8 Replies Latest reply: Nov 14, 2010 1:34 PM by K Shaffer
topsturner Level 1 Level 1
It's a question that is asked repeatedly all over the web by Mac users like me that bought in to Time Machine (TM) on the assumption that if their computer died one day it would be a piece of cake to restore from it, only for that day to come and then to be told "ahh, okay the first thing is to get your computers install discs..." (loud crashing sound of world falling around ears).

I've never been able to afford a new Mac and both of my machines were bought second-hand. Neither came with Leopard (both have Tiger and have been upgraded to Leopard via the net). This was never supposed to be a problem as I've been backing up with TM. However it appears that Tiger discs are as much use as an inflatable dart board when it comes to using TM. So I've been faced with the possibility of having to spend £130 (about two hundred Pres Sheets, Yankees) on the Leopard install discs just so that I can have the option of restoring from TM. Bonkers.

However after much nashing of teeth, a very long weekend learning all sorts of things about 'Target Mode', 'Single User Mode', 'Verbose Mode', 'Open Source 9' etc the following solution has worked without the need to go out and buy those over-priced discs...

What you will need:
1 broken Mac requiring restoration
1 second donor Mac running Leopard (or Snow Leopard so long as the broken Mac can run it)
1 firewire cable with the correct fitting at either end to attach both Macs together
1 Time Machine backup

Note: The following is for when you have given up trying to boot from your hard drive. In my case I couldn't boot in to Safe Mode etc. so was forced to format my drive and re-import everything. If you've read this far I'm assuming your at the same point as well and have tried everything else that's out there first.

Also - both my Macs are Power PC's so can't run Snow Leopard, so I can't say 100% this will work with SL (Intel) machines. From what I've read Snow Leopard will work with this procedure too, but if you've found differently please feel free to add your experiences below...

STEP ONE: Format the corrupt Hard Drive or replace with a fresh HDD
*Link the two computers with a firewire.
*If you're replacing your HDD, remove your corrupted hard drive from the 'broken' machine and insert a new one.
*Power up the broken Mac whilst holding down the 'T' key. This will start it up in Target Mode and you'll get a nice firewire symbol floating around that machine's screen.
*Power up the second 'healthy' Mac. This will be our 'donor' machine. When it starts up after a few seconds you will see the hard drive of the broken Mac appear on the donor Mac's desktop.
*Using your donor Mac's 'Disc Utility', format the broken Mac's hard drive (now's the time to partition it etc. if you want to).

STEP TWO: Clone your donor Mac
Your broken Mac is no longer broken and now needs a new OS. But you don't have the discs, right? Well get this... you can clone your donor mac on to your machine, even if they are totally different i.e. a laptop on to a tower.
*Again using Disc Utility, click on your donor Mac's hard drive. The restore tab appears as an option.
*Click on restore and drag the donor Mac's hard drive that contains the operating system in to the Source box.
*Drag the newly formatted hard drive on the broken Mac in to the Destination box.
*Click restore. Your donor Mac's hard drive will now be 'cloned' on to your no-longer-broken Mac. Once this is done, eject the first Mac's hard drive from your donor Mac's desktop. You no longer need the donor Mac.
Ta daa! Your machine now starts up happy and smily again. Time to restore all that stuff that's been sat on your Time Machine drive...

STEP 3: Restore from Time Machine using Migration Assistant
This is the really clever part that prompted me to write this piece in the first place. Time Machine IS accessible without those Leopard install discs you don't have. You need to use something called 'Migration Assistant'.

*Start up your machine as normal and you'll see it is an exact clone of the donor machine. Weird huh?
*Attach your Time Machine hard drive. It will show up as an icon on the desktop and because of it's size, you'll be asked if you want to use it as a Time Machine backup. Err, NO YOU DON'T! Click 'cancel'.
*Open Migration Assistant (if you can't find it just type it in to Finder and click). There are three options, the middle one being to restore from TM or another disc. Yup, you want that one.
*Migration Assistant will now ask you what you want to restore in stages, firstly User Accounts, then folders, Apps etc. It will even import internet settings

And that's you done. Let Migration Assistant do it's thang... altogether I had about 140gb to restore, so it wasn't exactly speedy. This wasn't helped by the fact that my TM hard drive is connected via USB (yes, I know). Just leave it alone and it'll whirr happily away...

Before I go - you don't have an option of when to restore from, and will restore from the last Time Machine save. At least then you should be able to access TM and go 'backwards' if you need to.

Also - for a Mac expert, the above will be up there with 'Spot Goes To The Farm' in terms of complexity. However, for the rest of us the above is only available in fragments all over the net. By far the most common response to 'how do I restore from Time Machine without install discs' is 'you can't'. If I'd found the above information in one place I could have saved a lot of hair pulling and swearing over the last couple of days, so forgive me for sharing this workaround with the rest of the world. Meanwhile your expertise will come in very handy for the inevitable questions that will get posted below, so please feel free to help those people that won't be sure if this solution is the right one for them. I'm no expert, I just want to help people that were stuck in the same situation (and looking at the web, there's a LOT of them).

