Restore a lost OS X Mavericks recovery partition

Internal view of hard disk driveWhen OS X Mountain Lion or Mavericks is installed on an Apple Mac, a hidden recovery partition is added to the disk drive that contains tools for solving problems, backing up or restoring the disk contents, or to reinstall OS X. For various reasons, this useful recovery partition may be missing on your Mac. You should check that it is present and if it isn’t, add it immediately or your Mac is at risk.

Check the recovery partition

If your Mac is not functioning correctly you might need the tools in the recovery partition to repair it, but how do you know that it is there and if it is, that it is working? The only way to make sure is to try it and see.

If the Mac is switched off, switch it on. If it is already up and running, restart it. For a second or so, the screen is black and then it changes to light grey. Hold down the Option key on the keyboard as soon as the grey screen appears. After several seconds, images appear of disk drive icons. There should be at least two and one is the Mac’s disk drive that is normally used to start OS X and the other is the recovery partition. Either of the drive icons can be selected using the left and right arrow keys, and pressing Enter boots from that disk partition.

Boot from the recovery partition and a menu is displayed and you can access tools like Disk Utility. If you can get this far then the recovery partition is fine and there is nothing you need to do. If you don’t see a recovery partition or it cannot be accessed, you need to fix it straight away. You never know when your Mac might develop a fault. They may be rare, but they do occasionally occur.

Recovery Partition Creator

There are three tasks to perform before you start and the first and biggest is to go to the Mac App Store and download the free OS X installer. Mavericks is a 5GB file, so this could take some time depending on how fast your internet connection is. Older versions of OS X are slightly smaller, although they are still quite large downloads.

The second task is to download Recovery Partition Creator. This is a free utility that does all the hard work of creating the recovery partition and it is a great utility.

The third task is to back up your Mac. Many people have used this Recovery Partition Creator utility and it works fine, but even so, it makes sense to have a backup of everything on the disk drive before you start.

Unzip the utility and run it. It reminds you that a backup is a good idea:

Start Recovery Partition Creator for OS X

It then displays the version of OS X that is running:

Check the version of OS X

You must select the disk drive to add the recovery partition to. Here you can see I have a Windows BOOTCAMP partition, an external USB disk drive with two partitions called Disk1 and Disk2, and the internal disk drive with OS X installed is called MacBook. This is the one to select on my Mac, but yours will have different drives, partitions and names. Select the one used to boot OS X.

Select the disk drive used to start OS X

There is an option to check the disk drive for errors and even if you recently did this, it is a good idea to do it again. Disk errors can occur at any time and it is best not to perform form of disk operation without first checking that the disk is OK.

Check the disk drive for errors

Next you are prompted to select the OS X installer that you downloaded from the Mac App Store. You will probably find it in the Applications folder of the disk drive.

Select the OS X installer

Not much to do here. Just click OK to continue.

Take note

A window opens to show the OS X installer and you are asked which version of OS X to installer you would like to use. Select the same version that is currently running on the Mac. I’m running Mavericks OS X 10.9, so that’s the one for me.

Choose the OS X installer version

After a minute or so, the job is done. As described in the screen shot, you can hold Command+R to boot to the recovery partition, but I prefer to restart and hold down Option and choose the partition to start from - either OS X or the recovery partition.

Restart your Mac using the Recovery Partition

Test the system and make sure you can boot the recovery partition. Now if there is ever a disk problem you have the tools to fix it.

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Disk drive image: Public domain from


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