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OS X - Operating System General OS operation information and support

Saving data from crashed drive before clean install

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Member Since: Jun 02, 2010
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Hi all.

As is often the case, I have found you guys because I have a problem with my beloved iMac and I need some help. Truth is, this isn't the first time I have had problems, though the first of this nature, so hanging around here will probably benefit me and the poor machine.

So, I think this will be considered a software/OS issue, but if the mods feel it more appropriate to move to hardware, fully understand.

Some details first - I have a 20" imac that I purchased s/h, when it was about a year or so old, back in October. Cant remember the precise spec [not currently at home], but 2.8ghz intel processor, 2GB ram and 250HD is there or there abouts. I have come from a PC background, so the mysteries of Apple are still very much that all too often, a mystery, but I do love it to bits.

Anyway, a couple of nights ago I was happily flicking through my latest set of pictures in Lightroom, with CS4 running in the background, when things started to run slowly. Now this has happened before, and a while ago someone recommended a program called Snow Leopard Cleaner, which I got and that always seemed to do the trick, seemed to clean up unnecessary muck from the nooks and crannies and generally lubricate the mechanisms as it were.

So, having not run it for a few months, and with everything turning turgid, I closed all other open applications and tried to open the cleaner. However I got a message telling me that this this version could not run on this system, I needed to upgrade. Hmmm, odd, but ok, maybe an OS update required the cleaner to be updated too so clicked cancel, and left it, it was late and I was too tired to mess around, chosing to do it the following day. It was at that point I did something I hardly ever do - instead of putting the machine into sleep mode as normal, I thought it would do it no harm to be closed down fully.. HAH!! Famous last words. It hasn't worked since!

Basically, when I boot it up, I get the start chime and the apple splash screen and little whirring clock thing, but is as far as it gets. Now having done a load of googling and stuff, I have done all the various start ups holding keys down, so tried safe mode, and single use mode follwed by disk checking, resert NVRAM and PRAM, etc etc. The one thing I couldn't do was boot via the installation disc as it didnt come with one. So I fought my way through the wannabe ipaders in the store last night and bought myself one. Booted via that, I can use disk utility, and again check everything.

I should say at this point, every check is returning normal, that the macintosh HD is ok - verify, repair, permissions repaired, etc, all returning as doing what they should, but it still it will not boot under its own steam. If this was a windows machine, I would be rebuilding the masterboot record, but of course it isn't and I am at a loss.

So, we come to the crux of my question. I am about 98% certain the drive itself is ok physically and its a an issue with the boot files within the OS. So as I now have my own copy of SL, I would like to do a clean install, but of course whilst most of my data is backed up [manually, not via time machine, DOH] some is on that disc that I would like to retrieve if its possible before doing the clean install. So, there it is, can I? Is it possible? I was reading something this morning that it's possible to use a second machine, and an ext HD to create a separete Mac OS installation on the HD and then copy everything over, but if this is the case, would prefer it to be verified by other people before I attempt it.

For information, I have several PC machines at my disposal and some ext HDD, a LAN [cabled and wifi].

Also, are there any other methods - preferably ones that don't involve me physically removing the hard drive, though as a last resort, I would be willing to do that, stripping down machines is not something that worries me. Is there any way of over writing all the OS files, without losing the data already there, a sort of repair installation perhaps, so I can make sure I have all the data backed up before doing the clean installation? Anything, I am open to suggestions, but still being a total Mac numpty I have no idea what is and isn't possible.
Lastly, many many thanks in advance for any help or guidance you guys can offer.
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Long post....

You can not retrieve your data by using a PC hooked to your Mac. It would have to be another Mac attached via firewire to firewire. That's called "Target Disk Mode". But if you don't have access to another Mac, you can not use that method.

It's probably best to try to retrieve the data using software. The software that I recommend is called Data Rescue III. You can download a trial copy to see if it will be able to find and rescue your data from the drive. If it works, buy a license.

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