7 Best Ways to Recover a Failed Internal Mac Hard Drive

The blog resolves Mac hard drive recovery issues. Besides, it helps you perform Mac hard drive repair using several built-in methodologies. Primarily, the objective of this blog is to recover your failing Mac hard drive using default methods provided by the macOS. However, the blog advocates using a Mac hard drive recovery software as a last resort or when the native methods have failed to produce positive results.

A few methods will work for failing Mac external hard drive recovery as well. Let’s move ahead and recover the failing Mac hard drive.

7 Methods for Mac Hard Drive Recovery

Method 1: Repair macOS Hard Drive with Disk Utility

Method 2: Repair the Mac Start-up Drive with FSCK command

Method 3: Target Disk Mode

Method 4: Convert Failing Macintosh HD into an External Hard Drive

Method 5: Using a Mac Hard Drive Recovery Software as the Last Resort

Method 6: Using Windows PC for Mac Hard Drive Recovery (#5 Alternative)

Method 7: Mac Hard Drive Recovery Services (When all 6 methods fails)

Method 1: Repair macOS Hard Drive with Disk Utility

Disk Utility can help you resolve your Mac hard drive repair issues effectively. Your Mac contains Disk Utility through macOS Utilities in the hidden location called as Recovery Partition.

If your Mac’s start-up disk goes corrupt then launch Disk Utility through Recovery Mode and perform Mac disk repair activity absolutely for free.

Steps to repair a failing Mac hard drive are discussed below:

Step 1: Reboot macOS and immediately press-hold Command + R simultaneously.

Press Command + R

Step 2: Shortly, you will be booted in the Recovery Mode. Here, you are presented with four options to troubleshoot your Mac. Disk Utility is one of those four options; click Disk Utility to launch.

Go to Disk Utility

Step 3: Choose your start-up disk (Macintosh HD) and run First Aid to repair cryptic disk errors on Mac hard drive.

There will be two possible outcomes after the Disk Utility is done repairing the failing Mac drive:

i) Mac start-up disk is repaired successfully with the Disk Utility: When the Disk Utility shows you the output that it has repaired the corrupt disk successfully then you can log-out from the recovery partition and boot into the desktop as you would usually do.

Mac hard drive repaired successfully
Mac hard drive repaired successfully

ii) Disk Utility Can’t Repair the Corrupt Start-up Disk Drive!: There are several limitations of the Disk Utility itself such as it can’t repair a corrupt partition map. Also, it can’t repair advance disk errors such as Invalid-B Tree Node. To Repair Invalid B Tree Node on a start-up disk it is required to back up the Mac drive and erase it with a new partition scheme.

If Disk Utility is unable to repair Mac hard drive problems on your MacBook, iMac, etc. then don’t give up. Follow the next process of disk repair; else try using a Mac hard drive recovery software.

Method 2: Repair the Mac Start-up Drive with FSCK command

If Disk Utility method didn’t yield any great results, then you can repair a failing Mac hard drive using a non – GUI mode on OS X and macOS. It’s called F.S.C.K. and it’s free to use.

To repair the disk errors on Mac with FSCK, follow the below procedure:

Step 1: Make sure your Mac is turned off.

Step 2: Press the power button to start up the Mac and press hold the Command and S button (i.e. Command + S).

Press Command + S

Step 3: This will bring the Single User Mode from where you can repair the failing Mac start-up disk drive and rescue all files from it.

Step 4: Now, enter the command line – /sbin/fsck – fy 

Enter command

Step 5: Press Return (Enter).

Step 6: The command line will begin analyzing your Macintosh HD volume and will return the message as per the action performed.

Step 7: When the Macintosh HD is healthy, it will display the message: “The Volume (name) appears to be OK”.

FSCK message

Step 8: When FSCK repairs the damaged disk drive, it shows the message: “File System Was Modified”. Repeat the FSCK run again until the file system is corrected and the message in step (7) is displayed.

File system modified

Like Disk Utility, the FSCK helps much in repairing cryptic disk errors of minor nature. Though, it may or may not fix the corrupt start-up drive entirely. If FSCK efforts don’t result then the corruption could possibly be beyond the repair of macOS. This is ALARMING since none can trust upon a Mac hard drive that is undergoing corruption beyond repair. The drive in question may fail entirely causing severe data loss.

At this moment, the need for creating backup becomes utmost. You can use the Time Machine application to backup your failing Mac hard drive. Do it at earliest.

Method 3: Target Disk Mode

Target Disk Mode is yet another advanced method that helps you mount and access a failed start-up hard disk using additional accessories, which includes a Firewire or a Thunderbolt cable. These cables connect the 2 Macs (Working Mac and Failed Mac hard drive) for the purpose of transferring files and recovering the data.

Let’s learn to implement Target Disk Mode using a working Mac and a Firewire cable.

