Tried to employ the recovery key on Mac and found it is no longer working? That’s undoubtedly an issue, as the manufacturer, Apple, intentionally made it hard to access the machine without one. After all, Apple is constantly working on boosting user privacy and product security, including physical ones such as Mac, iPhone, and iPad. This is good news when you’re the owner of a device someone is trying to break into. Simultaneously, it’s bad news when you’re on the wrong side of the barrier. Luckily, we have several pointers on what to do when the Mac recovery key is not working.
Note. Our article will focus on the recovery key for Mac that has to do with regaining access to an Apple ID account. Don’t confuse it with a decryption key, also known as FileVault recovery key, that can decrypt your Mac machine during boot. If that’s what you seek, check or guide on Mac password recovery.
1. Double-check the recovery key is compatible and accurate
Before you make any radical changes or start panicking, you should ensure the recovery key is even supported. To clarify, you can neither use this feature on mobile devices that are using iOS older than 11 nor computers with versions before macOS High Sierra 10.13. The next thing to double-check is whether the key is correct. As a reminder, the Mac recovery key has 28 random alphanumeric characters, split into 7 chunks of 4 characters each. Well, at least in our experience—yours may differ.
Though Apple usually automatically adds dashes between those bits, they may have failed to do so this time around. After making sure those exist, since Apple typically suggests writing it down physically, go over letters and numbers one more time. Try different combinations you may suspect. For example, “5” could very well be “S”, or the other way around. If you trust your handwriting or copied the key to a safe location and can vouch for the accuracy, proceed to the next method.
2. Login using a trusted Apple device or machine
Apple wanted users to have a surefire way to get back into their Apple ID, regardless of device, without contacting their Customer Support. However, they also considered the complexity of the key and the users’ tendency to misplace or forget it. Thus, they added a failsafe that’s easy for both sides. While you cannot access Apple ID by any other methods when the recovery key is active, you may still sign in from a trusted device.
This means you shouldn’t be asked for a recovery key, only a regular password, for an Apple ID on a device that’s part of your device network. If that’s a problem as well, give the “how to recover Apple ID” guide a good look. Alternatively, likely, you’re already logged in on a device that’s part of Apple’s ecosystem. In both cases, you may proceed with the adequate method below.
Generate a new Mac recovery key if the old one is not working
We want to clarify no one except a person with access to a trusted device will have an easy time doing the things below. Apple’s security is far from subpar—it only seems simple to bypass because you have the right credentials. With that said, follow these steps to generate a new recovery key for Mac:
Configuring recovery key directly on Mac
You’ll still need your Apple ID password for this, even though this method is disabled while the recovery key is active. With that in mind, here’s how to proceed:
- Open System Preferences on your Mac computer from Spotlight or the top Apple menu, after clicking the Apple icon.
- Use the search bar to type “Apple ID” or click the Apple ID icon on the list directly.
- Select Account Details and enter your password for Apple ID if prompted.
- Head to Security, locate the section titled “Recovery Key”, and select Turn Off.
- Choose the Use Recovery Key option (you may have to pick Turn On first).
- Now that it’s turned off, tap the same switch. Newer macOS versions also have a separate button below, stating Create new key….
- Jolt down the newly created recovery key. Select Continue.
- Enter the aforementioned key for confirmation and changes will be saved. You may now utilize it to sign in to Apple ID.
Setting up a key for iPod touch, iPhone, or iPad
Open the Settings app on your home screen. Now:
- Tap your name at the top of the menu.
- Head over to Password & Security under “Apple ID”.
- Enter your Apple ID password if asked.
- Spot the “Recovery Key” option at the bottom, which should say On at the moment.
- Tap on Turn Off… or tap the same option, then select Create New Recovery Key.
- Enter your device passcode if requested. You’ll now see the newly generated recovery key if you disabled it first. If you didn’t, you’ll see a pop-up asking you to tap Replace Recovery Key.
- Type or paste the key for Mac recovery on the next screen to authenticate activation. You can now use it since the old one is defunct.
3. Reach out to Apple Customer Care
As you can see, there’s only one failsafe in place. However, despite Apple warning you to keep the recovery code safe, you may destroy, lose, or have the linked device stolen. If that’s your case, and you can confirm your identity through other means, a Customer Care representative may take a deeper look into your case and assist you. This is especially useful if you run into this problem within 90 days of purchase. You can avail of complimentary tech support if so. There are plenty of ways to get in touch, too. However, which means of communication are available varies depending on the country. Using the United States as an example, you can:
- Call (800) APL–CARE (800–275–2273) to get Apple Technical Support
- Make an online reservation for a visit at the nearest Retail Store Genius Bar
- Join Apple Support Communities, a free technical aid forum
- Start an online chat at the Get Support for Apple products page