My hard drive died in my macbook and it no longer will start up. It will not mount in an external enclosure but disk utility is still reading that the hard drive is there, and I tried to repair disk and I am getting this error: (Disk Utility can’t repair this disk. Back up as many of your files as possible, reformat the disk, and restore your backed-up files.) So my question is how do I backup my files if the hard drive won't mount? The only way that I have been able to see the hard drive is through disk utility. I just want to be clear that I am using mac os x snow leapard.

4 Answers 4


I would try to remove the hard disk and mount it in another PC.

Than you can then try to use software for data recovery from a hard disk with the Journal File System.

Some examples:

  • I am running mac osx snow leopard.
    – Stephen
    Commented Oct 18, 2012 at 16:56
  • @Stephen ok, however I suppose you have to move you hard disk in another computer, where it is a secondary hard disk and not the primary one as it is in your MacBook. In this way that computer will be able to boat.
    – Maverik
    Commented Oct 18, 2012 at 17:01
  • Yes I have done that. It is connected to a macbook pro.
    – Stephen
    Commented Oct 18, 2012 at 17:12
  • 1
    @Stephen I added an OS X App to the list
    – Maverik
    Commented Oct 18, 2012 at 18:34

You could try following this hint from Macworld. It makes use of the Terminal (0$) to execute the UNIX command dd to copy everything bit-by-bit from your harddrive to another location.

1. Determine UNIX id. of dead drive

If you decide to use this method you would first have to determine what the UNIX identifier of the attached disk is. Open up Terminal (Applications --> Utilities) and type the following:

diskutil list

This will give you a list of all connected drives and their partitions and it should look like shown here.

Probably your boot drive is under /dev/disk0 and the drive in the external enclosure is under /dev/disk1. This could be different, look this up by finding the name of the dead partition in the list. Let's assume for the rest of this answer that the dead drive is under /dev/disk1

Now if you can not find the name of the dead drive in that list, diskutil can not find your drive and the Macworld hint will not work for you. If you see it in the list, move on to the next step.

2. Define destination

This method copies the whole disk byte-by-byte. If it encounters an error it will skip it and write zeros to the destination (read the hint for full details). So, the destination should have enough hard drive space to accomodate the whole hard drive you're recovering. So if you've got a 320GB hard drive, you'll need 320GB of destination space. If you have 320GB to spare on your bootdrive proceed to step 3. Otherwise get another external drive with at least 320GB of space and then proceed to step 3.

3. Copy

The command given in the hint is:

dd bs=512 if=/dev/rXX# of=/some_dir/foo.dmg conv=noerror,sync

You should replace /dev/rXX# with /dev/rdisk1 (according to our earlier assumption) and /some_dir/foo.dmg differs depending on your destination. If you choose your bootdrive you could change that line to: /Users/**yourusernamehere**/Desktop/recover.dmg

If you choose an external disk you should write /Volumes/**Volumenamehere** instead of /some_dir/foo.dmg

To summarise, your Terminal command would look as follows if you choose your boot drive as destination:

dd bs=512 if=/dev/rdisk1 of=/Users/yourusernamehere/Desktop/recover.dmg conv=noerror,sync

Or if you choose an external disk:

dd bs=512 if=/dev/rdisk1 of=/Volumes/Volumenamehere conv=noerror,sync

Good luck

  • 1
    Actually using dd_rescue instead of dd is much better if the HD has bad sectors. Commented Feb 14, 2014 at 0:12
  • Anyone care to comment on the down vote? Commented Aug 8, 2014 at 23:50
  • 1
    I am not a down voter but your first link (the "this hint" link) drives on a dead page. Commented Jan 5, 2015 at 19:21
  • 1
    @YannisDran Thanks for the heads up, I've replaced the link. Commented Jan 5, 2015 at 19:37
  • 1
    Also see GNU's ddrescue tool: gnu.org/software/ddrescue/ddrescue.html
    – alxndr
    Commented Apr 9, 2016 at 18:39

I would try to recover from possible bad sectors using the non destructive $89 Spinrite software utility from GRC.

That requires opening the MacBook, unplug the harddrive, move the drive to a PC and attach it to a SATA connector on the PC motherboard.

Then start the PC using a Spinrite created bootable CD-ROM/floppy/USB stick.

When Spinrite its default level 4 (data recovery) fails, start at level 1, then run the next round on level 2, 3 and finally run spinrite at level 4.


Hard Disk Recovery or Hard Drive Recovery must be done by professional only.There are a variety of issues that can arise that can cause or lead to the malfunction of your hard drive. These problems are such that they can manifest themselves over a period of time or can happen suddenly, rendering your hard drive completely inaccessible.

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