Tuesday, April 11, 2023

Recovery on Apple Silicon Macs Has Changed Again

Howard Oakley:

Recovery modes on Apple silicon Macs have also changed. In Big Sur, the primary Recovery system is stored in a hidden container on the internal SSD, and a fallback Recovery system in a volume alongside the boot volume group. Monterey swapped those over, so primary Recovery goes into the paired volume in the boot volume group, and fallback Recovery into the hidden container on the internal SSD.


Now, at least in Ventura 13.2.1, and presumably in recent releases of Monterey with their firmware updates, you can enter fallback Recovery with a restart, instead of having to start up cold, but that normally enters fallback rather than primary (paired) Recovery mode.

I used to be really good at administering Macs, but now I find tasks related to installing, booting, and recovery so confusing. I thought things would get simpler with Apple integrating more of the stack. But with more security stuff and multiple modes, and limitations on what third-party apps can do to help, it’s gotten more complicated and error prone, and it always seems to be changing.


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Keeps changing, and the documentation remains obtuse as ever.

Ditto. The era Mac is clear and easy to use, has really ended in both area hardware and software :( What worse is it seems it's not coming back...
I sometimes find Windows better.

My next workstation will probably run Linux. And it's a sad, sad thing to say that at this point I prefer Linux's bootloader and recovery methods over Apple's. That's how far Apple has fallen.

In principle, the existence of a recovery OS is good. I can also see the case for "if it fails to boot, there's _another_ recovery OS that downloads from the Internet". You can even make the case, as apparently someone inside Apple has, that there should be a _third_ recovery OS that's like the primary one, but lags behind by a few releases. Perhaps it's the one the device shipped with. Having all three of those feels on the verge of overengineering, but OK.

I don't really understand why they needed to change the shortcut from the long-standing "hold option" to "hold the power button". Or why the ominously-named "Options" (oh, like the Optik key, you say?) doesn't simply then present you with, you know, options. That would seem simpler than having to remember that Command-R, Option-Command-R, and Option-Shift-Command-R are, of course, three subtly different things. Or that there’s a “di-dah rhythm and timing”. Imagine if, instead of a support article saying “Start up from the built-in macOS Recovery System. Use this key combination to reinstall the latest macOS that was installed on your system, or to use the other apps in macOS Recovery.”, “Start up from macOS Recovery over the internet. Use this key combination to reinstall macOS and upgrade to the latest version of macOS that’s compatible with your Mac.”, and “Start up from macOS Recovery over the internet. Use this key combination to reinstall the version of macOS that came with your Mac or the closest version that’s still available.”, you simply had a window that presented you with buttons

[ Start up built-in macOS Recovery ]
[ Start up latest version of macOS Internet Recovery ]
[ Start up previous version of macOS Internet Recovery ]

Those aren’t entirely correct, but I’m sure Apple can find a way to have a label underneath each button that contains the explanatory text from the support article.

I understand the idea that people will be at first confused by those choices, but a “try the first option at first, and if it doesn’t succeed, the other two may help” label would be plenty. And it would be far less confusing than this:

> Sometimes you may start your Mac up in primary or paired Recovery, only to find that Startup Security Utility isn’t available. This seems to occur if you’ve just had the Mac running fallback Recovery, or when it hasn’t run regular macOS since starting up from cold. Either way, the solution is to restart it normally, leave it running for a few minutes, shut it down, then after 30 seconds or so start it up in primary Recovery again.

Here, Apple tries to be clever by deciding “oh, you _probably_ wanted to do x”, but then it also doesn’t even _tell_ you about that guess, which may have been incorrect.

You rarely need to do any of this at all. It's OK for it to be slightly intimidating with choices, and it's more user-friendly that way than having you have to remember bizarre keyboard shortcut modifiers and rhythms and timings.

(Also, I do not understand what "1 True Recovery" is or why this needed to be a thing.)

(If there's a technical reason they had to move from the option key to the power button, I'm all ears. Maybe the power button isn't technically part of the keyboard and thus less likely to fail?)

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