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Using Apple's Internet Recovery to Unlock or Decrypt a FileVault 2–Encrypted Boot Drive

One of the new features in Macs that shipped with Mac OS X 10.7.x and later versions was Apple's Internet Recovery. If you encounter a situation in which you cannot start from the Mac's Recovery HD partition, such as when the internal hard drive has failed, or when you've installed a new disk without an OS, Mac models released after July 2011 can use Internet Recovery. This new feature lets you start your Mac directly from Apple's servers by using a NetBoot-like process, and it gives you the same functionality as in Recovery HD.

Because Internet Recovery has the same capabilities as your Mac's Recovery HD partition, it can be used to unlock or decrypt a FileVault 2–encrypted Mac. This design is potentially valuable in case of emergency; you can recover a FileVault-encrypted drive even when the Mac's Recovery HD partition has been damaged or corrupted in some way.

To force your Mac to boot to Internet Recovery, start the Mac and hold down Command-Option-R on your keyboard. You should see a gray screen with an animated globe, displaying a message similar to this (see Figure 34):

Starting Internet Recovery. This may take a while.
Figure 34

Figure 34 Booting to Apple Internet Recovery.

Depending on your connection speed, OS X may also switch to a countdown clock to show you how long until it's fully booted.

Once booted to Internet Recovery, you should see the Recovery interface and the available tools, as shown in Figure 35.

Figure 35

Figure 35 Accessing Apple Internet Recovery's available tools.

From there, you should be able to use the Disk Utility or the Terminal to unlock or decrypt your FileVault 2–encrypted Mac.

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