Can the MacBook startup from external USB drive

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by rfrankel, Nov 7, 2007.

  1. rfrankel macrumors newbie

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    Dec 20, 2005
    #1
    I want to install Leopard on an external USB drive and use it as a startup disk.

    Is this possible, or will the MacBook only boot from external firewire drives?

    If using the USB drive is possible, besides formatting with GUID, is there any other issue I should be aware of?
     
  2. calvy macrumors 65816

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  3. isleofjib macrumors regular

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    #4
    its possible. when start up, just hold down the "C" button until it completes booting (you don't need to hold down the entire time, just until the apple logo displays and the little circle shows up). works fine. never used a firewire drive so i can't comment on speed differences, but it isn't much slower than the internal HDD. perfectly usable.
     
  4. Dr_Maybe macrumors 6502

    Dr_Maybe

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    #5
    I didn't know that. Besides the higher speeds, is there anything a FW external drive can do, that a USB 2.0 drive can't? On a Macbook Pro?

    I'm considering getting a new external drive, and whether I should pay extra for firewire.
     
  5. isleofjib macrumors regular

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    #6
    if you can get a FW800 drive enclosure, you could certainly getting much faster transfer speeds. that would be worth it for me. also (this is important to me), if you can get an enclosure that has both USB and FW, you won't find yourself in a bind should you ever find yourself with a) a bum cable, b) either port on your computer goes bad or c) either port on your enclosure goes bad. you can still use a different cable/port to boot your computer.
     
  6. CarlsonCustoms macrumors 6502

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    #7
    FW may seem slower on paper but its 400mb throughput is more constant where USB 480 throughput is more of a burst speed.

    In my tests FW drives were faster then using my usb enclosure.

    But I do like usb becuase not all pc's have fw ports.

    Zack
     
  7. devman macrumors 65816

    devman

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    #8
    The Macbook does not have FW800 though.
     
  8. isleofjib macrumors regular

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    #9
    true, but the person i replied to asked about a MBP. which does on the newer models.

     
  9. Dr_Maybe macrumors 6502

    Dr_Maybe

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    #10
    I believe my 1 year old MBP doesn't have FW800. The Powerbook I "upgraded" from did BTW. But I don't really need FW800 anyway, and it wasn't worth the extra price for FW800 enclosures the last time I checked.

    Availability and prices of enclosures not withstanding I do prefer FW400 over USB 2.0 because of the higher speed and less CPU involvement. The daisy chaining feature is nice as well. My current external drive has both FW400 and USB 2.0

    The thing is though, that USB 2.0 works OK for me, and I only use my external drive once in a while.

    But, one of the things I really like about FW is that you can use it to boot from and you can transfer your settings from another Mac. As far as I know, this has traditionally only been possible with FW.

    So, what I really want to know is this: Are there any special mac features (like booting from the drive) that I will miss out on if I buy a USB-2.0-only-drive instead of a FW400 drive?
     
  10. Mechcozmo macrumors 603

    Mechcozmo

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    #11
    Apple does not officially support booting from USB 2.0.

    FireWire is faster when it comes to transferring large amounts of large files. USB 2.0 is faster when it comes to transferring smaller bits of data. This is due to how the protocols work.

    If you can, start off of a FireWire drive. Either 400 or 800 will do. You can also daisy-chain FireWire drives together, which you can't do with USB. (Don't start your computer through a USB hub; I don't think it is even possible. Don't try to even if it says it will work.) FireWire will let you add on extra drives, convenient for backing up or restoring data.

    Also, holding down the "C" key tells the computer to start off of a CD. Hold down the Option key to tell the computer to seek out all attached bootable media; this might take a couple minutes, but it is the safest way to make sure you choose the right device. (Well, even safer is unplugging everything you don't want to start from) Hold "T" to start in FireWire Target Disk Mode.
     
  11. isleofjib macrumors regular

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    #12
    actually, you can boot from a USB hard drive and it is supported starting with the CD macs. i do it, it works great. not sure of the differences between 'c' vs 'option' but i do know when i hold 'c' down, it doesn't try to boot from the CD but boots automatically from the external hdd. try it, it works. :) i'm not sure when FW800 became available on the MBPs, but look at the specs, it's available now and i believe it was prior to the SR updates, too.
     
  12. Mechcozmo macrumors 603

    Mechcozmo

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    #13
    Linkety

    The CD/DVD probably isn't bootable.
     
  13. artic5693 macrumors member

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    #14
    If you had a high-capacity flash drive would it be possible to boot from? Just wondering.
     
  14. keenkreations macrumors regular

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    May 20, 2005
    #15
    Old PPC based macs (iBook, Powerbook, etc) only can boot up from Firewire. The newer Intel based macs (MacBook, MBP) can boot from either Firewire or USB 2.0. Make sure that you do not run from a hub, it causes random issues.
    To get back to the original question, yes, you can boot Leopard from a USB drive. I actually used my iPod to install Leopard onto the internal...that was an interesting experience.
    You cannot however, run Windows XP off an external drive. The only way would be to patch the Windows XP CD to run on an external.

    If you can fit Leopard on the flash drive, awesome! I found some links here about that: http://blog.bradbergeron.com/2006/11/29/howto-install-and-boot-os-x-on-a-flash-drive/

    Also, please keep in mind that like all flash memory devices, flash drives can sustain only a limited number of write and erase cycles before failure. Mid-range flash drives under normal conditions will support several hundred thousand cycles, although write operations will gradually slow as the device ages. (according to Wikipedia)
     
  15. isleofjib macrumors regular

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    #16
    that's fine and well, except that article was from 2002 so it's a bit dated. if you don't believe me, try it for yourself. there is no CD/DVD in the drive so that isn't the issue.
     
  16. Mechcozmo macrumors 603

    Mechcozmo

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    #17
    Yes, that article is from 2002. Yes, it was modified October 17th, 2007.
     
  17. isleofjib macrumors regular

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    #18
    i'll say one last time: if you don't believe me, try it. it works just fine on an intel mac.
     
  18. Mechcozmo macrumors 603

    Mechcozmo

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    #19
    And I'll say this as long as I need to.

    USB does work on some Macs. My personal MacBook Pro boots just fine with it. However, based on the fact that 1) Apple doesn't officially support it 2) FireWire is faster than USB for these tasks 3) FireWire doesn't tax the CPU 4) I can daisy-chain drives with FireWire, I will always reach for a FireWire drive before a USB drive. Always. Even if Apple does eventually say, "Yes, your computer will boot via USB" I will use FireWire.

    That's how I treat my data.
     
  19. isleofjib macrumors regular

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    #20
    did you read the title to this thread? i did. i answered his question. you?
     
  20. Mechcozmo macrumors 603

    Mechcozmo

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    #21
    Why, yes I did. And I also read the question that was asked in the post. :rolleyes:
     
  21. writeous macrumors regular

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    Aug 24, 2007
    #22
    I boot Leopard off my USB 2.0 drive, and runs pretty good.
     
  22. Mechcozmo macrumors 603

    Mechcozmo

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    Jul 17, 2004
    #23
    Wirelessly posted (Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows 98; PalmSource/Palm-Zir4; Blazer/4.0) 16;320x320)

    It isn't a matter of if it works or not. It does. But it is not supported. What happens if your bootable-backup is rendered useless by a firmware/OS update? Or if data is lost because the computer is trying to control its startup drive via an interface cable that requires the CPU to handle all data transfers? Simply put- again- you can do it at your own risk. Use FireWire for valuable data backups. Why skimp out on a few bucks here of all places, with the backup copy of your vital data?
     

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