Extend the Life of an Old Machine With a Bootable Image

Extend the Life of an Old Machine With a Bootable Image

Joelle Alcaidinho
Nov 30, 2010

We had a problem. Our most beloved laptop just did not want to cooperate with our massive collection of RAW photo files anymore. Freeing up hard drive space was becoming a daily chore, with applications like Aperture taking up to 12 minutes to launch. Luckily we're not a single computer household and we were able to push the work over to our other machine. But this got us thinking how nice it would be if we could take some of the extra hard drive space from the new machine and allot it over to the older model to use. Creating a boot image file was our solution...

Photos taken in the RAW format can eat up hard drive space quickly.

We decided to make a bootable image of the new machine on an external drive and run the image on the old machine. It worked wonderfully and now we have a way to access all of our old files and applications, as well as the new ones with plenty of hard drive space to share. Here's how to do it yourself:

1. Choose the Right Hard Drive Since this is going to be a bootable image that we will need to bring wherever we bring our laptop, we are opting for a portable external hard drive. Speed and portability are the two big factors when it comes to considering which drive is right to host the image.

2. Is Everything In Order?
Make sure that everything is the way you would like it to be on the computer you are going to image. Run the latest SW update, and ensure you have all of the files and applications that you need before you begin the image.

3. Prepare & Partition
We purchased an external hard drive that had enough space to run the OS and serve as a portable media library for Aperture & iTunes. Before we began the imaging process, we partitioned the drive in Disk Utility, using GUID partition map scheme (this will allow it to be used for a bootable image for an Intel based mac) and Mac OS X Journaled. We named ours: Bootable & Storage.

4. Create The Image
One of the easiest ways to create your image is through using SuperDuper. This program which is a free download (incremental backups require a license) allows you to easily create a bootable image in just a few clicks. Launch this application from the computer you would like to create the image from and make sure your external drive is plugged in with the correct partition selected. Since our image was around 300GB this process took around 5 hours.

5. Select the Image & Boot
On the older machine that you will be using to run the image, restart and hold down the "option" key. This will allow you to choose the external drive to boot from (one of the many reasons we named that partition "bootable"). The initial start up will take slightly longer than a typical start up would be. After our slow initial start up there have been no speed decreases or performance issues in running the OS off of the external drive.

One last thing before you begin the process:
Backup Backup Backup
Before you begin it's a good idea to make sure everything is backed up on both machines. If you had an incremental backup system in place for each machine, make sure this is reconfigured after launching your computer off of external drive.

For more helpful tips on how to give life to old and broken tech, check out these posts:

(Image: Joelle Alcaidinho)

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