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  • Writer's pictureBurton Kelso, Tech Expert

How to Recover Data From a Mac Fusion Drive

Updated: Jul 4

Apple introduced Fusion Drives back in 2012 and they were an great option for people who were purchasing Mac products like iMac and Mac Mini. There was a period when solid state drives (SSD) 500 gigabytes and higher were expensive. The Fusion Drive offered the best of both worlds, a fast computer with a large amount of storage. Like many Windows and Macintosh computers at the time, SSDs were installed with the operating system and a larger standard hard drive was used to store your data. Since 2019, Apple no longer makes computers with Fusion Drives. The price of SSDs have dropped, making it unnecessary to have two hard drives installed in your computer. Unfortunately, there have been many of you who have experienced failure with your aging Mac, primarily the Fusion Drive. This article is here to help you understand how they work and how you might be able to recover your data.

How does a Fusion Drive work? A Fusion Drive is a smaller SSD installed with a larger standard mechanical hard disk. Both of these hard drives were managed by CoreStorage and it's purpose is to keep macOS on the SSD to offer fast performance and to put your files that are most frequently used onto the SSD. Files you don't use as often are stored on the mechanical drive. The two drives work in conjunction with each other giving you a fast computer experience.

How Can You Tell If Your Mac Has a Fusion Drive? You can check if your Mac has a Fusion Drive simply by checking how quickly it boots up. Macs with Fusion Drives tend to boot up in around 15 seconds. In addition, if you have a Fusion Drive, System information will show two drives under the SATA interface instead of just one. Checking “About This Mac” and going to the “Storage” tab will also list the Mac as having a “Hard Drive + Flash Storage”.

The problem with Fusion Drives. The concept of Fusion Drives looks good on paper but doesn't help you in situations when your Mac fails to start or when one of the drives fails. On a Windows computer when you experience a problem where the computer doesn't boot up or one of the drives fails, you can extract the hard drive from the computer and hook it up to another desktop or laptop computer to retrieve your information. With a Fusion Drive, you cannot do this because both drives are linked with CoreStorage. The data on a Fusion Drive is spread across the SSD and the HDD. The only thing that makes a Fusion Drive appear to be a normal, mountable volume is macOS system software, running on a machine with both hardware drives.

How do I get the information off my Fusion Drive? Your options are limited when trying to recover data from a Fusion Drive. Many websites and software tools promise you can get your information from a fusion drive, but many of these claims are false. Honestly, if you aren't tech savvy your chances are impossible. You first want to refer to your time machine backup to retrieve any lost data. If you failed to make a backup with Time Machine, they check your iCloud backup storage to see if you have information stored there. If you aren't able to find any of your information stored on those two backup sources, and if you're stuck with a Mac product that won't boot into macOS, then your only option would be to ship your Fusion Drives to a data recovery center. Data recovery services are pretty expensive, but they are the only reliable option as these services require you to ship both the SSD and the HDD to a center with a clean room to extract the data.

If you’re still using a Mac with a Fusion Drive, keep it backed up and keep a close watch on it. If you start to notice any performance issues with your Mac such as a slow Mac or a Mac that won't boot after installing an update, it could be a sign your Fusion Drive is failing and you are looking at a new Macintosh product.

Hopefully, this will give you tips to help you understand how Fusion Drives work and what you should do if you think yours is failing. If you have any questions, please reach out. I'm always available.

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