Help: how to back up a bricked MBA

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by riveting, Oct 29, 2011.

  1. riveting, Oct 29, 2011
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2011

    riveting macrumors 6502

    Mar 11, 2009
    My wife's three week new macbook air is now stuck in the half apple screen forever. I think when she was asked to update the software, she clicked install, but closed the lip as she needs to go. Now the macbook air is bricked. I can't get pass the screen with the apple on it even if after I shut it down and restart.

    Now it may not be that bad a problem if she had backed up her important files. As they are not backed up. If it is a windows laptop, I could easily swap out the hard drive with an enclosure and backed up the file and do a reinstall.

    Can any one tell me what should I do now. I can not risk losing the data on the disk.
  2. heyloo macrumors 6502

    Nov 2, 2006
    I wish I could help but I unfortunately don't have any experience first hand with SSD recovery - reading your post made me wonder what I would do if my SSD failed.

    I did a quick dig on the topic and, although looks pretty obvious now that I think about it, found this: . You probably did the basic steps but in case you haven't...

    Some people were also suggesting PRAM/SMC resets, although it didn't seem to solve the problem for them...

    Let us know if you're able to figure it out, good luck!
  3. graf macrumors newbie

    Mar 4, 2008
    Can you get the macbook air to go into Target Disk Mode? (Hold down T when booting) If so, you could connect to another mac with thunderbolt using apple's thunderbolt cable to mount the drive in the Macbook Air.
  4. KPOM macrumors G5

    Oct 23, 2010
    The SSD is on a separate blade so it should be able to be swapped out if necessary. I'd set up an appointment at the Genius Bar and have it looked at. Explain that you want to recover the data. Since it's 3 weeks old, they might just give you a new Mac, and hook it up to your old one using Target Disk Mode.

    I'm guessing what happened is that the EFI firmware update didn't install properly. Things like updating BIOS on a Windows PC or EFi on a Mac/newer PC can cause symptoms like that. It affects the logic board, not the data on the SSD.
  5. riveting thread starter macrumors 6502

    Mar 11, 2009
    Sorry, I forget to mention that I can still shut it down, it just won't pass the Apple screen after restart. I wonder if it could be just the problem of the OS instead of the hardware, can I try the Lion recovery?

    The problem I worried about is that I didn't have a time machine back up of the files, so would Lion recovery keep my latest file or there are chances it wipes out my data? I can not take the chances.
  6. bloijs macrumors newbie

    Jul 21, 2011
    Hold 'option' when booting and see if it gives you boot options. This should give you an idea of how far into the boot process the EFI is getting.
    Also, as mentioned above, your best bet is probably to use Target Disk Mode.
  7. wgnoyes macrumors 6502

    Jul 20, 2011
    yeah, if it's only 3 weeks old, they'll do something with it at the Genius Bar. This couldn't possibly be the first time they would have had to deal with a computer interrupted mid-stream during an update.
  8. KPOM macrumors G5

    Oct 23, 2010
    Lion Recovery should maintain all your data, but if you can't take any chances and have another Mac with a Thunderbolt port available, try Target Disk Mode first.

    On a related note, once you are back up and running, if you have data that is mission critical, consider getting a Time Capsule, even if you do periodic backups to an external drive. Since it runs every hour in the background, it's nice to know that at least your data is safe. After I accidentally spilled a glass onto my old MacBook Air this summer, it was nice being able to migrate my Time Machine backup to my replacement MacBook Air.
  9. heyloo macrumors 6502

    Nov 2, 2006
    ^ Once you get your data off the hard drive, I'd take it to the Genius Bar. It's only 3 weeks old...also perhaps you could also have them run some diagnostics to make sure all your components are working fine.

    I just looked at Time Capsule and it does look tempting... I have both CrashPlan+ and SpiderOak running on my computer and have some duplicates on DropBox and Free 50GB storage when you log onto your account with the app on an iOS device . has a 100MB file size limit so I've been using Split & Concat to dump the files into a DMG and splitting it up. I suppose I could add a Time Capsule backup to my lineup(?) but I think I'm just being paranoid if I do heh.
  10. Mikey7c8 macrumors regular

    Sep 15, 2009
    Montreal, Canada
    Well yeah, any of the plethora of backup solutions will work fine as long as you actually use one of them :p
  11. riveting, Oct 31, 2011
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2011

    riveting thread starter macrumors 6502

    Mar 11, 2009
    Called apple support, they are able to go to the recovery drive but still can not repair the OS. Now it is going to a computer service store. And I'll see how it goes.

    By the way, I did have a WD 2.5'' external HD serve as a time machine backup. But the computer is for my wife, she never bothered to bring another drive with the laptop, not to mention you have to plug in the external HD to MBA all the time to get up to date time machine back up.

    I guess I'll need to set up a network drive for back up, so she does not need to bring the external HD with her.

