How to re-install OSX without a bootable installation DVD

Last week my laptop, a black Apple Macbook, succumbed to the not-at-all-welcome ‘hard disk click of death’, a terminal condition which spelled the end of the data on the drive, operating system and all. Deeply annoying, given our (lack of) proximity to a computer store likely to sell a replacement. And too, because I’ve lost all the data on the drive. Not tons, and the important stuff was backed up, but still enough to be irritating. An object lesson in backing up regularly!

Fortuitously, Charles was leaving for Kampala later in the week and was able to buy a hard disk which works, albeit a smaller capacity than I would have liked (100GB replacing 120GB, although if I’d been in the UK I would probably have splashed out on a 250GB one).

So now I have a new hard disk in the machine, and I’ve just about finished re-installing it. But it wasn’t painless, so I want to document the process for future reference.

I have brought with me DMG (disk image) files of the installation CDs which came with our macs. But burning them to DVD resulted in their not being bootable, at least not in my mac.

What to do? Well, here are the steps which worked for me. They rely on having another mac handy, and a firewire lead to connect the two together. Credit to this guy for documenting the ‘restore’ method in the first place:

  1. Install new hard disk in my mac
  2. Boot my mac in ‘target disk mode’ (hold down ‘T’ while booting)
  3. Plug in firewire cable and start Disk Utility on Kate’s mac
  4. Create 2 partitions on the new hard disk (which appears on Kate’s machine as an external hard disk)
  5. ‘Restore’ the DMG for OSX Install Disk 1 onto one of the partitions
  6. Reboot my machine without holding down ‘T’
  7. For me, the installation booted off the hard disk, and I installed OSX onto the second partition.

I’d already been forward-thinking about the size of the partitions I wanted, and it suits me fine because I tend to separate ‘System’ and ‘Data’ partitions anyway (so I can re-install the computer without worrying about documents etc.).

After a lot of waiting around for big downloads (OSX 10.4.11 update is huge!) I’ve got a functioning laptop again. Phew!

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