recovery server blues

The recovery server could not be contacted – that’s the nightmare message that far too many Mac users receive when they’re in the desperate situation of  urgently trying to restore their expensive Apple computer to life. And Macs, don’t forget, just work – according to the marketing anyway. So these Mac consumers who paid too much for their computers are rightfully expecting that an online recovery will in fact, just work.

Online recovery is Apple’s chosen path, & their official response to this issue is that the recovery server is, in fact, overloaded & you should just wait your turn. Say what?? Solved? That's not solved.

What do you mean “Solved”? That’s not a solution, solutions fix things – that answer simply prolongs misery. I’ve caught Apple out lying before, so didn’t waste any time reading on. There’s no way that the world’s richest company isn’t providing enough power, storage & bandwidth to resource their recovery system. one of the great features of Cloud computing is seamless elasticity, when demand increases so does resource.  There’s another answer out there.

I’d been given a late 2017 12” MacBook to fix. This model Mac is a machine that I’m still struggling to find a niche for, I mean really – what are they any good for? Tell me some benefit that’s not already provided by MacBook Air or iPad – I can’t think of one yet.  I don’t know how but this little laptop had lost its Mac OS, immediately displaying a black screen dominated by the dreaded white “prohibited” circle.
Black screen with white prohibited circle

So I reached for my trusty Mac multi-install USB stick, 6 flavours of Mac OS on one bootable stick. Oh, there’s no regular USB ports, only the single USB Type-C port, & that’s being used for power. Stink. Cleverly I grabbed the Type-C to USB adapter from my recently-purchased Galaxy S9, plugged that in & held down the Option key as it booted. Up came all the OS choices, I clicked on High Sierra & got the prohibited sign again. WTF? Oh yeah, this drive is formatted in Apple’s proprietary HFS+ but the latest Macs are running the new APFS format, designed solely for SSD drives. So that wont work, dammit.

Just for shits & giggles, I grabbed a UEFI-formatted 1024kb Hack Attack stick, my own heavily customised Windows 10 PE bootable toolkit & gave that a whirl. Where the little MacBook wouldn’t boot its own USB, Windows 10 came up on screen in a flash. Except without drivers for a bulk of the hardware, including mousepad, so there really wasn’t much I could do from there either.

Alright, let’s go the time-consuming way & hit the online recovery system. Reboot, holding Command, Option & R then select your WiFi service. Click here, click there, download some data, wait a bit, choose Reinstall MacOS, up pops the High Sierra window, waiting, waiting.. Huh? The recovery server could not be contacted. WTF? Check my internet – working. Check my data rate – 50mb/s is fine for this. Ok, what’s up here? Best try it again.The recovery server could not be contacted

Nope, same input, same result. I tried rebooting to reset the PRAM, no difference. What is it that’s causing the problem? Think laterally – forget the Mac thing, what else causes servers to fail to connect to clients…? Oh, yeah, ok. Dates, if your client computer has time & date outside of the acceptable range for the server, you’ll be rejected every time, so let’s try that.

You can’t set the time/date through GUI in Mac recovery, you need to use terminal. (Top menu bar, Utilities/Terminal) Luckily though, it’s about the most simple command ever. To view your current date, just type “date” – mine came up as September 30 2017. 6-7 months past. To reset the date, I typed “date 0528205518” (being May 28, 8.55pm, 2018 – set yours to your current date & time) & hit Enter then closed Terminal window & returned to the main recovery

After repeating the series of clicks to instruct the MacBook to download & install a fresh Mac OS, it connected happily & set about bringing High Sierra home.

Macbook - good for what?
Come on then MacBook – what are you good for?

This is a ridiculous problem affecting thousands of Mac owners worldwide. It’s a trivial fix to change to a time/date update instead of the current check & reject before the download begins. For Apple to sit back & deny the problem is what it is – especially when the fix could so easily be scripted in, I find stunningly arrogant.