Tag Archive for 'boot_device'

Booting the Mac Mini from a LaCie mini Firewire drive

For nearly a year now I’ve been using my Mac Mini as my main computer. One of the main drawbacks of the Mini’s compact design is that Apple decided to use a relatively slow (4200 rpm), laptop hard disk. I therefore bought mine with a Firewire companion drive, the LaCie mini. To get the maximum benefit I decided to use it as the boot device, and here I found a little difficulty.

Macs, unlike most PCs, are very happy booting off Firewire drives without any hassle. Normally. However, this depends on the drive being switched on before the computer.

Separately switching an external hard drive on-and-off is a little tedious – and in the case of the LaCie mini, the button is small and out of the way and clearly designed to be not used very often. For that reason, the drive automatically powers down into sleep mode when the computer either enters sleep mode or is switched off. When the Mac is powered up again, there is a short lag (a couple of seconds) before the Firewire drive powers up too.

This is fine when waking the computer from sleep (you get the spinning beach ball for a couple of seconds before the system resumes). However, if you are powering up the computer after a shutdown, it can’t detect the boot partition. By the time the drive is powered up, the boot loader has already stalled. To boot successfully you have to manually power-cycle the hard drive whilst the Mac is off (forcing the drive to power up) and then switch the Mac on. Try explaining that to Mom for when she just wants to check her email!

It took me some time to figure out just what was going wrong (and neither Apple nor LaCie would support the use of the companion drive as a boot disk) so I had to make do with just sleeping the computer and never switching it off. So, when I did figure out what the problem was I wasn’t in a rush to solve it. I knew there must be a geeky way to slow down the Mac OS X boot loader. And then I remembered that I’d done so for years with my previous computer!

XPostFacto, is a cunning utility, that I had been using to run Mac OS X on my old, unsupported Mac. One of the tricks that XPostFacto uses is to slow down the boot loader so as to boot on computers with older (i.e. slower) hard drives. So, a quick 30 seconds install and my computer finally boots up properly after a power-down. Hurrah!