OS X Odyssey 752 - How To: Installing Tiger Using FireWire Target Disk Mode

24273 OS X 10.4 Tiger ships on DVD media, which is great if you have a Mac equipped with a DVD drive, as most of us do these days, but a few of the older models supported by a Tiger don't - notably iBooks and early low-end eMacs. My late 2002, 700 MHz G3 iBook has a CD-ROM drive, and even some of the early model G4 iBooks were CD only.

There are several possible workarounds. Apple will let you send in your Tiger install DVD along with $9.95 (details here: http://www.apple.com/macosx/upgrade/requirements.html), and they will replace it with a set of OS 10.4 install CDs. If you don't intend on upgrading your hardware in the near future, and have no other Mac with a DVD drive available, that may be the most convenient (so to speak) solution.

Another possibility is to purchase or borrow a freestanding, bootable FireWire DVD drive, and run the installer from it.

A third possibility is to mount your iBook as an external hard drive from a DVD drive-equipped Mac via FireWire Target Disk Mode, and choose the iBook hard drive as the destination disk in the OS 10.4 installer. That is the method I chose for installing Tiger on my iBook, using my Pismo PowerBook's DVD drive.

FireWire Target Disk Mode is a great innovation, even better than PowerBook SCSI disk mode was back in SCSI interface days. It's usually used for fast file transfers between computers and is the speediest means of doing that, but it also works well for system or disk maintenance that requires mounting the drive from another boot volume and, or as in this case - for system installations.


To put my iBook into Target Disk Mode, I shut down, and connected it to the PowerBook with a standard, 6-pin FireWire cable (the same on both ends) usually used for connecting my external FireWire hard drive. I then started the iBook while holding the "T" key down, and in a few seconds the yellow FireWire symbol began bouncing around on the screen. When I woke up the PowerBook, icons representing the iBook's three hard drive partitions were there on the Desktop.

I inserted the OS X 10.4 Tiger install disk in the PowerBook's DVD drive, and clicked the Install icon, which made the PowerBook reboot from the DVD. When the installer screen came up, the IBook's OS X partition was one of the choices presented as an install destination.


The installation itself was straightforward. I chose to do an Archive and Install, and checked the option to have the new system assimilate user settings from a former system, avoiding the tedium of going through the Setup Assistant routine. In my case, I also chose not to install the 1.62 GB of printer drivers, the extra fonts and language support files in order to preserve hard drive space.

My basic installation took about twenty minutes. After the installer displays its "Installation Of Software Successfully Completed � dialog, it wants to reboot into the new system it has just installed. I discovered no way to defeat this, so the Pismo then booted from the iBook's hard drive, which was interesting. No problems, though.

At that point I shut down both computers, disconnected the FireWire cable, and then restarted both computers from their respective boot systems. Everything seemed to be in order.

The Previous System Folder containing my old OS 10.3.9 installation turned out to the more than 5 gigabytes, while the new Tiger system folder is less than 1.5 gigabytes. That Panther install actually dated back to my installation of OS 10.2.3 back in January, 2003, after I partitioned the hard drive, and it's only been updated since then, many times, with never a clean install until now. Looks like I got four megabytes of free hard drive space restored. Emptying the Trash containing the Previous System Folder took nearly half an hour, and deleted some 90,000 files (!).

Charles W. Moore

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