How to Boot Mac in Target Disk Mode to Transfer Files?

Target disk mode, also known as TDM is a unique boot feature on a Mac computer. This Target mode allows you to transfer data from Mac to Mac with the help of FireWire or Thunderbolt cable at a much faster speed compared to the other data transferring techniques. Target disk mode makes target Mac (Mac computer with source data) similar to an external hard drive. As a result of which, target Mac can be formatted, logically partitioned and data can also be transferred with ease.

When to use Target disk mode?

Before we move on to learn how to boot Mac in target disk mode to transfer data let us first understand in what cases Target disk mode Mac can come in handy.

  1. Booting a Mac system in a target disk mode allows the transfer of data at very high speed from Target Mac i.e., iMac or MacBook or Mac mini to the Host device i.e., any other working Mac system.
  2. Target disk mode Mac helps to recover data from unbootable and corrupted Mac devices.
  3. You can also use TDM to recover data from Mac hard drives.
  4. Copying data from Target Mac to the host computer is faster than the Migration Assistant tool which is used to transfer data from old Mac to a new Mac device.
  5. Target disk mode can be used to create a backup file before formatting, reformatting or upgrading and downgrading the Mac system.
  6. Target disk mode is also helpful in transferring data between two computers in cases where you have to depend on any external hard drive for the data transferring process.
  7. Basically, booting Mac in target disk mode will make it more suitable for transferring large size videos, photos, text documents, etc. to another Mac.
  8. TDM is also helpful in transferring data from Mac in cases where your Mac display is not properly visible or working.

What do you need to Transfer data in Target disk mode?

  • To start with, you need to have two Mac computers to boot in target disk mode for transferring data. One from where you want to transfer data called Target Mac and the other Mac computer to save the transferred data from Target Mac known as Host Mac.
  • Transferring Mac data in target disk mode also requires a connecting cable such as FireWire or Thunderbolt with necessary adapters such as FireWire to Thunderbolt, etc.
  • If you are booting a MacBook in Target disk mode, make sure it has sufficient battery charging to hold until you transfer data completely. To avoid any interruptions during data transfer connect your MacBook to the socket through an AC adapter.

How to Boot Mac in Target Disk Mode to Transfer Data?

Follow the below step wise guidelines to transfer files from Mac using Target disk mode:

Step 1: Connect macOS systems

The first step is to connect your two macOS computers with the help of FireWire or Thunderbolt ports. Use necessary adapters if required to connect the old Mac system such as Thunderbolt 2 to Thunderbolt 3 or Thunderbolt to FireWire, etc.

Step 2: Boot Mac in Target Disk Mode to Transfer Files Mac

There are two different methods through which you can boot your Target Mac in Target disk mode:

1. Turn on your Target macOS > Open System Preferences > Startup Disk > Unlock the Startup Disk preferences with your password > Now, click Target Disk Mode option > Click Restart to allow your computer to boot in Target disk mode > Now wait till the Thunderbolt or FireWire logo appears on the screen.

2. Turn on Your Target macOS device and press and hold the T key on the keyboard for a few seconds to boot Mac in Target disk mode.

Note: To access your Target Mac drive wait until it appears on the host Mac as an external hard drive. And also remember to decrypt your Target drive if it is protected with FileVault.

How to boot a Mac in Target disk mode on the Host computer?

Follow the below-mentioned steps after launching your target Mac in Target Disk Mode if your target Mac is unbootable or the target Mac’s screen is not properly visible.

Turn on your Host Mac Press and hold Option key wait until the Mac drive gets appear as bootable volumes on the host Mac Now, select Target Mac In a matter of seconds the host mac will run as the target Mac

Step 3: Transfer files and eject Target Mac

● Go to Finder on the host Mac
● Click Target Mac drive appeared as an external hard drive on your host computer.
Select and Copy the files you would like to transfer to and from the drive at a faster pace.
● Finally, after you complete transferring data in Target disk mode eject the Mac drive by dragging down your Target drive icon on the Trash or right-click on Target Mac drive and click eject.

After transferring data in Target disk mode, if you realize that some of your data is missing or not available on Target Mac, then this could be either due to data deletion or data loss. If you have lost all your files completely, then it can be due to file system failure or corruption.

You can utilize Remo Recover (Mac) to recover data deleted, data lost and formatted Mac data from Target Mac or any external hard drive. Remo Mac Data Recovery tool easily recovers videos, photos, audio, text files, etc. from all macOS X versions such as macOS Catalina, Mojave, Sierra, etc.

Remo Mac data recovery software is an efficient tool in recovering more than 300 file formats. This tool is handy when trying to restore files from corrupted or crashed Mac drive or external drive in just a few clicks. It supports data recovery from APFS, HFS+, HFSX, ExFAT file systems effectively. Download Remo Recover Mac Now!!!


6 steps to Recover Data from Mac in Target Disk Mode:

Download Remo Recover Mac Software on your host Mac if the Target Mac is not operational and connect it via data cable or you can directly download Remo Recover Mac on Target Mac if it is functional and perform Mac data recovery.

1. Launch Remo Recover Mac Software on your Mac computer and select Recover Volumes/Drives option on the main screen.
2. Select the Volume Recovery option and click your Mac hard drive.
select volume recovery to recover data after target disk mode
3. Now, select the desired volume in which you lost or deleted data and click Next.
(If the desired volume is not listed on the screen, then click on the below option)
4. Now, select Standard Scan option and specify the file types to be recovered from the macOS.
(Or click Skip option if you are not sure about the file type you want to recover)
5. After the scanning process ends, you can preview by double-clicking on your photos and videos for free.
6. Save the recovered data on the location of your choice.


After the completion of data transfer in the Target disk mode, turn off the Target computer and remove the connected cable. Keep in mind you can only boot Mac in Target disk mode to transfer data if the Mac drive is functional. Damaged or defective Mac drive creates a number of problems during data recovery or transfer process in Target disk mode. Thus you can always rely on Remo Recover Mac software which also works securely in recovering files from crashed or corrupted hard drives.

Note: It is suggested to avoid using Mac after you lose or delete data from it, to perform complete data recovery.

How to Boot Mac in Target Disk Mode to Transfer Files? was last modified: August 3rd, 2020 by John Harris

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