    By the way, I didn't got my data out yet as I don't have another mac, I do tell them to back up my drive if possible before proceed with any repair.
  12. heyloo macrumors 6502

    Nov 2, 2006
    I presume this would be able to be fixed with Apple's warranty, since you're within the 3 week period? :-\ I'm sorry to hear that the recovery didn't Hopefully you're able to retrieve the data on it and with no cost :)

    That said, I've been super lazy with all my backups as well - when you have a laptop, you're prone to become lazy (or forgetful) with plugging in the external HDD. I'd run a few backups and the sets would just collect dust as time goes by and I freak out when/if my computer dies.

    Like someone said earlier, try out Time Capsule. It sounds like a great option. Also like I mentioned in the previous post, I'm using CrashPlan+ and SpiderOak as my primary backup solutions, combined with Dropbox and as my secondary 'quick-n-dirty' cloud storage options. They've been working great for me. The upload speeds are not the fastest but it's partly due to the fact that both CrashPlan+ and SpiderOak encrypts your information prior to sending the data out to their servers. I've read through a ton of reviews and finally settled on CrashPlan+ as my primary backup solution. CrashPlan+ gives you unlimited storage space and SpiderOak gives you 2GB free (I'm on a paid 100GB plan). Both are easy to set up, although there is a small learning curve to understand what actually goes on with cloud backups and how they synchronize data.

    Give both a try, I recommend it.


    SpiderOak (and I'm linking my referral link for an extra 1GB for the referee and the referrer if you don't mind!

    Good luck!
  13. wgnoyes macrumors 6502

    Jul 20, 2011
    "A computer service store"? Make an appointment for and take it to the Genius Bar at a real live Apple Store. They'll know what to do with it.
  14. agentphish macrumors 65816


    Sep 7, 2004
    Yes, please please please do yourself a favor and take it to a real apple store.

    They'll help you out. Be aware that Apple as a company does not do data recovery at all. They might make their best effort to transfer your data or even be able to stick your old SSD into a New MBA and see if the drive is still working and able to boot the replacement unit.

    I'd say that's your best option. Otherwise ask for the original SSD back and hit up
  15. riveting thread starter macrumors 6502

    Mar 11, 2009
    There is no genius bar or real apple store in the place I live, unless I want to drive a long way for it. It is a campus computer IT service center, so not too bad (Apple authorize them to do service, so I assume that should be fine). Anyway, I got my computer back already, they did a system restore (not sure how they do it, maybe just lion recovery), and everything is back to normal now.

    So thank everyone. But I do understand they probably won't do a good job in backing up data, luckly, the SSD is not in fault and they didn't screw up my data at all, next time, I will try to back up myself as much as I can before send it in.


    Thanks for the great information.

    What is the difference between a Time Capsule and a regular external HD. if it works the same way that I had to plug in all the time for the back up, then there is no point for me to spend more money since I already have external HD dedicated for the MBA backup.

  16. KPOM macrumors G5

    Oct 23, 2010

    The main difference is that the Time Capsule operates wirelessly, so it backs up in the background whenever you are on the Wi-Fi network. It is an Airport Extreme router with an internal 1TB or 2TB hard drive. Unfortunately, one drawback is that the Time Capsule doesn't encrypt backups, so be aware of that and set a unique password for it.
  17. riveting thread starter macrumors 6502

    Mar 11, 2009
    Thanks, will try to see if I can set up a drive shared on the WLAN first, the MBA is already stretching out budget, don't want to go with all apple accessories route.
  18. heyloo macrumors 6502

    Nov 2, 2006
    TimeCapsule just adds to the convenience of not having to set an extra wireless backup yourself, simply put, and nothing else really, from what I could tell.

    If you already have a shared hard drive via WiFi and could set one up yourself, you should choose that route :) Just remember to be consistent and maintain your backups hehe. A ton of my backups have years of 'lapses' between them and it's tricky when you want to consolidate all the data. They haven't been used really so they could be formatted, no problem, but it's like...stuff you've stuffed in your attic for years and you just don't want to throw them out. :D

    Regardless, check out cloud solutions (there are free to cheap solutions by reliable companies out there) for your 'important files' that you'd like to keep 'extra backups'. While putting stuff in Cloud is kinda nerve-wrecking, quite a few companies have a no-knowledge policy where the files are encrypted from your computer prior to flying out into the cloud. That way if 'all fails' (knock on wood), you'd still have your most valuable things up in Cloud (say...perhaps photo albums and such?). :)
  19. Consultant macrumors G5


    Jun 27, 2007
    1. Always backup (You can then restore from time machine)
    2. Go to Apple

    Note: Even if the OS is destroyed, the USER with user data is usually transferrable to your new OS install.

    Longer way:
    - Install OS X on external drive partition
    - Boot using external drive and transfer USER from internal
    - Test user running on external
    - Erase internal drive
    - Clone external drive to internal (you might need to boot from thumbdrive)

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