Apr 27 2009
Don’t toss that old Mac or PC yet. Yes, I know you’d be hard pressed to fit a slice of processed cheese in the tiny case of the Mac mini, but expansion isn’t limited to the mini’s tiny interior.
In this tutorial, we’ll take advantage of the speed and power of Firewire to turn your mini in to a fast, powerful backup machine. And we’ll do it using hardware you didn’t even realize you had.
For this tutorial you’ll need one of the following:
- If you have an old internal hard drive from your old Mac or PC, you’ll want to grab a Firewire hard drive enclosure, like MacAlly’s PHR-100AF 3.5 inch enclosure (MSRP is $69, but Amazon has it for $37 and free shipping)
- Don’t have an old drive? You have two options. Buy a drive on sale and get an enclosure or just get a Firewire drive like LaCie’s slick (and reasonably priced) Porsche 80 GB or 160 GB Firewire drive for $115 and $144 at Amazon (again, shipped free). I have the 80 and it’s great.
Either way, you’ll have an external companion to your mini that is almost as stylish as the mini itself.
Salvaging the Drive
Now, unless you opted for a new drive you’ll have some surgery to do. The regular warnings are applicable. I’m not responsible for damage, blah blah blah. That said, this is cake. If you’re de-braining a PC tower, you have six screws to get the case off, then you’ll find the old drive under the CD-ROM held in a bracket. If you’re digging in a Mac (like an old CRT iMac) you search may be harder, but again, you’ll find the drive under the optical drive. Unplug it (DON’T cut any wires) and stick it in your arm-pit (kidding).
Now, all you have to do is put the drive in the enclosure, plug in the ribbon and power cable and close it up. So, what do you do with this thing? This is where the fun begins.
With a Firewire drive you can not only back up your system quickly, you can create bootable backups of your OS X install. Unlike USB 2.0, you can boot your Mac directly from your Firewire drive (hold down the Option key at startup) to recover from problems.
I use Carbon Copy Cloner, an excellent shareware application from Mike Bombich ($5). Super Duper from Shirt Pocket adds some extra features, with the same base functionality for $20. Either will work for out purposes.
As you can see, were going to back up our main system to a Firewire drive. This will give us a full backup that, in a pinch, we’ll be able to boot from. CCC will backup any of your mounted volumes, and can archive OS 9 and Windows installs. Even the drive icon gets backed up.
Now, if your Firewire drive is big enough to hold you backup and then some, you might consider partitioning it. An extra few gigabytes can become home to your iTunes music library or other media files and free up space on your boot disk.
With a bootable backup, you’re ready to live dangerously.