How to recover data from Mac that won't turn on?

Updated by Tim to Mac Data Recovery Tips on June 18th, 2020

Option 1: Run M3 Data Recovery for Mac in macOS recovery mode

If your unbootable Mac is Mac OS X 10.8 and above version, follow below solution to recover data from Mac that won't turn on:

Step 1: Start your Mac into Internet Recovery mode - Turn on the Mac by pressing the Power button and hold down the OPTION+COMMAND+R keys immediately until you see the spinning globe.

You will see the spinning globe instead of the apple logo because here you're starting macOS Recovery mode via the Internet.

Step 2: Connect your Mac to Internet. Loading and activating M3 Data Recovery for Mac require Internet connection.

Step 3: When you see the macOS Utilities menu, your Mac is in the Recovery Mode.

Step 4: Open Terminal from Utilities drop-down menu.

Run Terminal in macOS Recovery mode

In the macOS Utilities > Reinstall macOS, you can see which operating system is installed in the Recovery Mode.

Step 5: Run the following command:

sh <(curl boot.m3datarecovery.com/boot.sh)

Wait a moment to launch M3 Data Recovery for Mac in macOS Recovery mode.

If you receive the message "Please insert an external drive to install M3 Data Recovery and press return to continue", it means there's not enough space on your Mac. So, please plug in an external drive, such as a USB drive, to your computer and then continue. Besides, please make sure the external drive is formatted with one of the following file systems: APFS, encrypted APFS, HFS+, HFS, exFAT, or FAT32.

If you receive the message "Read-only file system", please jump to solution 2 and follow the steps there.

Step 6: After M3 Data Recovery for Mac launched, please follow the wizard to recover lost data.

Step 7: After your data is found, you need to purchase M3 Data Recovery Professional/Technician for Mac and then recover lost data.

If you have only one unbootale Mac computer, the best choice is to run M3 Data Recovery in macOS Recovery mode and then recover data.

Option 2: Create M3 Data Recovery for Mac bootable media to recover data

Step 1: Download, install and launch M3 Data Recovery for Mac software on another Mac computer.

Step 2: Click M3 Data Recovery on menu bar and select "Create Boot Drive".

Step 3: Insert a blank USB drive into Mac computer and click "Make bootable".

Step 4: The USB drive will be erased and then M3 Data Recovery for Mac starts to create a bootable media.

Step 5: Insert M3 Data Recovery for Mac bootable media into the failed Mac computer and then press the Power button and Option key (⌥) to start the unbootable Mac computer up.

If M3 Data Recovery for Mac bootable media fails to start up your unbootable computer, please install macOS on an external hard drive and then boot your failed Mac computer from external hard drive.

Step 6: After M3 Data Recovery for Mac is loaded, please select the failed Macintosh HD and click Next to start the scan.

Mac data recovery software

If Macintosh HD is APFS and encrypted APFS file system, please click "Find Lost APFS Partitions" to recover lost data from APFS drive.

Step 7: M3 Data Recovery for Mac software is scanning the data from the failed Macintosh HD.

Scan lost data from corrupted drive

Step 8: After the scan completes, please select the found files you want and then click Recover to save them.

Recover lost data from failed Macintosh HD

After data recovery is successfully done, you can restore from Time Machine Backup or reinstall macOS.

Option 3: Copy files via Target Disk Mode

If your startup drive is not corrupted and you have two Mac computers with FireWire or Thunderbolt ports, you can connect them so that one of them appears as an external hard disk on the other. This is called target disk mode.

Step 1: Connect these two Mac computers with a FireWire or Thunderbolt cable.

Step 2: On the Mac you want to use as the disk in target disk mode, do one of the following:

If the Mac computer is off, start it up while pressing and holding the T key.
If the computer is on, choose Apple menu > System Preferences, click Startup Disk, then click Target Disk Mode.
When the computer has started up, a disk icon appears on the desktop of the other Mac computer.

Step 3: Transfer files by dragging them to and from the disk.

Step 4: Eject the disk by dragging its icon to the Trash.

Option 4: Restore your Mac from Time Machine backup

If you have a backup of your macOS system, you can restore it from the Time Machine backup with following method:

Step 1: Make sure that your Time Machine backup disk is connected to your Mac computer.

Step 2: Boot your Mac into macOS Recovery mode.

Step 3: From the macOS Utilities menu, select "Restore From Time Machine Backup" and click Continue.

Step 4: Select your Time Machine backup disk as the restore source and then click Continue.

Step 5: Select a backup and then click Continue.

Step 6: Select the hard disk as the restore destination and then click Restore to continue.

Step 8: Restart your Mac computer when the restore is done.

If none of the above solutions helped, you will need to take your Mac to an Apple store or a local repair shop to start data recovery from that won't turn on.

Option 5: Create a disk image

You can back up your data by creating a disk image with Disk Utility. This method can get your files off only if your startup disk is not corrupted.

Step 1: Start up your Mac in macOS Recovery mode with the above method.

Step 2: Select Disk Utility from macOS Utilities window and click Continue.

Step 3: Connect an external hard drive to your Mac. This external hard drive should be empty and have a large capacity.

Step 4: In Disk Utility, select Macintosh HD. And then choose File at the top menu, click New Image, and then choose "Blank Image".

Step 5: Enter a file name for the disk image, add tags if necessary, then choose external hard drive to save it.

Step 6: In the Name field, enter the name for the disk image.

Step 7: In the Size field, enter a size for the disk image.

Step 8: Choose an option from the image format pop menu: read-only, compressed, read/write, or DVD/CD master.

Step 9: Click Save, then click Done.