Boot from eSATA

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by weckart, Sep 14, 2007.

  1. weckart macrumors 601

    Nov 7, 2004
    I have read that this is not possible on a Mac, as eSATA requires a driver to load on current hardware.

    I bought an Apiotek single port pc express card for about £12 in p&p on eBay, only to realise that this was not supported on OS X. Or so I thought.

    I put my old MB hard drive in a no-name SATA enclosure and attached it to the pc express card in my MBP SR. For good measure I installed the driver direct from the chip manufacturer (Silicon Image) for the pc express card with 2 ports which is Mac compatible, figuring that I could easily remove it if it did not work. I rebooted and held down the option key. Lo and behold, the MB hard drive installation appeared as a bootable option so I selected it. It got to the swirling pattern before I got a kernel panic, which I put down to incompatibility between the MB and MBP hardware kexts. The main thing is that despite reports it does appear that booting from external eSATA is possible with current hardware. Under Tiger 10.4.10, I could access all the files on the external SATA drive which appeared in Finder with a generic internal HD icon.

    The card is a bit flakey in that I cannot eject it once inserted, even if I power the card down as it leads to a kernel panic. However it is fine if I leave it in and does not seem to affect performance otherwise.

    I tried the card in a friend's MBP with Leopard installed, and the card ejects without kernel panics, no driver installed. Moreover, although the card itself is not recognised, full details appear in the System Profiler.

    Anyone else tried any other cards, which work more gracefully, and how did you get on?
  2. thejadedmonkey macrumors 604


    May 28, 2005
    Ooh that's sweet news! I'll have to keep this in mind!
  3. BrittQ macrumors regular

    May 23, 2007
    If someone can test this, that would be great. But what I really want to know is if this means booting from an expresscard34 flash hard drive would be possible...
  4. weckart thread starter macrumors 601

    Nov 7, 2004
    Updated with pictures

    I decided to test this further and upgrade the installation on my eSATA disk. The first pic (sorry for the quality) shows the kit used.

    I installed the card, which still is not supported as per the first screenshot, although it seems to function OK.

    The second screenshot shows the available destinations that the install DVD detects. The coloured Macintosh HD is my MBP OSX volume, the second generic Macintosh HD is the Macbook volume on my eSATA disk and the Untitled volume is my Bootcamp Vista installation.

    The third and fourth screenshot shows that I have had to archive and install to get the installation to greenlight the eSATA disk, which is as expected.

    The final screenshot shows the System Profiler listing 2 SATA disks with the main connection now being my eSATA disk. It is no longer a removable drive, but the plus point, which I did not expect is that SMART is supported, so I could happily use this as the main drive.

    I have not carried out any performance tests, but it feels and boots up as fast as my internal HD.

    For the record, I got the pc express card from for £19 all in and my MBP is the SR model, so YMMV with earlier MBP firmwares.

    Edit: Ran Xbench. Looks like eSATA will require some more tweaking before it is ready for primetime

    On eSATA:

    Results 60.47
    System Info
    Xbench Version 1.3
    System Version 10.4.9 (8Q1058)
    Physical RAM 4096 MB
    Model MacBookPro3,1
    Drive Type FUJITSU MHW2120BH
    User Interface Test 336.37
    Elements 336.37 1.54 Krefresh/sec
    Disk Test 33.22
    Sequential 49.55
    Uncached Write 50.58 31.06 MB/sec [4K blocks]
    Uncached Write 45.27 25.62 MB/sec [256K blocks]
    Uncached Read 47.87 14.01 MB/sec [4K blocks]
    Uncached Read 55.63 27.96 MB/sec [256K blocks]
    Random 24.99
    Uncached Write 8.99 0.95 MB/sec [4K blocks]
    Uncached Write 50.70 16.23 MB/sec [256K blocks]
    Uncached Read 60.84 0.43 MB/sec [4K blocks]
    Uncached Read 78.64 14.59 MB/sec [256K blocks]