  1. Make sure uninterrupted power supply is provided to both the Macs.
  2. Use a Firewire 800 or Firewire 400 cable to connect both the Macs through USB ports. You may also use a Thunderbolt for the same.
  3. Start the Mac with failing/failed hard drive and immediately press the keyboard button “T”.
  4. The Mac should boot into the Firewire mode. Once it does, you will see a large Firewire icon the Mac screen.
  5. On a healthy Mac, you will see the troubled hard drive icon showing on the Desktop. The ‘Macintosh HD’ will have a Firewire symbol mounted on its icon. In the case of Thunderbolt cable, the Macintosh HD will have the Thunderbolt icon mounted on it.
  6. Once Macintosh HD is mounted, you can perform disk repair and copy files from the hard drive to a working external hard drive.

Mounting, accessing and copying files from a failed hard drive to a working disk is possible with Target Disk Mode facility.

However, if the drive appears to be unmounted or unrecognized on the working Mac system, then you might have to consider running a D-I-Y software for performing data recovery on an unmounted external drive.

Method 4: Convert Failing Macintosh HD into an External Hard Drive

Transforming the failing Macintosh start-up drive to an external hard drive for recovering inaccessible files could possibly be an alternative solution of the Target Disk Mode.

Note: The conversion of Macintosh HD to an external hard drive is also useful for recovering its data via a Mac data recovery software. If you are unable to transfer the files from the converted drive and want to try data recovery then read about Mac drive recovery in detail.

But how should you make an external drive out of an internal Mac HDD?

The process is explained further with easy steps:

Step 1: Safely take out the internal Macintosh HD out of your Mac system. There are plenty of D-I-Y videos which can help you remove the Mac storage drive safely from a MacBook/iMac etc. But, in case you are unsure of removing the internal drive by your own, then seek the consultation of a nearby expert.

Step 2: Prior to the removal of the internal storage drive, you must also order an external hard drive enclosure from an online seller. Nowadays, hard drive enclosures are inexpensive and can be acquired by spending a little sum of money.

Step 3: Open the plastic cover of the enclosure and place / slide your internal hard drive in the matching context. Once done, turn over the hard drive and put in the screws that came up with the enclosure. Tighten all the screws with the help of a screwdriver.

Step 4: Put back the front-back plastic cover to cover-up the hard drive.

Step 5: Now connect one and another tip of the USB cable to the ports the storage drive and MacOS for mounting and accessing files.

Step 6: Start transferring your files once the external storage drive (earlier the start-up disk) greets you in the Finder or Desktop.

Method 5:  Using Mac Hard Drive Recovery Software for Failing Drive

Here, the need for an efficient Mac hard drive recovery software comes into the picture. If the free & default methods like Disk Utility and FSCK have failed to work in your favour and your Mac hard drive’s data is at stake then leverage the software without delaying further. This is a recommended method amongst all especially when you are hopeless about recovering your Mac hard drive.

Try Stellar Data Recovery Professional for Mac?

It’s one of the most advanced Mac hard drive recovery software available online. The software is developed to work for multiple file systems like – APFS, HFS, HFS+, NTFS, FAT and ex-FAT. Stellar software is useful for recovering files from a logically failing hard drive. You can run this Mac hard drive recovery program to recover a damaged internal partition, USBs, SSDs, PCI-e SSDs, unrecognized external hard drives, Time Machine, encrypted volumes, Fusion drives and more.

Note: In case of non-bootable start-up disk, you first need to boot the Mac via a bootable USB and then install Stellar Data Recovery software on the same drive i.e. the one that contains bootable macOS files. Once the Mac is powered on via an external bootable USB; launch Stellar Data Recovery and scan the Macintosh HD. Read process (i), (ii) and (iii) in detail:

Let’s examine a few cases of corrupt or failing Mac hard drive and how Stellar Data Recovery Professional for Mac can help you recover important files?

i. Recovering Files from a Corrupt Mac Partition(s)

Unable to recover from a corrupt partition on your Mac hard drive? Don’t panic Stellar Data Recovery Professional software for Mac is here to help.

When you begin to recover a corrupt Mac partition with Stellar, then Stellar Data Recovery Professional automatically switches to Advanced Recovery (via Deep Scan). This happens when your chosen hard drive, SSD or volume is damaged logically. Deep Scan is a robust feature of the software designed to execute an advanced level of Mac file recovery. The software performs recovery of files on a corrupt Mac storage drive using the file-signature search algorithm.

Stellar software produces remarkable results with the Deep Scan recovery.

Below is the process of running Deep Scan on your corrupt Mac storage drive. But first, download the software on your Mac for a free trial.

Step 1: Customize your Mac data recovery by sliding the toggle buttons. You can turn Off and On using a single click against each type.

Mac hard drive recovery software
Customize your scan

Step 2: Select your drive and toggle-on the Deep Scan. The Deep Scan will analyze the media for all the data types including – Documents, Pictures, Videos, Audio, Emails and other file formats. (As stated earlier: Deep Scan automatically switches when a corrupt volume is selected).

Mac storage drive recovery
Select Mac hard drive

Step 3: Press the Scan button to start the mechanism. After the scan process is over; preview the recoverable files.

Recover Mac hard drive files
Preview your files

Step 4: At this moment, recover your files to another drive. Please Note: the free trial version of Stellar Data Recovery Professional displays all the recoverable data.

