Home > FileVault 2, Mac administration, Mac OS X > Using Disk Utility to unlock or decrypt your FileVault 2-encrypted boot drive

Using Disk Utility to unlock or decrypt your FileVault 2-encrypted boot drive

Bad things happen and sometimes those bad things cause your FileVault 2-encrypted Mac to be unbootable. In the event that you find yourself in this place, or you’re about to be, here’s how you can unlock or decrypt your FileVault 2-encrypted drive using Disk Utility and the password of an account that’s authorized to log in at the FileVault 2 pre-boot login screen.

Update – June 11, 2013: As of Mac OS X 10.8.4, you will need to unlock the encrypted volume first, then you will be able to decrypt it. See this post for details.

1. Boot your Mac and hold down ⌘-R (Command –R) to boot from the Mac’s Recovery HD partition.

Note: You can also boot from a 10.7 installer drive , boot to Target Disk Mode and connect it via Firewire or Thunderbolt to another Mac, or use some other 10.7-booting drive. As long as you have 10.7’s Disk Utility, this should work.

2. Open Disk Utility.

3. Select your locked hard drive.

4. Under the File menu, select Unlock “Drive Name” or Turn Off Encryption… , based on what you want to do.

  Screen Shot 2011-06-25 at 9.10.29 AM Screen Shot 2011-06-25 at 9.10.36 AM

5. When prompted for a password, you can enter the password of any authorized account on the drive.

Screen Shot 2011-06-25 at 9.11.52 AM

6. If you unlock the drive, you should then be able to use Disk Utility’s repair tools to hopefully fix the problem that’s preventing your Mac from booting.

7. If you turn off the encryption, the encrypted drive will decrypt. Once it’s finished decrypting, you should be able to access your data again using normal recovery methods (booting from another 10.6 or 10.7 boot drive, utility drive, etc.)

  1. Robert Tengs
    July 26, 2012 at 8:53 pm

    And when this does not work ?

    • May
      May 31, 2013 at 7:58 pm

      In my case it does not work. The File menu does not give a chance neither to unlock nor off encryption.
      I wonder what version of DU rtrouton used to having unlock and encryption off choices in DU File menu?

  2. Robert Tengs
    July 26, 2012 at 8:55 pm

    My MacBook Pro went in to reboot and when it starts up I can choose between “My usersname” or “Guest”, but when I click on “My username” it just keep loading a bit and then show the Mac Stop sign.

    I can log in as guest and log in trough Coomand+R, but when I try doing a “Reinstall Mac OS X” it show “Recovery HD” but “This disk is locked”

    I use FireVault, can this also be an issue ?

  3. July 28, 2012 at 6:22 am

    I have the same question: what if this doesn’t work? I’ve booted from a Mountain Lion install flash drive and tried to partition the Macintosh HD, but this is not possible. The “Verify Disk” and “Repair Disk” runs with no error, but on the “Partition” tab all content is geyed out.

    If I choose “Reinstall OS X” the only installable medium shown is the flash drive. The Mac. HD does not show up.

    What to do?

  4. July 28, 2012 at 10:55 am

    If your Mac’s boot drive is encrypted with FileVault 2, you will need to decrypt it before installing (or reinstalling) OS X. You also need to decrypt it before Disk Utility will be able to repartition your drive.

    • July 28, 2012 at 12:10 pm

      Thanks for your answer. I have two possibilities: Hold the option button pressed and load the Flash Drive, then the Hard Drive is still encrypted. The “decrypt” and other options in the Disk Utility are greyed out as well as the partitioning tab. The other option is to boot into the hard drive. I enter the pass phrase and the mac tries to boot for a while, then shows a question mark and doesn’t do anything further. I am really annoyed at this point since I have to finish my paper till next week …

      Any suggestions? You’ll be my hero.

  5. July 28, 2012 at 1:05 pm

    You, Sir, saved my weekend. Thank you a thousand times.

    Couldn’t decrypt the FS anymore, so I totally erased it with “diskutil corestorage delete”. That’s totally ok for me, since my data is on an other drive.

    Again, thank you.

