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Video: Access the hard drive of a Mac that won't boot with Target Disk Mode

To recover files off a Mac that won't boot, you could remove the problem Mac's hard drive and attach it to another machine. But, there's an easier way. Bill Detwiler shows you how Target Disk Mode let's you access the hard drive of a Mac that won't boot.

If you're a PC pro who needs to recover files off a Mac that won't boot, you might think to try the old PC trick of removing the problem Mac's hard drive and attaching it to another machine. But, there's an easier way. In this IT Dojo video, I show you how to use Target Disk Mode to access the hard drive of a Mac that won't boot.

What about security?

After watching the video, you may wonder if Target Disk Mode (TDM) grants unfettered access to the data on the target drive, which is an obvious security risk. The answer is "it depends." Accessing a drive through TDM bypasses most security for local accounts and even network accounts. I could find only two exceptions. First, if you configure an Open Firmware Password, the machine will not enter TDM. Second, if you encrypt your home folder using FileVault, you won't be able to access the data without the FileVault password. You'll also have to find the hidden FileVault image using the "Go to Folder" menu option or terminal.

For information on using TDM, setting up an Open Firmware Password, and information aboutFileVault, check out the following articles:

For those of you who prefer text to video, you can go to the video player page for this IT Dojo episode and click "See Full Transcript," or you can also read William Jones' original article, "Boot a sick Mac into Target Disk Mode for troubleshooting," on which this video is based.

You can also sign up to receive the latest IT Dojo lessons through one or more of the following methods:

About

Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop supp...

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