Every Mac since the days of OS X Lion has a Recovery partition, a tool that can help you rescue a Mac with a damaged operating system.
However, if you are looking to replace macOS with Linux, you may want to delete this for some extra disk space. You also may want to restore it if you switch back to macOS.
Here’s how to delete or restore your Mac’s recovery partition.
The Basics of the Recovery Partition
When booting up your Mac, you can hold down Command+ R to boot into the Recovery partition of your Mac. If your Mac has a problem, this is your place to access utilities, restore from Time Machine, or as a last resort: get a clean install of macOS.
The main menu offers four options: Restore from Time Machine Backup, Reinstall macOS, Get Help Online, and Disk Utility. These are self-explanatory, though to look online for help or reinstall macOS, you need to connect your Mac to the internet.
There are additional utilities that aren’t listed but available in a menu item: Firmware Password Utility, Network Utility, and Terminal. If you are using a Mac made after 2010, you can also boot into a network-only Recovery Mode by holding Option + Command+ R to help if you are having an issue with your local disk booting.
Deleting the Recovery Partition
If you have a USB stick with the latest macOS installer, and want to get around 650 MB of disk space on your Mac back, then you can delete the Recovery Partition.
Even with a backup installer, you want to make sure that you back up all of your data with something like Carbon Copy Cloner, in case something goes wrong. We are all adults here, and if you are okay working without a safety net you do not need to have the USB Drive per se, but you have been warned.
Note: How you proceed will depend on whether you’re using Core Storage or not, so be sure to pay attention to this next bit. Regardless of what you do, a functional backup is very important when you start messing with partitions as things can and do go wrong.
1. Core Storage and a Dirty Hack
Apple introduced Core Storage as part of the Fusion Drive tech.
As a part of the eventual move away from HFS+, Apple has begun to move partitions to Core Storage volumes during the upgrade process to macOS. I hosed my old 2011 Air twice messing around with the Core Storage partition and ended up having to restore from my Time Machine backup.
You can find out if your system drive was converted to Core Storage by entering the following command into Terminal:
If you see that the command lists your system drive with the type AppleCoreStorage, it is not recommended to go forward. Even the power of Terminal does not deal with these partitions very well, and you can easily end up having to restore your Mac from a backup.
After that, plug in your USB drive and open Disk Utility. Click on the USB drive and select Erase. Name the drive, and then set the format to Mac OS Extended (Journaled) and set the scheme to GUID Partition Map.
Once you format your disk correctly, open Carbon Copy Cloner. You should be prompted to create your first job, if you are not select New Task from the File menu. Select your Mac’s system drive as the source and your newly formatted system drive as the destination. You can select Done and kick off the copy.
The wait may vary based on the size of your system, so you may want to make some coffee or tea while you wait. When it is complete, shut down your Mac and boot up holding the Option key to select your boot disk. Select your USB drive to boot from, and you should boot into your same system.
Once you are back into macOS, open the Computer folder from Finder and make sure that you eject your Mac’s disk. Then open the Disk Utility. Repeat the steps to erase your system disk with the single partition. Then, reverse the Carbon Copy Cloner job to restore your drive.
When Carbon Copy Cloner asks if you want to include a Recovery Partition, answer No. Now your Mac no longer has the Recovery Partition.
If your Mac still has an older style partition table, the easiest way to delete your recovery partition is to use Terminal, though your account needs to have admin rights for this to work. Find your Recovery partition using the command:
This command is the Terminal version of Disk Utility, and list gives you a list of all your disks and their partitions. You want to be careful here, as you do not want to delete the wrong partition unintentionally. Look for the partition, probably at the bottom of the list, Recovery HD. You will want to delete this and merge it into your main partition. To do so first delete the partition using the command:
diskutil eraseVolume JHFS+ Blank disk0s3
This command deletes the Recovery partition and replaces it with blank space. Make sure that your Recovery HD partition is listed as disk0s3. If it is not, change the command to match your disk. There are now two partitions on the disk: our normal system disk and a new blank partition. For the next step, we need to combine the two, leaving our drive as a single partition. That is a simple command:
diskUtil mergeParitions JHFS+ disk0s2 disk0s3
This command merges the two preserving all of the data on your system disk. Be sure to double check those volume labels against your own disks to avoid losing data. Even doing everything right when messing with partition tables, something can go awry. Be sure that you are not working without a backup.
You can now list your partitions again and see that your disk is one partition for your system disk and an EFI boot partition. Now that you have your disk how you want it, the challenge becomes keeping it that way.
Restoring Your Recovery Partition
One of the easiest ways to have the Recovery partition restore itself is to update macOS. Unfortunately, that means that it might come back even when you do not want it. If you removed it altogether, this can be problematic.
There isn’t an option when applying updates, so you need to repeat the steps to ensure that you are safe. If you switched to Linux and are using just the hardware, this became a lot easier. You can just delete or ignore macOS and go about your business.
If you’re looking to restore it without having to donwload updates, you may want to repeat the Carbon Copy Cloner steps in the section on Core Storage partitions. Just where it says to select No, select Create Recovery Volume.
Taking Control of your Hardware
As any long time Mac user can tell you, messing around with the deeper levels of macOS is difficult. Removing the Recovery partition is not any different. Make a backup and be careful before trying anything in this article, we would not want you to lose data.
Have you ditched your recovery partition? Tell us why!