Reinstalling a Mac from a USB DVD drive; and Mac Target mode

by Juliet Kemp

Mac rather than Linux, but never mind.

One of my users recently had his PowerBook fail, and needed to reinstall from an external source (as the DVD drive was broken). Apparently all the information he found online insisted that this could only be done via FireWire, either from an external DVD drive or by booting in Target mode (attached to another Mac). However, after some days of prodding at it, he eventually tried a USB external DVD drive, and that worked absolutely fine, albeit slowly.

While I'm on the subject, consider this a reminder to back your data up. I say this because my own laptop died last week (thankfully I did have a recent backup!). The Mac Target mode did come in handy here. My hard drive was showing errors when I booted verbosely (hold down Apple-V as you press the power button & hold it until the boot screen appears - may take some time). However, when I attached it to another Mac via FireWire, and booted it in Target mode (hold down Apple-T during boot), it (eventually...) showed up as a volume on the other Mac. This meant I was able to rescue the one really important file that hadn't been backed up in its most recent version, as I'd been working on it that day. After which, sadly, it expired entirely. I do now have a lovely shiny new black MacBook (prioritising size over the increased power of the PowerBook - it's a shame they no longer make 12" PowerBooks) as a replacement.

6 Comments

David Buxton
2007-07-27 08:10:50
No need to hold down the Apple key for target mode. 'T' on its own will do.
Ronald Pottol
2007-07-31 17:48:21
I have to agree, I've been dragging laptops around since 1992 and small is beautiful (but so is the 1600x1200 15" screen of my R50p Thinkpad), the machine that stands out in my memory was the Toshiba Libretto, yes, tiny screen and keyboard, but less than two pounds (850g), vs 8+ for everything else. Sure, I've loved the two Mac laptops, and my current machine, but something that isn't a pain to carry is so sweet! Thinking about getting an older Portege or similar machine for just getting out and thinking hard about one thing (and I can live with a tiny screen).
Juliet Kemp
2007-08-03 06:20:37
Ronald - yes, a friend of mine had a Libretto & I coveted it greatly :-) There's some talk of Apple producing a mini laptop, but no actual release date or any hard data, so...


I thought about going for a slightly smaller machine this time, but only very briefly, because I am so very fond of Apple laptops in all other respects (in summary: It Just Works).

Caitlyn Martin
2007-08-03 09:18:08
I have to agree with Ronald. The Toshiba Libretto U105 is a sweet little (OK, tiny) box. I'd put up with only a 1.2GHz processor simply because of the small size and low weight. You can find them for around $1400-1500 new.


I have two ancient Libretto SS1010s (233MHz Pentium MMX, 96MB of RAM in one, 64MB in the other) and they're still useful running Vector Linux 5.8 Standard.

Caitlyn Martin
2007-08-03 09:18:35
I have to agree with Ronald. The Toshiba Libretto U105 is a sweet little (OK, tiny) box. I'd put up with only a 1.2GHz processor simply because of the small size and low weight. You can find them for around $1400-1500 new.


I have two ancient Libretto SS1010s (233MHz Pentium MMX, 96MB of RAM in one, 64MB in the other) and they're still useful running Vector Linux 5.8 Standard.

Noah
2007-08-03 20:12:36
I spent quite a bit of time fully automating OS X installations using the asr command. It is like dd, but on steroids. If you the sysadmin type, I would highly recommend having two partitions and symbolically linking the /Users directory onto a second partition so that you can "nuke" your box from orbit in say 10-15 minutes and fully reinstall the OS. You can then write a script around asr that will let you boot into your second partition and automatically restore your os.


I have some throw away python code that does just that, but was meant to install several images automatically when a machine boots onto a network operating system. You could adapt it quite easily for a single laptop restore procedure:


nuke_os_x_code


I wrote this code in a few hours, so it isn't OO and fancy, but it gets the job done. I will of course, be covering things like this in the book Jeremy and I are writing on Python for Systems Administration.