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I think this is a pretty straight forward question - My hard drive is failing (spinning/rotating platter hard drive).

Which of the following options is the safest way to back up the hard drive when some files are more important to recover than others?

  1. Turn on the computer, load the failing startup disk, and back it up with Time Machine

  2. Turn on the computer, load a recovery partition from an external drive, and use disk utility to "restore" the whole drive to another storage device

  3. Use target disk mode and clone important files to another another mac

Is there a safer or better option? What's the right procedure?

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When you say "some files are more important than others" you're thinking about your user data i guess.

For me the best way would be :

  1. install a compatible Mac os x system on an external drive. Then boot from this drive and instal Carbon Copy Cloner (free one month in test version)
  2. inside CCC select your important data and clone them in a directory of your external drive.

So your internal disk will not be too busy and this will allow you to save what you want.

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  • Could you explain why you would recommend Carbon Copy Cloner over simply dragging and dropping the important files on the external drive? Oct 5 '21 at 13:08
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    I like CCC, but if you prefer the Finder you can do that, but you may have authority problems. You can test it.
    – user415185
    Oct 5 '21 at 13:33
  • If CCC lets you make a list of items that you want to copy over, I can see why that's a nice feature. You don't have to keep holding down Command ⌘ while selecting all relevant files/folders/etc. Oct 5 '21 at 23:24

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