You will often find yourself in a situation where you have to completely reset and restore your Mac (which is why I force people to make regular Mac backups). This could be because of a problem or just because you want to open a clean slate with a fresh macOS install. Sometimes, however, when trying to install macOS, you will see the error “Could not contact the recovery server” while the Mac is in recovery mode. If this is happening to you, don’t worry, here’s how to fix the macOS “Could not contact the recovery server” error.
Fix Recovery Server Failed to Communicate on macOS
There are multiple possible solutions for this error. In this post, I’ll go over all these methods, from the easiest to the most time-consuming ones you can use. Below are links to each method to make it easier for you to find the solution you want to try.
Fix Recovery Server Failed to Communicate During macOS Recovery
Check Your Network Connection
This may sound like a pretty obvious thing, but sometimes you’ll find that you’re not connected to WiFi when trying to restore your Mac. This is simple to do.
Click the WiFi icon in the upper right corner of your screen and make sure you are connected to your WiFi network.
If so and you are still getting the error, continue to the next step.
Manually Correct the System Time and Date
One of the most common reasons why your Mac cannot download the macOS installer is time and date differences. This happens quite often when in recovery mode and is also a possibility if you are using macOS in a virtual machine. Fortunately, the fix is simple.
- Start Terminal from the Utilities menu.
- Type the following command
- If the date and time are incorrect, use the following command to set them to the correct value.
- For example, if I want to set the time and date to December 8, 2020, 3:47 PM, the command would be:
Try reinstalling macOS from recovery; it should work.
Install macOS from a bootable USB
If nothing seems to be working, you will need to install macOS using a bootable USB drive. This process requires a significant amount of work for you, but it is not difficult. All you need is a USB flash drive with at least 16GB of storage and a Mac that you can use to download the version of macOS you want to install.
We have an easy step-by-step guide to performing a fresh install of macOS that you can check out and follow.
How to Fix “Failed to Contact Recovery Server” Error During MacOS Update
Sometimes, the error “Could not contact the recovery server” just pops up when you try to update your Mac to a newer version of macOS. In such cases, you can try the following steps instead.
Update Your System Clock and Sync With Apple’s Servers
One of the most common reasons why your Mac cannot download the macOS installer is time and date differences. Fortunately, the fix is simple.
For Macs running software older than macOS Mojave
If you’re not using macOS Mojave or later on your Mac, do the following.
- Start Terminal.
- Use the command below to sync your system clock with Apple servers.
ntpdate -u time.apple.com
Note: If the command doesn’t work, try granting yourself superuser rights with the following command.
sudo ntpdate -u time.apple.com
For Macs running macOS Mojave or later
Strangely enough, Apple removed the ntpdate command with macOS Mojave, so the commands mentioned above won’t work for you. Fortunately, there is a replacement command for newer Apple systems.
- Start the terminal.
- use the following command
sntp -sS time.apple.com
Note: If you get the “Operation not permitted” error once again, run the command with sudo as shown below.
sudo sntp -sS time.apple.com
Install macOS Using Apple’s ‘software update’ Terminal Command
You can also try installing macOS using terminal commands, thanks to Apple’s built-in “software update” command.
If you know the version of macOS you want to install, use the following command:
sudo softwareupdate --fetch-full-installer --fetch-installer-version <macOS_version>
For example, if you want to update to macOS Big Sur, you can use macOS_version as 11.0.1 as shown below.
sudo softwareupdate --fetch-full-installer --fetch-installer-version 11.0.1
Otherwise, you can upgrade to the latest macOS version available using the command below.
sudo softwareupdate --fetch-full-installer
Note: This command, although useful, is currently problematic and you will sometimes get errors like ‘no updates available’. Moreover, it only works on Catalina and above.
Installing macOS Using MacAdmin Scripts
If you’re having trouble updating macOS because of the buggy command that Apple officially supports, there is another nice way to use the terminal and update your Mac.
- Go to GitHub and download MacAdmin Scripts zip file.
- Extract this file into “/Users/shared/”. This is important because macOS Catalina and later versions sometimes do not allow this script to run if placed in folders such as Desktop, Documents, or Downloads.
- If you don’t know how to navigate to /Users/shared/, open Finder and press command + shift + G. Now, type /Users/shared and press Return.
- Paste the downloaded zip file here and extract it.
- Now start Terminal and type the following command
- Now run this command
- It will download the list of available macOS versions for you. Simply select the one you want to download. For example, for macOS Catalina 10.15.7 I choose the ‘8’ option.
- The script will download a bunch of files. This may take time depending on your network speed. Make sure your Mac does not go to sleep while the script is running or it may stop downloading the installer.
- After the download is complete, you will find the installer image in the macadmin-scripts-main folder. Double click on it to mount it and then run the installer.
Fix Failed to Connect to Recovery Server Issue
It can be quite annoying to encounter errors during installation or recovery. I hope this guide helped you solve the macOS recovery server issue and you have successfully installed macOS on your computer once again. In any case, if you get stuck in a step or just want to drool about Apple’s servers, feel free to comment below.