An absolutely fantastic tale from my time at the Union Square Apple Store.

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Hi Zac,

I can’t believe what I’m about to tell you. 

Despite the odds, the old computer was still at the store (already packed and ready to ship), and within 15 minutes, Alex, the technician, was pulling data off of it. I’ve recovered everything, including weeks of software development on our iOS app, which I realized at 9pm last night hadn’t been backed up. 

I’ve attached the details of what happened below, but overall I can’t express how thankful I am for Alex and everyone at Apple Union Square for making this happen. I appreciate your patience with me and sincerely apologize for all the texts I sent your personal number in the last 24 hours. Frankly, I was losing my mind when I realized all the code I had lost. 

If you, Alex, or anyone else at Union Square has a child in college or is currently in college, and is using (or would like to use) Coursicle, I’d like to give them premium access for free. Just let me know. 

I’d also like to make sure it’s known: Alex is incredible. Throughout the process, he remained calm and controlled, and knew exactly what to try. Please do whatever you can to recognize his efforts with me. Very simply: he saved my data when it seemed nobody else could. 

I’m sure Alex would be happy to give you an overview, but I wanted to give you the full rundown in case you’re interested. When Alex booted up the machine, the first thing he did was hold “control” and had me enter my firmware password to get up the startup switcher: nothing appeared on screen. Then he tried plugging in an external monitor he had brought out, still nothing. Then he tried entering Target Disk Mode and had me enter my firmware password, still nothing. Then he tried entering internet recovery, and incredibly, the escape key appeared on the Touch Bar, which had previously been completely black. He used his phone’s flashlight to inspect the computer’s display, and saw that the GUI was appearing, but the backlight was completely off. This told him the motherboard wasn’t dead, but instead the backlight controller had failed, causing the display to be impossibly faint. Next, to make things simpler, he had me turn off the firmware password (and set the computer to allow booting from external media and had me turn off Secure Boot) while in internet recovery. While I was waiting for him for the next step, the computer fell asleep. When we wiggled the mouse to awake it from sleep, the backlight began working again, and for the first time the GUI was displayed with full color and brightness. This confused both of us. We opened up disk utility and saw that “Macintosh HD” was still recognized as a disk, and then we tried mounting it (which required my FileVault password), and it mounted successfully and all data appeared intact. Then we tried booting into Target Disk Mode. When we held a flashlight to the screen, we saw that we hadn’t entered Target Disk Mode, but we did see the username switcher that appears when the machine boots up. We tried entering Target Disk Mode again, and this time a flashlight to the screen showed us that we had been successful. We connected the computers via Thunderbolt, but it took between 60-90 seconds before the old machine was showing up as an external hard drive (which Alex actually anticipated, due to FileVault being enabled). Everything from there, of course, was cake. 

Some details about my experience that hopefully could help future customers: Alex said that there are known display issues, but with unknown causes, when both FileVault and a Firmware password are enabled on High Sierra. Moreover, yesterday, when we noticed that the computer spoke via VoiceOver and said the word “Username” each time we pressed the enter key, this should have told us that the board wasn’t completely dead and the data on the machine might be salvageable  (this realization is what made me rush in this morning to catch the machine before it was shipped off). 

It appears my two day datapocalypse has come to a delightful end. Again, please pass on my extreme gratitude to the team. I’d like to say you’ve all made me a lifelong customer, but that simply was already the case.