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Tip - installing OSX via Target Disk Mode

5248 Views 5 Replies Latest reply: Jan 18, 2014 5:12 PM by a brody RSS
mackerm Level 1 Level 1 (95 points)
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Apr 5, 2013 9:14 PM

People often make a serious mistake when installing OSX via Target Disk Mode. The computer which is receiving the installation should not be started in target disk mode. Only the computer which contains the installation DVD (or image) should be started in target disk mode. If the installation is done with incorrect computer in target disk mode, then inappropriate files will be copied.


As an example, suppose you want to install OSX 10.4 Tiger onto an iBook G3 which does not contain a DVD drive. Since Tiger is generally available only on DVD, you can connect the iBook via FireWire to an iMac which is equipped with a DVD drive. Reboot the iMac containing the installation DVD into target disk mode (restart and hold down the "T" key until the FireWire symbol appears in the iMac's screen). Then on the iBook G3, open "System Preferences", find "Startup Disk", select the OSX installation DVD, and restart. The iBook G3 should boot from the disk in the iMac's DVD drive, and you may begin the installation process.

  • BDAqua Level 10 Level 10 (114,685 points)
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    Apr 5, 2013 10:06 PM (in response to mackerm)

    Great tip thanks!

  • Jimmy Senior Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)
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    Dec 30, 2013 1:11 PM (in response to mackerm)

    Thanks - really helpful

  • a brody Level 9 Level 9 (62,005 points)
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    Jan 14, 2014 4:48 PM (in response to mackerm)

    I'm not sure if it is clear, but installing an operating system from Target Disk Mode, necessitates the model and vintage of the Mac to be the same for the host as the target machine.    If they are not, drivers that are incompatible may be copied over.  Target Disk Mode installs are still useful, obviously if the drive fails.   A Universal Installer may sometimes work on a different model, but, the series that do work is not very well documented, and errors such as kernel panics, and other driver errors are much more likely.  The Target machine is treated by the installer much as an external hard drive attached to the host machine.     Thus a Target iBook G4/933 Mhz machine will not tell the installer from an iBook 1.4 Ghz machine that it is installing on an iBook 933 Mhz machine, and it will attempt to install the software it thinks is needed for the 1.4 Ghz.


    You can also use Target Disk Mode to examine another machine's directory health with Disk Utility (using Verify and Repair Disk), as long as that machine is using an older operating system.

  • a brody Level 9 Level 9 (62,005 points)
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    Jan 18, 2014 5:12 PM (in response to mackerm)

    Reading that over again, and thinking about it, I realized what you meant.   It would seem that some may miss that point even after the bold in red.  Instead of saying receiving mode, what you need to do is establish the steps:


    1. Put machine A in target mode by holding the T key.

    *2. Insert the compatible installer CD for machine B in machine A's optical drive.

    3. Tell machine B to go into the startup manager.

    4. Connect machine B to machine A.

    5. Machine B should now be able to install that operating system on machine B.


    * A compatible installer would be a newer retail, up the limits of machine's B hardware or the original installer for machine B which if lost can be obtainable from AppleCare.


    In fact what I'm doing is rather intriguing.  I installed via target mode 10.5 retail onto a second partition of my iMac 11,3 which can't boot anything older than 10.6.4.     My MacBook Pro which dates from 10.4.7 days is now booted off that partition as the iMac is in Target mode.


    Obviously the iMac will still never boot off 10.5, but it does show what another approach to target mode might be.


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