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Share files between two computers with target disk mode

Learn about target disk mode and how to use it to share files between two Mac computers.

 

What is target disk mode and when should I use it?

Target disk mode lets you share files between two Mac computers with FireWire, Thunderbolt 2, USB-C, or Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports. This is useful when you need high transfer speeds or if the display on one of your computers isn't working and you need to get files from it.

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

How to set up and use target disk mode

To get started, connect your two computers with a FireWire, Thunderbolt, or USB-C cable that supports sufficient data transfer speeds. Then, follow these steps:

  1. If the computer that you'll use as a disk is off, start it up while holding down the T key and skip to step four. Otherwise, click the Apple () menu and choose System Preferences.
  2. Click Startup Disk and then click Target Disk Mode. 
  3. You will see a message asking "Are you sure you want to restart your computer in target disk mode?" Click Restart.
  4. Once the computer starts up in Target Disk Mode, it will appear as a disk icon on the desktop of the other computer. Double-click the disk to open it and browse the files on that computer.
  5. Transfer files by dragging them to or from the disk.
  6. Eject the disk by dragging its icon to the Trash (the Trash icon will change to an Eject icon when you do this).
  7. To exit target disk mode, press and hold the power button on the computer you used as a disk. Then disconnect the cable.
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