April 25, 2008

w00t! It b00ts!

Hand-Made Mac Tip No. 3
Making a Backup Leopard Installation DVD Using an External Hard Drive

I am reveling in total geekdom right now! They said it couldn't be done, but I did it!
Ok, ok, so you have your Leopard OS X 10.5 installer DVD, right? Now, you'd like to be able to make a copy of that DVD in the event that the disk gets damaged or lost, or eaten by your dog or peed on by your ferret, right? Well, because that's what any responsible nerd would do, right? (um, ok, just me? well, I'm known to be freakishly paranoid at times, but oh well.)

Uploaded with plasq's Skitch!

What's that you say? You can't make a copy of the Leopard OS X installer DVD because it's dual layered, 7GB+ and won't fit on the standard DVDs you have hanging out in your supply closet? Awww. Isn't that a shame. You *know* using CDs and DVDs is sooooo 2006 already, anyhow, mmkay? I mean, like, who uses resin anymore, sheesh! It's all about the external hard drives with real live movable parts, dontcha know!?

Well, I went on a quest to try and find out how I could make a copy of of this darn installer DVD and so I googled and twittered. After reading about 10 different links on the subject, they all said the same thing: use a bootable external hard drive.

Ok, made sense. But, oh, by the way, Western Digital drives (or any other drive) can't be made into a bootable installer disk for use with an Intel Mac if you want to use the APM (Apple Partition Map) scheme. You can only boot into an installer on an intel Mac using a partition created with the GUID scheme.

Q: But, MacMommy, you have a MacBook Pro. Why wouldn't you just partition the drive using GUID and be done with it?

A: I also have a Quicksilver G4 which is a PPC Mac. It also lacks the ability to read DVDs. It only came with a combo drive which reads/burns CDs. A bootable drive would be much nicer than plunking in multiple CDs. Right now it doesn't meet the system specs for Leopard, but an upgrade to the processor will fix that. So, I wanted to see if I would still be able to somehow make just one partition using APM that I could use as an installer disk for the older PPC as well. (My luck, by the time I'd get around to doing that project, I might have lost the darn DVD anyhow, so I really think having the installer handy on a hard drive would be a good thing.)

So, of course, I set out to see if this is really true because, you never know with technology. I began by inserting the OS X installer CD, launching Disk Utility, select New Image to copy the DVD and saved the .cdr file to my desktop. Before I did that, I had used Disk Utility to partition this HD into 4 parts. On one of the partitions, I dedicated 10GB of space to and I called it LeopardInstallDVD. After the DVD finished copying, I first tried just copying the .cdr over to that partition. Then I restarted and held down the option key. Nope. Nada.

Next, I tried using Disk Utility to do a restore like all the other links suggested. I got this error. "Operation not supported by device."

Ok, so that sorta proves the whole "you can't make a bootable drive using a Western Digital MyBook in APM mode" theory. Bummer.

Then, after much chin stroking, a little bit of grumbling and some furious typing, I remembered: Mike Bombich! Maybe Mike Bombich can help me out! I was thinking back to when I was a Site Tech and imaging hundreds of Macs for elementary schools, we used to use a Molotov Cocktail comprised of: Carbon Copy Cloner, NetRestore Helper, and NetRestore. I was able to image an entire lab of 30 computers in a little over an hour with the use of my wheeled office chair, 10 boot CDs, 2 FW drives and a 10 networked boots. (I was also very pregnant at the time, so that's where the wheeled chair came in handy as I zoomed by each iMac plunking in CDs and pressing key commands)

I remembered that for some reason, disk images created with the standard disk utility just did not work when they were over 5GB. The image creation would either fail or it wouldn't complete in some way so that we could use the NetRestore method for re-imaging the computers. So, I thought it might be worth a shot in this scenario.

So I headed on over to http://www.bombich.com and downloaded the latest Tiger version of NetRestore. The image creation process came back to me and I was able to create a .dmg file using NetRestore Helper. (I haven't tested this method using the Leopard version because I was still running Tiger at the time, so YMMV.)

I created a master image of the installer DVD and saved it to my desktop using NetRestoreHelper. It took a while, but it was worth the wait. Once the master image appeared, I then used NetRestore, in place of Disk Utility, to restore the image onto the 10GB partition I previously created. Here you can see the result. The partition has been renamed by default to the name of the DVD. It's been partitioned using APM, but I can still boot into installer mode on my MacBook Pro.

APM partition scheme
Uploaded with plasq's Skitch!

Once I could see the installer language screen, I proceeded to upgrade my MacBook Pro to Leopard and for the past couple of days I've been happy with the result!

So, to sum it up, if you'd like to make a bootable installer disk from a partitioned external hard drive that will serve as both a backup to your original installer DVD plus you'd also like it to also be able to upgrade a legacy PPC Mac with a broken optical no DVD drive, then this method is for you. The difference from other instructions you may find is that NetRestore Helper works some mojo to create a .DMG file as opposed to the standard .CDR file that Disk Utility generates which evidently does not play well with a partitioned drive using the APM scheme. (Of course, I could have just said that, but it was more fun to tell you the whole story and share pictures.)

Over the summer, to test my theory, I tried to upgrade a PPC G4 Mac Mini using my method and sadly, it did not work because it didn't have enough RAM. You need at least 1GB of RAM and this Mac Mini only had 512MB. I'll try it again sometime when I get around to cracking that thing open to upgrade the RAM and see what happens. It did work on an PPC MacBook. If I ever try to upgrade the old G4 Quicksilver's processor, I'll probably pull the drive out and image it using my IDE converter cable and then reinstall the drive instead of trying to boot the computer from a FW drive. So, like I said, YMMV and you can try this at your own risk. If you should happen to make it work like I described, I've LOVE to know about it, so please drop me a comment. Thanks!

I hope this helps someone that might have a similar scenario as mine. Drop me a comment if it helps you out or if you figure out something better. I'd love to hear from you!


  1. All hail MacMommy! MacMommy rules!

  2. I'm a mac guy, but this post was over my head. guess I'm doomed to be a novice.

  3. Mitch, is that a good thing or a bad thing? You're never doomed if you're a Mac guy! :)


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