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My MacBook Pro 13' (mid 2009) won't boot. It doesn't get past the initial grey boot up-screen - and nothing I've tried seems to help that. The only way to get the computer started up is via the installation disc. And through that I've been able to verify that the Hard drive is not corrupt and still functional. But unfortunately I only have access to terminal there - and me being a terminal newbie -I have not been able to send the most critical of my files to another computer.

This would have been desirable as I plan to reinstall the OS to (hopefully) solve the problem.

So my question is: will I be able to reinstall my computer without losing my files. And if not, what kind of files will I be losing?

Also, I've phrased my question to be about reinstalling the OS without losing important files - but of any of you have any other ideas or tips for solving the ubderlying problem (without reinstalling the OS or by backing up important files) I welcome that too!

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I wouldn't attempt reinstallation without a valid backup, especially if you don't know the source of your problem in the first place. As you still can boot via the Install DVD, can't you use Disk Utility then to create a backup first? – patrix Dec 17 '12 at 15:11
I had not thought of that. But would that really preseve everything? The last thing I want is a 250 GB large file I can't extract any useful data from later on. – gburning Dec 17 '12 at 15:15
This won't be a problem. Alternatively you can just copy the content of /Applications and /Users to an external drive (which should cover about 98% of your stuff) and hope for the best when reinstalling. – patrix Dec 17 '12 at 15:27
Hmm, that sounds like a good idea. Hopefully it won't overwrite too much in the reinstallation process though. Thanks! – gburning Dec 17 '12 at 15:36
up vote 0 down vote accepted

I would strongly recommend against starting any recovery/reinstallation attempt without having a valid (and verified) backup available on another disk. As you are still able to boot the system with the Install DVD you can

  • use Disk Utility on the Install DVD to create a full backup copy of your internal disk to an external one
  • copy /Applications and /Users to an external drive (which should cover "all" critical data)

Then just proceed with an reinstallation attempt.

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This seems to me like the most sensible answer. I've tried everything I can think of as far as restoring the computer without reinstalling it goes. So right now I will focus on copying these, most critical, files to an external harddrive and then reinstalling the OS. Hopefully I won't need to make a clean install though. – gburning Dec 17 '12 at 22:30

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