This is kind of an unusual question: a (non-technical) friend of mine (quite literally) on the other side of the world finds herself in the following situation:

A person died unexpectedly, their Mac is still running and displaying the Lock Screen, and nobody has the password nor any sort of technical expertise. They would like to get access to at least the data on the disk, maybe also the account. They are currently afraid to shut down the computer because it displays a warning about unsaved files.

Is there any chance they can get into the account from the Lock Screen? I guess not.

Failing that, what would be the easiest way to gain access to the data (after a forced reboot)? Single User Mode?

  • 4
    The computer should be turned over the executor of the person's estate at which point the executor would determine the need to access the deceased data.
    – fd0
    Commented May 13, 2016 at 16:53

3 Answers 3


If your friend have something like family documents which can prove the relationship between him and his passed one, then try to contact Apple for solution. They do solve sort of situations like this :)


This is the same as any other time you need to reset an admin account or password.

The Apple article ends with contact support. You’ll need that if the data is encrypted and you need to provide a will or legal document proving you are authorized to get a firmware or FileVault assistance. In some cases, Apple may not be able to unlock and you’ll need the password or recovery key and hope the owner kept paper records you can find and access.


If they got an other MBP and a FireWire cable, they can boot the locked MBP on target mode (by pressing t while booting) and save all the data (the target MBP will appear as a folder on the other one. If they are afraid of loosing data, they can run a recovery data software like wondershare data recovery (that should recover everything even deleted file).

  • 1
    What if the system is encrypted with FileVault? If it is and they reboot their SOL! You should also mention Thunderbolt as the newer BMP's don't have FireWire. Have a look at: Share files between two computers with target disk mode Commented May 13, 2016 at 17:16
  • This would assume that the filesystem isn't encrypted and there is no firmware password, both of which are reasonable assumptions to make, given the level of technical expertise. (We're literally talking about "grandpa's box" here.) Commented May 13, 2016 at 17:18

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