Create an "Emergency Disk" with DasBoot

You know it's happened to you... Something funky is going on with your Mac, so you pop in the bootable CD of your favorite diagnostic/repair software and start up holding "C". Then you wait...

And wait...

And wait...

Let's face it, booting to OSX from CD is an extremely slow process. And what happens when the first utility you tried doesn't fix the problem? Then you have to boot from another CD, and the waiting begins again.

Sure, there are utilities that will allow you to create a custom CD, enabling you to put all your favorite utilities on one disc. The problem still remains, though, that you have to wait for the darned thing to boot - and may be just an illusion, but the "custom" CDs seem to take even longer to boot, for some reason.

Enter DasBoot

DasBoot is a utility by SubRosaSoft that allows you to create a repair utility out of any bootable device. This opens things up considerably. If you have a sizable USB Flash drive, you can put together a repair disk for Intel-based Macs that is both immensely portable and lightning-fast. Got an older FireWire iPod? Now, provided you've purchased and are installing the right software, you can make it a utility that not only will boot a PPC or an Intel Mac, but can also play music when not being used as a boot device. That's just darn cool!

The Quick-and-Dirty How to.

Before you start, make sure you have the following things.

  1. A bootable Utility CD. Most commercial disk utilities, such as, SubRosaSoft's own CopyCatX and FileSalvage, Alsoft DiskWarrior or Prosoft Drive Genius come on a bootable CD. This is where DasBoot will get the info in order to create the minimal OS that you'll be booting into. Make sure this CD is bootable on the machine(s) you intend to use it with - I learned that one he "hard" way... You also should NOT use the installer CD/DVD that came with your Mac - the installer will run from the System you're making, rather than the utilities you want.
  2. All the tools you want to include on the device already installed on your computer.
  3. A device that's bootable in your machine. If you're not sure, a chart of which machines can boot from FireWire and USB can be found here. If you only have an Intel Mac, an inexpensive USB Flash Drive is a great way to set up fast, inexpensive backup. If you're going to be using this with older Macs, as well, you'll need something FireWire-based, such as an inexpensive portable drive, or an old iPod. Whatever you choose to use, just format it and have it on your desktop before starting.

Now that you have all those together, let's build that drive!

Step 1 - Open up DasBoot.

Upon double-clicking the DasBoot icon, you'll get the first screen, which is really little more than an ad for SubRosaSoft's commercial software. That's cool. They're providing this utility for free, why shouldn't they use it to advertise their other tools? Simply click the Start button in the lower right and you'll be taken to the main screen

Step 2 - Select your Source Disc

If it is not already selected, choose the Bootable CD you're going to create the new System from. In this example, I'm using a CD for Disk Warrior, as it is bootable on both PPC and Intel Machines.

Step 3 - Select the Destination Disk

If not already chosen, highlight the device you want to install the new "Emergency System" on. in this example, I'm using an old 1G iPod. The 20GB HD has more than enough room for what I need.

Step 4 - Choose Your Weapons...

In the next row down, you have the applications that will be included. DasBoot recognizes many utilities, and will automatically include them. If your favorite utility doesn't show up in the list, simply drag it into the list, and it will be added. If there's an app included that you have decided not to use after all, simply click the icon, and a red "X" will appear. Click it again to give it the green check mark, thus adding it to the list of installed apps.

Step 5 - Push a few buttons.

Once you have the settings ready to go, click the big blue button at the bottom of the screen.

If DasBoot deems it appropriate, a small warning about some devices not being designed for long-term use as boot devices. Read it, and decide whether or not to proceed.

You may want to make sure you're not risking anything incredibly important...

You will then be prompted with a big warning telling you that you cannot undo the installation

I think they want your attention....

A short "preparation" phase will be immediately followed with a prompt for a Username/Password for setup.

System files = You need Admin access...

Step 6 - Wait

The copy process is a little on the lengthy side. You may want to go get a sandwich.

Step 7 - Done!

After about 10-20 minutes or so, you'll have a bootable utility drive with all yout favorite tools on it. For some odd reason, the icon for the CD seems to get pasted on the drive. A quick Get Info, though will let you access the icon and delete it. When you eject and plug in the device again, all shows up normally.

To use your new drive it, simply plug it into the troubled computer, hold down "option" at startup and select it like any other hard drive. It's that easy!

Once you hit the main screen, a special launcher will load, allowing you to choose which utility to launch. When you're done with that one, you can choose another. When you're done, simply quit the main launcher, and your machine should restart.

Hard drives, being electro-mechanincal devices, will, eventually fail. When that happens, having an emergency utility disk is a handy thing to have around. DasBoot makes putting one together a quick and painless process.


by Inc.