G5 Quad - Options to address corrupt OS

Discussion in 'Macintosh Computers' started by cabasner, Nov 28, 2005.

  1. cabasner macrumors member

    Oct 9, 2005
    Hello All,

    I'm really close to jumping on the G5 Quad bandwagon (transition from a PC). However, I need some advice on one thing in particular. Since being a PC guy forever, I have experienced too often the need to trash and reload the Windows operating system. I have never taken the time to investigate if or how the option to add a second physical hard drive would work, and keep the operating system on one drive, and my programs and data on another physical drive, with the idea that if the OS ever needed to be reloaded, that the programs and data would remain intact and not be affected.

    I want to know how or if this would work on the G5. I have contacted Apple, and they indicate that they probably can't make such a thing happen from the factory, but that the Apple support folks could walk me through how to do it. They also suggested that a cost effective solution would be to keep a copy of the OS on an external hard drive and be able to boot the computer off that drive in the event that the internal hard drive OS became corrupted. In order for this to address my issue, however, I gather that I would need to have an EXACT copy of EVERYTHING, including programs and data on the external drive, to prevent my original issue...having to reload and restore all the programs and data in the event of having to reload the OS.

    Does anyone have any experience in trying to do what I'm asking about? The only 'factory' option regarding 2 INTERNAL disks is a $800+ dual 500 GB option, which is way more storage than I need. Does it make sense to be able to have a separate drive with the OS on it to make a 'reload' easier in the event of such a need? Is an external drive reasonable? Am I being too worried? Based on my PC experience, and the nightmare that is caused by having to redo Windows, I'm inclined to do whatever it take to avoid that pain!

    Thanks for any advice in advance.
  2. mikeyredk macrumors 65816

    Mar 13, 2003
  3. Sun Baked macrumors G5

    Sun Baked

    May 19, 2002
    Buy your own SATA drive at CompUSA, OfficeMax, PigglyWiggly, wherever if you want.

    1. You can keep the OS and data on two different drives with no problem.

    2. If you have the space you can load OS X on both drives and not worry about it.

    2a. Don't update the OS on both drives until you know that this current update works -- sometimes they don't.

    3. You can take your entire user folder, compress it, and save it to a DVD to keep your apps and current prefs relatively up-to-date. Works better when you aren't keeping all your data inside the user folder anyways.
  4. Crikey macrumors 6502

    Jan 14, 2004
    Spencer's Butte, Oregon
    don't bother


    I used to partition my Windows systems so the OS lived on C: and everything else was on d:, e: and so on.

    When I got my Mac, I was tempted to re-partition it, but I didn't because I thought, "Wouldn't it be cool if this thing Just Works like people say they do?". That was wise laziness. I've upgraded 10.1 -> 10.2 -> 10.3 -> 10.4 in place, just upgrading over the top of the old OS, with absolutely no problems. My system seems as snappy as ever.

    I'm still learning to just use my computer, instead of having to be a system administrator for it.


  5. cabasner thread starter macrumors member

    Oct 9, 2005
    Crikey: Boy, am I HOPING that it works for me like it has for you. Call me a pessimist, but NOTHING technologically has EVER worked that smoothly for me... Computers, digital cameras, printers....nothing EVER works as advertised. Thanks for the confidence builder, though!

    Sun Baked: Another stupid question...I am gathering that an external SATA drive would require installation of a card for interface instead of using the other interface options such as USB or Firewire? Is the speed differential worth the hassle?

    Second, I'm not sure I understand your statement "2a. Don't update the OS on both drives until you know that this current update works -- sometimes they don't." Can you elaborate by what you mean by 'current update'?

    Lastly, you say "You can take your entire user folder, compress it, and save it to a DVD to keep your apps and current prefs relatively up-to-date." Can I make the assumption that if you uncompress the programs and reinstall them that the Mac OS will be able to recognize them (the programs) without 'reinstalling'? That has always been my concern about PCs...I don't know if the installation process for a program on a PC has to 'update' stuff in the OS so that 1) Windows knows the program ts 'there' first off, and 2) that Windows has enough info to run it properly.
  6. Sun Baked macrumors G5

    Sun Baked

    May 19, 2002
    An OS update shows up, you load download it and it creates problems ... this happens every now and them.

    Not easy to undo, however if you have another copy of the OS loaded as backup -- you can run the older backup.

    If you don't want to do that, do not download the OS updates until people have tested them.


    If you compress your entire User Folder "most" of the stuff will work no problem when you stick it onto a new drive.

    Most everything is drag and drop anyway, with most of the install info held in the user folder.

    You may have to play a couple games to sync the folder to a new user that you create using the backup.

    The troublesome apps will probably be the ones that install stuff in the root folder, have arcane and complex anti-piracy features, or have aliases that break when you recreate the data on dead drive -- mail apps tend to do this.

