Getting files off of hard drive of broken Mac?

Discussion in 'Mac Basics and Help' started by PowerBook-G5, Mar 22, 2015.

  1. PowerBook-G5 macrumors 65816


    Jul 30, 2013
    The United States of America
    My sister called me earlier, and she cannot get into her MacBook. It won't boot, and we cannot reinstall OS X or anything. She needs to get her files off of it because she doesn't have a backup.

    What I want to do is take the hard drive out of her laptop, put it in an external enclosure, and copy the important files to my laptop. She does not have File Vault enabled, so will I be able to copy these files?

    This is important.
  2. chown33 macrumors 604

    Aug 9, 2009
    Which MacBook model specifically?

    If it has Firewire, you can start it up in Target Disk Mode, and it will act just like an external Firewire disk. This doesn't require booting the OS, but it does require some minimal hardware functionality.

    If you don't have another Firewire Mac to connect it to, then maybe take it to an Apple Store and see if they can help you on that front.

    Find more articles by searching for mac target disk mode.
  3. PowerBook-G5 thread starter macrumors 65816


    Jul 30, 2013
    The United States of America
    Both machines we have are mid-2012 cMBPs. I done have a forewore cable, but I guess I can buy one if needed.

    But still, I can plug the hard drive of her laptop into an enclosure and pull files off of it from my machine, right?
  4. chown33 macrumors 604

    Aug 9, 2009
    If the drive itself still works, yes.

    If you have such an enclosure, it's worth trying. If not, it'll probably be cheaper and easier to get a Firewire cable and try that first.
  5. PowerBook-G5 thread starter macrumors 65816


    Jul 30, 2013
    The United States of America
    Ok, I asked because I do have an enclosure.

    Would you recommend copying the whole hard drive to another, or just the user folder? She doesn't have any backups of the laptop, unfortunatly. Could I just try to use Carbon Copy Cloner to transfer everything to a backup disk?
  6. NT1440 macrumors G4


    May 18, 2008
    Hartford, CT
    Depends on what you are trying to do. If the machine can't boot or reinstall, you may have a failing hard drive. If that's the case I'd personally try to grab any personal information before doing a complete clone.

    I had a failing hard drive finally give up the ghost when we were cloning it. Would have been a disaster but I had the foresight to grab the Desktop, Documents, Downloads, Music, and Pictures folders beforehand.
  7. PowerBook-G5 thread starter macrumors 65816


    Jul 30, 2013
    The United States of America
    That's a good idea, thanks.

    Unfortunately she lives several hours away, with no Apple store near her. My next chance to see her is next week, so I'll just have to tell her to sit tight with it and not try to fix the laptop until I can do this stuff. The bad thing is that she is freaking out over all of this and not being able to use the laptop :(

    Anyway, hopefully your information can help me fix her MacBook, without any loss of files. I'm also planing to install an SSD in it, seeing as the drive may be failing. There's no point in reinstalling a HDD in a cMBP :roll eyes:

    EDIT: The Crucial MX100 256GB seems to be a good enough SSD, right?
  8. Fishrrman macrumors G4


    Feb 20, 2009
    Some thoughts:

    The Crucial SSD you described should work fine.

    BE SURE you have THE RIGHT TOOLS for the replacement job.
    I believe you'll need a Phillips #00 screwdriver and a TORX T-6 driver. (these worked on my 2010-vintage MBPro, but check ifixit to be sure).
    These can be found at hardware stores, Home Depot, Lowe's, etc.

    Review the drive replacement guide for instructions, if you've never opened up the MacBook before.

    If you have the replacement drive and enclosure "in hand" before you visit her, I would advise you to do a "prep and test" on the drive beforehand. Put it into the enclosure you have and install the OS of your choice onto it.

    Then, boot to the new install by invoking the startup manager at reboot (hold down option key until SM appears, then select the external drive).

    At this point things can get tricky, depending on what you want to do.

    If the new drive boots to the point where it asks you to begin the initial setup, you could just cancel out of it (even power down if necessary), and "leave it be" until you get the new drive installed into the MacBook.

    The idea here is that you know the drive will boot, but you want your sister (and the old drive) to be present for the setup, with the possibility that the old drive MIGHT connect and mount, and offer you the opportunity to migrate her old data to the new drive.

    That's one way to do it.

    Another way would be to create a "temp account" on the new drive for now. You might just use "administrator" for the username and a simple password.
    The idea here is that when you arrive at your sister's, you can install the drive and boot it right up -- and then try to connect the old drive to see if it's possible to migrate old data over to the new one.

    If you go this route, once you get the new drive installed, you might try migration assistant first. It might be able to bring over everything -- her old account, apps, data, and settings. If this works, you can set things up so that it boots right to her account (instead of "administrator").

    Be aware that if this doesn't work (or if the old drive still gives you mounting problems), it -IS- possible to do a "manual migration", including items that are inside the "old home folder".
    BUT -- very important:
    You CANNOT simply copy the main sub-folders from one home folder to another. By "main sub-folders", I mean the folders named "Documents", "Downloads", "Mail", "Movies", "Music", "Pictures", etc.
    HOWEVER -- you CAN copy all the items INSIDE those folders, from the old folder to the new folder.
    By doing this, it's possible to "fairly re-create" the contents that were in the old home folder, in the new home folder.

    If the old drive still gives you problems, there are other ways to "get at" the data.
    But try to get the above done first.

    The key here is, get the new drive installed, and get it bootable.
    Then, worry about what's next....

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