MacBook Target Disk Mode

USB-C AdaptersThis post was updated on July 12, 2017. 

MacQuisition 2017 R1 is fully compatible with the MacBook Pro so examiners can automatically boot the new hardware directly from MacQuisition using a USB-C adapter. Examiners who do not have MacQuisition 2017 R1 are advised to continue using Target Disk Mode.

When Apple released the new MacBook in 2015, only one USB-C port was included.  Learn how to image a MacBook with a single USB-C port here. Since then Apple has released their latest MacBook Pro models with 4 USB-C (Thunderbolt 3) ports.

Coinciding with the release of the MacBook Pro, Apple dropped the price of adapters needed to connect these computers to external devices using standard USB, or Thunderbolt.

The following information applies only to MacBook (Early 2015 and Early 2016)  model A1534.

USB-C Target Disk Mode

Apple computers have always included a handy feature known as Target Disk Mode to allow for easy transfer of files from once computer to another.  Originally released with Firewire support only, Apple added Thunderbolt support, and now has support for USB-C.

To access Target Disk Mode on the new MacBook:

  • Press the power button on the MacBook
  • Hold the <Option/Alt> key to access the Start-up Manager (this is a safety check to see if a firmware password is present)
  • Once the Start-Up manger is visible hold the <T> key, until the USB-C Target Disk Mode symbol appears on the screen

USB-C Target Disk ModeFigure 1: USB-C Target Disk Mode

Using USB-C Adapters

There are a number of adapters available for USB-C devices.  However, examiners should be aware that the new MacBook does not support Thunderbolt.  Attempting to start the new MacBook in Target Disk Mode while connected via Thunderbolt to USB-C will cause the MacBook to simply boot to the login screen.

Recommended Method

If it is required to put the MacBook into Target Disk Mode, it is recommended to use one of the following:

  • USB-C to USB-A straight cable
  • USB-C to USB adapter and USB 3 cable
  • USB-C to AV Multiport adapter and USB 3 cable
  • USB-C to VGA Multiport adapter and USB 3 cable

Note: All USB connections must be to a USB 3 port

Examiner’s should remember that Target Disk Mode is not write protected.  As such a USB write blocker, or BlackBag’s SoftBlock is required to protect the data on the MacBook.

MacBook connected in Target Disk Mode in SoftBlockFigure 2: MacBook connected in Target Disk Mode over USB-C protected by BlackBag’s SoftBlock

Notes

When using a USB-C to USB-A straight cable, the MacBook receives a charge through the cable and therefore does not require to be connected to a power adapter.  Of course this is assuming that the computer that the MacBook is attached to is connected to power.

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