Mac Daniel's Advice

How to Make a Bootable Restore CD

Charlie Ruggiero - 2000.06.21

Everyone can use the included Apple CD that ships with recent Macs, but not everyone wants the basic install with the out-of-date applications and an older version of the Mac OS. The solution is to make your own bootable restore CD.

What you need:

  • CD-R drive or CD-RD drive
  • a Macintosh that can boot from CD (preferably a Power Mac)
  • an Apple CD containing a recent bootable operating system
  • an extra hard drive or a partition that is 1.2 GB or larger
  • Apple's Disk Copy software
  • Toast or other CD burning software

The first job is to clean up your System Folder and hard drive. Remove unwanted files, empty folders, extensions that you no longer use, and so on. (Suggestion: back up first just in case you accidentally delete the wrong file.) You need to do this because you are going to be using your main hard drive as the base for your custom restore CD. You do not want those extra files installed over and over again in the future, and this also will free up some space, since CD-Rs have a maximum capacity of 640 MB. Don't count on using the whole 640 MB for your System Folder, because we will need about 80 MB for utilities and a CD bootable system folder.

Once your hard drive is clean, make two disk images with Apple's Disk Copy on your extra hard drive or partition. Create the first image at the maximum CD-ROM size (663,000k Full CD-ROM) and the second at a custom size of 540 MB. These should both be mounted on your desktop. If they are not, simply double-click the image files. The extra hard drive or partition is used so that you can easily do this again.

Drag your entire System Folder from your main hard drive to the 540 MB image. This is the most important part to ensure that all your preferences and extensions are there when you restore. The second job is to drag your most important applications to the smaller 540 MB image. Drag things like Office, Dream Weaver, or whatever you feel is important. If there is room, you can continue to drag everything from your hard drive. Be sure to copy data as well (Word, Excel, HTML documents, etc.). If there is not room on the image, you need to decide what files are needed most. I would avoid moving entire games over to the image, as they sometimes take up hundreds of megabytes of space. Just copy saved game data files, because games, on the whole, are easier to install than other applications.

Remember that desktop items will not be copied unless you copy them yourself. I would create a folder on the 540 MB image named something like "Desktop Stuff" and then copy the desktop items into it. I would avoid dragging your entire Macintosh hard drive to the image, because you will end up copying things you may not want such as the hidden virtual memory file, which can be very large.

Once you have everything you want in your 540 Mb image, you can close it (drag the mounted image to the Trash to close it, just like you would eject a CD). You should now insert your newest bootable Apple OS CD. Open it up and copy the System Folder from the CD into the larger disk image (the 633 MB image.) Also copy the Utilities folder from the CD. From the hard drive, copy Apple's Disk Copy. You will need all of these utilities to erase/fix your hard drive, mount the image, and copy your data back to your repaired hard drive.

Finally, copy the smaller image file (not the mounted disk, but the .img file) to the larger image. Let me explain what has happened: You have an image of (most of) your Macintosh hard drive on the smaller image. You keep it in a separate image because you will need to boot from a System Folder designed for CDs (to reduce problems in booting). The System Folder for CDs goes into the larger image with the other utilities so that you can keep them separate from the System Folder from your hard drive.

Keep the larger disk image mounted, but make sure the smaller one is not mounted. Open Toast and choose Mac Volume under the Format menu. Click "Data," choose your larger mounted image file, and click "Bootable." You are now ready to burn your bootable custom restore CD.

To restore with the custom CD, simply boot up as you would normally from a CD. If your hard drive is not empty (be sure data you have not backed up on the CD is backed up elsewhere) or damaged, format it with Drive Setup. Now simply click on the smaller disc image that you made (the 540 MB one) and it will mount on the desktop. Open it and copy all of the data to your hard drive. Reboot, and your data will be exactly as it was when you copied it to the CD, complete with your programs, preferences, and whatever else you copied to the smaller image file.

I recommend doing the whole process every couple of months so that you can backup to the newest possible data and preferences.

Charlie Ruggiero has used a lot of Macs, from Plus to G4, and even ran a BBS (remember those?) on a Plus. He works as Macintosh tech support and technology advisor for the College of Education at Michigan State University. He does a lot of hardware and software troubleshooting, as well as a great deal of video editing, capture, and streaming. Charlie is well versed in HyperCard, fairly knowledgeable in Future Basic, and has a good background in sound and video. He even has his own site, Edge of Heaven.

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