    Basically can turn a day or two reload and recovery into something shorter.

    Of course backing up your e-mail and other user important data should be done more frequently than an occasional snapshot of your user folder.

    Edit: there are probably some apps you can use to do this to backup of the entire OS install along with your user folder if you don't want hassle with it.


    The drives tend to die more oftern than the OS gets corrupted on the Mac, so backups of your data is still important.
  7. bursty macrumors 65816


    Jan 31, 2004
    I switched from PC two years ago and feel your pain. However, I have never had any sort of similar problems in OSX.
  8. CanadaRAM macrumors G5


    Oct 11, 2004
    On the Left Coast - Victoria BC Canada
    Random order:
    There is no Windows Registry on a Mac, so program installation usually consists of dragging a package to the hard drive. Done.

    The PowerMac has room for one SATA drive internally in addition to the stock drive. Cables and screws are already in place, just buy a bare SATA of any brand and install. Format it using the Disk Utility in Applications/Utilities or on the OSX DVD

    Further hard drives would be connected by Firewire or Firewire 800, both of which are bootable. You can have valid bootable OS's (of the same or different versions) on different drives no problem.

    Once you have a system and you applications installed, its a fine idea to clone that to another drive (internal or external) Carbon Copy Cloner or SuperDuper are 2 utilities for doing this.

    Apple's Software Update is like Windows update, a semi-automatic retreival of OS updates over the 'net. Best to wait a couple of days upon the release of a new rev. of the OS, to see how everybody is doing wid' it. Good place to check that out would be.... here on MR.

    SunBaked's point was if you have an OS and a clone of the OS, only update the one of them when an OS rev. comes out. That way if it all goes wrong, you can roll back to the untouched one.

    However, Apple also gives you a tool, Archive and Update, which allows you to reinstall the OS while preserving all of your data and applications; much easier than Windows.
  9. slooksterPSV macrumors 68040


    Apr 17, 2004
    What you can also do is create an image via a program called NetRestore. It'll create an exact copy of your hard drive into an image called a .dmg file. Most of us Administrators do this so we can throw an image onto a NetBoot server and just reimage over a network. I myself can keep a minimal copy of OS X on an external hard drive boot from it and restore the image to it. I can make you a walk through on how to do this if you would like. Google NetRestore. The other option is Carbon Copy Cloner. Make an exact replica of your hard drive onto another hard drive. I personally like NetRestore for the Images. There are programs being made called BootCD I think it is, that will make it to where you can boot off of a CD into a program like NetRestore or that. Just look into it ok?
  10. slooksterPSV macrumors 68040


    Apr 17, 2004
    OMG I just did this one the other day and it saved everything I needed. All I had to do was update the OS to the current version basically. All my other apps like Doom 3, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop, still work - Adobe was set back to 30 days again though :p.
  11. Dave Marsh macrumors regular

    Jul 23, 2002
    Sacramento, CA
    I've been using a Mac since the beginning and suffered multiple times in the pre-MacOS 9 era when the single partition drive's operating system became damaged and I basically lost everything on the hard drive.

    I resolved that issue by partitioning my hard drive into a primary Startup partition, an alternative startup partition named Utilities Startup, and a Data partition. I then proceeded to install the operating system and my apps on the primary startup partition. On the Utilities Startup partition I installed the OS plus all my special utilities, such as Apple's Disk Utility, Alsoft's Disk Warrior, Symantec's SystemWorks, Micromat's Tech Tool Pro, and the like. (Symantec's SystemWorks is history with Tiger, so I now use Coriolis Systems' iDefrag instead.) The Data partition is where I stored documents I had created with commercial applications, and maintained a Software directory for installers that I didn't want to use CDs or downloads for.

    I took this mindset with me to MacOS X and it has worked well. The Utilities Startup partition gives me an easy way to reboot my Mac when I need to perform maintenance on the primary startup partition. Similarly, a copy of my utilities is also installed on the primary startup partition to keep the Utilities partition clean. This way I don't have to carry around an external bootup drive when my Mac misbehaves (which is extremely rarely, by the way).

    MacOS X is extremely robust, and my configuration has turned out to be overkill, but it's nice to know I can get my Mac operational in minutes in a worse case (anything short of hard drive failure) scenario. To handle the worse case scenario I employ plan B...

    Here's where the external FireWire drive comes in. I get a drive large enough for my primary startup partition, my utilities partition, and my data partition. It doesn't have to be as large as my tower's hard drive, because I don't expect to ever fill it, but it must be large enough to be fully functional. For me, this means the external startup partition is ~40GB, the utilities partition is ~20GB, and whatever's left goes to the data partition. I then use SuperDuper! to clone each partition from my tower's hard drive to the appropriate external FireWire partition. SuperDuper! is great for this because it permits cloning the same drive it's running on.

