How to Wipe or Restore Your Mac’s Recovery Partition

By | April 18, 2022

Every Mac released since 2011 has a built-in Recovery partition. This is a separate section of your hard drive that you can boot from if you need to repair or reinstall the operating system on your Mac.

There are situations where you might want to delete the Recovery partition from your Mac, such as reclaiming needed storage. You don’t have to do this quickly, as it is a valuable tool for fixing all kinds of problems.

That said, here’s how to wipe your Mac’s Recovery partition if you’re sure you want to. We will also cover how to restore it again afterwards.

What is Recovery Partition

When starting your Mac, hold down Cmd + R to boot to the Recovery partition. If that doesn’t work, you can hold back Option + Cmd + R to boot Recovery mode over the internet instead. When something goes wrong with macOS, this is the place to fix it.

Mac Recovery partition gives you four troubleshooting options:

  • Restore From Time Machine Backup
  • Reinstall macOS
  • Get Help Online
  • Disk Utility

It’s pretty self-explanatory, although the best tool to use at any time depends on the specific problem you’re having with your Mac.

Additional options are also available from the dropdown Utilities in the menu bar:

  • Firmware Password Utility
  • Network Utility
  • Terminal

You will often need to boot into the Recovery partition to make changes to your Mac’s system drive, making it an essential troubleshooting tool for any Mac user.

How to Wipe the Recovery Partition on Your Mac

If you have a spare USB stick and want to reclaim around 650MB of disk space on your Mac, create a bootable macOS installer to replace your Recovery partition. This way, you can still repair macOS if something goes wrong with your system drive.

Wiping the Recovery partition is a complicated procedure that can easily erase all your data. Time Machine cannot help you recover your Mac Recovery partition. So we recommend that you use software like Carbon Copy Cloner to clone your entire hard disk.

Even after you’ve done this, there’s a high chance that macOS will restore the Recovery partition on your Mac the next time you install updates. So unless you don’t plan on updating macOS again, you may need to wipe your partitions again and again.

Find Out if Your Mac Is Using Core Storage

Apple introduced Core Storage as part of the technology behind its Fusion Drive. It’s a bit tricky to wipe the Recovery partition if your Mac uses Core Storage, and you’ll need to use another method to do it.

Before going any further, find out if your system drive is using Core Storage. Open Terminal and run the following command: diskutil list

It lists all the drives and partitions on your Mac. Find your Mac’s system drive, usually called Macintosh HD, and check Type Storage listed as.

In the example above, the type is APFS Volume, but if your type is Apple_CoreStorage, you should use the second instruction set below.

Option 1: Wipe Recovery Partition With Terminal

If your Mac isn’t using Core Storage, the easiest way to wipe your Recovery partition is to use the Terminal. To get started, locate your Recovery identifier by running the following command a second time: diskutil list.

Again, this lists all the disks and partitions connected to your Mac. Find partition Recovery and note Identifier-his. Also, make a separate note of the identifier for your system drive, which is usually called Macintosh HD.

In the example above, partition Recovery using identifier disk1s3. Meanwhile, the system drive Macintosh HD using identifier disk1s1. Your Mac may be different.

Now, use Terminal to wipe your Mac’s Recovery partition. Run the following command, replacing the Recovery identifier where it is logged:

diskutil eraseVolume APFS Blank [RECOVERY IDENTIFIER]

If this command doesn’t work, you may need to change the Type from APFS to JHFS+ to match your drive.

This command deletes the Recovery partition and replaces it with free space. For the next step, you need to combine the free space with your system drive. Run this last command in Terminal, changing Recovery and system identifier where noted:

diskutil mergePartitions APFS "Macintosh HD" [SYSTEM IDENTIFIER] [RECOVERY IDENTIFIER]

This command should merge the two partitions while preserving all the data on your system disk. You have successfully deleted the Recovery partition from your Mac.

Option 2: Clone Core Storage to External Drive

It’s hard to safely edit a Core Storage partition, even with the power of Terminal behind you. You can easily wipe your entire Mac, forcing you to restore everything from a backup.

There is a workaround, but it requires the use of Carbon Copy Cloner. You’ll also need another backup external drive with enough storage to clone your Mac’s system drive. If you haven’t already, Install Carbon Copy Cloner on your Mac. The software offers a free trial which you can use for this.

Clone Your Mac System Drive

Connect your external drive and open Disk Utility. Select your external drive from the sidebar and click Erase. Name the drive, set the format to Mac OS Extended (Journaled), and set the schema to GUID Partition Map.

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Click Erase to erase and reformat the external drive.

Now, open Carbon Copy Cloner and open File> New Task. Select your Mac system drive as Source and select your external drive as Destination. When ready, click Clone to start cloning data to your external drive.

This may take a while, depending on the size of your system.

Boot to Your External Drive

When it’s done, reboot your Mac and hold down Options when run again. You should get the option to boot your Mac from an external drive (Read How to Boot Your Mac From a USB Drive). Select with arrow keys and press Enter to boot.

Since you cloned your Mac’s system drive, everything will look the same as usual. The only difference is that you are now running macOS from your external drive.

open Finder and navigate to the folder Computer, then eject your Mac’s system drive (commonly called Macintosh HD).

Wipe Recovery Partition

For the next step, go to Disk Utilityy and select View > Show All Devices. Select the host drive for your Mac’s internal storage that holds your Recovery partition and click Erase. Again, name your drive and set the format to Mac OS Extended (Journaled) with schema GUID Partition Map.

After wiping your Mac system drive and wiping your Recovery partition use Carbon Copy Cloner to restore all your data onto it. This time, set your external drive as Source and your recently wiped Mac system drive as Destination.

When Carbon Copy Cloner asks if you want to include the Recovery Partition, select Cancel. When it’s done cloning the data back to your Mac, you won’t have a Recovery partition anymore.

How to Restore Your Mac’s Recovery Partition

One of the easiest ways to restore the Recovery partition on your Mac is to update macOS. open Apple menu > About This Mac > Software Update to download and install new updates.

Unfortunately, that means even when you don’t want it, the Recovery partition might come back every time you update your Mac. If that happens, repeat the steps above to remove it again.

If you need to restore your Recovery partition but can’t install a new macOS update, use the macOS USB installer to reinstall all the software on your Mac. Alternatively, use Carbon Copy Cloner to clone your drive, but choose to Create Recovery Volume when requested.

Find Better Ways to Create More Mac Storage

As we have seen, it is completely possible to wipe the Recovery partition from your Mac and free up quite a bit of storage. But we still don’t recommend it because Recovery mode is very useful. You might need it someday, and it’s a pain to fix your Mac without that mode.