8 Best Ways to Recover Failed Mac Storage Hard Drive

Summary: In this post, we’ll share 8 best ways to perform hard drive recovery on a failed or unbootable MacBook Air, iMac, Mac mini, or their Pro models.

1. Repair Mac Hard Drive using Disk Utility
2Repair Mac storage drive by using Single User Mode
3Retrieve Mac data by using Target Disk Mode
4Recover data by using a bootable Mac data recovery software
5Transform the failed Mac storage drive into an external one
6Replace failed drive with SSD & restore data with Time Machine
7Recover data from a Mac storage drive by using a Windows PC
8 Get storage hard drive recovery service for Mac

Try out the relevant Mac data recovery software from here.

Mac hard drive Recovery mac data recovery on windows

Mac storage drive, whether it’s a hard drive or a Solid-state Drive (SSD), can fail or not boot due to corruption or ageing. Check out some DIY troubleshooting methods to revive your failed Mac storage drive and its stored data. During the recovery process, you may need the following:

  1. A working Mac or PC
  2. Time Machine back-up
  3. A new internal Solid-state Drive (SSD)
  4. Mac hard drive recovery software
  5. An external hard drive
  6. Screwdriver, drive enclosure, etc.

Ways to Recover Failed Mac Storage Drive

1. Repair Mac Hard Drive by Using Disk Utility

Disk Utility is a native macOS application that can help you resolve Mac hard drive problems. If your Mac’s startup disk turns corrupt, then launch Disk Utility through macOS Recovery mode and repair the disk. Steps are as follows:

Step 1: Power on your Mac and immediately press and hold Command + R keys. Release the keys when the Apple logo appears. Your Mac boots into macOS Recovery mode.


Step 2: From the macOS Utilities window, click Disk Utility and then click Continue. The Disk Utility window is displayed.


Step 3: From the left pane, select the startup disk: Macintosh HD. Click the First Aid button on the top pane, and then click Run

Step 4: Let the software repair the startup disk. Once the disk is repaired, there could be two possible outcomes:

i) Mac startup disk is repaired successfully: If Disk Utility repairs the corrupt disk successfully, restart your Mac and boot into Desktop normally.

Mac hard drive repaired successfully

ii) Disk Utility can’t repair the corrupt startup disk: One limitation of Disk Utility is that it can’t repair a corrupt partition map. To repair the partition map on a startup disk, you need to erase the Mac storage drive with a new partition scheme. But erasing the drive without taking its backup will cause data loss

In case Disk Utility fails to repair your startup disk, then try the next troubleshooting method.

2. Repair Mac Startup Drive by Using Single User Mode

Single User mode in macOS can be of great help to fix startup disk issues. If your Mac doesn’t boot, then use the file system consistency check (fsck) command in Single User mode to repair the startup drive. Follow the given steps:

Step 1: Power on your Mac, then press and hold Command +S keys. Release the keys when text appears on a black background. Your Mac will load the Single User mode


Step 2: In the command line, type the command /sbin/fsck – fy, then press Return.


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


ii. If fsck repairs the damaged disk drive, it shows the message: “File System Was Modified”. Re-run fsck command till the file system shows “The Volume (name) appears to be OK” message.


The fsck command quickly repairs disk errors in Mac storage drive. But it may or may not fix the corrupt startup drive entirely, if the corruption is beyond the built-in repair capabilities of macOS. In such a case, it’s better to go with the next method.

3. Retrieve Mac Data by Using Target Disk Mode

The Target Disk mode is an advanced boot mode that helps you access the failed startup disk on a Mac by using another working Mac. The method requires you to connect the working Mac and the failed Mac with a Firewire or a Thunderbolt cable. Once the Target Disk mode is implemented, you can easily recover files from a failed startup disk.

Steps to recover Mac data using Target Disk mode:

Step 1: For iMac or Mac mini, ensure uninterrupted power supply to the Desktop. For MacBook Air or Pro, connect the device to its charging port.

Step 2: Use a FireWire or Thunderbolt cable to connect both the Macs through USB ports.

Step 3: Start the Mac system with a failed storage drive and immediately press and hold the T key. Release the key when it displays a FireWire or Thunderbolt icon.

Step 4: On the working Mac, you’ll see the troubled storage drive icon on its Desktop. The ‘Macintosh HD’ will have a Firewire or Thunderbolt symbol on its icon.

Step 5: Once ‘Macintosh HD’ is mounted, you can use First Aid option in Disk Utility to repair the startup disk and copy files from the disk to a working external hard drive.

By using the Target Disk Mode, you can recover an unmounted Mac storage drive and copy the files stored in it.

Follow the next troubleshooting method in that case.

4. Recover Data by Using a Bootable Mac Data Recovery Software

Use a bootable Mac data recovery software, such as Stellar Data Recovery Professional for Mac, to recover your lost data from the failed hard drive. Steps are as follows:

Note: You need to activate the software to unlock the bootable data recovery feature.

Step 1: Download and install Stellar Data Recovery Professional on a working Mac. Launch the software and activate it using the activation key received on your email after purchase. 

