Unbootable MacBook Recovery | Recover Files from MacBook that won’t Boot

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Mac refusing to boot is a dreaded issue. It can happen due to various reasons such as Virus attack, File system getting corrupt, and Malfunctioning Operating System. This article tells you how to make the unbootable Mac bootable. As well as help you recover data from Mac system that refuses to boot.
Use Remo Mac File Recovery Software to effortlessly recover data from any unbootable Mac.

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At times, when you try to switch on your MacBook, it might not boot past the Apple logo. There could be many reasons behind unbootable Macs, such as malware infection, file system corruption, and operating system malfunction. There is also a high chance it is the case due to a damaged or corrupted MacBook hard drive. This Article talks about 3 ways to make the unbootable Mac bootable and help you recover data from an unbootable Mac using specialized Mac file recovery software.

Apple suggests users boot the MacBook or iMac in recovery mode and use disk utility to reinstall the Mac OS. However, both of these options do not guarantee results, and your data is always vulnerable. In the case of Mac recovery mode, reinstalling might result in data loss, and not every user maintains a Time Machine backup to restore backed-up data. Does this mean your data is lost for good?

An unbootable or non-booting MacBook or iMac makes all your files inaccessible, Continue reading this article to find out how can you get files off Mac that won’t Boot. Here, you will learn about two recommended methods to retrieve data from an unbootable MacBook hard drive. Also, find three methods to repair your MacBook that refuses to Boot.

Disclaimer:  Reinstalling Mac OS will not erase the data. However, if the Mac hard drive is severely damaged, you might need to erase the data and reinstall the Mac OS. This is why it is highly recommended to recover data before trying to fix the situation. This ensures a maximum data recovery rate.

Method 1: Retrieve Data From Unbootable Mac Using Target Disk Mode:

For any MacBook that refuses to boot, you will need another healthy Mac to recover data from MacBook that won’t boot past the Apple logo. If another MacBook or iMac is unavailable, you can also use a PC to retrieve data from a damaged MacBook Pro or Air hard drive.

Fortunately, you can avoid disassembling your MacBook or iMac with the help of Target Disk mode. The result of Booting your Apple computer in Target Disk mode makes the MacBook act as an external hard drive.

Hence, you can directly connect a damaged MacBook or iMac to another computer using a proper USB cable or data cable such as Thunderbolt or FireWire, etc. While your MacBook is in target disk mode.

Note: To avoid interruptions like computer shutdown, ensure your Mac devices are fully charged.

How to Recover Data using Target Disk Mode:

Step 1: Connect your unbootable Mac to a Healthy working computer with the help of connecting cables, such as Thunderbolt or FireWire.

Step 2: Turn on your unbootable Mac, and hold the key on the keyboard to boot your unbootable Mac in Target disk mode.

Step 3: To transfer data from a non-booting Mac to your bootable Mac system, wait until an unbootable Mac appears on the working Mac as an external hard drive. 

(Note: Decrypt your Target drive (unbootable macOS) if it is protected with FileVault.) 

Step 4: Now, turn on your working Mac (bootable Mac), and hold the Option key till the Mac drive appears as bootable.

Step 5: Go to the Finder and find the unbootable Mac drive, which appears as an external drive on your working Mac.

Step 6: Select the files that you would like to recover from an unbootable Mac and copy them to a healthy MacBook.

Step 7: Eject the Mac drive after you complete transferring or recovering data from it.

Hopefully, Target Disk Mode has fixed the problem. If you are still struggling to boot your MacBook or wondering how to recover an unbootable Mac hard drive, then kindly follow the next method.

Method 2: Recover Data From Unbootable Mac Using Remo Mac File Recovery Software:

Utilize Remo Recover (Mac) software to securely recover data from an unbootable Mac in a few steps. This Mac File Recovery tool performs sector-by-sector scanning to recover deleted or lost files from non-booting Mac.

Remo Recover Mac tool works on read-only mode to safely recover data from unbootable, corrupted, or formatted Mac computers like MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, iMac, etc. Remo Recover (Mac) tool is also compatible with all the latest versions of macOS like Ventura, Monterey, Big Sur, Catalina, Mojave, High Sierra, etc.