Hope this is of use to someone, thanks and *good luck*!

G5 PPC, Mac OS X (10.5.8), 6gb RAM / 250gb + 1tb HDD / 750gb Time Machine
  • Jay Bullock Level 4 Level 4
    I've never been able to afford a new Mac and both of my machines were bought second-hand. Neither came with Leopard (both have Tiger and have been upgraded to Leopard via the net). This was never supposed to be a problem as I've been backing up with TM. However it appears that Tiger discs are as much use as an inflatable dart board when it comes to using TM. So I've been faced with the possibility of having to spend £130 (about two hundred Pres Sheets, Yankees) on the Leopard install discs just so that I can have the option of restoring from TM. Bonkers.

    First, anyone who is selling a Mac without the original install discs is breaking the software license. Possession of the discs is what grants you license to use the software. You should never buy a used Mac without the install and restore discs!

    Second, I'm very curious how you "upgraded to Leopard via the net." The upgrade from 10.4 to 10.5 was only available through purchase of a retail upgrade DVD. Apple never makes full version upgrades available for download. So if you are using a version of Leopard obtained through a download from the internet somewhere, you are also using a pirated copy of Leopard.

    You complain about having to pay £130 for discs containing Leopard, but given that you are running Leopard after apparently stealing it from some illegal source online, you really have no standing to make that complaint. Indeed, the only ethical thing to do is buy the Leopard software to bring yourself into legal compliance with the software license.
  • Király Level 6 Level 6
    I agree with all of that, and will add this:

    When buying a used Mac, there is not telling what sort of hacks, security holes, pirated software, keyloggers, password sniffers, or even riskier stuff that may have been left on it by any previous owners. Using a previous owner's software installation is a Very High Security Risk. That's why it is vitally important to completely erase the hard drive and reinstall everything from the original install discs. I don't even hook a used Mac up to the internet until it has had a fresh reformat and reinstall.

    Get the install discs. You need them.
  • William Boyd, Jr. Level 6 Level 6
    Jay Bullock wrote:
    anyone who is selling a Mac without the original install discs is breaking the software license.

    I suspect that a certain number of Mac original install discs are discarded with the shipping box.
  • figilswif Level 1 Level 1
    Thank you so much, haven't tried it yet but it looks like it'll work....very good instructions. Seems no one has appreciated your work.... People lose discs it's very common...so this is very very handy, thank you.
  • topsturner Level 1 Level 1
    Dear Jay,

    Thank you for your post. I was a bit taken aback initially and found it weirdly aggressive; after all, I'm just a Mac user that's encountered a very common problem with Time Machine and appears to have stumbled on an answer, which I wanted to share with other Mac owners and help make the world a happier place. But looking back and re-reading your rather pious and condescending post, I think you've made a few assumptions about me as a person, based on not having a complete grasp of the facts. You also make some accusations about me which I'm not happy about, and I'll address them shortly.

    Firstly though, I'm afraid you're going to have to accept the following whether it complies with Apple's software license or not... people sell their computers without the discs all the time, either because they've lost them but in my opinion usually because they can sell the discs separately at an extortionate rate as Apple no longer makes them (see original post). I wonder how Apple's sales of their computers would fare if there was a big sticker on each one saying 'ILLEGAL TO RE-SELL WITHOUT ORIGINAL DISCS"? What are people supposed to do, use their old machines as paperweights? Or buy copies from grey sources such as Amazon at vastly inflated prices because they're no longer supported by the original publisher? Which takes us back to my original point.

    However, in my case this is all pretty irrelevant as, if you would care to read my post again, I quite clearly state that BOTH of my second hand machines came with original install discs. I'd assumed they were upgraded to Leopard via the net by the previous owners, but as you've pointed out this means buying the discs, then perhaps we can deduce the previous owners used their own Leopard OS discs to upgrade and thus increase the value of their machines?

    Either way, you seem to have missed this rather important piece of information in your eagerness to berate me as a software pirate. You effectively accuse me in public of being a thief, which is why I chose to defend my reputation and answer you accusations publicly as well.

    Misinformed rants don't help average Mac users smashing their brains in with frustration. What would be a lot more helpful would be that you redirect your obvious enthusiasm for Mac issues towards helping people like me, not knocking us for helping Mac users out when they encounter extremely hard to solve "Catch 22" problems such as the one described in my original post.
  • K Shaffer Level 6 Level 6
    Most maintenance and repair, restore and install procedures require the use
    of the correct OS X install DVD; be it an original machine-specific restore/install
    disc set or a later retail non-specific general install disc set.

