I’ve spent the past three days figuring out why I could not see the Recovery Partition in the list of startup disks when booting up my MacBook Air with OS X Mavericks. Silly me, I made a rookie mistake! Let me tell you what I’ve learnt.
The Recovery Partition
This restore partition is automatically created by OS X Lion, Mountain Lion and Mavericks when installing any of these operating systems.
It is mainly used to:
- Reinstall the operating system in case of problems with the main partition
- Access Disk Utility in case you need to troubleshoot the system partition where you’ve installed OS X
- Setup a Firmware Password
For a complete list of features and a starting point for other discussions, check this Apple KB.
Option key at startup time
When you press the Option key at boot up time, you can choose the disk/partition to boot from.
This comes handy when you want to boot from an external hard-drive. A typical scenario for doing so might be because you want to test a new version of OS X.
My mistake was to believe that the Recovery Partition of my MacBook Air was visible in this screen. That is wrong, the Recovery Partition of your internal system disk is invisible from OS X. This can be easily verified in Disk Utility too.
Command + R at startup time
This is the only way to access the Recovery Partition of your system hard disk.
Remember to try this option at least once, to make sure you can access this partition in case of problems.
Also, when you’re in there it’s a good idea to set a Firmware Password. When you do that, reinstalling OS X on your Mac cannot be done without unlocking the firmware.
The most useful and often neglected advantage of having set up a Firmware Password is that if anyone steals your Mac they will not be able to re-install OS X. The smarter thief will try to replace the existing hard-drive with another one that has OS X preinstalled. Even in that case the firmware of your Mac will detect the new hard-drive and prompt you to enter the Firmware Password before booting from that drive. In essence, your Mac becomes a brick, totally unsellable on the black market.
A word of warning: Never forget that password, because only Apple can unlock a Mac protected in that way, and only after providing a valid invoice.