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Ask Max: How can I boot my G4 from an external drive?

Asked on 03/03/2010:

I'd very much appreciated if I could find out how to boot from an external 500 GB Firewire disk on an aged G4 1.2 MHz. All these years it has been running 9.2, and has a now dead, non-replaceable DVD drive with just one partition in the HD - meaning, no alternative start drive options...

Right now my external drive, with a fresh installation of 9.2, is being recognized as a boot disk on an [option] start - but the process stops with a blackout. After that the machine boots with its native system. Is there anything that can it be done?

Many thanks in advance.


The problem you are having probably has to do with how the FireWire drive was formatted. Often new external Firewire hard drives come formatted in a universal format but that is not compatible for booting the drive. Any time you get a new drive, it is best to Erase it and reformat the drive from the OS you plan to use it with.

In OS 9 you use Drive Setup (inside the Utilities folder on your hard disk) to initialize a hard disk. You will loose all information on the drive but you will then be able to boot off of it. You need the drive to be an Mac OS Extended (HFS+) format.

After that you can clone your boot drive over to the external drive and it should work as your boot volume. You can use the Startup Disk control panel or hold down the [option] key on startup and select the external drive.

- Jacob

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