I will be closed and only accepting mail-in screen repairs and data recovery projects starting April 8th. If you would like to ship your hard drive in for data recovery or your Mac in for screen repair, please start the process on my mail-in repair site: MacScreenRepair.com

How To Get Your Data Off A Broken Mac

Many people don’t realize that just because your computer doesn’t turn on, doesn’t mean that your data is lost. Often, it’s possible to recover important files, music, and photos from an old computer. Frequently this type of recovery doesn’t even require special data recovery tools or knowledge.

Here are some examples of issues that don’t necessarily require data recovery to get your data off the computer, all of which we have ran into in the past:

  • It has liquid damage – While a liquid-damaged hard drive may require data recovery, oftentimes the drive is not damaged by the liquid that ended the life of the computer itself. Pulling the drive out and checking it for liquid damage before testing is important in these cases. You do not want to provide power to a drive that is damaged.
  • Broken or black screen – When your screen cracks on your computer it may feel like the data is not accessible, but you can very likely get the data off a computer with this issue! One of the easiest ways is to purchase the needed adapter to connect your computer to your TV. Once the computer is connected you can use the TV like the monitor and back up your computer just as you normally would.
  • Keyboard or mouse doesn’t work – Depending on the issue with the keyboard or mouse, sometimes even plugging in a new external USB keyboard or mouse will still not allow the computer to work fully. In times like this, the easiest way forward is to remove the drive for recovery.
  • Nothing happens when you press the power button – Power issues on your computer normally don’t affect the separate hard drive inside your computer. By removing the hard drive and connecting it directly to another computer, you can usually get all your data backed up.
  • Graphics chip malfunctions – There are a couple of ways to get data off a computer that has graphics issues. The easiest is to just remove the hard drive and connect it to a different computer. Another option is to use a thunderbolt or firewire cable (depending on the year of the computer) and start the computer in target disk mode (holding down the T key at startup). This will allow you to access the contents of the hard drive as if it was an external hard drive.
  • The battery is dead or won’t charge – This type of power issue usually doesn’t harm the hard drive at all. By removing the drive and plugging it directly into another computer, you can usually get all your important data backed up.
  • Your friend accidentally sat on it and broke it in half – Yes, this has happened. Another common issue is having the computer run over. Often times the hard drive isn’t actually damaged during these horrible scenarios. If the drive is not bent or dented at all, chances are it will still work. In this case, though it is a good idea to have a professional data recovery tech look at the drive to verify there are no bends present.
  • The computer is so slow you haven’t used it in years – Once the computer has sat around for a few years, it can become difficult to find the needed power adapter or password to log in. But this doesn’t mean you need data recovery. You would likely just need to pull the drive outside of the computer and connect it directly to another machine in order to get the data back.
  • You forgot your login password – So this issue depends on the type of password. If you had an encryption password set, you have to remember it to get your data back (at least currently, someday there may be tools to easily break encryption). But if the password you can’t remember is just a login password, that is easy to bypass when you connect your hard drive to another computer!
  • You don’t have the right cables to plug your external drive in anymore – Some older drives have odd connections like SCSI or similar. The adapters needed to connect some drives can be very pricey, so it might make more sense to go with a professional data recovery shop to get the data back.
  • Error messages or popups appear when you try to turn it on – While these issues could be the hard drive, sometimes it is not.

If you’ve got an old Mac that’s just sitting around collecting dust, you don’t have to pay for expensive repairs to fix the computer to get your data back. The only part of the computer that stores your information is the hard drive. If the hard drive is okay you still have a few options for data retrieval.

There are a couple of ways to get files, documents, and photos off a broken Mac. We will cover two; the easy way and the hard way.

First, the hard way:

You need to carefully remove the hard drive from your iMac or MacBook. This process is different for each model, and will likely require a few different electronics screwdrivers. Make sure the computer is unplugged, turned off, and the battery is disconnected before you attempt this! The hard drive may have a bracket attached to it. You want to remove the bracket. Do not unscrew or attempt to open the hard drive itself–this will permanently damage it beyond recovery.

The best way to go about this type of hard drive removal process is to pull up youtube and search your computer model with the phrase “hard drive removal”. Then watch a few videos and see if you feel comfortable attempting to complete the project on your own. You may need some special screwdrivers and tools.

Once the hard drive has been removed from the computer, you will need to connect it to another Mac to pull the data off the drive. For this, you can use what is called a hard drive sled. The version of the sled you need will depend on the exact model computer you have. Once again, probably it is best to google “hard drive sled for (insert model of your computer here)”. That will bring up a few options for you to purchase.

Insert the hard drive into an enclosure or sled and plug the USB cord into a working Mac computer.
If the hard drive is functioning, you should be able to see it in Finder. If the hard drive isn’t showing up, you will have to perform data recovery procedures.

Drag the desired files off the old hard drive and onto your desktop, or use data cloning software to make an exact copy of the drive. I like SuperDuper! and Carbon Copy Cloner if you are trying to make a clone of all information.

And now the easy way:

Bring or send in your old or broken Mac to EliteMacTechs, and let us retrieve the data for you! We can transfer your data to an external hard drive or to another computer, usually within 1 day.