Stuck in macOS Recovery with a language you don’t speak? Here’s what you can do to fix this

You don’t have to speak Chinese, Russian, Spanish, or other languages to fix this problem.

macos high sierra recovery mode reinstall

Today's Best Tech Deals

Picked by Macworld's Editors

Top Deals On Great Products

Picked by Techconnect's Editors

When you start up a Mac while holding down Command-R on the keyboard, the Mac boots into macOS Recovery. In this mode, you can run Disk Utility, access the command-line Terminal app, and reinstall the operating system. But what do you do if you restart your Mac into Recovery mode and a language appears other than one you know?

This doesn’t seem to happen at random, but it can occur when you’ve purchased a computer from someone who installed the system using another language, which can remain in place in the Recovery partition, a separately organized part of your startup drive.

Fortunately, there are a few ways to resolve this.

  • Choose the third menu from the left, which is labeled File when in English, and pick the first option, which is labeled Change Language in English. You should be able to select the language you want.
  • Launch Terminal, which is in the fifth menu from the left, labeled Utilities in English. The apps have icons next to them, and Terminal is a little rectangle with a prompt in it. After Terminal launches, type sudo languagesetup and press Return. You can then select the language to use.
  • If you have a Keyboard menu at the far right of the screen, you can select the one with a tiny U.S. flag to switch to English.
  • If all else fails, you can reinstall macOS by restarting your Mac and then holding down Command-Option-R. This will re-download installation files and prompt you for a language choice, while also upgrading the Recovery partition. It won’t overwrite your hard drive, but installs in place the latest version of macOS that works on your computer.

This Mac 911 article is in response to a question submitted by Macworld reader Curtis.

Ask Mac 911

We’ve compiled a list of the questions we get asked most frequently along with answers and links to columns: read our super FAQ to see if your question is covered. If not, we’re always looking for new problems to solve! Email yours to including screen captures as appropriate, and whether you want your full name used. Every question won’t be answered, we don’t reply to email, and we cannot provide direct troubleshooting advice.

Note: When you purchase something after clicking links in our articles, we may earn a small commission. Read our affiliate link policy for more details.
Shop Tech Products at Amazon