Can I salvage files on an iMac that won't boot past Apple Logo

wlow3

macrumors regular
Original poster
Sep 9, 2008
211
30
My mother had an issue with her iMac (4k, 2017, 10.14.1). She said she clicked on an email link and Safari opened but became unresponsive. Not knowing better, she "forced quit" by long pressing the power button till the screen went blank. When she restarted it, the iMac would not boot pasted the Apple logo screen (with no progress bar). I've gone through the basic check list of things: Safe Mode (doesn't get past Apple logo), Hardware test (reports everything is fine), First Aid (again, reports no issue with the disk).

I got to Recovery and Restore from Backup only to discover that the Time Machine disk for whatever reason stopped backing up her computer 7 months ago. I looked at the disk on my computer and verified there are no new files saved after that date.

So, the computer seems to be fine hardware wise. Is there ANY way to salvage her most recent data at this stage?

I think primarily she is interested in her Mail data since she has not added too many photos or music. (I just saw that she has most of her mail still on her ISP's mail server, so that's good.) The other area would be files kept on her Desktop since that is the main "folder" she used. I just want to make sure I'm doing everything I can before I commit to the 7 month old backup and try to find other sources for lost data.

If I install a new copy of the OS via Recovery Mode, will that overwrite the whole MacHD, deleting her data? Is there a way to do this without that happening? Can the Genius Bar do anything I can't do in terms of salvaging this data?

What typically causes macOS not to be able to boot past the Apple logo?
 

wlow3

macrumors regular
Original poster
Sep 9, 2008
211
30
This could be a dumb question, but just so I understand the best steps:

Should I clone it first via Carbon Copy Cloner and another Mac that has Thunderbolt, then reinstall a fresh copy of the OS via Recovery Mode, then if necessary do a restore from the clone?

I'm thinking at some point I need to overwrite macOS to fix whatever issue is keeping it from booting past the logo screen, and since a clone at this point would contain the problem, I can't restore the full OS itself from this clone without "restoring" the issue.

I can read up how to do this; I just would like to know whether I'm thinking about this correctly. Thanks.
 

Mr_Brightside_@

macrumors 68040
Sep 23, 2005
3,096
1,137
Toronto
Get a Thunderbolt 1/2 cable (buy it from Apple store then return after use), a Mac with Thunderbolt 1 or 2, and an external hard drive.
Boot iMac into TDM. Connect Tbolt cable to other Mac. Cross fingers that it mounts.
If it does, open CCC, select Macintosh HD from iMac as source, external HD as destination. Clone files.
Next boot iMac into recovery and reinstall macOS.

So yes exactly what you said.
 

wlow3

macrumors regular
Original poster
Sep 9, 2008
211
30
Get a Thunderbolt 1/2 cable (buy it from Apple store then return after use), a Mac with Thunderbolt 1 or 2, and an external hard drive.
Boot iMac into TDM. Connect Tbolt cable to other Mac. Cross fingers that it mounts.
If it does, open CCC, select Macintosh HD from iMac as source, external HD as destination. Clone files.
Next boot iMac into recovery and reinstall macOS.

So yes exactly what you said.
Cool. Thanks.
 

wlow3

macrumors regular
Original poster
Sep 9, 2008
211
30
Following, had the same issue on my iMac with Mojave. Did you ever get this sorted?
Yes. I read about verbose mode on the Mac where the Mac displays its boot process line by line rather than just showing the Apple logo. That showed me that it was getting hung up trying to load an old driver from a previous Mac (candelair, an IR receiver driver from her previous Mac when they came with remote control devices). I think unbeknownst to me her newer Mac would spend cycles periodically trying to load it in the background and somehow it became corrupted when she forced quit. Anyway I used disc target mode with a separate Mac to go into her hard drive to find and delete the corrupted driver. Once I did that, her Mac started up again without issue.
 

Fishrrman

macrumors P6
Feb 20, 2009
17,216
5,558
What I would do if you put the iMac into my hands.

1. Boot from an EXTERNAL drive that is "bootable to the finder". It should have High Sierra on it.
2. See if the internal drive appears on the desktop
3. If it does, use either CarbonCopyCloner or SuperDuper (both are free to use for 30 days) to clone the contents of the internal drive to an external backup drive.
4. Once that is done, ERASE the internal drive with Disk Utility
5. Next, install a fresh copy of High Sierra (NOT Mojave) to the internal drive.
6. Now you face a choice, because an old driver (or other stuff) may have been preventing the iMac from booting. You want to keep "the bad stuff" out, while bringing in what's usable. If it was me, I'd do a careful "manual migration" from the cloned backup "back to" the internal drive.

But first thing is to get a bootable OS and user account "up and running" again.
 
Last edited:

arkieboy72472

macrumors member
May 4, 2017
80
13
Yes. I read about verbose mode on the Mac where the Mac displays its boot process line by line rather than just showing the Apple logo. That showed me that it was getting hung up trying to load an old driver from a previous Mac (candelair, an IR receiver driver from her previous Mac when they came with remote control devices). I think unbeknownst to me her newer Mac would spend cycles periodically trying to load it in the background and somehow it became corrupted when she forced quit. Anyway I used disc target mode with a separate Mac to go into her hard drive to find and delete the corrupted driver. Once I did that, her Mac started up again without issue.
That is great news. Could you maybe make a final post explaining in more detail the whole process, what you did, thoughts for others in a similar situation, etc?

Good job dude.