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Archive for May 16th, 2017

by Tom Nelson

Target Disk Mode has been a feature of the Mac OS since the PowerBook 100 (pictured below) was released way back in 1991. This handy feature allows you to connect two Macs via FireWire ports, Thunderbolt ports, or USB-C ports, and then share the contents of the Target Disk Mode Mac’s internal drive.

Target Disk Mode can be used for quite a variety of purposes:

  • Copying files from one Mac to another without having to set up file sharing or create a local network.
  • Troubleshooting the drive of a Mac that can’t boot to the desktop.
  • Using an optical drive on the Target Disk Mode Mac as if it were attached to your Mac.
  • Using the Mac OS operating system on the Target Disk Mode Mac to boot a second Mac.

As you can see, Target Disk Mode can be pretty darned versatile, and may be able to solve a problem you’re having that relates to accessing or sharing data from one Mac to another.

What You Need
The list is short, but essential.

  • Two Macs. That may seem obvious, but it makes sense to point out that Target Disk Mode only works between two Macs; you can’t chain multiple Macs together. All of the connection types (FireWire, Thunderbolt, and USB-C) support hot connecting, meaning you can connect a cable between the two Macs while they are powered on. We recommend shutting down both Macs before proceeding, however.
  • An appropriate cable to make the connection. Ideally, you should connect similar ports; that is FireWire to FireWire, Thunderbolt to Thunderbolt, or USB-C to USB-C. There are, however, exceptions. Using adapters to connect Thunderbolt to FireWire will usually work, as will Thunderbolt to USB-C. But not all adapters are known to work correctly in Target Disk Mode, so if you can, connect directly to the same port type. If you need a specific cable or adapter, MacSales.com has a wide selection of FireWireThunderbolt and USB-C cables and adapters available.
  • AC power. While it’s possible to run a notebook Mac off of its battery while in Target Disk Mode, you forgo any monitoring of the battery power levels. This could lead to the Mac in Target Disk Mode shutting down unexpectedly. It’s best to always power portable Macs from an AC source when using Target Disk Mode.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

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