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Daniele Brunengo
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Inaccessible user account on Macbook

Hello guys, so I have this MacBook Air 11" (Early 2015) in my lab and the main user account is completely inaccessible.

Here's what happens: you input the password, the wheel starts turning and it never stops. After many minutes the password input interface reappears and it's a loop.

Now, I'm not a Mac expert, mostly because here in Italy they're very rare, so I get less than 10 of them a year. But I've always been able to fix them.

This time I've tried all the usual stuff: boot in safe mode, repair system drive, reset PRAM and the like.

Nothing seems to work. I have the option of making a clean reinstall, but the customer would like to recover her files first.

I usually remove the drive and insert it into a PC able to read Mac formatted drives, but this time it's an M.2 drive with proprietary connector and I have no adapter right now.

So can anybody suggest anything more? Thanks guys.
Apple HardwareApple OSMac OS X

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Daniele Brunengo

8/22/2022 - Mon
Andy M

Have you tried using the Mac OS boot CD to reset/remove the user account password? Could be an issue with the password itself. Alternatively does the boot CD allow you to create a new admin account and then log into that and take control of the files in question to back them up?

Alternatively you could try booting to a Linux disti (should be able to download a Linux based live-cd like Ubuntu for free) and use that to access and copy the files over to a USB drive before wiping.
Daniele Brunengo

I don't have a Mac OS boot CD right now, but I like the Ubuntu suggestion. I'll try that first.
Daniele Brunengo

I've tried that, but Ubuntu won't even recognize the Mac file system.
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James Murphy
Tim Lapin

A few questions first:

1)  Which version of the O/S is on the Mac?  (General question here but it might have an impact on the solution)
2)  Are there other accounts and if so, is at least one an Admin level account?
3)  Is the main user's account an Admin level account?
4)  Can you get into single user mode?

I have some ideas but I need to know the answers to the above first.
Daniele Brunengo

1) It should be Sierra or High Sierra.
2) There is only a guest account
3) Yes
4) I didn't try that, I will right away
Daniele Brunengo

Yes, single user Mode works.
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Tim Lapin

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Daniele Brunengo

I don't think they even know what Time Machine is.
I followed all the steps for Single User Mode, as detailed in the second link.
I mounted the usb key (exfat) and copied all the files from the user's folders (like /Users/Username/Desktop) but I only found empty folders copied, each containing a single empty file named .localized

Is there any chance there are permission problems using this method? I don't know, it only managed to copy some files from the Library folder, all useless.
David Anders

The Recovery Partition can be used to change a user's password. (done this several times)
Also can setup an administrator account (have not done this option)
Tim Lapin

Look at the detailed view of each directory, for example the user's Documents directory.  What are the listed permissions?

Use the ls -alF command to see the permissions details.  Then post them here if needed.

You might have to leave remove the "p" flag on the copy command.  That flag preserves various parameters, including the Access Control List settings.  Instead, just do a "cp -r".  That might be the fix.
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Walt Forbes

If it's High Sierra, then you may not be able to read the drive yet, unless you have another High Sierra system.

When you boot into single user mode, you have to manually mount the disk (mount -uw /) to fully operate on it.  If it's mounted and not showing.

Install OS X onto a USB disk and boot from that.  Then see if you can read the M.2 from the external disk.
Daniele Brunengo

Tim's first suggestion actually worked.
The user folder they told me to look into was wrong, probably a remnant of a deleted user.
The right folder contained all the files and I was able to save them.
Thanks a lot, this will be hugely useful in the future too.