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My friends MacBook Pro (2008) completely died today. We removed the hard drive, and I'm currently dumping it's whole content into a tar archive with the help of a parted magic live CD, so that he can later extract all his relevant file from there onto his Windows desktop. However, reading how the HFS+ File system on Macs seem to store files differently, I've started to wonder if that is enough to get all files. Also, his replacement PC is not going to be a Mac, so all we really need is easy access to all his files from a Windows PC.

So, in short::

  • Is it enough to make an tar archive of the HFS+ root to have ALL files?
  • If no: What would be a better way?
  • Do you recommend a better way if the only goal is to have an copy of all his files?
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It will get all files, assuming you have root access to the drive. Create the tarball from within another Mac or a Linux PC. Keep in mind that not all 'files' are real 'files'.* If you are only concerned with backing up his individual working files, you are fine. You will not be able to use the tarball to restore the system to a functional state with those contents alone, however.

When I saw not real files, I mean that Linux and Mac can create what looks like files but are actually things like character devices, hardware nodes, etc. They represent a piece of hardware or the operating system, but they themselves don't contain anything you would be able to use in a new system.

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