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Creating An Emergency Boot Drive For macOS

Article ID = 39
Article Title = Creating An Emergency Boot Drive For macOS
Article Author(s) = Graham Needham (BH)
Article Created On = 13th July 2011
Article Last Updated = 25th February 2015
Article URL = http://www.macstrategy.com/article.php?39

Article Brief Description:
Instructions for creating an emergency macOS boot disk

Creating An Emergency Boot Drive For Mac OS X

An Emergency Boot Drive is useful if you maintain multiple Macintosh computers or just want something that can boot your Mac in an emergency. The basic principle is that the device:
  • is small and portable
  • doesn't need a power supply
  • has a slim but most up-to-date version of Mac OS X you need (so it can boot all supported Macs)
  • Has various software utilities on it that you might need in an emergency
NOTE: Make sure you have your original Mac OS X installation DVD disc(s) to hand or you have obtained the Mac OS X 10.7 Lion disc image.
NOTE: This process can be used for multiple types of storage hardware including hard disks, Sold State Drives (SSDs), SD cards or USB sticks/flash drives.
NOTE: It is best that the volume/partition you are going to use must be at least 20GB in size. This is to allow for additional software to be installed and to be able to install Mac OS X "Combo" System Updates (see below).
NOTE: You will want to consider the connection type/device depending on the Macs supported:
  • FireWire 400/800
  • USB - only Intel Macs can boot from USB devices
  • SD card - only Intel Macs can boot from SD cards
  • Thunderbolt - this will be fast but are model specific so not generally recommended
  • eSATA - this will be fast but are model specific so not generally recommended
For universality we recommend a bus-powered portable hard disk with USB2 or 3 plus FireWire connections (FireWire can be either 400 or 800 or both just make sure you have the relevant cables/adaptors for both) e.g.
  • G-Tech G-Drive mobile 5400rpm USB 3 + FireWire 800
    • 500GB (model number = GDMOCEA5001ADB | part code = 0G02384)
      Buy it now at Amazon UK Buy it now at Amazon USA
    • 750GB (model number = GDMOCEA7501ADB | part code = 0G02388)
    • 1TB (model number = GDMOCEA10001ADB | part code = 0G02392)
      Buy it now at Amazon UK Buy it now at Amazon USA
  • G-Tech G-Drive mini 7200rpm USB 3 + FireWire 800
    • 500GB (model number = GDRMU3EA5001BDB | part code = 0G02569)
      Buy it now at Amazon UK Buy it now at Amazon USA
    • 750GB (model number = GDRMU3EA7501BDB | part code = 0G02573)
    • 1TB (model number = GDRMU3EA10001BDB | part code = 0G02577)
      Buy it now at Amazon UK Buy it now at Amazon USA
  • LaCie Rugged Triple USB 3 + FireWire 800
  • NOTE: We do not recommend the LaCie Rugged Triple 1.5TB or 2TB models as they use two hard disks in RAID 0 mode which is catastrophic for your data if either drive fails.
    • 500GB 5400rpm (part code = 301982) Buy it now at Amazon UK Buy it now at Amazon USA
    • 500GB 7200rpm (part code = 301983) Buy it now at Amazon UK Buy it now at Amazon USA
    • 1TB 5400rpm (part code = 301984)
      Buy it now at Amazon UK Buy it now at Amazon USA
NOTE: You can create multiple volume/partitions for different versions of Mac OS X. You should create Emergency Boot Drives/Partitions for the different hardware and operating systems you need to support:
  • For very old PowerPC systems (G3, G4 667MHz or slower) create a 10.3.9 volume on an Apple Partition Map storage device.
  • For modern PowerPC systems (G4 1GHz or higher / G5) create a 10.5.8 volume on an Apple Partition Map storage device.
  • For old Intel systems (Core Duo / Core Solo) create a 10.6.8 volume on a GUID Partition Table storage device.
  • For modern Intel systems (Core 2 Duo / i3, i5, i7) create an OS X 10.7 or later volume on a GUID Partition Table storage device.
  • If you are going to create a drive with multiple boot partitions for both PowerPC and Intel based Macs use Apple Partition Map. Then install PowerPC operating systems (10.3, 10.4 and/or 10.5) as required using a PowerPC computer. Then use an Intel Mac to install 10.6 and/or 10.7 as required. If you cannot install 10.6/10.7 to the external device install it to the local hard disk in the computer and then clone the install to the external device.

