s just a penguin’s bitch.”


  • Markymail Mark

    I am traveling in Portugal and lost my operating system (lion). The spinning globe won’t recognize mi wifi networks. Does this have anything to do with data limitations? What are my options?

  • Fred Vermeer

    Apple’s own support articles fail to mention “Command-Option-R” as a shortcut that can be used to launch firmware internet recovery mode.  I had to use my Apple Technician support channel and talk with an Apple TSPS representative to get the answer I needed, before I found this article.  Kudos to you for making the solution available for those with the issue where they can’t boot to a nonexistent recovery partition due to a hard drive reformat or replacement!  Oh, and as an added note, the list of internet-recovery-supported machines in your article is out-of date. Find the latest list of supported machines here:

  • Laurence MacNeill

    I have a Mac Pro that I purchased brand-new in February 2012.  The Command+Option+R trick does the same thing that the Command+R trick does — exactly nothing.  I get a blinking folder with a question-mark on it… No spinning globe…  No Internet recovery…  What am I doing wrong?

  • monokrome

    This works fine on Macs that have been updated to Lion. For instance, it works on my June 2011 Macbook Pro.