5 Steps to Recover Data From Unbootable Mac:

Connect your unbootable Mac to the working Mac using a data cable and follow the below steps to restore data from the unbootable Mac.

Step 1: Download and install Remo Mac File Recovery software on a working or healthy Mac. Select the Disk that represents the unbootable Mac and click the Scan button to start the unbootable Mac drive scanning process. And if you didn't find the Unbootable drive. Click on the Can't find the drive? Option.

Select the Mac drive from where you want to recover data and click on the scan button

Step 2: Once the tool starts scanning the Drive, You can use the Dynamic Recovery View option to view the unbootable Mac recovery process without waiting till the completion of the Deep Scan.

use the dynamic recovery view option to view the unbootable mac drive recovery process

Step 3: During the Deep scanning process, the software displays all the recovered files, folders, and other data from the unbootable Mac computer on your system.

a complete list of the recovered data from the mac which refused to boot

Step 4: Preview the recovered files, such as photos or videos, for free. 

preview the recovered files from the mac that refuses to boot by double clicking on it

Step 5: Select the files that you want to restore and save them in the desired location of your choice.

save the recovered data

Quick Note: You must have a healthy or working Mac computer to recover files from an unbootable Mac computer.

Hence, now you have safeguarded data, you can move to fix the MacBook.

How Do I Fix my MacBook that Refuses to Boot up?

When your MacBook or iMac is stuck at the Apple logo and fails to boot further, the majority of times, it is due to a damaged Mac hard drive. In case of a critically damaged MacBook hard drive, you need to reinstall the Mac OS or restore data using Time Machine backup.

In case of simple error situations, you can fix them using the following methods.

Force Switch off MacBook:

Press and hold the MacBook or iMac power button for 10 seconds to force turn off. Now restart the Mac again; if it is a minor error, your MacBook should boot normally. This might look primitive, but rebooting fixes a lot of issues.

Booting Mac in Recovery Mode:

Booting Mac in Recovery mode will provide you tools to fix the MacBook that won’t boot. Follow the below steps to backup or recover files from unbootable Mac using Recovery mode (Disk Utility).

  1. Connect an external hard drive to your unbootable Mac.
  2. Restart your unbootable Mac and hold the Command + R keys till you see the Apple logo.
  3. Select Disk Utility From the macOS utility window.
  4. Now, select the disk you want to recover or backup data from it (for example, Macintosh HD, unless you renamed it).
  5. Then, select File and click New Image.
  6. Select the Image from the selected disk (Macintosh HD).

(Note: You can change the name of your disk selected.)

  1. Now, select your external drive > choose compressed format > click Save.
  2. After the recovery or backup process completes, you can find your unbootable Mac data on the external drive.

Note: The above method is performed on an OS X El Capitan interface, and the other OS X versions might differ slightly.

Boot Mac in Safe Mode:

Just hold the shift key while switching on your iMac or MacBook and release the shift button when the Apple logo appears. Booting Mac in safe mode might not completely fix the error, but it will give you a window to recover all your important files.

Use First Aid from the disk utility option to fix the error. Even after using the first aid option if the error persists, you need to reinstall the Mac OS or restore from Time Machine backup.

Nevertheless, don’t forget to recover the data before repairing the damaged MacBook.

Note: At times, you might face a situation where your MacBook or iMac might boot up but displays a black screen. This issue is called the Black Screen of Death on Mac (BSOD) in short. If you face this issue, you can follow this article to know more about the issue and also find out various ways to resolve the Mac black screen problem.


You might sometimes see that your MacBook is booting up, but the operating system refuses to load; the main reason behind this could be due to a corrupt or damaged MacBook Hard drive, which can be repaired by running First Aid from recovery mode. If not, then make use of Remo Recover (Mac), which is trustworthy software to recover files from unbootable Mac and formatted or corrupted Mac drives. 

About the Author: John Harris

With a decade of experience in data recovery, John Harris, Senior Editor at Remo Software, is your go-to specialist. His focus includes partition management, Windows solutions, and data troubleshooting, delivering insightful content that serves both users and search engines. John's expertise shines through in illuminating blog posts, untangling data loss intricacies across diverse storage platforms.…