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Why can't Macs have easily swappable hard drives?

Bert Bates
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Joined: Oct 14, 2002
Posts: 8813
    
    5
How cool would it be if I could slip the hard drive out of my big, honking home Mac setup and slip into my little (as yet to be announced) small Mac laptop when I go on a trip? Then slip it back in to the home setup upon my return?

I know there are external drives, but they're bulky, and of course all the software has to be loaded on two different machines, blah, blah, blah...

Is it a software licensing issue? The hardware technology doesn't seem that tricky...
Is it something in the OS that would be tricky when a hard drive wakes up and "discovers" itself in a new box?


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Ernest Friedman-Hill
author and iconoclast
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Joined: Jul 08, 2003
Posts: 24183
    
  34

8GB USB drive. $129. Can put both applications and data on it. Sounds like a good solution to me...

http://www.homeandbeyond.com/prod-sit16349.html


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marc weber
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Joined: Aug 31, 2004
Posts: 11343

G-Tech's G-DRIVE-mini is pretty small (roughly 5" x 3" x 1") and light (less than 9 oz) -- but very capable (up to 160 GB). It's bus-powered and available in USB and/or FireWire versions.

Not quite as glamourous as switching out the internal hard drive, but still a nice piece of hardware. (I have a 40-GB USB/FireWire model.)


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Bert Bates
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Sheriff

Joined: Oct 14, 2002
Posts: 8813
    
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Those are both pretty cool options, but still, I wonder if the idea I mentioned is technically feasible?
Ernest Friedman-Hill
author and iconoclast
Marshal

Joined: Jul 08, 2003
Posts: 24183
    
  34

Originally posted by Bert Bates:
Those are both pretty cool options, but still, I wonder if the idea I mentioned is technically feasible?


Probably in theory, but maybe not in practice without Apple specifically moving to support this. I don't know nearly as much about Mac internals as about Linux, but surely general comparisons are valid.

It's possible to build a Linux kernel that will boot a broad range of similar hardware, but it will be a lot bigger and somewhat slower than one designed for a specific machine, because it has to include lots of different options and alternate code paths. Many linux distributions come with half a dozen kernels (single and multiprocessor versions of AMD, 585, and 686, for example) just one of which is chosen during installation; the tech-savvy then turn around and recompile their own kernel from source once the system is running, to get something specifically tuned for their specific machine. I would assume that Apple's installer does something similar, installing a kernel intended for particular hardware.

If you were willing to sacrifice a little memory and performance, they could certainly produce a generic OS install which would let you do what you've described; but it probably wouldn't work right now out of the box.
Bert Bates
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Sheriff

Joined: Oct 14, 2002
Posts: 8813
    
    5
OS X has a feature whose name I can't remember, because I never use it, but it allows a single machine to support multiple users - each with a very unique profile. In the scenario I'm imagining, the first time you slid a your hard drive into another machine you'd have to go through some sort of setup process, but then you'd be set on that machine forever, with just a simple choice at login.

I'm sure I'm being a fuss-budget, but when I'm on the road I just hate having stuff hanging off of USB and firewire ports - you know, you just want to pull your machine out of its case, plop it on your lap, and do stuff :roll:
marc weber
Sheriff

Joined: Aug 31, 2004
Posts: 11343

Originally posted by Bert Bates:
...I just hate having stuff hanging off of USB and firewire ports - you know, you just want to pull your machine out of its case, plop it on your lap, and do stuff :roll:

Yeah, I know exactly what you're saying, and that would be cool. My impression is that Apple's "solution" to this is .Mac's file sharing, which I've never tried.
Bert Bates
author
Sheriff

Joined: Oct 14, 2002
Posts: 8813
    
    5
doesn't that require an "internets" connection?
marc weber
Sheriff

Joined: Aug 31, 2004
Posts: 11343

Originally posted by Bert Bates:
doesn't that require an "internets" connection?

Yes, but you can use "The Google" for that.
Bert Bates
author
Sheriff

Joined: Oct 14, 2002
Posts: 8813
    
    5
We heard a story at SXSW about a grandma who was thrilled that her grandson came over and installed google on her machine...
Pauline McNamara
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Joined: Jan 19, 2001
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    6
Originally posted by Bert Bates:
... but when I'm on the road I just hate having stuff hanging off of USB and firewire ports ...


wireless hard drive?
Bert Bates
author
Sheriff

Joined: Oct 14, 2002
Posts: 8813
    
    5
I could well be being superstitious, but having stuff other than data on external drives makes me feel a little queasy. It seems like a hornets nest to get into installing and running software on external drives... all the little environmental, config-gy, preference-y, stuff you have to do, I suppose if I got over all that it could really be a pretty flexible approach...

Does anyone know of good resources that talk about how to do this as a Mac "lifestyle"?
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://aspose.com/file-tools
 
subject: Why can't Macs have easily swappable hard drives?