What to Do If MacOS Can’t Repair the Disk: Reasons and Fixes

macos can't repair the disk

Disk Utility (and macOS in general) is usually really good at fixing disk issues… But there are some cases where you may receive the “macOS can’t repair the disk” error. Don’t be fooled – you CAN still troubleshoot a drive that throws up this error and keep your data in the process.

This article will show you how to recover and fix your drive, even when Disk Utility tells you that you can’t. Read on!

3 Major Reasons Why the Error Occurs

If Disk Utility can’t repair the disk, it usually boils down to these 3 major reasons:

  • Disk corruption. Your drive may have too many bad blocks/sectors or your drive’s controller is dying. All storage devices have a finite lifespan and suffer from wear and tear.
  • Broken port or cable. Dust, debris, wear, and tear may be getting in the way of the mechanical connection between your drive and your Mac.
  • Software issues. There is such a thing as “soft bad sectors”, where disk errors are caused by logical damage. This may be caused by faulty or infected software (along with other issues, like corruption).
If the warning tells you that this disk has a hardware problem that cannot be repaired, it may indicate physical damage. Immediately stop using your drive and send it to a professional data recovery service to avoid permanent data loss.

How to Recover Data when MacOS Can’t Repair Drive

Before attempting any of the fixes we’re going to teach you in this article, it’s super important that you secure your data first! Faulty drives already risk data loss by default, but it typically gets worse the more you use it. Some of the fixes may also naturally cause data loss (for ex. formatting).

Here are 3 ways to recover your data when Disk Utility can’t repair the disk:

Method 1: Simply Copy Your Files

If you can reliably access your files, there’s no need to make things complicated! Quickly copy your data and paste them to a safe location on your Mac (or on another external drive).

Method 2: Create a Backup From the Drive Using 3rd Party Software

If you’re unable to copy your files from your drive to your Mac the regular way, the next best solution is to create a backup of your drive – specifically, an image backup. An image backup copies every single bit of your drive, which means that no data will be left behind.

There are a lot of third-party tools to choose from, but we’ll be using an app called Disk Drill for the purposes of this guide. Its backup tool is free and we’ll be using its recovery tool to demonstrate Method 3.

Step 1. Ensure that the drive you want to back up is securely connected to your Mac.

Step 2. Download and install Disk Drill.

Step 3. Launch Disk Drill (Finder > Applications).
Disk Drill app in Finder

Step 4. Click Byte-to-byte backup in the left sidebar. If this is your first time launching the app, click OK, let’s do it. Then, select your drive and click Create backup.
Disk Drill byte-to-byte backup screen

Step 5. Name your backup file and save it to a safe location (not on the same drive).
Disk Drill save backup dialogue

In the next method, we’ll show you how to easily restore the backup data using Disk Drill. The instructions may also apply to other third-party software or they may have their own methods.

Method 3: Access Files With Data Recovery Tool

Data recovery software are powerful apps that can extract data directly from a drive’s file system – even if it’s corrupted and/or not showing up in Finder. Disk Drill, our tool of choice for this article, is exceptionally good at providing support for all major file systems such as ExFAT, FAT32, HPFS+, and APFS (one of which your drive is likely using).

And as we demonstrated in the last section, it provides an image backup tool that makes this entire process so much easier. We can go straight to recovering data from that image without switching apps and while using an easy-to-understand interface.

Disk Drill Basic for Mac does not offer free data recovery. However, you can scan and preview your data as much as you want, which will help you figure out if your files are recoverable.

Step 1. If you haven’t already, download and install Disk Drill.

Step 2. Launch Disk Drill (Finder > Applications). If you are continuing from Method 2, click the Home button to return to Disk Drill’s main window.
Disk Drill Home button

Step 3. Click Storage Devices in the left sidebar. At this point, you can scan your drive directly (select it from the middle pane and click Search for lost data). But if you created a backup as we recommended, click Attach disk image at the bottom of the window.
Disk Drill image attachment button

Step 4. Select the backup we created in the last method and click Attach.
Disk Drill image attachment window

Step 5. Click on the backup image we attached and click Search for lost data.
Disk Drill drive selection screen

Step 6. Wait for Disk Drill to complete its scan, then click Review found items.
Disk Drill scan complete screen

Step 7. Expand the Existing tab to view the files currently in your image backup. If you are scanning the faulty drive directly, you may want to check the Deleted or lost and Reconstructed tabs as well. You can preview any file by hovering your mouse pointer beside its file name.
Disk Drill scan results

Step 8. Select the files and folders you want to restore or tick the box in the header section of the leftmost column to select all files. Then, click Recover.
Disk Drill file recovery

Step 9. Select a location on your Mac where Disk Drill will save the recovered files and click OK.
Disk Drill recovery dialogue

Once your data is secure, you can safely proceed with fixing your drive without worry.

How to Fix Drive that Can’t Be Repaired by Disk Utility

Disk Utility is one of the best disk repair software available for Mac. However, when Disk Utility itself is struggling to repair your drive, there are other solutions you have to explore. Below are 7 of the most effective fixes for Disk Utility repair errors.

Fix 1: Reconnect Your Drive

The mounting process may have glitched out when you connected your drive. Properly eject it and try connecting it again.

