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Thread: AT MY WITS END: How to Back Up Data After OS Failure

  1. #1

    Member Since
    Oct 15, 2011
    Angry AT MY WITS END: How to Back Up Data After OS Failure
    Hey y'all, I'm new to this forum so excuse me for not knowing the customs around here...

    But I've been using my roommates laptop looking for solutions for the past several days, and I haven't found anything. I'm on a limited budget, so I'm more inclined to fix this issue myself then to spend $$$ sending it in.

    Anyway, my issue:

    My MacBook Pro (Running Snow Leopard 10.6) "Crashed" so to speak. I was using Firefox when the it shutdown unexpectedly. After that, it would crash everytime I tried opening it. Shortly after, my computer froze, so I manually shut it down. Upon booting it, the process took at least 5 minutes. Folder Icons no longer appear, and most applications won't open. It takes FOREVER to do the simplest task. Whenever I try to open the "Applications" folder on my dock, the dock disappears for a few seconds (and the folder doesn't open). Finder doesn't even open half the time. In other words, everything [is a mess].

    Booting to Safe Mode is just as faulty, although it does run slightly better. Still, it's a 50/50 chance that anything will open.

    I've tried booting to the OSX Installation Disc and repairing permissions etc from Utilities.. but nothing works.

    I'm an idiot, and haven't backed up my files previously.
    My question is:

    If I were to buy an external USB harddrive, what is the process of backing up my files to the Ext. HD without being able to use my desktop?

    My plan of action is to somehow back all my files up onto the external HD, erase my laptop's harddrive, and then reinstall Snow Leopard and see where that gets me. At least then I could access my old files on the external HD.

    Any and all help is appreciated! You will seriously save me so much $$$ if you help me develop a better game plan. I've scoured Google and various forums looking for an answer, but it seems everyone has a slightly different issue with their MacBook, so I can't find a solution for my specific issue.


  2. #2
    It sounds like your hard drive is heading toward oblivion. This is what I would do in your situation:

    1. Buy a new, "bare" hard drive that will soon be your new internal hard drive. As cheap as they are these days, might as well go for a 500GB or higher. You'll also want to buy an external case (separately) that fits your new 2.5" SATA HD. Firewire would be best but USB2 will do fine if that's all that's available.

    2. I would open up the MacBook Pro (instructions are online at for this), remove the existing (failing) hard drive, and install the new drive. Put the old drive in the case you bought.

    3. I would install Snow Leopard or higher on the new drive. Set up a new account that has the same name, password and status (Admin) as your old one.

    4. You will be asked during this setup process if there's another volume that Migration Assistant can move to your new account. Attach the external drive with your failing hard drive in it. MA will ask you to pick general categories you wish to move over. Skip the apps (they can be reinstalled) but go for everything else. Hopefully the drive will be able to work long enough for you to copy over all the useful data.

    5. Should that prove successful, offer thanks to the deity of your choice, and go out and buy an NEW bare hard drive. Take the failing drive out of the case, put a magnet on it, and put the new drive in the case. Let Time Machine format and prep the new drive to be your backup drive and let it do it's thing.

    6. Live a happy life.

  3. #3

    Member Since
    Oct 15, 2011
    Thank you so much for your response. I posted my question on a few different sites across the internet (including MacOSX website) and they all told me to do the same thing, which is repair the disk. Obviously, this doesn't work so I trust your answer more than the others.

    Much appreciated, I'll begin shopping for a new harddrive immediately. Question: I'm guessing 2.5" SATA HD is the type of harddrive I need? And not the brand? Sorry for my noobishness.

  4. #4

    Member Since
    Oct 15, 2011

    What 2.5 SATA Hard Drive would y'all recommend? I know Western Digital is a good brand, but are there any others that YOU personally would recommend?


  5. #5

    AppleCider's Avatar
    Member Since
    Aug 21, 2011
    The evil side of your mind.
    I can't really help with your questions, but would putting a magnet on a hard drive really destroy it? I know it would be damaged, but could the data still be recovered?
    ... If one falls flat on their face, at least they were moving in the right direction...


  6. #6

    harryb2448's Avatar
    Member Since
    Nov 28, 2007
    Nambucca Heads Australia
    Well the magnet bill do the drive no favours at all. As to what brand, matter of choose. All leading brands get good, and bad, feedback. Seagate, WD, Fujitsu, Hitachi, Samsung all reasonable. Juyst pick the company offering the best warranty, and make sure you register the warranty.
    Hang on to those original install discs like grim death! Using OS X.7 or later make a bootable USB thumb drive before running Installer!

  7. #7

    dtravis7's Avatar
    Member Since
    Jan 04, 2005
    Modesto, Ca.
    Quote Originally Posted by gimpspack View Post

    What 2.5 SATA Hard Drive would y'all recommend? I know Western Digital is a good brand, but are there any others that YOU personally would recommend?

    I really like Western Digital. You need a 2.5" SATA Notebook drive. I do agree with everything Chas said in his post. Almost an echo of what I would have posted.

    One quick thing you might do, boot with the OSX DVD like you already did and in disk utility check the SMART status of the hard drive. Is it Pass or Fail? It's at the bottom of the Disk utility when you click on the main drive.

    I would get the new drive and do what Chas suggested ASAP so maybe you can recover some of your data!! If we can help in any way let us know. Also please report back with how it all goes!!!

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