Try Target Disk Mode to Move Data between Macs

Has it ever occurred to you how you will move your crucial files and documents from one Mac to another? Probably, you will send files via AirDrop, attach them to an email, put them in a message conversation, connect via File Sharing, or use Google Drive as an intermediary, to name some of many approaches. But what if the volume of data is too large to be shared through these methods? Say, for instance, it is tens or even hundreds of gigabytes for which the aforementioned techniques might work, but again, we wouldn’t bet on it. Do you have an external hard drive? Are you looking forward to copying all the data on that and pasting it back on another Mac? Perhaps, the experts might have an easy way out, just right for you. Try Target Disk Mode instead.

What is Target Disk Mode? It’s an amazing boot mode that enables Macs to act as an external hard drive for another Mac. You can connect two computers using Thunderbolt 3, USB-C (on the MacBook), Thunderbolt 2, and FireWire. Although it is best to use the same ports on both computers, you can also use adaptors such as Thunderbolt 3 to Thunderbolt 2 for connecting newer and older Thunderbolt capable Macs. Let’s unpack some more benefitting features of Target Disk Mode.


In the last decade, every Mac that was released, supported this mode; hence it’s going to universally accept the terms of modern or future releases. In other words, it will work well with every new version of the Apple series.


Like the term itself says, it’s not a software or any other operating system, but a mode that simply needs to be enabled. Say how? You merely need to hold T key during boot or click a button in the Startup Disk preference pane, and boom, you are all set to go.


It’s the fastest way of getting large data moved from one computer to another. It trims the time involved in copying the data to an external hard drive and then pasting to another Mac. Target Disk Mode also relies on Thunderbolt connections, which means you will connect one system to another directly, without using any intermediary.

Do you have an old Mac? Use this mode on that system to set up a new version with Migration Assistant, conduct Mac computer repair services by revamping its disk using Disk Utility, and boot it. Maybe you have two vintage models that are running on the same version of macOS or maybe these facts aren’t true for either of your computers, either way, Target Disk Mode works the best in booting one computer from another.

Don’t worry if you come across FileVault and firmware password because both can be worked around very easily. If your system is encrypted with FileVault, hold T key at startup and then enter the administrator password to switch to Target Disk Mode. And if the system has a firmware password, start the computer, meanwhile press the Option key, enter the firmware password when prompted, and then press the T key to start booting in Target Disk Mode.

However, in any case, it’s the Apple USB-C Charge Cable that comes with the adaptor of your MacBook, MacBook Air, or MacBook Pro, sorry, you will need to purchase a real thunderbolt or USB-C cable. Besides this small caveat, Target Disk Mode is the most unsung innovation that is worth keeping in mind whenever a need for moving large data arises.