No Gravatar


So, last week I gave an overview of what's in my repair kit. One of the things I mentioned was a flash/thumb drive. This week I'll tell you how I created my repair drive and how I use it.

If you have a brand new computer that will only run Snow Leopard, be aware that your repair drive must be at least 16 GB. You can't install Snow Leopard (OS X 10.6) on anything smaller. Both of my computers, and most of the other computers I maintain, can go back to Tiger (OS X 10.4), but I decided to install a minimal Leopard (OS X 10.5) on the 8 GB drive I had handy.

Before you start installing things on the drive, you'll need to reformat it so that it will be able to boot the computer in question. The formatting protocol for Intel systems is different than the one for PPC systems. You don't want to go through the work of putting together your repair drive only to have it not run your computer. Remember, you can't do most repairs to the drive that holds your currently running system..



Once the drive is formatted properly, you're ready to install the system software. Do a minimum install. Customize, and deselect everything you can possibly deselect. You don't need 75 printer drivers and umpteen languages and fonts. You're going to use this to get in, make repairs, then get out. That's it. You may even want to go through and delete some of the things that are installed automatically that you really won't need , especially if you are installing Leopard on an 8 GB drive. 

Before you do anything with repair software, go back and read Cal Carson's Friday postings about backing up your drive. Do it now. It's very, very important. I never update, upgrade or do any repairs without first backing up. My favorite backup software is still SuperDuper!. It's easy to use and it has never left with me with a backup that was not bootable. And yes, it's on my repair drive, too. Better safe than sorry!



Repair software — you will automatically have Disk Utility. For a time, I used TechTool Pro ($99), but a few versions back, I started having problems with it, and it couldn't always fix things. My favorite for many years has been Alsoft'sDiskWarrior. It does one thing, but it does it well. Most problems of a software nature are caused by messed up directories. Instead of patching and repairing like TechTool and others, DiskWarrior inventories your drive and completely rebuilds the directory. Current best price I've found is at Small Dog Electronics, $89.99. And bookmark this online store. They have good prices and better service. Nice people who have been Macaholics forever.



That's about it. If you are seeing problems, plug in your repair drive, restart and hold down the Option key until the available drives show up, select your repair drive, and away you go. 










Share →

13 Responses to What's On My Flash Repair Drive?

  1. Brian says:


    Very good article. Looks like I should get a minimum 16GB Flash drive.

  2. Phyllis Evans says:

    Absolutely, Brian. I’m going to set up a 16 GB with Snow Leopard, then reformat this 8 to boot older PPC systems. There are still a couple of older machines that I still take care of for the owners.

  3. Gary Mencimer says:

    Thanks for another great post Phyllis. Tuesday is rapidly becoming my favorite day of the week.:-)
    I’ve always relied on Safe Boot to get into a system, but I know the day is coming that it will fail. As soon as I pick up a 16GB drive I’ll have another life line.

  4. Adrian says:

    Can a Compact Flash Card be used in the same way as your 16GB flash drive? I have a Firewire Flash Card Reader and wonder if this combo would provide faster data transfer than a USB 2 flash drive.

  5. Tom says:

    You say the drive needs to be formatted properly for Intel vs. PPC, but then didn’t explain how to do that? Nice article but a little light on the details. I imagine you put more than just Disk Warrior on it. What else? Mine has Drive Genius, Data Rescue, iDefrag, OnyX, & several other little tools.

  6. KW says:

    I’d also like info on how to specifically format a repair flash drive for use as a bootable drive.

    I also keep Drive Genius, Data Rescue, and Onyx handy.

  7. pc says:

    i thought PowerPC macs were not bootable from USB but only Firewire?

  8. Phyllis Evans says:

    Adrian, I’ve never done it, but I don’t know why you couldn’t. As long as the computer sees it as an external drive it should work.

    Tom, if you look at the last illustration, it show Disk Warrior, TechTool Pro, AppZapper and Tinker Tool, all at root level of that drive.

    KW, using Disk Utility, select the drive, click on Partition, set the volume scheme to 1, then click on Options. You then select GUID partition for Intel-based Mac, Apple Partition Map for PowerPC-based Mac, or Master Boot Record for DOS and Windows.

    And yes, PC, I made an error there. You need Firewire for PPC/

  9. Adrian says:

    Thanks, Phyllis! The 16GB CF card is a lot more expensive than a USB Flash Drive of the same capacity, but I thought that the speed gain, if there is one, might be worth it.

  10. Phyllis Evans says:

    Adrian, FWIW, I used the USB 8 on my own MacBook, iMac and a friends MacBook Pro, and I didn’t really see any slowdown from when I used to use my 4 GB Firewire drive. The software is the big thing, and it’s one of the reasons I prefer DiskWarrior to other apps. It’s fast. The one time I used TechTool Pro to do a directory rebuild, it seemed to take a lot longer that with DW.

  11. sparky says:

    Good tip! More folks should be doing this. For anybody needing more detailed tips on how do this, check this out:

  12. KenC says:

    Nice tip. I have had DiskWarrior on a variety of CDs, harddrives, flashsticks over the years. It’s the tool of last resort.

    It doesn’t hurt to have any of those other utilities on there, but I figure by the time I need to boot from another disk, then the only thing that will really work is DW.

  13. Dave says:

    PPC computers will NOT boot from USB… only Intel based ones. You will need Firewire for G5 and older models. Great advice!