Mirror iMac monitor hotkey?
October 8, 2015 9:29 AM   Subscribe

My spouse and I own an 27-inch iMac from 2011. Recently, the screen seemed to go briefly haywire and then black. Now, when the computer is turned on, it seems to boot fine, but nothing can be seen on the screen (the flashlight trick did not help). Is there a way to make the computer mirror itself to another monitor at startup so that we can access its contents?

Doing some troubleshooting (and searching for answers online) we have determined that it is likely a graphic card failure rather than an issue with the LCD screen itself (apparently this is a known problem with this model). This sentiment is shared by the AppleCare rep whom we called yesterday - she advised us to bring the computer into their Genius Bar, and hopefully it can be fixed soon.

But - leaving our computer in the hands of strangers for the weekend worries us. We have nothing illegal on our computer, but we do have some private documents (most financial, though some personal) that were open and on the desktop at the time the screen went kaput. If we could access the computer long enough to back up and delete the private stuff beforehand, it would put our minds at ease.

The question I have is this: Is there a way make the iMac mirror itself to another monitor (our Sony W800C TV, or a Macbook) without actually being able to see and choose "screen mirroring" from the system preferences? Can it be done blindly, perhaps by holding certain keys at startup? Please help! Thanks!
posted by skycrashesdown to Computers & Internet (3 answers total)
"⌘-F1" or "⌘-fn-F1" is a keyboard shortcut for turning screen mirroring on or off in Mac OS X.
posted by mbrubeck at 9:39 AM on October 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

If you have a Thunderbolt or Firewire cable handy, what you are looking for is Target Disk Mode, which will let you access your iMac like it was an external hard drive.

1. Macbook should be on, and the iMac off.
2. Connect the computers using Thunderbolt or Firewire cable. (It looks like the 2011 iMac has both Thunderbolt and Firewire 800 support, so which you use depends on what port the Macbook has.)
3. Turn iMac on while pressing the T key.
4. iMac hard drive should appear on the desktop of the Macbook.
5. Back up private stuff, and then delete it from iMac hard drive.
posted by smangosbubbles at 9:42 AM on October 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

What smangosbubbles said. Note that if you had disk encryption turned on, you'll have to unlock the disk first (it's somewhere in Disk Utility I think).

In that case you might find it easier to just boot your iMac's OS on another Mac. Put the iMac in target disk mode, and hold Option while rebooting the other Mac (the order you do this in shouldn't matter). Your iMac's drive should show up alongside the other Mac's drive as a boot option; just click it.

(Target Disk Mode does work with Windows via FireWire, but Windows can't read the HFS+ filesystem that OSX uses so that's kind of a non-starter.)
posted by neckro23 at 10:18 AM on October 8, 2015

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