Recover Data from a Mac without Target Disk Mode

Adam Jahnke
Adam Jahnke

I was recently trying to pull data off of an iMac for a friend, but didn't have any Macs around with FireWire ports to get at the iMac HD in target disk mode1. This method does require an external hard drive.

Start up your Mac in single-user mode2, then run the following commands3:

# Check the filesystem
/sbin/fsck -y

# Mount the root volume
mount -uw /

# Create mount destination
mkdir /Volumes/backup

# Get a list of available drives
df -h

# Plug in USB backup drive, look for new drive name
df -h

# Mount the drive with the name you got from last step. Probably looks
# something like /dev/rdisk2s2. Note the rdisk / disk name difference.
mount -t hfs /dev/disk2s2 /Volumes/backup

# rsync data to your backup
rsync -ahz /Users/you/ /Volumes/backup/

1Share files between two computers with target disk mode:

2How to start up your Mac in single-user or verbose mode:

3Mount USB Memory Sticks in single user mode: