Copy mac files when booting from dvd

October 27, 2009 at 5:07 am

| Gabriel |

One of the frustrating things about the Mac is that there’s no such thing as a live cd (and live cds for Windows and Linux can’t read HFS disks). Of course you can boot from the installer dvd, but it doesn’t have the Finder. If you have problems booting from your internal disk and you don’t have a reasonably current backup this can induce alternating waves of panic and despair. (I’m speaking from experience. I’ve screwed up my partition table by playing with gparted. Actually, I’ve done this twice — as a dog returns to his vomit so a fool returns to his folly).

However you can still copy files because the installer dvd does have the Terminal, and the Terminal can invoke the command “cp“. Here’s how to do it.

  1. Put the dvd in and restart, tapping option so it let’s you choose the dvd.
  2. Choose a language, then instead of installing the OS, go to the Utilities menu and choose Terminal
  3. Plug in a USB drive and type “ls /Volumes”. Figure out which one is your USB drive, which one is your internal drive, and write it down. If it doesn’t recognize the USB drive you’ll need to mount.
  4. Use “cd” to navigate to your internal disk and find your most important files, which are probably in “/Volumes/Macintosh HD/Users/yournamehere/Documents”
  5. Use the “cp source target” command to copy files from the internal disk to the USB disk. To copy a directory use the -R option. For example to copy the directory “bookmanuscript” you’d use something like
  6. cp -R '/Volumes/Macintosh HD/Users/yournamehere/Documents/bookmanuscript' /Volumes/USBdisk"

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