I have spent most of today trying to get a MacBook up and running. Before making any drastic changes, the most important task is backing up the user’s data.
Luckily, an x86 based Mac can boot straight into Ubuntu – as in the live edition of Ubuntu, no installation required! Once booted, you can mount the Mac’s hard drive and browse it. The only problem I encountered was being able to access private files.
To do this you need to reset the permissions for those files. The easiest way to do this is to start the Mac in single user mode (hold the Apple key + S when you turn the Mac on). At the prompt, type ‘cd /’ and hit enter, then type ‘chmod -R 777 Users’ and hit enter. It will now reset the permissions for all users.
Boot up with Ubuntu, and you should be able to copy the files to an external hard disk.