For the past several years, Apple has allowed certain versions of macOS to be virtualized on Mac hardware. This works fairly well for using the operating system itself as a virtual machine, but pre-boot options like Recovery Mode are a bit trickier to deal with in terms of VMs.
It’s easy enough to boot an actual Mac into Recovery Mode, but it’s significantly more difficult when using a Mac VM with an application like VMware Fusion. It’s possible to use the Command-R key combination when booting a macOS VM in Fusion, but the time window in which Fusion will accept that command is so small that you’ll likely try dozens of times before it works.
Instead, there’s an easier way to force a Mac VM to boot in Recovery Mode by simply editing the VM’s configuration file. Note that this process is for VMware-based Mac virtual machines with their recovery partition intact. Our screenshots reference VMware Fusion 10.1.3, although the basic process should work on most recent versions of the application.
- Make sure the Mac VM is completely shut down and then locate the virtual machine file in Finder. Right-click on the VM file in Finder and select Show Package Contents.
- Locate the VM’s .vmx configuration file. Right-click on it and open it in your text editor of choice.
- Add the following configuration option to the bottom of the .vmx file:
- Save the change to the .vmx file and then boot your Mac VM. It should now boot into directly into Recovery Mode without needing to use any boot option keys.
- When you’re done with Recovery Mode and ready to boot back into macOS, shut down the VM and then re-open the .vmx file and delete the added text. Finally, in VM’s package contents, find and delete its .nvram file (it will be recreated by the VM after the next boot cycle). Now, when you next boot the VM, it should boot back into macOS.
macosguest.forceRecoveryModeInstall = "TRUE"
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