OS X 10.4 Tiger Boots from External Hard Drive

It’s so easy to install Apple’s OS X 10.4 Tiger on to an external Firewire drive that you can use as an emergency drive to boot from.

OSX Tiger installation image Finally I got around to upgrade Grace’s Mac to Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger today.

But before I started with the upgrade, I wanted to make sure Tiger could run smoothly on the aging PowerMac (AGP) running at a meager 450Mhz, about half the speed of my Titanium PowerBook G4 (DVI).

Test install on the second 60GB hard drive went well. Speed was acceptable — no noticeable slow down or hiccups compared to Panther.

Then just out of couriosity, having read that booting OS X from external Firewire drives was possible, I installed Tiger on my spare 6GB Firewire/USB drive just to KNOW it’s possible. Not surprisingly, it booted like it should (a bit slow though).

If I am not mistaken, I don’t believe this can be done on a Windows OS since hardware information is inserted into OS’s registry, thus making a boot on a different machine impossible. In fact, just booting FROM an external drive can prove to be difficult without thorough knowledge about PC hardware and Microsoft Windows OS.

I also found a few articles (1, 2, 3) on installing an external boot drive using Linux. But even with Linux’s flexibility, it still requires some fiddling with MBR (master boot record). No plug & play there. One article, written by an IBM engineer, suggested booting from a USB 2.0 drive arguing USB 2.0’s popularity on standard PC hardware.

In any case, the upgrade was a success. Everything was mrigrated without major issues, though StuffIt Delux had some issues, that went away after patching a 9.0.2 updater.

I can’t imagine doing anything Windows now that I’ve had it so easy and simple on the Macs.

  • Eric

    I was just googleing how to install OSX on an External Hard Drive and came upon your site I was just wondering how you managed to get OSX to your Externa HD? Did you clone it or did you boot up from the external with the Install Disc in holding down ‘c’ ? I am needing a fresh install of OSX on my External Firewire Hard Drive and was intrested in your method or how to actually do it.

  • If you just want to be able to boot from external Firewire drive, the first thing is to have OSX actually installed on one. Personally I just installed a fresh copy from scratch using the install disc (as you mentioned, boot while pressing “C”). I have heard people using a cloned copy from their internal hard disk which works just as well. But I wanted a fresh copy.

    After you have OSX installed on the external Firewire drive, simply hold “T” while you boot, and your Mac should just auto-magically boot from the Firewire drive without any fuss.

  • Eric

    my dilema is this, Ive asked this on the Carbon Copy Cloner forums and they helped me up to a point. I want to install a fresh copy of OSX to the External because my Internal needs some repair. I dont want to clone my Internal to the External because that would just be silly to clone the Damaged Volume to the External. As Soon as I get OSX on the External I will be instlalling Disk warrior seeing as I dont have the Disk and only have the Downloaded version that requires you to boot teh program from anotehr Hard Drive. My Question is essentially how to I get OSX On the External Hard Drive. My reasoning is this If I hold down C with the disk in wont that boot into the Internal Harddrive or is there a way while under the Installer of the OSX Disc to choose what Hard Drive you want it installed in? Sorry if im taking up your time I am currently at work and dont have access to my Mac to actually Experiment around and everytime I use the OSX disk to repair my Hard Drive I never really paid attention to see if the option I discussed earlier was even possible…

    Thanks for all the help 🙂

  • Assuming you have a bootable Firewire drive (not all firmwares are created equal) and a new enough Mac (if it’s got Firewire built-in, it should be new enough), doing what you’d mentioned earlier should be a breeze; that was what I did. Installing OSX from a boot CD onto an external Firewire drive is painfully slow, but it installs. When I did mine, I disconnected the internal drives just to be on the safe side (and just to know that I couldn’t be installing on the wrong drive for sure).

    Good luck.

  • Devin

    Hey, is it possible to boot WinXP off my external USB hard drive? I’m running OS X 10.4.5 on a Mac Mini PowerPC and I haven’t been able to find anything helpful on the internet as of yet so any ideas would be appreciated.

  • Eric

    I highly doubt it, espcially on a PowerPc Mac due to the fact that both XP requires an X86 processor to run it instead of your PowerPC chip, that was the whole point of the OSX86project but if you havent been keeping up with the news lately someone finally has got WinXp dual booting from an Intel Mac machine.

    YouTube video of the dual boot

    The actual bootloader for the intel Mac

    you can always use an emulator, but those are slow as death since it isnt being run natively the one I messed around with was the Q emaulator

  • Devin: Looks like you are a bit behind on the news… Booting WinXP on Intel Macs just became possible as of 03/15/2006. As for booting WinXP natively on a PowerPC Mac (on local HD, Firewire or USB), it’s NOT possible due to the difference in the CPU architecture (MS stopped shipping PowerPC-compatible Windows long before XP).

    The only way to run Windows on a PowerPC Mac is through VirtualPC on top of Mac OSX. You can forget about booting from it altogether.

  • Devin

    I figured it would be something like that. Thanks for the info. I have tried VirtualPC and it just doesn’t quite cut it yet. I can’t wait to get my hands on one of the new intel based dual core macs! 🙂