Fix 2: Reboot Your Mac

Open apps and background processes may be taking up memory that your Mac needs to establish a connection with your drive. Reboot to clear these processes and try again.

Fix 3: Check Mac Processes

You may be able to pinpoint certain processes on your Mac that are preventing Disk Utility from completing the repair. Check your Mac’s Activity Monitor (Finder > Applications > Utilities) for odd processes running in the background during the repair.

Activity Monitor in Finder

Navigate to the Disk tab to get information on your disk usage and monitor activities at the disk level. You can then click on a problematic process and click the X button to stop it.

Mac Disk tab in Activity Monitor app

Fix 4: Use First Aid in Recovery Mode

First Aid is Disk Utility’s powerful self-diagnosis and repair tool that can fix issues related to a drive’s format and directory structure. Depending on the severity (and if the issues affect your system drive), it might be better to execute First Aid in Recovery Mode.

The process differs slightly depending on your Mac’s model.

Apple Silicon Macs:

Step 1. Shut down your Mac.

Step 2. Hold the Power button until you see “Loading Startup Options.”

Step 3.Click Options > Disk Utility.

For Intel-based Macs:

Step 1. Shut down your Mac.

Step 2. Turn your Mac on and immediately press and hold the Command + R keys.

Step 3. Select Disk Utility.

Once you’ve opened Disk Utility, select the faulty drive from the left sidebar and click First Aid at the top of the window. Confirm when prompted.

Fix 5: Use First Aid on another Mac

If Disk Utility First Aid failed on your Mac, try running it on another Mac. Here’s why it could help: (1) your Mac may be unreliable for repairs due to corruption or poor maintenance, (2) your drive might be incompatible with your macOS version specifically, or (3) your Mac’s ports may be unable to hold a connection due to wear and tear.

By using First Aid on another Mac, we can confirm whether your Mac or your drive is the actual problem.

To run First Aid, launch Disk Utility (Finder > Applications > Utilities).

Disk Utility app in Finder

Then, select your drive from the left sidebar and click the First Aid button at the top of the window. Confirm when prompted.

First Aid button in Disk Utility

If the First Aid has failed even on a different Mac, proceed with the next fix.

Fix 6: Execute FSCK in single-user mode

Single-user mode is useful for isolating problems because it only loads the processes required to run the bare essentials. This includes a command line, where we can execute the FSCK command – a self-diagnosis and repair tool for file systems.

Getting to single-user mode depends on the model of your Mac.

For Intel-based Macs:

Step 1. Shut down your Mac.

Step 2. Turn on your Mac and immediately press and hold the Command + S keys until you see a black window with white text (the command line or Terminal).

For Macs with T2 Chips:

Step 1. Shut down your Mac.

Step 2. Turn on your Mac and immediately press and hold the Command + R keys until the Apple logo or a spinning globe appears.

Step 3. On the menu bar, click Utilities > Terminal.

For Apple Silicon Macs:

Step 1. Shut down your Mac.

Step 2. Press and hold the Power button until the Apple logo or a spinning globe appears.

Step 3. On the menu bar, click Utilities > Terminal.

Once you’ve opened the Terminal app, type the following command and hit Return:

diskutil list

Take note of your drive’s identifier.

Disk Identifier in Terminal

Then, type the following command and hit Return:

sudo fsck -fy /dev/disk4

Make sure you replace “/dev/disk4” with your own drive’s identifier and enter your password if prompted.

Fix 7: Format your drive

If none of the fixes have worked for you so far, your last resort is to format your drive. The good news is that formatting will most likely fix your drive for good because it excludes bad sectors from being used anymore.

The bad news is that formatting wipes all the data from your drive. So if you have important files on that drive, go through the recovery section of this article first.

To format your drive, launch Disk Utility (Finder > Applications > Utilities).

Disk Utility app in Finder

Then, select your drive from the left sidebar and click the Erase button at the top of the window.

Erase button in Disk Utility

Common Disk Utility Repair Errors

macOS is typically user-friendly, but many users struggle to recognize a lot of the Disk Utility errors they encounter while repairing the disk.

To help you, we rounded up the most common Disk Utility errors users encounter on Mac:

Error Description
S.M.A.R.T. errors If your disk has SMART errors, your firmware is probably outdated. Update your firmware by updating macOS.
Hardware issues This drive has a hardware problem that can’t be repaired by soft tools (usually indicating physical damage). Send your drive to a professional data recovery service instead.
Volumes are locked Your disk is password-protected. Manually unlock it before attempting repairs.
Error 69716 Some macOS updates include firmware updates that require original Apple SSDs. This error normally appears for users who are using non-Apple SSDs.
Error 69845 In most cases related to this error, your partition is greyed out in Disk Utility. This error prompts user to scan the entire APFS container, not just a partition.
Error 69565 This is an indication of an incompatible format. Format your drive to APFS.
Exit Code 8 Your file system (or parts of it) may be corrupted and the file system verify or repair failed. You’ll have to reformat your drive.


Disk Utility repair errors can be stressful to deal with because of the sheer number of variables you have to consider. Fortunately, even if Disk Utility cannot repair your hard drive, macOS still offers a lot of tools to help you restore and repair it. However, make sure that you recover your data first, as you are more likely to lose your files during the process.