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I'm having trouble booting my Intel iMac (10.5.8) but I need the data off the hard drive. The hard drive is physically fine, I just screwed up my Mac OS X install with a hackish pkg.

Is there a way to backup my files over the network to a different working computer?

Or is there some way to boot in "safe mode"?

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Have you considered an Archive and Install? It will just reinstall the OS and leave your user files alone which should revert the Trackpad install you did. – Chealion Aug 31 '10 at 1:47
up vote 4 down vote accepted

I don't believe you'll be able to get network connectivity while booted from the normal install DVD. The simplest approach is indeed JRobert's answer of FireWire Target Disk Mode, but if you absolutely need to do it over a network, it is possible to create a custom bootable install of OS X with network connectivity that could be burned to a DVD (or flash drive, even).

Of course, for my time, I'd rather extract the hard drive and back it up connected to an external interface... assuming you've got one of the white iMacs and not an aluminum.

Ah, better answer: boot from the install DVD you have, run Disk Utility, and then image your broken drive to an external hard drive.

And lastly, if you can boot successfully into safe mode, it may be possible to fix your install from the command line assuming you know what's broken.

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+1 for the imaging to an external hard drive using Disk Utility and the install DVD. I did this once, worked very well! The safe mode boot is of course a good idea too. – Form Aug 31 '10 at 15:34
+1 saving disk image to external hdd worked great :) Considering I do have an aluminum iMac, removing the internal hdd would've been a nightmare. – macek Aug 31 '10 at 16:50

You can try booting into safe mode by holding the shift key while you boot the iMac.

Or If the 'different working computer' is a Mac and both have Firewire ports, boot it into Target Disk mode (hold the 'T' key while you boot it) and connect them with a Firewire cable. The iMac will look to the other Mac like an external disk. Back it up or fix it or both.

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+1 This is great to know in the future. I ended up using the external hdd method suggested below. – macek Aug 31 '10 at 16:48

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