I was gifted a MacBook Pro but the giver rescinded the gift and has locked the laptop; I agreed to return it providing I was assured the laptop would be unlocked long enough for me to download my research, manuscript and a screenplay.

So far the person has refused to unlock it and has threatened to wipe 6 months of my work from the laptop. I have the device. Can the person do that remotely?

  • We can't comment on legal issues as we have no expertise in that area. If the laptop is on and connects to WiFi he can wipe it. If you can remove the HD and connect it externally to another Mac you can get your stuff off. Apr 5, 2016 at 20:36
  • even if the device is not connected to the internet? do they use wifi? obviously it's not connected to power either but the battery may still be active. ethical question ... is this kosher? legal question . . .is it a misdemeanor? Apr 5, 2016 at 20:37
  • steve, thanks very much. I've been studying that option but I'm a novice at this and will probably have to pay someone to walk me thru it. Apr 5, 2016 at 20:38
  • I'm assuming that during the process the person might be able to interrupt or wipe the files before I'm done? Apr 5, 2016 at 20:40
  • I would suggest that you contact an attorney regarding the legality of what they are doing (plus any special laws surrounding "gifts" and takebacks). Until then, it probably would be best to keep the laptop off so the data on it cannot be tampered with by the gifter.
    – smoooosher
    Apr 5, 2016 at 20:46

3 Answers 3


The person does have the ability to remotely erase it via Find My Mac.


If you or somebody else can remove the HD from the laptop and mount it (not boot from it) in an external case or a HD Dock, the data might be accessible unless the disk has been encrypted.

  • How easy/hard it is to remove the drive depends on which generation of MacBook Pro it is. For most of the recent models, I'd recommend having a professional do the disassembly and HD removal. To get a better idea what's involved, check the guides at iFixit. Apr 5, 2016 at 22:55
  • tks for this advice. I'll go with a pro. Apr 5, 2016 at 23:44

If you have another Macintosh handy, it is possible to use target disk mode. Reboot the MacBook Pro with the 'T' key held down; this will make the computer act as an external hard disk drive, which you can plug into another Mac with a Firewire or Thunderbolt cable. Disassembly is unnecessary.

Copy off any files you require, to a USB key, or burn to a CD or DVD, then erase them (or secure-erase) as may be appropriate. I don't know how this will interact with 'locking' software.

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