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.