    On internal Hard Drive:

    Results 70.31
    System Info
    Xbench Version 1.3
    System Version 10.4.9 (8Q1058)
    Physical RAM 4096 MB
    Model MacBookPro3,1
    Drive Type FUJITSU MHW2160BHPL
    User Interface Test 414.22
    Elements 414.22 1.90 Krefresh/sec
    Disk Test 38.42
    Sequential 70.57
    Uncached Write 92.86 57.02 MB/sec [4K blocks]
    Uncached Write 80.67 45.64 MB/sec [256K blocks]
    Uncached Read 44.13 12.92 MB/sec [4K blocks]
    Uncached Read 92.07 46.28 MB/sec [256K blocks]
    Random 26.39
    Uncached Write 8.88 0.94 MB/sec [4K blocks]
    Uncached Write 74.31 23.79 MB/sec [256K blocks]
    Uncached Read 64.18 0.45 MB/sec [4K blocks]
    Uncached Read 101.30 18.80 MB/sec [256K blocks]

    Attached Files:

  5. Lucidmyth macrumors member

    Apr 12, 2007
    The Netherlands
    This is an interesting read since I'm trying to get his to work for quite some time now.
  6. DoFoT9 macrumors P6


    Jun 11, 2007
    very interesting thread. thanks so much for posting this.
    cant wait for leopard, then it will hopefully work :)
  7. tyrnight macrumors member

    Dec 3, 2007
    Yes it does work.

    I have done it, it requires Leopard and a jMicron eSata Express card..

    I am currently using 2 Western digital Caviars BLACKS (1tb) striped

    VC - 2 Port eSATA II Express Card Adapter from
    Express Card 34 contains two (2) eSATA 300 ports and offers a data transfer rate of up to 3GBps! Mac Users: This item is for Macbook Pro onlyJMicron chipsetSuports OS X 10.5 or later. 10.4 is not supported.No driver software is required. Fully Plug & Play.Support FIS Based Switching with Port MultiplierSupports RAID 0 and RAID 1

    and any ol eSata drive or eSata Raid case

    Im Using right now.. and it works Fantastic.. speeds at about 170MB/s (xBench)
  8. e12a macrumors 68000


    Oct 28, 2006
    you were able to boot from eSATA?

    i have tried and i can't..

    ah i see you installed OSX on it, interesting approach. I have a superduper backup on my external but i cant seem to boot from it. I could try changing the Startup Disk while my external is plugged in.
  9. tyrnight macrumors member

    Dec 3, 2007
  10. Lucidmyth macrumors member

    Apr 12, 2007
    The Netherlands
    This sounds very interesting!

    Just a few questions:
    Can anyone confirm this ?
    Will this work on any MacBook Pro ?
  11. e12a macrumors 68000


    Oct 28, 2006
    it looks like you have to get a eSATA card with the jMicron controller. the silicon image can't be used...or at least I think so, because the drivers aren't in leopard.. i've tried switching my startup disk to my external esata to no avail. :(
  12. Lucidmyth macrumors member

    Apr 12, 2007
    The Netherlands
    I believe the OS is not the main issue.
    It's EFI, the card needs an EFI-driver to be able to boot any OS.
    If an EFI-driver is present, it can detect an attached drive and boot it's installed OS. After booting the OS, that OS of course needs a driver too.
  13. DoFoT9 macrumors P6


    Jun 11, 2007
    yup that makes a lot of sense. im going to look back into getting a eSata card.

    what write/read speeds can i expect?
  14. e12a macrumors 68000


    Oct 28, 2006
    make sure you use the right drivers. There are 2 types, RAID enabled or not (Silicon Image).

    these are my results, moderately faster than my internal drive and faster than FW400 on the same esata/FW external.

