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Why can't Macs have easily swappable hard drives?

 
Bert Bates
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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?
 
Ernest Friedman-Hill
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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
 
marc weber
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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.)
 
Bert Bates
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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
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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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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
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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
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doesn't that require an "internets" connection?
 
marc weber
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Originally posted by Bert Bates:
doesn't that require an "internets" connection?

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