Free Trial

Step 2: Plug-in an external USB flash drive of minimum 8 GB. Click the Click here link on the bottom-left corner of the home screen. Or else, go to More Tools > Create Recovery Drive.

Select What To Recover

Step 3: From the dialogue window, select the USB flash drive and then click the Create Recovery Drive button. Click OK on the confirmation message box. Let the software to create a recovery drive.

Warning: The drive will be formatted in the recovery drive creation process. So, make sure the flash drive is empty or back up the drive before clicking OK.

Create Recovery Drive
recovery drive creation
recovery drive created

Step 4: Plug-in the USB recovery drive to the non-booting Mac. Power on the Mac then press-hold the Option key. Release the key once the Startup Manager opens. Select the Recovery Drive.

Step 5: From the macOS Utilities window, select Stellar Data Recovery Professional. When the software launches, customize the scan. Select Macintosh HD for data recovery then toggle on Deep Scan.

macOS Utilities window
Customize the scan
Select the location

Note: For macOS Catalina, Mojave, or High Sierra, you need to disable system integrity protection to scan the startup drive.

Step 6: After the scan, preview all the recoverable files from Macintosh HD. Click Recover and specify another external hard drive as a save destination. Then, click Save.

Deep Scan on Macintosh HD

Step 7: Once data recovery is performed, erase Macintosh HD  by using Disk Utility in macOS Recovery mode. If the failed hard drive can’t be fixed, replace the drive with a new one, preferably an SSD.

Scan Sucessful

5. Transform the Failed Mac Storage Drive into an External Drive

As an alternative solution to the Target Disk Mode, you can transform the failed Mac hard drive into an external drive for recovering inaccessible data. But don’t use this method if your Mac is in warranty. The drive can be replaced with a new one if it falls in the warranty. For out of warranty cases, follow the steps given below:

Step 1: Safely take out the storage drive from your Mac by using a screwdriver. There are plenty of DIY videos that can help you do so. But if you are unsure of removing the internal drive on your own, seek help from an expert.

Step 2: Before removing the internal storage drive, get an external hard drive enclosure from an online seller. Nowadays, hard drive enclosures are easily available for purchase.

Step 3: Open the plastic cover of the enclosure. Place or slide your internal hard drive in the matching slot. 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. Now connect the external storage drive to your Mac by using a USB cable. Start transferring your files once the external storage drive is visible in Finder or Desktop.

6. Replace the Failed Hard Drive with SSD then Restore Data by Using Time Machine

If you’ve taken a backup of your failed Mac hard drive before its failure by using Time Machine, then use it to restore data to a new solid-state drive.

Step 1: Replace the failed Mac hard drive with the new SSD. There are plenty of DIY videos that can help you perform the task.

Step 2: Power on the Mac then immediately press and hold Option + Command + R keys. Release the keys when the spinning globe appears. Select your WiFi network then let the Mac start macOS Recovery mode from the Internet.

Step 3: From the macOS Utilities window, select Disk Utility then click Continue. From the left pane of Disk Utility, select the new SSD then click the Erase tab from the top pane. Specify the name of the drive, choose APFS format, and then click Erase. Let the utility to erase the SSD.

Step 4: Once the SSD is erased, press Command + Q to quit Disk Utility. Now, connect your Time Machine backup drive to the Mac. From the macOS Utilities window, select “Restore From Time Machine Backup”. Complete the restoration steps then restart your Mac when it is over.

7. Recover Mac Hard Drive by Using a Windows PC

In case a working Mac isn’t available for data recovery, but you own a Windows PC, then use the PC to scan and recover data from your Mac drive (You need to transform the drive into an external one as explained before).  Steps are as follows:

Step 1: Download and install Stellar Toolkit for Data Recovery on your Windows PC.


Step 2: Connect the failed Mac storage drive as an external device on to the PC.

Step 3: Launch the tool then select the types of data that you want to recover.


Step 4: Select the connected Mac storage drive then proceed with the Scan.


Step 5: After the scan, preview the scanned files then select the required ones.


Step 6: Recover the data with the activated version of the software.


8. Get Hard Drive Recovery Service for Mac

If your Mac storage drive has a physical failure and you don’t want to lose its stored content, then get a data recovery service to recover your lost data. Data recovery service is expensive due to the involvement of advanced equipment and class 100 cleanroom infrastructure; however, it could be the final resort to recover files from a dead Mac storage drive.

Get your Mac storage drive recovered with data recovery services in case of:

  1. Clicking, ticking, or buzzing sound
  2. Scratched platter
  3. Electronic damage
  4. Burnt media
  5. Disasters like a flood, fire, etc.

Go with an efficient Mac hard drive recovery services and recover all your lost files.


We hope the post helped you to recover failed Mac storage drive through its eight curated troubleshooting ways. As a best practice, do the following:

  1. Back up your Mac by using Time Machine
  2. Use Disk Utility, FSCK, or Target Disk mode whenever required 
  3. Replace failed Mac hard drive with SSD and restore Mac from backup
  4. Leverage Stellar Data Recovery Professional for Mac for your troubled hard drive. Compare all Editions.
  5. With Stellar, keep a recovery drive ready to salvage a non-booting Mac

Also Read: Top 10 Best Mac Data Recovery Software

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