Last-Ditch Data Recovery More Difficult on the 2018 MacBook Pro

(Josh Centers) #1

Originally published at:

If you own a 2018 MacBook Pro, maintaining regular backups is even more important than ever because there’s no port on the logic board for Apple Authorized Service Providers to use to recover data from a dead Mac. DriveSavers says that the lack of the port does not hamper their ability to recover data from these Macs.

(Brian Hendrix) #2

This is why I work COMPLETELY from an externally attached SSD drive on my MacBook Pro which is backed up daily, sometimes more. Internal drive is completely for OS and non-critical files / downloads. I also use encryption app that encrypts to folder on iCloud (yes, I’m very privacy oriented). There is absolutely NOTHING on the internal SSD of my MacBook Pro that’s private, sensitive, or critical.

(Michel Hedley) #3

How very Apple - living way up there in its ivory tower.

(Adam Engst) #4

There’s no need to bash Apple in a situation where the details are unknown. Almost no one knew that Apple had put a data recovery port on the previous Macs, and we don’t know if it was actually useful, or useful enough to warrant the extra design and manufacturing effort to include it. For all we know, it was impossible to include if Apple was to make it possible to increase the amount of storage to the new levels in the current MacBook Pros.

Plus, as noted, it’s not like DriveSavers and other recovery companies can’t continue to recover data through other means (they likely remove the storage chips from the logic board).

What’s most important is that people should have solid backup strategies so Hail Mary recovery techniques aren’t necessary.

(Simon) #5

I think Adam makes a good point. We all need a good backup strategy anyway. And keep in mind, this only affects total logic board failure which is very rare. If your MBP’s screen is dead or its RAM goes bad you can still recover the SSD data yourself. In the rare case your logic board is actually toast, that’s when your backup comes in. And in the event that fails, there’s still recovery specialist companies.

(Curtis Wilcox) #6

An iMac Pro’s data can’t be recovered unless the drive is in its original iMac because it uses hardware encryption below FileVault and stores the key in the T2 chip’s Secure Enclave. Since the 2018 MacBook Pros also have the T2 chip, I expect they’re in the same situation. Whatever DriveSavers is doing, I guess it involves maintaining communication between the storage and the T2 chip.

These design changes are good for protecting your data from falling into the wrong hands but also makes it harder (and probably more expensive) to get your data back into your hands. Hence, backups.

If your RAM goes bad, I don’t think you can boot in Target Disk Mode so it would still prevent you from recovering files from a soldered SSD yourself.

(Simon) #7

You’re absolutely right. The T2 encryption does change that aspect in a very significant way.

(B. Jefferson Le Blanc) #8

I think you’re right about bad RAM. But that’s a very rare issue too, these days. A dead screen is slightly more common.

Drive Savers is expensive. But anyone who has to use them is paying a fair penalty for their lack of foresight.

Backing up takes a little more effort on a laptop computer in that you have to remember to hook it up to the backup drive when you return to your home or office. But it’s a relatively inexpensive procedure and if you use Time Machine it is automatic, requiting no third-party software. Though keeping an up-to-date clone isn’t a bad idea either. You can schedule SuperDuper! and Carbon Copy Cloner to work automatically as well.

(Dennis Swaney) #9

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(Adam Engst) #10

Here’s more from Mike Cobb of DriveSavers about the T2 chip:

The T2 chip is very impressive as it controls not only the flash memory, but encryption, signal processing for the camera, audio control and lastly, the secure enclave. Both the NAND flash and the T2 are the critical components for a successful data recovery. There are no smarts on the NAND as the data is controlled by the T2 chip; therefore, no file structure (or anything else) can be recovered from the NAND without the T2 being physically intact.

As you can see, data recovery has become more challenging as data storage technology has advanced. The R&D team here at DriveSavers is constantly researching and developing new methods to recover data for customers that find themselves in an unfortunate situation when they’ve lost access to their critical data.

In short, DriveSavers needs the user’s password to be able to unlock an encrypted Apple device during data recovery. And, in the case of individuals sending in devices on behalf of someone else, they need permission of the owner and/or proof of ownership.