Mac Target Disk Mode: Use It to Transfers Files between 2 Macs

Wendy Wu
Last updated: Dec 27, 2023

Curious about what Target Disk Mode on Mac is and how to use it to transfer files? You've come to the right place. Read this blog post to discover all the answers you're looking for.

Target Disk Mode is the best choice when it comes to transferring data between two Macs. If you haven't heard of it or don't know what it is and how to use it for file transfer between Macs, don't miss this blog post where you will find all the answers you are looking for.

Target Disk Mode on Mac: How to Use It and Issue Fixes

What Is Target Disk Mode on Mac?

Target Disk Mode is a boot mode in macOS that allows you to connect two Macs, with one acting as an external hard drive for the other. It's used for various purposes, including data transfer, file sharing, data recovery, software installation, backup creation, and more.

Since the Mac chip transition from Intel to Apple Silicon, Target Disk Mode has been replaced by Sharing Mode.

Target Disk Mode works with USB, USB-C, and Thunderbolt. However, if one of your Macs is running macOS Big Sur or later, you must use Thunderbolt to connect them.

How to Boot Your Mac in Target Disk Mode to Transfer Files

You only need to put the Mac you want to use as an external drive into Target Disk Mode. The steps are simple but vary depending on your Mac's chip type.

It is recommended to disable FileValut on both of your Macs beforehand to ensure data accessibility and prevent potential complications.

How to Boot an Intel-based Mac in Target Disk Mode

  1. Connect your Macs with a USB, USB C, or Thunderbolt cable.
  2. Do one of the following on the Mac you want to use as an external hard drive:
    • If your Mac is shut down, press the T key while starting your Mac.
    • If your Mac is turned on, click the Apple menu > System Preferences/Settings > General > Startup Disk > Target Disk Mode, and then click Restart.
Boot Intel Mac in Target Disk Mode

How to Boot an M1/M2 Mac in Sharing Mode

  1. Connect your Macs via the correct cable.
  2. Shut down the Mac you want to use as an external drive.
  3. Press and hold the power button until you see the Loading Options window.
  4. Click Options > Continue.
    Mac Loading Options
  5. Select your drive and click Next to enter your Mac into recovery mode.
  6. Click Utilities > Share Disk.
    Share Disk Using Sharing Mode
  7. Select the drive or volume you want to share, then click Start Sharing.

How to Exit Target Disk Mode on Mac

To exit Target Disk Mode on your Mac, follow these steps:

  1. Eject the Target Mac Drive:

    Drag the disk image of the target Mac drive on the host Mac to the Trash. This will eject your target Mac drive.

  2. Exit Target Disk Mode

    Shut down your target Mac drive, then remove the cable.

What to Do When Target Disk Mode Is Not Working/Showing Up

Here are some tips to troubleshoot if Target Disk Mode is not working or not showing up when you attempt to use it on your Mac:

  1. Use the correct cable.
  2. Try a different port.
  3. Check that you have disabled FileVault on both of your Macs.
  4. Keep your Macs up to date.
  5. Reset NVRAM/PRAM.
  6. Restart your Macs.
  7. Repair your Mac using Disk Utility.

Bonus: How to Clean Up Mac before Transferring Files

If you have many files to transfer using Target Disk Mode, it's recommended that you clear unwanted files from both of your Macs. A quick way to do this is by using BuhoCleaner, a cleaning tool designed to clean and optimize your Mac. Click the button below to give it a try.

DownloadFor macOS 10.10 and above
100,000+ Satisfied Users Worldwide

Here's what BuhoCleaner can do for you:

  • Quickly clean up unnecessary files on your Mac.
  • Easily find and delete large and duplicate files.
  • Uninstall apps you no longer need effortlessly.
  • Get a clear view of how your disk space is used.
  • Keep an eye on your Mac's health in real time.
  • Streamline startup programs for better performance.


After reading this, you should have a better understanding of Target Disk Mode on Mac. The next time you need to transfer files, reinstall macOS, or create a backup for your Mac, follow the steps above to put your Mac into Target Disk Mode to accomplish these tasks.

Keep in mind that it's a good idea to clean up your Mac before transferring files using Target Disk Mode, and BuhoCleaner is the ideal tool for the job. If you haven't tried it yet, why not give it a shot yourself?

Wendy Wu is a tech enthusiast with a deep passion for all things iPhone, iPad, and Mac. Wendy is always on the lookout for Apple products and is committed to providing Apple users with some of the latest information and useful tips.