  6. July 29, 2012 at 7:55 pm

    Same here on saving my weekend. I also couldn’t decrypt the FS anymore, so I used what Martin posted “diskutil corestorage delete”. This worked for me.

    Thanks everyone for the help!!!

  7. Rob Sanders
    August 14, 2012 at 9:40 am

    Another option is to boot from your installation USB drive, then select the Apple and Startup Disk. Unlock your HDD from there, quit the Startup Disk utility and you’ll be back in the main installer. With Disk Utility you can then fully wipe your disk.

  8. Ben
    January 29, 2013 at 3:50 pm

    Thank you for this, which I hope is about to get me out of a major hole.

    Two questions:

    1. How long does the decryption usually take? It still says “converting” but there’s a disconcerting lack of disk activity.

    2. After doing this will I automatically get a normal Mac login instead of a FileVault login screen?

    Many Thanks

    • January 29, 2013 at 4:04 pm


      It’ll take as long to decrypt as it did to encrypt. If the drive was having problems, it may take longer.

      Once you begin decryption and reboot, you should be back to using the Mac’s regular login screen instead of the FileVault 2 pre-boot login screen.

  9. May
    May 30, 2013 at 8:50 pm

    It doesn’t work for me because the option “Unlock HD” and “Turn off encryption” is not dark, i.e. I can not run it :(. Help, pls!

  10. Ginstaller
    May 31, 2013 at 1:10 am

    thanks guys I erased a filevault encrypted disk and tried to install on it when the install failed I was able to use the diskutil corestorage delete method to get it to work again

  11. TLG33k
    September 9, 2013 at 7:25 am

    For all who are having problems of not having “Unlock ” menu. Select the Volume than the HDD and then check the file menu i.e when you see on the tree view the first (top) most is your HDD then the second item below would be your volume. So, if your name of your HDD/Volume is example_mac.

    example_mac <– HDD
    |__example_mac <– Volume

    Hope this helps.

  12. December 9, 2013 at 3:50 pm

    I’ve faced a serious problem which I can’t solve for several weeks already. The last hope is your help.

    My father has an external usb drive with his own data on it. He used Mountain Lion before but some time ago he upgraded his OS X to Mavericks. When he used his external drive in Mountain Lion system it didn’t ask for password when the drive was mounted but after upgrade it began to ask for password to decrypt the drive. He tried every password he usually used for system’s administrator account or everywhere else but there was no luck. Password hint says ‘last name date’ (exactly ‘date’, not ‘data’) and he insists that he didn’t enter any encryption password or any security questions all the more so.

    So more likely I can’t have encryption password to be recovered (and recovery key too) but I need to recover the data on the drive.

    What I can do with this case? I’ve found software named Passware Kit Forensic that can decrypt FireVault2 drives but it needs physical memory image which I think is useless now from upgraded to OS X Mavericks system.

    I can’t believe I’m the first on the planet who faced this problem and I’m sure there is a solution for it.

    Thanks before

  13. glinzer
    September 4, 2014 at 8:36 pm

    It may be that (1) the external drive was encrypted all along, but it auto-mounted because the password was stored in the Apple Keychain and (2) the upgrade to Mavericks reset or lost the keychain. If you have a pre-Mavericks backup, maybe someone here can tell you where to find the keychain.

  14. Valentin
    October 19, 2014 at 11:36 pm

    Thanks too much man I been looking for this thing for a minute

  15. Jason Seal
    December 22, 2014 at 3:36 am

    Mine allows me to unlock but does not give me the option to “Turn Off Encryption…” because it is greyed out. I’ve been trying to resolve this for a while but still no success. I’ve tried everything I’ve come across on the net that seems to be resolving everyone else’s problem but nothing has helped. My MBP is only about 2 weeks old and only has about 80 GB of music and Pictures stored on it. Any help is greatly appreciated!!!

  16. Jason Seal
    December 22, 2014 at 3:40 am

    The progress bar is completely blue but it says “Encryption Paused” and under the progress bar says “Connect power adapter to resume encryption”

  17. March 25, 2015 at 9:42 pm

    I did a mistake, and I need help I installe maverick in a ssd during the installation it asked me to activate firevault and I did so when it was over my pad click was not working and so I intried to reinstall and I did a huge mistake I just erased the partition and tried to re install but on my disk utilities I can see the drive but it says is locked I can access an option so if I can get some help I would appreciated

  18. April 15, 2015 at 8:39 am

    I’m in the process of decrypting a drive (nn-startup). How can I monitor the progress?