Setting Up An Emergency Boot Drive

NOTE: External USB hard disks/sticks/flash drives and/or SD Card boot drives only work on Intel Macs.
  1. Partition Your Device.
  2. NOTE: If the device has a large storage capacity e.g. 80GB+ create multiple partitions (the emergency boot partition only needs to be big enough to install/update Mac OS X and put your utilities on it so 30-40GB should be adequate). If the storage device is really large e.g. 200GB+ you could create multiple emergency boot partitions for different Macs you support e.g. (one for 10.5, 10.6 and 10.7) and you could also create one large partition for your software library/installers/updates.
  3. Install Mac OS X for the first time to your device.
  4. NOTE: You do not need to install the complete Mac OS X. At the "Customization" stage:
    • Mac OS X 10.5 > choose the following options:
      • TICK "Essential System Software" (usually ticked for you by default)
      • untick Printer Drivers (or just choose/tick the printers you may need)
      • untick Additional Fonts
      • untick Langauge Translations
      • untick X11
    • Mac OS X 10.6 > choose the following options:
      • TICK "Essential System Software" (usually ticked for you by default)
      • untick Printer Support (or just choose/tick the printers you may need)
      • untick Additional Fonts
      • untick Langauge Translations
      • untick X11
      • untick Rosetta
      • untick QuickTime 7
    • OS X 10.7 or later > There are no customisation options.
  5. Once Mac OS X has been installed and your computer has restarted boot from the Emergency Boot Drive (use System Preferences > Startup Disk).
  6. Download and install the latest Mac OS X "Combo" Update
  7. Now install all other Mac OS X Updates by repeatedly going to Apple menu > Software Update… until all updates are installed
  8. Restart your computer.
  9. Repair your boot disk's permissions.
  10. Install and update third party disk utilities e.g.:
    • Bombich Software's Carbon Copy Cloner (Donationware).
    • Shirt Pocket's SuperDuper! (Full cloning feature free, other features e.g. incremental backups US$27.95).
    • Alsoft's DiskWarrior 5 - buy it now at Buy it now at Amazon UK Buy it now at Amazon USA
    • Alsoft's DiskWarrior 4 - buy it now at Buy it now at Amazon UK Buy it now at Amazon USA
    • Micromat's TechTool Pro 7
    • Micromat's TechTool Pro 6 - buy it now at Buy it now at Amazon UK Buy it now at Amazon USA
    • Prosoft Engineering's Drive Genius 4 (Disk Directory Repair)
    • Prosoft Engineering's Drive Genius 3 (Disk Directory Repair) - buy it now at Buy it now at Amazon UK Buy it now at Amazon USA
    • Prosoft Engineering's Data Rescue 3 (Data Recovery) - buy it now at Buy it now at Amazon UK Buy it now at Amazon USA
    • Adobe Reader in case you need to open/read manuals/support documents (free).
    • Alternative web browser e.g. Firefox in case Safari doesn't work on a web site you need to visit (free).
  11. Repair your boot disk's permissions.
  12. Your Emergency Boot Disk is now ready for use.

Article Keywords: OSX 102 103 104 105 106 107 108 109 1010 1011 macOS 1012 Jaguar Panther Tiger Leopard Snow Lion Mountain Mavericks Yosemite ElCapitan Sierra emergency recovery boot disk Macintosh

This article is © MacStrategy » a trading name of Burning Helix. Apple, the Apple logo, and Mac are trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries. App Store is a service mark of Apple Inc.


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