Beginning with 10.7 Lion, Apple stopped distribution of OS X through the usual DVD optical media. Being the first OS deployed specifically through the Mac App Store, a recovery partition was created during the installation/upgrade process that contained the files necessary to reinstall OS X should it be necessary in the future.
While the process is largely successful, there are times when the previous recovery HD partition is either deleted during upgrade or never created for reasons unknown. I've written about Recovery Partition Creator by Christopher Silvertooth, which has been a heaven send as the small, yet powerful app essentially scripts the entire creation process in minutes. Sadly, the script is not compatible with Apple's latest OS Yosemite, and the introduction of Fusion Drives and Core Storage further complicate matters, making restoring the recovery partition a largely futile effort.
There are, however, two ways to successfully restore the recovery partition. Follow along below, as both tasks are described.
Solution 1: Reinstall OS X
While not a technical solution per se, it is an effective one. Reinstalling OS X — even over an existing 10.10 install — will trigger the installer to recreate the recovery partition. A downside is that you have to wait to reinstall OS X all over again. Also, depending on the version of OS X currently installed on your Mac, the installer being used may be older than the current OS level, which might lead to system instability down the line. Plus, it's a general best practice to install a newer OS over an older OS, but not the other way around.
Still, if you're feeling adventurous or have downloaded the same installer version of OS X that is currently available on your Mac (or don't mind reformatting and restoring your data afterwards), this will definitely bring back the recovery HD.
Solution 2: Restore the recovery HD using Carbon Copy Cloner 4
Carbon Copy Cloner (CCC) 4 is an application that can create backups of your data selectively or perform bit-for-bit backups, or block-level to allow you to effectively create a bootable image of your existing computer. The clone image can be stored on another partition either internally or externally and will appear as a selection to boot to when accessing Apple's boot manager screen when pressing Option during the startup process.
Though not necessary, CCC offers the ability to also clone the recovery partition on a Mac and using that image, it can also be used to create a recovery partition on an internal or external drive using a non-destructive process. It can even clone the recovery partition from another Apple computer and use that to restore the partition on another Mac that is missing the partition. This is extremely useful, especially considering that CCC can run either locally or externally from a USB flash drive or hard drive to recreate the recovery drive on an internal SSD or HDD.
- Select the source drive from the Volumes section in CCC and initiate a backup task. The process should complete successfully after a few minutes.
- Insert the media with the recently cloned recovery HD and boot into it on the destination computer.
- Once on the desktop, launch CCC, this time selecting the destination volume, and then click the Recovery HD... button.
- A new window will come down and identify that the volume is missing the recovery partition. Click the Create Recovery HD button and follow the steps to restore it from the cloned source to the destination.
The processes will unmount the destination drive and repartition a separate 1 GB partition to be used to copy the recovery HD to.
Once the recovery HD is restored, reboot the computer while depressing the Option key to launch the boot manager. Verify that the recovery HD was successfully created by booting into it.
Even though CCC 4 can back up/restore recovery partitions, it does have its limits — namely, Fusion Drives and Core Storage volumes. Since both implement changes in how the drive's file system interface with the computer, only solution #1 will work to create a recovery partition since it must be done prior to the drives running the commands, which will create a Fusion Drive or Core Storage volume.
- How to install OS X on a new or faulty HD without Internet recovery (CNET)
- Apple extends Lion Internet recovery to more 2010 Macs (ZDNet)
- Pro tip: An even easier way to create a bootable USB Installer for OS X Yosemite
- 10 Linux rescue tools for recovering Linux, Windows, or Mac machines
- Pro tip: How to create and disable a Fusion Drive
- Pro tip: How to make the most of Safari in OS X Yosemite
- Pro tip: How to troubleshoot Wi-Fi issues in OS X Yosemite
- Pro tip: Three ways to gain (or prevent) admin access to OS X
Note: TechRepublic, CNET, and ZDNet are CBS Interactive properties.
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.