    By having an unsupported system, perhaps installed via an illegal download or
    other file-sharing scheme, where no retail official discs are involved and the
    initial upgrade was done by other means outside of the License Agreements,
    you are asking us to discuss a matter of illegal installation and use of a product.
    There are no legal complete OS X system download upgrades online; only bits
    that are update segments to a retail or as-shipped machine's original OS X install.

    +{Or an installation where a previous owner had correct retail upgrade discs, &+
    +chose to not include them with the re-sale of the computer it was installed in.}+

    However, to answer the initial question. To get and use an externally enclosed
    hard drive in suitable boot-capable housing, and get a free-running Clone
    Utility (download online; often a donation-ware product, runs free) you can
    make a bootable backup of everything in your computer to an external HDD.

    This is the way to make a complete backup to restore all functions to the computer.
    The Time Machine has some limits, in that it can restore only that which it saves.
    It does not make a bootable clone of your entire computer system with apps and
    your files, to an external drive device. A clone can. And some of the clone utility's
    settings can also backup changes to an external drive's system; if that other drive
    is attached to the computer correctly.

    Carbon Copy Cloner, from Bombich Software; and also SuperDuper, another of
    the most known software names you can download and use to clone boot-capable
    system backups of your computer's hard disk drive contents, are often cited.

    However you resolve the matter of the running OS X system in your computer,
    derived from what appears to be questionable means, is part of the initial issue.
    Since you do need to be able to fix an existing installation by unmounting the
    computer's hard disk drive and run the computer from the other (install disc or
    system clone) while it is Unmounted; and use the correct Disk Utility version to
    help diagnose and perhaps be able to fix it. You can't use a Tiger version Disk
    Utility to fix a Leopard installation, and so on.

    So, the situation and replies as far as they can go (since the matter does
    constitute an illegal system, if it was arrived at without correct discs) is a
    limited one. And file sharing of copied Mac OS X (and other) software is
    also considered illegal.

    And, one way to get odd malware and unusual stuff, is to get an unauthorized
    system upgrade from an illegal source online. You never know what's inside it.

    The other reply was not a personal attack; the matter is of legal status and as
    you have a product with a questionable system, the answer is to correct it.

    And if you want to save everything in your computer, make a clone to a suitable
    externally enclosed self-powered boot capable hard disk drive. With older PPC
    Macs, that would best be to one with FireWire and the Oxford-type control chips.

    However that works out...
    Good luck & happy computing!
  • orthorim Level 1 Level 1
    The suspicious responses here are a bit weird. I just fried my Mac with 10.6.5 - it now kernel panics about 20 seconds after startup. My install disk - which I have never needed in the last 2 years, so you may understand why I don't constantly carry it around with me - is somewhere in our second home.. about 3 hours drive from here.

    Even if I wanted to, I couldn't drive there as I just broke my leg today and have a full leg cast. I know - what are the odds. Truth is stranger than fiction sometimes.

    This is basically a flaw with TimeMachine - why can't I just boot from my TimeMachine drive and install from there?
  • K Shaffer Level 6 Level 6
    The use of an externally enclosed hard disk drive and a complete backup clone
    is well advised and continues to be a method of restoring complete function to
    a computer that has undergone some critical failure; and also a method of backup
    that does allow you to quickly restore the computer's OS X, your Apps, and user
    preferences/accounts, then give you a basis of bringing the latest Time Machine
    saved files into a proper context in the fully restored computer.

    +{You can order replacement Install/Restore disc copies from 1-800-MY-APPLE+
    +if you have the serial number of your computer and a method of payment. This+
    +would get you the original software set on DVD as shipped with the computer.+
    +A kernel panic may be due to failure of chip RAM, so read up on KPs.}+

    In another country, you can visit the regional Apple Store online and see their
    contact phone number in the top left section of their web page; this could be
    a way to contact someone there in a local language, and maybe see about a
    replacement disc set for a computer in peril. They may refer you to a retail
    reseller who provides a repair service, & you can search the country pages.

    You may be able to start the Mac in SafeBoot mode, and attempt other means
    of troubleshooting, and read the system error log messages.

    • Resolving Kernel Panics:

    • Technical Note TN2063: Understanding and DeBugging Kernel Panics:

    With a clone, maintained, tested & updated in a thorough manner, you may not need
    to use Install DVDs or other system discs; in fact, your owned copies of third-party
    disk utilities can also reside on an external hard disk drive; either in separate partition
    or as part of the initial complete bootable computer clone. A clone has to be created
    on a boot-capable hard disk drive. The unit should also have its own power adapter
    so as to not rely on the computer's bus power, so it can also be used to troubleshoot.

    Clone utilities can be downloaded from the internet, & will run without initial cost.
    A donation ware: Carbon Copy Cloner: http://www.bombich.com/index.html
    A shareware: http://www.shirt-pocket.com/SuperDuper/SuperDuperDescription.html

    While this may not be an answer to a crisis moment, it is a preventative measure.
    Good luck & happy computing!

    +{ edited 2x }+