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Recovering data from a MacBook Air unbootable hard drive

Recovering data from a MacBook Air unbootable hard drive

I’ve been working with a lovely client from the Highgate N6 area and assisting them them with various Apple Mac, wireless, printer and various technical issues over the last couple of years.

The main issue was with the wife’s MacBook Air 13 inch laptop from 2009 that worked very intermittently; sometimes the laptop would boot, and sometimes it would flash a folder with a question mark icon, indicating that the operating system could not be found.Even when the laptop booted correctly, it was slow and constantly showed the ‘beach ball of doom’ whenever opening multiple applications or browser tabs.

A newer MacBook would be able to cope with modern demands of opening dozens of internet browser tabs of more dense and hardware intensive rich media like videos and web applications. Not only that, but a newer computer would have fewer issues going forward and could attach to modern iCloud services that are only available to Macs that can run OS X 10.8 and above.

I strongly advise the the client to upgrade to a new computer however as there were clearly issues. However the couple decided to relegate the idea to ‘some other day’, and continued to use the laptop. Inevitably around 6 months later, disaster struck, and the MacBook Air would not boot up at all. All the data within was inaccessible without some outside intervention.

Data recovery from a proprietary MacBook Air 2009 hard drive

The client had stored a fair amount of data onto the hard drive of the 13 inch MacBook Air 2009 that needed to be recovered. Normally, MacBooks and other laptops can be dismantled, their SATA hard drives and solid state drives can be removed, and the data can be plugged into another computer via USB and a backup can be made onto an external hard drive. However due to ‘innovations’ in hard drive sizes, many modern MacBook Airs and Pros do not use the standard SATA interface, they use some uncommon or custom interface instead. This can make it very difficult to find a connector that will fit the hard drive. In the cast of the 13 inch MacBook Air 2009, the hard drive is connected via a 24 pin ‘LIF’ interface, rather than the normal 40 pin ‘ZIF’. Looking online, I was very lucky to find that a relatively inexpensive under-£15 1.8″ LIF to SATA adapter.

1.8" ZIF LIF HDD to SATA adapter 1.8" ZIF LIF HDD to SATA adapter


As you can see above, the LIF to SATA connector is only one part of the process of connecting the hard drive to a standard USB port. To complete this process, I used a standard SATA to USB adapter. The client bought a new up to date laptop, and we were able to connect the old MacBook Air hard drive to it via USB, and then save all of her data.


Andrew grew up in Shropshire, and has lived in London for over 10 years when he began his studies at King's College London. He provides full time IT support and web design services. More →


Tsai Law LTD
Tavistock Terrace
N19 4BZ
Phone: 07714 524 635
Email: info@andrewtsai.co.uk

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