I have a Macbook that the OS has crashed (I am not 100% sure if the Hard Drive is dead, but I would like to save the files before anything else).

When I boot up, the screen just remains grey and there is a spinner that stays on forever.

I thought that if I got a thunderbolt cable and connected that Macbook to my other Macbook Pro, I could boot the crashed drive Macbook into Target mode and then get access to the files.

That doesn't seem to be working and now I am re-reading the instructions it seems that the target computer needs to be bootable (i.e. into OS X, which mine is not). I'm not familiar with how to take this unibody MacBook Pro apart.

So how do I get access to those files, before I reinstall the OS?

  • Do both laptops support thunderbolt? Sounds like the aluminum MacBook is display port only.
    – tron_jones
    Commented Dec 17, 2014 at 23:51
  • What model MacBook Pro do you have? Target mode turns your Mac into a glorified hard drive, so if it's not mounting then you have hardware problems or the drive is toast and needs professional recovery. Also, it's simple to pull out HDD from MacBook Pro so I'm not sure why you added that. Perhaps you have an SSD that's not portable inside?
    – bmike
    Commented Dec 18, 2014 at 0:14
  • I thought thunderbolt was backwards compatible with the display port...or am I mistaken? Commented Dec 18, 2014 at 1:03
  • @bmike Not sure the exact model, but I bought it in 2008/09 I believe - it is a full body unibody aluminium MBP. Do you have a link with instructions on how to remove the HDD? Commented Dec 18, 2014 at 1:04
  • support.apple.com/en-us/HT5219 List of compatible models for thunderbolt
    – tron_jones
    Commented Dec 18, 2014 at 1:27

1 Answer 1


One option would be to used your other Macbook Pro to create a Linux boot CD or USB drive, then boot your Macbook from that. By default Ubuntu has read access to HFS+ formatted drives so that should allow you to read your files. Assuming the drive responds.

Some resources:


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