FireWire Disk Mode

By Ivan Drucker  |  Posted 2009-01-05 Print this article Print

FireWire Disk Mode

One Mac hardware feature which is especially adored by Mac geeks is the ability to access the internal hard drive(s) directly, bypassing the operating system. The Mac becomes an expensive enclosure. This means that when you need to run diagnostics on a drive, you don't need to pull it out. All you need to do is hold down "T" while you turn the Mac on, until you see a FireWire icon on the screen. (If you see a grey Apple, power off the Mac and try again). Then, attach a FireWire cable from the user's Mac to your own and the user's drive becomes available to you on your own computer (very useful, for example, for running either of the previously-mentioned tools).

It's also handy in the other direction: you can put your own Mac into FireWire Disk Mode and start up the user's Mac with it-which can help determine whether a problem is related to software or hardware. To choose which drive you start up from, hold down "Option" as you turn on the Mac until you get to the graphical boot chooser. Again, if you see a grey Apple, power off and try again. Two recent laptop models lack a FireWire port, so you can't use FireWire Disk Mode with those. You'll need to start them from a USB external drive or pull out the internal drive.

System Profiler

Want to see what kind of RAM is in which slots? Not clear if a USB device is being recognized? System Profiler is your friend, giving you a window into much of what's under the hood of a Mac. It's part of Mac OS X in the Utilities folder of the Applications folder, or you can simply choose Apple Menu->About This Mac->More Info.

ID-Design's WhatSize

ID-Design's WhatSize is the program you want when your user's drive is full but he or she can't figure out why. It will allow you to very quickly drill down into the heaviest folders and files with a highly intuitive interface. Be sure to run it in Administrator mode, as this will allow it to see inside folders belonging to other users on that machine-which is often where large, abandoned files such as iTunes libraries lurk. WhatSize once helped me figure out where a misbehaving printer driver was spooling endless temporary files, filling the disk.

Ivan Drucker founded IvanExpert Consulting in 2002 to fulfill a need: help for NYC Mac users, presented clearly and understandably, from a bona fide Mac expert. He sought to provide exceptional service and supreme technical resourcefulness as the twin goals of every client interaction, and through this approach, IvanExpert Consulting has developed a loyal and longstanding client base. Ivan has been using Apple computers since 1978, beginning with the Apple II, the first widely-available personal computer. Over the ensuing years, he became proficient with the Apple, Microsoft and UNIX operating systems, and the hardware they ran on, as well as learned a range of programming languages. In the late 1990s Ivan worked for Apple at their Cupertino, Calif. headquarters, providing quality engineering and leadership for multimedia, emulation and operating system products, including the Mac OS X Classic Environment, which enabled thousands of existing applications to run during Apple's critical transition to their new UNIX-based OS. Upon relocating to NY, Ivan directed the front-end development team to help launch, a new live-auction e-commerce site for the well-known auction house. The site's success later led to a partnership between Sotheby's and eBay. Ivan then became involved with back-end development and tool engineering, further broadening his perspective on the IT industry. After leaving Sotheby's, Ivan decided to synthesize the knowledge and experience he had accumulated in his industry and his individual work. Ivan had observed that there was a shortage of true Mac experts and, while some consultants had technical ability and some had communication skills, few had both. He felt there was a need in the marketplace for personalized, high-ability Mac support, and he responded by creating IvanExpert Consulting. He is an Apple Certified Support Professional and a member of the Apple Consultants Network. Ivan hails from Los Angeles and received his B.A. in Communication from Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon. He has lived in NYC for 10 years. When not at the computer, he is often watching baseball or playing drums. He can be reached at

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