How To Use Any App You Want From The OS X Lion or Mountain Lion Recovery Partition

Posted in OS X on 22/08/2011 by J. Glenn Künzler


Among the many new things that Apple brought to the table with OS X Lion is a built-in recovery partition that allows you to run Safari. This cool trick, however, will allow you to run any app you like from the recovery partition!

This trick, originally posted over at OS X Daily, will work whether you are booting from a USB restore drive made using Apple’s new tool, or using the recovery partition already an your hard drive. Here’s how it works:

Your first step is to boot from the recovery disk or partition and launch Terminal. You can launch terminal from the “Utilities” menu on the restore disk.

Once you have Terminal up and running, you can access your entire library of apps using a simple terminal command. First, however, you’ll need to navigate to the folder where your apps are stored. The following Terminal command will list the volumes attached to your Mac:

ls /Volumes/

Assuming that your hard drive is named “Macintosh HD”, as is default, the following steps will allow you to run any app of your choosing. Note that due to the stripped-down nature of Terminal running under the Recovery disk, you must use different commands than you otherwise would to open apps. To get around this, you must simply time the full path of the app you want to launch, as follows:

/Volumes/Macintosh\ HD/Applications/

Simply replacing APPNAME with the actual name of the app you would like to run will load the app. If your app name or volume name has any spaces, you must add a back slash (\) before each space to make the command work.

If you are booted from your internal hard drive’s restore partition, however, things are a bit easier, as you don’t have to include the volume name, resulting in a shorter command.

Not all apps will be useful to run in this manner, but hopefully you’ll find this information useful nonetheless.


J. Glenn Künzler

Glenn is Managing Editor at MacTrast, and has been using a Mac since he bought his first MacBook Pro in 2006. Now he's up to his neck in Apple, and owns an old iBook, a 2012 iMac with an extra Thunderbolt display for good measure, a 4th-generation iPad, an iPad mini, 2 iPhones, and a Mac Mini that lives at the neighbor's house. He lives in a small town in Utah, enjoys bacon more than you can possibly imagine, and is severely addicted to pie.