Mac Startup Keys

Mac Startup Keys

On a Mac, there are several keyboard shortcuts that can be used during startup to perform specific tasks. Command + R is used to Start up from macOS Recovery. The shift is used to Start up in Safe Boot mode. D is used to Start up in Apple Diagnostics mode. 

For the most basic definition, using the Macs boot keys just means pressing one key, or holding down a combination of keys, while the system boots in order to access specific features available when you start up. To use one of these combination boot keys on your Mac, begin holding a key as soon as the Mac starts up or restarts, basically just after you hear a system chime, that is when you want to begin holding a key in order to get its desired effect. To use these Mac boot commands and launch into a particular boot mode, you first need to hit the power button, and then press and hold your desired key combo right away.

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To execute any function supported by boot-key combinations on an Intel Mac, you should keep the Power button in place while loading options for recovery. If for whatever reason your Recovery Partition is missing, you can download the Recovery Software from the Internet by holding Command-Option-R when booting. The Recovery Partition is a separate piece of macOS, and you can use it to fix drives using Disk Utility, log into the Terminal, and reinstall your Mac by reinstalling macOS.

If the main Macs display fails, you can use the target drive mode to make it a bootable disk for another Mac that has a functioning screen. You can plug your Macs in through FireWire or Thunderbolt, and then place your other Mac in Target Disk Mode, allowing it to act like an external drive. Choose Utilities > Share Disk to begin sharing one of the Macs M1-based drives through Target Disk Mode.

If you want to ever access one Macs drive from the other, you can link two Macs together with either USB or Thunderbolt cables and use Target Disk Mode.

On Intel-based Macs, if you hold down the “T” key when you start up, your Mac will enter a special mode called Target Disk Mode (TDM). If you hold the Shift key after selecting the Start Disk, but when pressing Continue or up-arrow buttons, your Mac will boot to Safe mode.

Press and hold Option when booting your Mac to get into Startup Manager, which lets you choose what drive you want to boot from. Immediately after seeing Load Start Options…, the Mac displays the Startup Manager. On Intel Macs, if you hold down the Option key prior to booting the Mac, but once it is powered on, a graphic boot-disk menu selection appears, which lets you pause startup to choose from which volume you want to boot.

When starting up a Mac, you may wish to select another Boot Disk, boot to recovery mode, Boot to the Boot Camp Windows volume, or use one of Apples built-in Mac utilities.

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Heres what you need to know about the boot options and modes on the Mac, should you need to troubleshoot startup problems and other issues. Heres a handy guide to the entire array of Mac boot options and boot keys, and when you may need to use each.

You can use combinations of Mac boot keys to get your Mac into those built-in tools, and to solve problems with your Mac, like macOS Ventura problems, Mac boot drive problems, and Mac startup problems. Most of the times, you will have to apply the macOS boot key combinations to get into MacOS recovery mode, Mac safe mode, and boot manager due to certain problems with booting the Mac or system errors, such as the lack of bootable disk on Mac.

Key CombinationDescription
Command (⌘) + RBoot into macOS Recovery mode, allowing you to repair or reinstall macOS.
Option (⌥)Display the Startup Manager, allowing you to choose a startup disk or boot into a different operating system.
Shift (⇧)Boot into Safe Mode, which disables third-party extensions and runs a disk check.
Command (⌘) + Option (⌥) + P + RReset the NVRAM (non-volatile random-access memory), which stores certain settings such as the sound volume and screen resolution.
What are mac startup keys?

If you are experiencing problems with your Mac, macOS has several keyboard combinations that you can hold down to restore the system, boot into Safe Mode, perform diagnostics, and more. To fix that, you can just use your MacBooks built-in keyboard to access Startup Manager, Recovery Mode, Single-User mode, Safe mode, and the other features available when booting. If you would like to boot the Mac to recovery mode, boot it from a USB drive, or begin testing the hardware using Apples diagnostic tools, then you need to use the correct combination of boot keys.

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Note that newer Macs running Lion or higher will also have the option to boot to Safe Mode by holding down Command+R when starting up. To boot into a built-in Firmware Recovery Utility, on Intel Macs, hold the Command R key on boot until you see the Apple logo. While the Mac is powered on, press and release the Command+Option+R+P keys until you see the Apple logo appear on your screen.

This key does not work on some older Macs or clones that do not use Apple CD-ROM drives; those need Command-Shift-Option-Delete instead (see below). Command-Option-Shift-Delete — forces your Mac to boot either from an internal CD-ROM drive or an external hard drive. If you do not want the external hard drive mounted at boot, or if you just want to get the CD or flash drive out of the way quickly as you boot up the Mac, you can just pop it right at boot.

You can also use Startup Manager to force a boot from the main drive if your Mac is booting from a different disk in stubborn fashion. On some Macs that have the Iomega Zip drives, holding Option while booting, while there is a Zip Boot Disk in place, will force Macintosh to boot from the Zip disk. On older, standard Macs, holding Option does not do anything at boot by default, though some extensions can deactivate if Option is held down while attempting boot; see below for Effects of Option on Newer Macs and Macs with Zip drives.

If you have a Mac that plays the boot chime, you may want to let go of the key after hearing it a second time. When the proverbial mud hits the fan and stops your Mac booting the way you wanted, knowing the correct startup key combo can save the day, whether you are booting in Safe mode, recovery, Apple diagnostics, or another drive altogether. Note that you do have access to Apples menu, which lets you select Start Drive, Reboot, or Shut Down, as well as to the Recovery Assistant menu, which includes a potentially helpful Erase Mac command.

What is Ctrl F11 on Mac?

As shown by a symbol on the key, function keys can be used to activate keyboard shortcuts or manage system capabilities. For instance, you can use the keyboard shortcut F11 to lower your computer’s volume or display the desktop. Keyboard function keys are programmed to control system functionality by default.

What is the Boot key on Mac?

The “Boot key” on a Mac refers to a combination of keys that can be used to access various boot modes and startup options. These keys are pressed during the startup process and can be used to troubleshoot or customize the startup process. The specific Boot key combinations vary depending on the model and year of your Mac

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