How to Use Target Disk Mode to Move Files to Another MacBook?

Use target disk mode to make a Mac appear as an external hard disk on another Mac, allowing you to quickly browse and copy files.

Connecting your computers with the correct cable

Actually, identify the ports on both Mac computers then you can easily select the correct cable. Target disk mode works when your computers are connected to each other using one of these ports:

  • Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C)
  • USB-C
  • Thunderbolt 2
  • FireWire
    Target disk mode doesn’t cover connections that use an Apple USB-C Charge Cable, USB-A to USB-A cable, or Mini DisplayPort   cable.

In case one or both computers have a Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) or USB-C port, you can connect them as bellows:

Start up in target disk mode

Whenever you decide to use the external hard disk, choose one of these following steps:

  • Turn on the Mac and right away press and hold the T key while it starts up.
  • If the Mac is already turned on, choose Apple menu  > System Preferences, then click Startup Disk. Click Target Disk Mode, then click Restart when you’re asked to confirm.

When your Mac enters target disk mode, it displays a large Thunderbolt , USB , or FireWire  symbol onscreen. When your computers are connected to each other correctly, the Mac in target disk mode should now be ready as a disk on the other Mac. Use it as you would any other disk.

In order to exit target disk mode, first eject the disk from the other Mac. For example, select the disk, then choose File > Eject. Or just shut down the other Mac. After that push and hold the power button for up to 10 seconds on the Mac you’re using as a disk. Release the button when the Mac turns off.

When the target disk doesn’t appear on the other Mac

When the Mac in target disk mode doesn’t appear as a disk on the other Mac, follow these steps to mount the disk:

  1. Open Disk Utility on the other Mac. It’s in the Utilities folder of your Applications folder.
  2. If the connection between your computers is good and you followed the steps to start up in target disk mode, the target disk should appear as a volume in the Disk Utility sidebar. Select that volume, then choose File > Mount from the menu bar, or click Mount in the toolbar.
  3. If the target disk is FileVault-encrypted, you’re asked to enter a password to unlock the disk and mount it. Enter the administrator password for the Mac that you started up in target disk mode.

The disk should now be mounted and available to your Mac. However, if it’s formatted for APFS, your Mac must be using High Sierra or later. Earlier versions of the Mac operating system don’t mount APFS-formatted volumes.

As an alternative to target disk mode, you can use AirDrop to send content between two Mac computers wirelessly.

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