Recovery partitions allow the repair and reinstallation of an operating system in the event of corruption or catastrophic failure. This data is hidden — stored in a system partition at the root of the hard drive — which prevents compromising file integrity or the need to carry around optical media or USB flash drives.
Starting with 10.7 "Lion," Apple adopted this method of recovery for all flavors of OS X. However, two scenarios exist where this will not help overcome a debilitating system issue. First, in the event of hard drive failure or new SSD install. This is addressed in the TechRepublic article, "How to create a bootable USB to install OS X Mavericks."
The second issue occurs when the recovery partition is not created during the installation process. Luckily, a scripted solution exists thanks to Recovery Partition Creator 3.7.
Let's look at the steps to create a recovery partition.
Creating a recovery partition
Here are the requirements for creating the recovery partition:
- Install OS X Mavericks.app (App Store)
- Recovery Partition Creator 3.7.app
- Apple computer with OS X 10.7 (minimum)
Follow these steps to create a recovery partition:
- Extract the Recovery Partition Creator 3.7.app and
execute it (Figure A)
- When notified that the program will modify
your hard drive, click OK to confirm (Figure
- Click OK when the window reconfirms the version of
OS X that's currently installed (Figure C)
- Select the drive where you want to install the recovery files, and then click OK (Figure D)
- When the app attempts to check the disk for
errors, click Continue to perform the quick scan (Figure E)
- You can see the progress of the quick scan as it checks your drive for errors (Figure F)
- Once the scanning is complete, the app will ask to
locate the Install OS X Mavericks.app file, so browse to the directory and click Choose (Figure G)
- Click OK when the process is ready to create
the partition and install the necessary files (Figure H)
- Finally, when prompted to select the recovery partition type you
wish to create, based on the version of OS X currently installed, click 10.9 (Figure I)
- A progress meter will identify the status of the
process, and this process is quick, even on older hardware (Figure J)
OK to acknowledge the completion of the process (Figure K)
To test the recovery partition, reboot the Mac and hold the [control]+[R] keys (or simply hold the [option] key). Depending on the model and whether a firmware password is set, the system will boot directly to the recovery partition or prompt for a boot password. Once entered, available boot devices will appear, with the recovery partition being named Recovery-10.9.
The recovery partition loads a shell of OS X familiar to anyone who's ever installed a modern version of the OS. Tools and applications to perform clean installs, accounts resets, and troubleshoot hardware issues are located here. An added benefit to the recovery partition is the "Find My Mac" application that's enabled through the iCloud preferences pane. This works in conjunction with the recovery partition to track down Apple hardware in the event of loss or theft.
Do you have other tips and tricks for recovering partitions in OS X? Share your experience in the discussion thread below.
Jesus Vigo is a Network Administrator by day and owner of Mac|Jesus, LLC, specializing in Mac and Windows integration and providing solutions to small- and medium-size businesses. He brings 19 years of experience and multiple certifications from several vendors, including Apple and CompTIA.