Difference between revisions of "Acquiring a MacOS System with Target Disk Mode"

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Note the sizes of all drives on your forensic Mac, if you don't already know. To find out go to:
Note the sizes of all drives on your forensic Mac, if you don't already know. To find out go to:
Apple menu > About This Mac > More info > ATA.
Apple menu > About This Mac > More info > ATA

Revision as of 01:50, 3 August 2012

Make sure to disable the disk arbitration daemon on the machine where you will do the acquisition. Alternatively use a FireWire write blocker

Prepare a clean firewire drive format is as HFS+ using Mac Disk Utility; name the volume “Target”. This process relies on being able to identify which drive is the suspect's drive by knowing its size. Many new Macs are shipping with 250GB drives. Having a unique firewire target drive size will help you identify it later, as you will see below.

Note the sizes of all drives on your forensic Mac, if you don't already know. To find out go to:

Apple menu > About This Mac > More info > ATA

Connecting the suspect drive

1. Without turning anything on, connect the forensic Mac to the suspect’s computer using a firewire cable.

2. Hold down the “Option” key on the suspect’s computer and turn it on.

3. If the suspect’s computer does not ask for a password, then turn it off. If the computer does ask for a password, then turn it off. You cannot do a simple TDM acquisition if a password is required. You will have to either:

a. remove the drive and do a direct acquisition

b. modify the memory by adding or removing chips and zapping the PRAM.

To zap the PRAM, start up the computer and as soon as you hear the startup 'bong', hold down these four keys:

It will bong again, and again. Continue to hold down these four keys until it has 'bonged' a total of three times
(the initial startup bong and two more after you hold down those four keys).

4. Assuming that no password was needed, hold down the “T” key and turn the suspect’s computer back on. The computer will eventually display the firewire logo on the screen and is then ready for TDM.

Acquiring the suspect drive

1. Turn on the acquiring Mac (with the disk arbitration daemon disabled) 2. Start the Terminal. And at the command prompt run:

cd /dev
ls disk?

This will list all drives that are seen by the system. A list containing at least three drives will appear:

  • disk0
  • disk1
  • disk2

One of these drives is the suspect’s. The other two are either the forensic Mac’s OS or the Target drive. You won’t necessarily know which is which, so you need to query them to see their size, which will give you a hint.

3. Tho probe a drive, e.g. /dev/disk1 you can use pdisk:

sudo pdisk /dev/disk1

The output of pdisk will look something like:

/dev/disk0 map block size=512
  #: type name length base ( size )
    1: Apple_partition_map Apple 63 @ 1 
    2: Apple_Driver43*Macintosh 56 @ 64 
    3: Apple_Driver43*Macintosh 56 @ 120 
    4: Apple_Driver_ATA*Macintosh 56 @ 176 
    5: Apple_Driver_ATA*Macintosh 56 @ 232 
    6: Apple_FWDriver Macintosh 512 @ 288 
    7: Apple_Driver_IOKit Macintosh 512 @ 800 
    8: Apple_Patches Patch Partition 512 @ 1312 
    9: Apple_HFS OS X 72600384 @ 1824 ( 34.6G)
    10: Apple_HFS OS 8.6 5537944 @ 72602208 ( 2.6G)
    11: Apple_Free 0+@ 78140152

5. Partitions on an HFS are called “slices.” You can see in bold that this drive has a 34.6G slice listed under the number 9 and a 2.6G under line 10. Add them up and your looking at a “40G” drive. If the result is the wrong size, then you are looking at the wrong drive. Repeat step 4 using disk0 and disk2 to identify all the disks.

6. Lets assume that your Target volume is disk2 and is a 120GB. If it is formatted as HFS, then the query in step 4 should return something like this.

/dev/disk2 map block size=512
  #: type name length base ( size )
     1: Apple_partition_map Apple 63 @ 1
     2: Apple_Free 0+@ 64
     3: Apple_HFS Apple_HFS_Untitled_2 239859504 @ 262208 (114.4G)
     4: Apple_Free 0+@ 240121712

Notice that slice 3 is 114.4 GB in size. Slice 3 is the “working area” on this 120G drive and is the slice that you will make available for receiving your evidence, using the mount command shown in green in line 8 below.

7. Once you confirm which drive is which, you are ready to go. Lets assume that your forensic drive is disk0, the suspect’s drive is disk1, and the Target drive is disk2.

8. Because we turned off disk arbitration, however, the target drive isn't available to receive the image. We therefore need to mount the Target drive; specifically slice 3 of disk2.

  Type sudo mount –t hfs /dev/disk2s3 /Volumes/Target.

If you are still unsure about which drive is which, you can verify things because Target now has a BSD name. To clear the Terminal screen, hold down the command key and type


Then, type

ioreg -l

Buried in the resulting display is information about the connected drives. Go to the Terminal Menu>Edit>Find. Search for disk1. Scroll through the hits and you should see the make and model number for disk1. If a search for disk2 comes up empty, then you know it is the unmounted drive.

At this point, you have the choice of imaging the suspect’s entire drive (recommended), or of just imaging the slice that you want. If you want to image the entire drive, type:  
sudo dd if=/dev/disk1 bs=1024 conv=notrunc,noerror,sync of=/Volumes/Target/Evidence.dmg.

This will write a raw DD image to the root of Target and will name the image Evidence.dmg.

If you only want to image particular slices, then add the slice to the command, i.e.

  sudo dd if=/dev/disk1s9 bs=1024 conv=notrunc,noerror,sync of=/Volumes/Target/Evidence.dmg.

A separate acquisition can be done for each slice that you want to examine by changing the slice number and giving each new image a different file name, i.e. EvidOS8.dmg.

The advantage of imaging the whole disk is that you can later bring it into Encase as a single evidence file.

  1. Your done. Unmount the Target drive by typing

    cd /Volumes

    sudo umount /Target

Shut down your forensic Mac and then shut down the suspect’s Mac. Disconnect the firewire connection to the suspect’s Mac.


  1. Reboot your forensic Mac and restore the diskarbitrationd.plist file back to the /etc/mach-init.d directory. Type

    cd /

    sudo cp diskarbitrationd.plist /etc/mach_init.d.

Turn the forensic Mac off and back on to initiate diskarbitration. Power up the Target drive. The Target drive should mount and appear on your desktop. Open it.
  1. The Evidence.dmg file should appear. Click on it once. Lock the file via the “GET INFO” menu to ensure it is write protected.

You can now double-click to mount the Evidence.dmg file and explore it within the native Mac OS environment.

If the image won’t mount, go into the Terminal and type the following:

  sudo hdiutil attach /Volumes/Target/Evidence.dmg -shadow

If you want to move the evidence file over into Encase, change the .dmg extension to .001 and add it as a raw image.

Jon Muller, San Jose PD, (With guidance from Derrick Donnally), July-05

See Also