    • Lucic
      April 6, 2016 at 7:18 pm

      diskutil cs list in terminal will give you the progress %

      • boatymcboatface
        May 17, 2016 at 10:51 pm

        you rock man. thanks for the info

  19. Alark
    February 4, 2016 at 6:35 am

    I need urgent help as my Mac (on El Captain) has stuck on the FilVault thing which is encrypting the disk for past 2weeks.
    Checked with Apple advisor who suggested to use Recovery mode to Unlock the disk, I did that by clicking UNLOCK button but the issue is I really dont know if the process is done or not (HOW LONG DOES THIS SHOULD TAKE)

    Please help what should I donto get out of the perpetual encryption in the FileVault.

    Thank you so much in advance.


  20. Anthony
    June 14, 2016 at 8:21 pm

    Good afternoon,

    I was wondering; if I were to encrypt my files on a mac book that I do not have administrator privileges for, can those files than be decrypted once I hand my laptop back??



  21. mandeep
    June 15, 2016 at 11:30 am

    how to remove the password after you’ve encrypted it successfully.
    i know my password, but i dont need the drive protected any more….

    note – i don’t want to empty the drive.

    • mraddictiveJustin
      June 23, 2016 at 6:44 pm

      Are you able to boot into your profile?

      If so.. System Preferences > Security and Privacy > FileVault > Turn off

      If you aren’t able to boot to profile, just follow the steps provided above to turn off encryption using disk utility in recovery mode.

  22. john
    October 8, 2016 at 9:25 pm

    Mine are greyed out so i cant select unlock

  23. Georgia Triffitt
    December 28, 2017 at 10:55 am

    What do you do if the unlock button is grey out (I can’t press it)

  24. Trevor Bechtel
    February 16, 2018 at 3:28 pm

    Thanks so much for this!! I needed to unlock a drive, but everything I was finding was really difficult. Thanks for starting with Unlock drive in DU.

  25. Jonathan Porter
    February 18, 2018 at 4:26 pm

    There is no option in the file section to unlock the hard drive.

  26. June 22, 2019 at 1:51 pm

    Useful information.

  27. August 6, 2019 at 5:04 am

    Folks, I wish many of you had found my message before now. FileVault can be an asset in that it may protect your data from intrusion, unauthorized access and theft should the drive be removed from the Mac. Benefits aside, those familiar with the feature’s checkered past, will agree that FileVault can be very temperamental during set up.

    If you don’t feel comfortable configuring FV or you lack sufficient time (up be 24 hours) for the encryption process, leave the feature alone. Make sure the Mac can be plugged into a power outlet for the duration in a stationary position in regular to cool room temperatures. During encryption, the Mac should be OFF LIMITS. No plugging in headphones, iOS devices to charge, printers . . . nothing.

    FileVault is not the feature for tinkerers. I speak from experience as Apple repair shop owner, who has seen numerous “bricked” or locked Macs, all botched attempts at implementing FileVault. Choose to skip the directions or approach the process haphazardly, you’ll end up with an extravagant silver paperweight.

    If your data is so sensitive or confidential enough that it warrants encrypting your computer, then as the owner, you should make a concentrated effort to comprehend this powerful feature, its execution and un-execution (if such a word) and the potential risks involved. This is not to discourage its use, but rather to encourage responsible FileVaulting.

    Good Luck.

  28. Jackie
    October 1, 2020 at 5:37 am

    please help me 😦 I can’t reinstall the mac os x because it says here that the recovery hd is locked and also I can’t successfully partition the macintosh hd.. I don’t know what to do..

  29. Larry Wichter
    March 30, 2022 at 2:11 am

    Issues with encryption paused might get resolved by restarting in recovery mode then diskutil then run disk first aide on the disk you were trying to decrypt. Then when first aide completes, retry the turn on encryption process.

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