The Cat's Mustaches — Installing Tiger without a DVD drive

by Francois Joseph de Kermadec


The problem

Mac OS X v. 10.4 Tiger now ships on a DVD by default instead of a suite of CDs like Panther used to. This makes for a much faster, smoother installing experience as no disc swapping is required. Unfortunately, it also raises new questions for users whose Macs are well within the system requirements but do not own a DVD drive.

While Apple offers a Media exchange program, users who have purchased the Family Pack and only have one or two incompatible drives will probably not want to revert to the old fashioned CDs.

Luckily, there are alternative ways to install Tiger onto your Mac, even without an internal DVD drive. Note however that they are not officially supported and that they might, under some circumstances, lead to a slightly less stable installation so, as the young people saw nowadays, your mileage may vary.

Use an external DVD drive

That might seem like an obvious solution but many Mac users are wondering whether this is possible. The good news is that it is, with most external DVD drives. Anything modern, self powered, FireWire equipped and using the latest firmware available for it has good chances to do the trick.

The difficulty here is that you need to be able to boot from this device. To perform the installation this way, connect the external drive to the Mac, insert the DVD into it and restart your Mac while holding the "Option" key.

After a while, your Mac should present you with a list of all the available boot volumes, which includes this external drive — you may need to wait a few minutes until you can click on it but that's normal. From there on, simply follow the traditional steps and you should be all right.

Using FireWire Target Disk Mode

This installation method relies on the ability of modern Macs to boot into a special mode called "FireWire Target Disk Mode" that causes them to be seen by other computers are simple external FireWire hard drives. It will require that you have a spare Mac with a built-in SuperDrive or Combo drive (anyone knows why they aren't called ComboDrive, by the way?) to play with.

Start by starting the DVD-deprived Mac into FireWire Target Disk Mode, by holding the "T" key down until you see a big FireWire logo dancing on the screen. Then, by using a thick, known-good FireWire cable, connect it to your other Mac and wait until it appears on your Desktop.

Finally, insert the Tiger DVD into the computer and restart it. From there on, simply follow the traditional steps. You will be able to select the external Mac in the Installer Window as the destination drive for Mac OS X. Your other volumes should be left intact.

14 Comments

Theowin
2005-05-02 07:13:57
Installing Tiger on not supported Macs
It is as well possible to run Tiger on Macs without a built in FireWire port, if you don't mind working with hardware and have another supported Mac at hand.
In my case I installed Tiger from an iBook G3 900 MHz on an FireWire connected external HD. After installing Tiger I transferred he drive back to my iMac 266MHz (280 MB RAM) and Tiger workes well.
As with previous Systems it might be necessary when using harddrives bigger than 8 GB, to partition it first and install OS X on a partition which ist completely within the first 8 GB of the drive, but I haven't tried that.
F.J.
2005-05-02 07:22:12
Installing Tiger on not supported Macs
Hi!


First of all, thank you very much for taking the time to write, I really do appreciate it! :^)


That is indeed a workaround — and it might work. Should anyone decide to go that route, they might want to keep in mind that this configuration will not be supported and that they may have to deal with hardware management issues — such as fan usage or wake-up from sleep.


FJ

mairin
2005-05-31 12:26:41
Works for non-firewire too
Thank you so much for this article -


I used a USB hp dvd writer dvd420e - held down the option key on restart with the tiger dvd in the drive. It went very slowly, but it installed.

spoonz
2005-06-23 12:36:00
boot options key
For those who are working on a mac that doesn't have a mac keyboard, to be able to boot into the boot options menu you need to hold down the ALT key. That way you can boot off of the USB Drive.
sferrand
2005-12-19 22:29:33
Installing Tiger on not supported Macs
Ok, I got all that, but all I have is the DMG. file. Now how can I install that. I have a windows xp pc, if that helps to your answer.
sferrand
2005-12-19 22:32:29
Installing Tiger on not supported Macs
Sorry, I just read what I wrote doesn't make sense. I have a Ibook 600mhz,dvd/rw. But I downloaded the dmg. file of Tiger. I also have a windows xp pc, which might help to this.
F.J.
2005-12-20 07:23:08
Installing Tiger on not supported Macs
Hi there!


First of all, thank you for taking the time to write!


You allude to having downloaded a .dmg file of Tiger… As far as I am aware, the only official .dmg files related to Tiger are software updates, available from the Apple Website and they do not allow you to install Tiger as a whole. Could you provide us with some more details so that we can more efficiently help you?


Thanks,
FJ

F.J.
2005-12-20 07:23:40
Works for non-firewire too
Hi!


You're most welcome! Thank you for taking the time to post that additional tip!


FJ

sferrand
2005-12-20 07:35:26
Installing Tiger on not supported Macs
I downloaded the Tiger dmg (the entire installation files, 2.5gb) file from a client server. It would work fine if I burned it onto a disk, but I don't have a dvd burner. I wanted to know if there is a way of me installing Tiger having it on my pc, and some how starting it in network and getting the file from there.
F.J.
2005-12-20 08:18:44
Installing Tiger on not supported Macs
Hi again!


Hmm... Unless you or a trusted party uploaded that image to a server from a purchased set of CDs, I wouldn't trust these images in any ways as only original Apple media should be considered safe enough to serve as a basis for installation -- this added to the fact that uploading an image of an installation CD can, depending on where you live, be a violation of the license agreement.



On a strictly technical basis, however, I'm afraid you will not be able to use these images directly to install Tiger on your Mac, as the Mac OS X installer hasn't been designed to work over the network in such a fashion.


FJ

sferrand
2005-12-20 13:37:16
Installing Tiger on not supported Macs
I got the file from a friend. It works fine. Thanks for the info.
kenif
2006-01-02 14:39:05
Works for non-firewire too
...but you must have the latest firmware upgrade.


Older firmware does not support usb boot. My jurassic iMac slot cd has had linux forever, recently Kubuntu so it didn't get any software updates and OSX was only a dream.


Solution: Install 9.something, upgrade firmware, try usb dvd drives until you find one that works... currently loading OSX. Isn't technology wonderful?

Jorge
2006-03-11 20:45:09
What would you suggest I do if my G3 is so old that it does not support the "T" or "option" startups? Is my only alternative to get the Tiger CDs?
FJ
2006-03-12 05:17:55
Jorge,


Thank you for taking the time to post! Provided your Mac still meets the minimum requirements for Tiger, then, yes, the Media Exchange Program would be the way to go. More information on both issues can be found on the Apple site at the address below:


http://www.apple.com/macosx/upgrade/


FJ