My MacBook Pro (2008) will not boot, so I want to copy some files before reinstalling Lion.

How do I do this from the Recovery disc?

  • Do you have access to another Mac? (or a PC, but that would be trickier). Jul 14, 2012 at 18:47
  • I have an iMac as well.
    – Paul
    Jul 14, 2012 at 20:20

3 Answers 3


Boot up in Recovery Mode (Command + R) add attach an external drive via USB. Then open the Terminal to copy files using the command line. All disks are available under /Volumes.

  • You just saved my bacon.
    – Doug Null
    Jul 26, 2016 at 15:15
  • Excuse my ignorance, but how do you boot up in Recocver Mode if the Mac will not boot?
    – Jonas
    Jul 7 at 11:36

You might try using Target Disk Mode - hold down T at startup and then connect the MacBook Pro to another Mac (or a PC that can read Mac drives) via FireWire or Thunderbolt.

Or try holding down the Shift key to boot into Safe Boot mode.

If neither of those work, try booting from your MacBook Pro's system restore DVD, use Disk Utility and try repairing the disk, or try a 3rd party utility such as the venerable DiskWarrior.

  • I don't have a FireWire or Thunderbolt cable, otherwise that'd be the perfect answer. Safe boot mode didn't work unfortunately. I'm going to try Linux Mint first, and if that doesn't work, I'll try DiskWarrior. Thanks.
    – Paul
    Jul 14, 2012 at 20:38
  • I've had no luck with bootable Linux so have ordered a Firewire cable from Amazon.
    – Paul
    Jul 15, 2012 at 10:39

I recommend using a Linux Live disk, specifically...

Linux Mint

... as is comes with nautilus gksu preinstalled. (This allows you to easily open folders as admin.)

You simply boot from the Linux Live disk, and use it to access your files on the Macintosh HD as administrator which allows you to copy them to an attached external hard drive.

Here's a short video tutorial on youtube. Note, that this tutorial uses an older version of Linux Mint.

  • I couldn't get the MBP to recognise the disc. I only had some DVDs kicking around so will try a CDR in the hope that works. I also tried a bootable Ubuntu USB but that wasn't recognised either.
    – Paul
    Jul 15, 2012 at 9:44
  • @Paul Bootable Linux USB on Macs are almost always a trouble to get to work. So, try CDs/DVDs first. When you see two boot options (Windows and Efi), I recommend to choose Windows, as Linux EFI boot still has many driver problems.
    – gentmatt
    Jul 15, 2012 at 9:47
  • That's the thing - I'm not even seeing the Linux option to be able to boot into it. I only see the Mac HD, and the Recovery HD. Any ideas?
    – Paul
    Jul 15, 2012 at 10:06
  • @Paul Try a PRAM reset. If you still don't see the Linux disk then, somethings really wrong. You should add that to your question.
    – gentmatt
    Jul 15, 2012 at 10:08
  • BTW: You press the Alt key upon boot, right? Just making sure....
    – gentmatt
    Jul 15, 2012 at 10:10

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