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Why can't I see target computer on host computer in firewire mode?

I have a older (over 5 years) Macbook Pro 17" that I gave to my son when I got a smaller one. He, of course, dropped it. But dropped in on a cement floor landing on the bottom left corner. The case is indented in there about 1/8 inch.

It runs the whole start up look and sound, but then freezes on the white apple in the middle of the screen. Can't get it past that.

I took it to the Apple Store and they think the hard drive is now dead, but they do not repair it anymore. I found this website and immediately thought I would order a new hard drive and follow the instructions, but then I saw there was a way to do some repairs by connecting the two computers via a firewire. I thought I would try that first before taking it apart.

I successfully connected them by holding down the T key (I get the firewire symbol on the target/non-working mac). But I cannot get my host computer to show the target computers drive anywhere. I also read somewhere that I should shut them both down and startup the target computer with the T key, then start up the host computer with the option key held down. I did that and only see my hard drive and a recovery option. I am assuming the recovery option would run on my host computer and that is the last thing I would want.

Is this simply reaffirming that the hard drive is broken or am I missing something?

Thank you so much for any help you can offer!

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Chosen Solution

Before buying another hard drive, I would reverse the target mode process and try to boot the 17" from the working drive in the good laptop. You can do this by putting the working laptop in target mode, and connecting it via firewire to the 17" in option mode, at which point you should see the working laptop's drive as a boot option, and selecting it should then boot the 17". Once booted up, you can verify the laptop's functionality -- you don't want to buy a new hard drive only to discover the 17" has sustained additional damage and that the dead hard drive is not the only problem. Please note, this won't work if the working laptop has an OS that is incompatible with the 17".

Also, booted up from the good hard drive, you may have increase visibility of the "bad" hard drive...if you see its icon on the desktop, you may be able to open it up and recover files, look at it in Disk Utility, etc. Target mode is not 100% reliable, so I would not be comfortable giving up on a drive simply because it failed to appear on a remote laptop's desktop in target mode. PMU/PRAM resets can help if a drive is not appearing in target mode (although of course that won't make a difference if the drive is dead).

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Thank you for your advice! I was on the verge of biting the bullet and just buying the new drive, but decided to try to boot this computer up again using the original discs it came with. When I did it wanted to install it but did not find a hard drive to install it on. I was able to get into disc utility from there and it showed the hard drive -- first time I saw any sign of the hard drive in a long time, and first time I made it into disc utility. I ran a repair, and it found nothing to repair. From there I ran a repair permissions and a repair again. Nothing. Went to shut it down to try target mode again and it brought me back to the install of the OS and it had found the hard drive this time. Luckily, being my son's computer, there was nothing important on there, so I chose to wipe out the hard drive and reinstall the OS. It worked! So it is up and working ... for now. It is running really hot, so I assume this will not be a long fix, but I was relieved to be able to get it going for now.


Sorry to say a system that is running hot IS A the system that is doing a lot of retries to the HD. While it may be working now it won't be long before its lights out on the HD. The Seagate HD I was speaking off should only set you back around $120 US. Still happy to hear your system is working!


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It's best to startup the system that will be in Target mode first and then startup your host system. You don't need to press any keys on the host system only the target system when it boots (T key). If you boot the other way you'll need to connect the FireWire cable after you have booted your target system. Basically its acting like an external HD in this mode.

If the system is showing the Target mode icon on the screen and you can't see it's drive. The drive is gone (dead).

From what you describe here I suspect the drive is shot and you'll need to replace it. You do have a few things to deal with here. First this system used a SATA I (1.5 Gb/s) HD and you'll need to get a replacement that is able to run at SATA I speed Vs the newer SATA II (3.0 Gb/s) & SATA III (6.0 Gb/s). Some drives offer a jumper or auto sense the I/O's speed.

I would recommend getting a Seagate 1.0 TB SSHD (hybrid). There are other drives but most are more expensive for less storage.

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