How to Save Data from an Unbootable Mac

Nobody wants to lose their data, and losing files can be a terrifying idea. If you detect that your Mac is suddenly not turning on, the first thing that will come to your mind is to save Mac files before losing them. Saving data from a Mac that won’t boot is quite challenging, but it’s not unattainable. You can back up the Mac to start but data backup from an unbootable device is not an easy task. Walk through the following steps to learn how to save data from an unbootable Mac so you won’t be troubled to recover data from a dead MacBook.

Backup data before rebooting up the Mac

Many startup-related problems regarding Mac can be fixed. However, during these processes, you can lose your data. That’s why it is essential to backup data to an external hard drive before trying to fix such issues. 

An Image System is needed if you want to perform this task. The image leverages the macOS Disk Utility for creating a backup operation that includes a copy of your system settings, programs, files, and other data. You can move the Image System to an external drive where your data will be safe while fixing any startup problems.

How to back up your Mac by creating a disk image

Get your hands on an external hard drive that is at least the same size as Mac’s internal drive. Make sure that there is sufficient disk space on the hard drive to store all backup data. Then connect the external hard drive via USB, Thunderbolt, or FireWire, depending on your hard drive. 

Put your Mac into Recovery Mode

After connecting an external hard drive to the Mac, the next step is to put it into recovery mode. 

  • Turn off your device completely.
  • Restart Mac by pressing and holding the Command + R key as soon as you hear the startup chime.
  • Hold on to the keys until the Apple logo appears. 
  • Select Disk Utility and click continue when the macOS Utilities window appears.

You have entered the Disk Utility. It will allow taking the Image system mentioned above.

Take images in the Disk Utility

Follow these steps in the Disk Utility to take an image.

  • Select the name of the Disk you want to backup. It will be Disk on your Mac and named ‘Macintosh HD’.
  • Follow the path Select File > New Image from ‘Macintosh HD’.
  • Select the name of the external hard drive that appears if the hard drive is connected to your device.
  • Choose Compressed under Format and press Save.

It will start the backup process. Your Mac will notify you when the backup process gets completed. There’re other ways of backing up your data, for example, using cloud storage such as iCloud, or using backup software. 

Restore Mac from the Time Machine Backup

It’s better to back up your Mac before it crashes, and the Time Machine backup will help you restore the Mac. It will not only recover your data, but your dead Mac can boot up again.

Follow these steps to restore your Mac using the Time Machine Backup.

  • Connect an external hard drive to store the Time Machine Backup to the Mac.
  • Boot your device in the macOS Recovery mode.
  • On macOS utilities, choose ‘Restore from Time Machine Backup’ and click ‘Continue’.
  • Select the external hard drive from the Time Machine backup and continue.
  • Select the drive to save the Time Machine Backup and continue.
  • Erase destination disk and then click ‘Restore’.

It will take a long time to restore and save Mac files and the macOS. 

Recover data with Target Disk Mode

Target Disk Mode lets you transfer files and data between two Mac machines. It’s a complex method as it required another bootable Mac and a Firewire cable or Thunderbolt to connect the two devices. Apart from it, you need to disable the FileVault on the Mac. Press the T button while restarting the Mac with a gray screen. If it goes well, you will see the internal drive of the faulty Mac seems like an external hard drive on the Mac that works. 

Final words

It’s always a better idea to back up your files to an external source, even if your Mac is operating flawlessly. You will never need to worry about data loss in case a disaster occurs if you make a plan to back up your Mac frequently. However, if you want to back up the Mac that won’t boot, creating a disk image and leveraging data recovery mode and solutions are most recommended. There are quite a few limitations if you want to go with Target Disk Mode.

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