ONLY Disk Utility Works on 2011 Macbook Pro

Discussion in 'macOS' started by newbie81, Feb 15, 2016.

  1. newbie81 macrumors newbie

    Sep 13, 2010
    Hello all,

    **Lots of detail below. At the end is a TL;DR if you'd like to skip to that. TIA.**

    A week ago I noticed my 2011 MBP (Mountain Lion) was acting sluggish, slow to respond with static on one of the windows (when I opened it up and logged in, the first program on the screen would freeze and when I swiped to another window and back again, there would be "smudge lines" from the window swiping to the side. Then the screen would refresh and appear as normal). I hope that's clear. Don't know how else to describe it.

    I closed open programs and went to the apple icon to shut it down and give the computer a rest (it usually sleeps with the lid down but has not been shut down in a couple weeks). A popup box in several languages announced that something had happened and I needed to restart the computer. I opted to just close it down instead. The next evening started it in Recovery Mode and ran Disk Utility. Checked and repaired permissions, verified the disk. DU said the disk needed to be repaired. While repairing the disk a popup said "Disk Utility can't repair this disk. Back up as many of your files as possible, reformat the disk, and restore your backed-up files."

    Could not enter Safe Mode to either perform a last TM backup or a manual drag-and-drop onto a thumb drive. COULD enter Single-User Mode, but it didn't appear to fully finish its check, as its cursor never blinked and never received a "#" prompt. Couldn't type anything. Then set aside for a week to deal with other matters.

    Today, did everything again. Disk Utility and Verify/Repair Disk, popup about saving, reformatting and restoring. Could not enter Safe Mode multiple times, tried entering Safe Mode + Verbose and instead received Single-User Mode (hit the wrong letter??). Single-User Mode again was unresponsive and didn't appear to fully complete its check. Normal no-keys-pressed startup also yields nothing. Push the power button, get the grey apple screen and spinning ball o-nothin'. I've run out of things to do (as nothing besides Disk Utility works!). Currently planning on driving to the next town over tomorrow to have their authorized service providers look at it. Meanwhile, I've posted here. Any idea what's wrong and what can be done? I'd love to be able to complete one more TM backup, at least.


    Turn computer on, get grey screen with apple and spinning thing. Cannot access Safe Mode, Single-User Mode does not finish its check. Disk Utility works but says to backup files, reformat and restore. Cannot get to a point where I can transfer files/TM backup, but would love to do so. Help!

    Thanks in advance :)
  2. BLUEDOG314 macrumors 6502


    Dec 12, 2015
    If you have access to another mac, target disk mode may be the easiest option. That or take out the drive and use a SATA to USB adapter.

    However, if you can use Recovery mode you can actually back up to a USB drive. If you take an external hard drive formatted to HFS+ you can use terminal in recovery to copy files from internal drive to the USB drive. This of course assumes that the data isn't completely corrupt and the internal drive can be mounted and written to.

    This generally goes as follows:

    Open terminal in utilities in recovery partition. Type (without quotes of course) "/sbin/mount -uw /" to make your filesystem read and write.

    Now navigate to dev by doing "cd /dev" and then do "ls | grep disk" to display what is connected. Remember what you see here. Now connect the USB drive and give it a few seconds to be recognized by your system. Now again do "ls | grep disk" and you should notice a new disk that wasn't there before. Say disk3 is new signifying the USB drive, what you are really concerned with is disk3s1, which is the HFS+ partition on the drive. Remember this again for later.

    Now you need to make a mount point for the USB drive. You probably want to do this in volumes, so "mkdir /Volumes/externaldrive". This step is why the partition has to be made read/write.

    Now mount disk3s1 (or whatever it was in your case) to the externaldrive directory you just made. "/sbin/mount_hfs /dev/disk3s1 /Volumes/externaldrive"

    Now to actually retrieve some info. For example say you want to copy your home folder to the usb drive. I prefer doing verbose as you can see whats going on. "rsync -av /Users/youruser/* /Volumes/externaldrive"

    Now I know you said you wanted a time machine backup, but at this point it probably isn't really an option. This will at least get your info and stuff.

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