Mac hard drive restoration tool

P.S. User(s) needs to activate Stellar Data Recovery Professional for Mac to save the recoverable files from failing Mac disk drive.

Below is another software recovery process.

ii. Recovering Files from an Unmounted Mac External Hard Drive

Sometimes that one important Mac external hard drive fails to show up in Finder. Has it ever happened to you? 

Oops. External drive greyed out!

If your Mac external hard drive or partition isn’t mounting in the Finder & the Desktop (but appears greyed out in the Disk Utility!), then recover inaccessible files by implementing below steps with Stellar Data Recovery Professional for Mac application:

  1. Run the software & toggle the file types for data recovery.
  2. Select the unmounted drive or partition from the ‘Select Location’ window.
  3. Start the scan and let it complete. After the scan is over; the software will display all the recoverable files for preview. Preview your recoverable data by double-clicking the file(s).
  4. Now, recover your files to another drive.

iii. Find Missing APFS, HFS+ or NTFS Partition(s) with Mac Hard Drive Recovery Tool

You can find your missing APFS partitions from an external or internal Mac hard drive. Since Stellar software supports the NTFS file system on Mac hence it can recover deleted BootCamp Partition for you. The process to recover missing Mac partition with Stellar software is simple:-

iv. Benefits of the Mac Hard Drive Recovery Application:

With Stellar Data Recovery Professional installed on your iMac, Mac Pro, mini or MacBook; you can perform disk recovery, corrupt SSD recovery, external hard drive recovery, SD/CF card recovery, Time Machine & Time Capsule recovery and further you can recover permanently deleted files from a password-protected hard drive. Read full features of Stellar Data Recovery Professional for Mac.

Above, we shared how Stellar Data Recovery Professional for Mac can be useful for recovering files from various instances of Mac hard drive failure.

Wondering, how to recover a Mac hard drive on a Windows system? Relax, we have something for you in the bag.

Method 6:  Using a Windows PC for Mac Hard Drive Recovery

Stellar Toolkit for Data Recovery is advanced software that supports HFS, HFS+ formatted hard drive recovery on a Windows computer. In short, connect your Mac hard drive to a Windows PC and start recovering data.


Step 1: Install Stellar Toolkit for Data Recovery on Windows system

Step 2: Launch the tool and press Recover Data button as shown below:

Go to Recover Data

Step 3: Select the types of data you want to salvage from the HFS Mac hard drive.

Select what to Recover

Step 4: Here, select the connected HFS Mac storage drive. Proceed with Scan.

Select Location

Step 5: Let Stellar Toolkit for Data Recovery complete the scan.

Scanning in progress

Step 6: Software completes the scan.

Scanning done

Step 7: Preview the files which are recovered from the Mac HFS or HFS+ hard drive.

File preview

Step 8: Recover or save the data with the activated version of Stellar Toolkit for Data Recovery.

Saving files

Note: Stellar Toolkit for Data Recovery supports HFS and HFS+ only; further it requires activation to recover/save the data to another destination.

Method 7:  Mac Hard Drive Recovery Services

Professional Mac hard drive recovery services are best to opt when the Mac hard drive recovery software can’t recover the severely damaged hard disk drive. Though, data recovery services are said to be costly due to the involvement of advanced equipment etc.; it could be the final resort to recover files from a failing or an already dead Mac hard drive.

Get your failing Mac hard drive recovered with data recovery service in case of:

  1. Broken components
  2. Clicking, ticking or buzzing sound
  3. Bad sectors
  4. Scratched platter
  5. Electronic damage
  6. Burnt media
  7. Disasters like flood/fire etc.

Go with the efficient Mac data recovery services for hard drives and recover your beloved files.


  1. Failing Mac hard drives are not meant to repair with a screwdriver. Keep your backup disk ready.
  2. The purpose of this blog is to make you aware of rational methods such as – Disk Utility, FSCK, Target Disk Mode that can be used fruitfully for Mac hard drive recovery.
  3. The success rate of Mac hard drive recovery will depend upon the severity of the corruption. macOS native tools should be able to resolve the issue.
  4. Further, if it happens that all the “free” methods fail to recover your failing Mac drive; then leverage “one of the most trusted” Mac hard drive recovery tool i.e. Stellar Data Recovery Professional for Mac. Benefits of using the software are – APFS/HFS support, macOS Mojave compatibility, Disk Imaging, Advance Scan to recover corrupt media. Encrypted, Time Machine and BootCamp Partition recovery is also supported with this tool.
  5. Mac Data Recovery Technician Software is available for 3 system activations in case you need to recover data from more than one Mac system.

DONT PANIC and don’t delay in recovering the failing storage drive.

  1. John Purlia May 20, 2019
    • Vishal May 22, 2019
  2. Judy Jackson January 24, 2019
    • Vishal January 25, 2019
  3. Mark January 15, 2019
    • Vishal January 15, 2019
      • Mark January 16, 2019
      • Vishal January 16, 2019
  4. Erika January 11, 2019
    • Vishal January 11, 2019
  5. John McCarley December 21, 2018
    • Arpana December 21, 2018
  6. Joan Hanes December 21, 2018

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