How to Recover Data from Mac That Won't Turn on?

By Vivian | Posted to Howto on June 19th, 2020 |

Summary: This post concludes 4 ways to recover files from Mac that won't turn on. You can get files off unbootable Mac with Mac data recovery software, or you can restore files from Mac hard drive backups and disk image.

Your Mac won't turn on for different reasons like pink screen of death. In this situation, what worries you the most is that you can't open your important documents, photos, files, videos, etc. Or at least, you can't access them as easily as before. You might have read guides to fix the Mac that's not booting up, but you still need to keep an eye on your data security.

recover lost data when Mac won't turn on

Why? Because fixes like macOS reinstallation and startup drive erasure could overwrite your original data. And some would wipe things off your Mac hard drive directly.

Therefore, you should back up the Mac that can't turn on before your fix it. Or you can recover files from the MacBook or iMac that won't turn on first. And after the problem gets fixed, you can restore your files with ease.

How to recover data from Mac that won't boot?

To get files off the Mac that is not booting up, you have several options.

Option 1: Easy way to recover data with Mac data recovery software

If you don't have any backup in hand when Mac won't turn on, Mac data recovery software is helpful to recover data from Mac hard drive.

iBoysoft Data Recovery for Mac is one of the best Mac data recovery tool for MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, iMac, and Mac mini. It can recover data from Mac that won't boot.

To recover data from Mac that won't turn on, you need to run iBoysoft Data Recovery for Mac in macOS Recovery Mode.

Option 2: Restore Mac from Time Machine backup

Time Machine is a good utility to back up Mac. A better situation is that you have backed up the Mac before it crashes. It makes things easier if you have a Time Machine backup. Rather than clumsy copy-and-paste tasks, you can follow these steps to restore Mac from Time Machine backups.

  1. Step 1: When the Mac turns on after macOS reinstallation, you can connect the Time Machine backup drive to your Mac.
  2. Step 2: Open Migration Assistant. You can access it by the Utilities folder.
  3. Step 3: When you're asked how you want to transfer your information, select the option: From a Mac, Time Machine backup or startup disc. Then you can click Continue.
  4. Step 4: Select your Time Machine backup and then continue.
  5. Step 5: Select the files and click Continue to restore your files to the Mac.

It might take hours if you have lots of data. Anyway, you'll get them back.

But what if you haven't backup your files before? Well, then you can't restore files from Time Machine backups. But at least, you can recover the system from Time Machine auto-backups if your system is macOS High Sierra and above.

  1. Step 1: Boot into macOS Recovery mode.
  2. boot into macOS Recovery mode

How to Boot into & Use M1 Mac Recovery Mode

  1. Step 2: Select Restore from Time Machine in macOS Utilities.
  2. Step 3: Select an APFS snapshot in Time Machine backups and then continue.
  3. Step 4: Restore your system to a previous point, which could result in data loss.

Option 3: Back up files by copying your Mac hard drive

Things will be more difficult if you don't have a data backup when Mac can't start up. Fortunately, you still can back up your files by creating a copy version.

There are many ways to do this. Namely, you can create a disk image from the startup disk. You can access and copy your files via Target Disk Mode. You can also copy files with Terminal command in macOS Recovery Mode.

Here takes disk image as an example.

  1. Step 1: Restart your Mac and immediately hold Command + R options. This will boot your Mac into macOS Recovery Mode.
  2. Step 2: Select Disk Utility in macOS Utilities.
  3. Step 3: Connect an external hard drive to your Mac. The hard drive should be empty and have a large capacity.
  4. Step 4: In Disk Utility, select the external hard drive. And then choose File at the top menu, click New Image, and then choose Image from [device name].
  5. Step 5: Enter a file name for the disk image, add tags if necessary, then choose the external hard drive to save it.
  6. Step 6: Choose an option from the format menu: read-only, compressed, read/write, or DVD/CD master.

However, if your Mac hard drive is damaged or corrupted, the image disk will be inaccessible and corrupted as well.

Option 4: Boot from an external hard drive and migrate files

When Mac can't boot up, you can also use these steps to back up your data to an external drive. This method asks for an empty external drive that has the same or larger size than your current startup disk.

  1. Step 1: You need to boot into macOS Recovery Mode to erase this external drive in Disk Utility. And then install macOS onto the external drive in macOS Utilities.
  2. Step 2: When the installation is finished, your Mac automatically restarts from the external bootable drive. 
  3. Step 3: In Setup Assistant, you can choose the built-in startup disk as the source to migrate your data from. This will make a backup to the external drive.
  4. Step 4: When the migration is done, complete the steps of the setup assistant. After the desktop appears, confirm that your data is present on the external drive.

Then you can go ahead to reinstall macOS to the built-in startup drive. Later, you can restore files by Migrate Assistant application.

In some worse cases, your MacBook's startup disk won't show up in Disk Utility. Then you need to ask help from Apple support. But If you see the corrupted Mac hard drive in Disk Utility, you can try your luck with iBoysoft Data Recovery for Mac.

If you are fortunate enough, you have got files off the Mac hard drive that won't boot. Then, you can continue fixing the Mac computer that is not turning on.


When the Mac is not booting up, you have many ways to get files off the problematic Mac. You can even try the Target disk mode to fix the problem. But whether you choose to back up files or recover files, you should always choose it according to your conditions. So that you can recover files from the Mac that won't turn on easily and boot up the Mac again.

How to restore your Mac when Mac Recovery mode not working