    When you're done you have a perfect, bootable (if it had MacOS X installed on it) copy of your tower's internal hard drive's partitions. That first copy can take hours, but subsequent repeats only replace (not add) changes on the tower's hard drive to the external drive, and take only minutes. Then, for a few minutes a week (or however often you feel the need) you're 100% protected if your internal hard drive fails.

    If your internal hard drive's primary Startup partition gets damaged and you can't fix it by booting from your internal hard drive's Utilities Startup partition using those utilities available, you can simply erase the internal hard drive's primary startup partition and reclone the backup from the external FireWire drive back to the internal hard drive's primary startup partition. Using SuperDuper! this way, you'll be making a perfect bootable copy of your backup onto your erased internal hard drive's primary startup partition. When you're done, you'll have restored a duplicate of your last backup.

    I want to repeat that this is probably excessive overkill. As another poster mentioned, you can just as well run your MacOS X installer disk on the damaged partition and select the Archive and Install option. It simply replaces the System Folder and key system support files, moving the damaged System Folder to a Previous System Folder for you to access for odds and ends that you may need later. Also as another poster mentioned, those applications that employ installer keys may need to have their installers rerun to reactivate them. Most applications are stand-alone bundles, however, and should work fine after an Archive and Install option. When you've tested everything, delete the Previous System Folders to retrieve the disk space (typically 40,000 files or more).

    I apologize for being a bit pedantic. Not many people will want to go to this extreme, nor will they need to. I've been using Macs for over 20 years, and MacOS X since it was a beta, and I've NEVER had to rely on my backups with MacOS X, but I'm a bit anal now, having been burnt more than once in the old, pre-OS X days. That said, I've been relieved to be able to boot up from the Utilities partition from time to time to perform routine maintenance on the primary partition when it becomes sluggish, or misbehaves in odd ways. The Utilities partition has never been used enough to become damaged.

    Note that both the external FireWire drive's system partitions (primary Startup and Utilities Startup) are fully bootable. This means if your internal hard drive ever fails, you can boot from the external FireWire drive by holding down the Option key at startup, select the FireWire partition you want you run the OS from, run Apple's Disk Utility to partition your replacement internal hard drive, and then run SuperDuper! to duplicate the contents of each of your FireWire drive's partitions back to the appropriate partition on the new internal hard drive...a perfect backup solution. Good luck! ;)
  12. slooksterPSV macrumors 68040


    Apr 17, 2004
    I've gotta mention this about Mac, USB, FW, and Externals: Ok you can setup an external hard drive with however much space you need, etc, etc, blah blah, but to see what partition is bootable hold down the OPTION/ALT key during bootup. This'll take you into a menu for you to choose what drive you want to boot from so if you have a USB 2.0 External Hard drive - bam, boot from it if it has the OS on it, firewire? of course, networ? with a netboot server - Mac OS X is amazing, I've only once had to redo the OS, but I had erased a critical file when making a CD (I overwrote a System directory :(, but alls ok now), but that was an idiotic error on my part. I've never had an OS run so fast, so stable, and filled with so many options. You always have a route with Mac OS X.
  13. cabasner thread starter macrumors member

    Oct 9, 2005
    To all who posted...I owe you big time! Way more info that I thought I'd ever get!! You folks are tremendous. I am encouraged by those of you who have have never had an issue with the Mac OS. I am utterly convinced that the Windows environment is way too vulnerable to attack by viruses and spyware, etc. to give anyone piece of mind.

    There are many choices to make in life...PC/Mac ought not to be one of the bigger ones. However, the reality is that I use my computer EVERY DAY! And when it doesn't run right, even when all I'm doing is surfing the net or reading and answering e mail, it's just an annoyance that I don't need. I'm pretty sure I'm going G5 Quad...now I just need to get my piece of garbage Canon digital camera fixed so that it works right and I can use the new G5 for what I primarily want it for...Photoshop!
  14. Blackheart macrumors 6502a


    Mar 13, 2004
    I'm not sure if I'm going in the right direction... but maybe my setup will help you determine the "realm of possibility".

    I have 2 drives in my Power Mac:
    74GB Raptor
    160GB Barracuda

    I have the OS and applications installed on the Raptor while I've stored my home folder on the Barracuda. If you had a setup similar, you could have an image of the boot drive (in my case, the Raptor) and if things go awry, you could re-image it and keep all of your home folder in untouched.

    With this system, data most frequently changing (your home folder data) is off the boot drive so that you won't have to back it up as frequently (in forecasting an install drive problem).

    Hoped that helped a bit. Welcome to the MacRumors:Forums!
  15. Dave Marsh macrumors regular

    Jul 23, 2002
    Sacramento, CA
    Just a heads up. I'm pretty sure Apple doesn't allow external USB drives to be bootable. You can backup to/restore from them, but not boot from them. If you can, consider yourself lucky. See Apple's official position:


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