    eSATA (Western Digital 500GB 7200rpm):
    Results 69.82
    System Info
    Xbench Version 1.3
    System Version 10.5.4 (9E17)
    Physical RAM 4096 MB
    Model MacBookPro3,1
    Drive Type WDC WD50 00AAKS-22YGA0
    Disk Test 69.82
    Sequential 87.95
    Uncached Write 119.87 73.60 MB/sec [4K blocks]
    Uncached Write 104.75 59.27 MB/sec [256K blocks]
    Uncached Read 48.54 14.21 MB/sec [4K blocks]
    Uncached Read 142.98 71.86 MB/sec [256K blocks]
    Random 57.88
    Uncached Write 22.32 2.36 MB/sec [4K blocks]
    Uncached Write 154.52 49.47 MB/sec [256K blocks]
    Uncached Read 91.85 0.65 MB/sec [4K blocks]
    Uncached Read 144.00 26.72 MB/sec [256K blocks]

    FW400 (from the same ext. enclosure):
    Disk Test 52.02
    Sequential 51.35
    Uncached Write 50.91 31.26 MB/sec [4K blocks]
    Uncached Write 53.97 30.54 MB/sec [256K blocks]
    Uncached Read 38.14 11.16 MB/sec [4K blocks]
    Uncached Read 74.06 37.22 MB/sec [256K blocks]
    Random 52.71
    Uncached Write 21.63 2.29 MB/sec [4K blocks]
    Uncached Write 98.97 31.69 MB/sec [256K blocks]
    Uncached Read 93.94 0.67 MB/sec [4K blocks]
    Uncached Read 112.34 20.85 MB/sec [256K blocks]

    Internal drive (14GB free, Fujitsu MHW2160BHPL):
    Disk Test 32.74
    Sequential 48.59
    Uncached Write 59.97 36.82 MB/sec [4K blocks]
    Uncached Write 57.91 32.76 MB/sec [256K blocks]
    Uncached Read 29.45 8.62 MB/sec [4K blocks]
    Uncached Read 69.35 34.85 MB/sec [256K blocks]
    Random 24.69
    Uncached Write 9.11 0.96 MB/sec [4K blocks]
    Uncached Write 54.34 17.40 MB/sec [256K blocks]
    Uncached Read 46.51 0.33 MB/sec [4K blocks]
    Uncached Read 81.10 15.05 MB/sec [256K blocks]
  15. DoFoT9 macrumors P6


    Jun 11, 2007

    very interseting, those are pretty decent benchmarks, can i just ask why you have a 14gb internal hard drive lol?
  16. valvehead macrumors regular

    Mar 1, 2008
    That's 14GB free. The drive is 160GB total.:rolleyes:
  17. DoFoT9 macrumors P6


    Jun 11, 2007
    ok well that makes sense haha. if you were using a 14gb HD then it would be still runninn on IDE or something, and the benchmarks would have been in the kbits per second area :rolleyes:
  18. MikeGT macrumors newbie

    Jul 3, 2007
  19. -Cyman- macrumors member

    Jun 6, 2007
    Ok, so I ordered the jMicron card after I saw on this thread that it seems to work with this chipset. Today I received it, Leopard says ithe card is unknown, but shows it in the menu bar, when it is connected. When I plug in the eSATA cable to connect it to my external HDD, the latter doesn't mount. I don't know if this is a driver issue or some issue with the cable or the eSATA connector/port of my external enclosure.
    So it would really be nice if those who got it to work could enlighten us how they managed to get it working, where to get the right drivers (if needed) and so on.
    Thank you in advance, I appreciate your help.
  20. MikeGT macrumors newbie

    Jul 3, 2007
    Have you checked the cable?

    I first cloned my MBP to external HD using firewire(used SuperDuper). Then after removing the firewire cable, restarted after connecting the esata card from Jmicron/cable/cloned ext HD. The card showed as unknown to me too. I'm using an ext HD from WD.

    Hope this helps!

    See my other post here>

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