19 Responses

  1. Daniel H.
    Daniel H. October 17, 2008 at 6:24 am |

    Woah. I’m not a Mac person, so I wasn’t aware such a thing existed … is there an equivalent of anything like this for Windows? (I’m guessing not, otherwise I would have heard of it by now).

  2. Humberto Saabedra
    Humberto Saabedra October 17, 2008 at 12:33 pm |

    I guess I’m resigned to buying the 17 inch Pro next year as my workstation and using the new Air as a portable with the new 15 inch Pro replacing my current Vista machine this December. I’m really used to using Target Disk for maintenance above all else and don’t see why FireWire should be eliminated..

  3. Christopher Price
    Christopher Price October 17, 2008 at 3:35 pm |

    Daniel, Target Disk Mode is a Mac innovation. It originated on PowerBook systems with SCSI. As FireWire replaced SCSI, it made the transition over to FireWire.

    The problem is, that the PC BIOS isn’t powerful enough to deploy this. That’s one of the reasons why EFI helped make the Intel transition for Apple, possible. EFI matches the robust Open Firmware which Mac users have had for a decade.

    While Microsoft could offer such a mode in the Windows kernel… it wouldn’t be as practical. The idea of Target Disk Mode is that it can rescue a system, even one which cannot boot.

    I think that if Apple does follow through, and implement USB Target Disk Mode, that PC makers would follow up. I think you’ll see EFI start to become mainstream over the next couple of years, as utility makers start to pitch bundling EFI apps into the firmware of OEM PCs.

  4. Jay Ray
    Jay Ray October 20, 2008 at 7:37 am |

    Sadly, in order to keep my firewire connections, I have thought about maxing out the old version of the macbook. It only comes in white these days, but that is how important firewire is to my work and personal lives. I am in IT and love what firewire enables me to do with little to no effort. I enjoyed your articles idea because I have been thinking the same things! I am ready to see Apple make it obvious to people why they have rid the macbook of such a viable port. Apple tends to come through with an explanation. I guess I will simply have to wait and see.

  5. Gazzer
    Gazzer October 25, 2008 at 11:33 pm |

    “And, that cable would work perfectly for Target Disk Mode via USB.”

    Would it? Doesn’t Target Disk Mode require a guaranteed transfer rate which the Firewire specification can do as the communication between devices is not delegated to the processor but is build into the Firewire devices themselves. USB cannot guarantee this.

  6. Christopher Price
    Christopher Price October 26, 2008 at 2:17 am |

    Yes, the cable would simply require you to plug the two machines directly into a computer… avoiding the hub.

    Then, the firmware could drop throughput to a reliable speed. Say, 270 mbps.

    And, not to mention the fact that USB Target Disk Mode isn’t bound to FW TDM, as much as it is bound to SCSI TDM.

    I don’t see why an EFI system couldn’t delegate some resources to the processor… if EFI can do memory diagnostics, virus scans, and other resources… why not make a USB host connection (with the host hardware on the dongle)?

  7. christian
    christian October 27, 2008 at 11:55 am |

    You know why Target Mode isn’t a big loss? There is no “taking apart” issue with the new MacBooks. Just buy one of those SATA-USB adapter cables for $10 on eBay, pop out the drive from the MacBook, and mount the drive on your other machine in less than a minute.

    Problem solved đŸ˜‰

  8. Christopher Price
    Christopher Price October 27, 2008 at 9:28 pm |

    Christian, that’s great if you’re in a nice, cosy office.

    Try doing that in the middle of a desert in 100 degree weather. Try doing that in all the places where you wish you had a Mac… because you’ll need the durability.

    I know lots of people from consulting that chose Mac, even over a Panasonic Toughbook.

    But, most importantly, it’s essential on things like the MacBook Air, Mac mini (when it inevitably loses FireWire) and iMac… those systems are certainly much harder to gain access to the hard drive.

  9. Jeremy
    Jeremy November 5, 2008 at 2:21 am |

    I was thinking the same thing, hence I found this post via Google. I can’t see how throughput can be an issue since computers can already boot from USB devices and it’s not like the host computer would have anything else to do with its CPU.

    Though the need for special cables does seem to be another reason as to why Firewire has been replaced my a superior technology. Though perhaps USB could be re-engineered for connecting two computers together. We now have auto-sensing ethernet ports that eliminate the need for crossover cables, yet Firewire never even had this trouble from the beginning (I use the same cable for my FW hard disk enclosure as with TDM between two macs), so I can’t see why USB couldn’t be updated to do the same.

    Though ultimately this some of these tasks could be done over the network as well. Even with all the greatness of Firewire and TDM, there was an instance where I couldn’t get it to work between two macs of a different generation. Yet if Migration Assistant could have worked over the network, my problem would have been solved. We’re already seeing some of the former FW TDM functions being provided over the network with the Macbook Air computers. It’s just those emergency situations where you can’t boot one of the computers. If EFI has network support like Open Firmware did, then perhaps it could even provide access to the hard drive via the network. Still I like the idea of USB as an alternative/backup method.

    I also don’t see why third parties couldn’t implement such add-ons for EFI.

  10. Frank
    Frank December 4, 2008 at 9:47 am |

    I couldn’t agree more about the need for USB Target Mode. I support over 130 macs at a small school – laptops with a few desktops and servers. I use Target Mode for support EVERY day. It’s not unusual that a laptop will not boot, but it’s drive will mount in Target Mode with no problem, or at least be accessible to another Mac for repair or recovery with Disk Utility, Diskwarrior or Data Rescue II. It also makes quick manual data backups or migrating a student to a new machine much easier. In the future I will need to pull drives to do what I currently do with target mode or rework my support procedures.
    Time for Apple to Think Different on this issue.

  11. Modo Target, el modo Dios de OS X, Carrero
  12. Tree Man
    Tree Man April 22, 2009 at 2:55 pm |

    So in anybodies’ expert opinion… what is the “new/best” alternative to TDM when i comes to servicing the new macs quickly and effectively?

  13. Christopher Price
    Christopher Price April 24, 2009 at 11:42 am |

    Depends on the Mac. The MacBook 13-inch and the MacBook Air are the only two systems without TDM (for now).

    For the MacBook 13-inch, it’s pretty simple. The hard drive is easy to remove, and I’d suggest that any tech-savvy owner that runs/admins one have a 2.5-inch SATA-to-USB adapter. That will let you plug the drive directly into another system, and try to recover data from it.

    For the MacBook Air, removing the hard drive probably isn’t an option (since the drive uses a special connector). So, you’re going to be stuck with using a USB 2.0 hard drive with a copy of OS X installed on it. Then, you’ll just have to cross your fingers that the drive failure isn’t bad enough to screw with the boot process from the USB drive.

    A USB 2.0 hard drive (with OS X installed) should be able to boot any Intel-based Mac, so it’s a good idea for any sys admin to have a spare install ready (and up-to-date) for emergency use.

  14. Andreas Carlsson
    Andreas Carlsson May 5, 2009 at 5:30 am |

    YES – USB Target Mode IS needed.

    Please please please Apple – Fix this. Nowadays it takes us one day, what took one hour before.

  15. Marcel Dietzmann
    Marcel Dietzmann May 6, 2009 at 8:16 am |

    I agree, the Target Disk Mode is essential for support! Apple, add USB and/or Ethernet Target Disk Mode into EFI!

  16. Jake
    Jake July 28, 2009 at 5:36 pm |

    I would love usb TDM in all of the mac’s including G3’s that would make my life so easy, I have seen a cable that is USB A-A and there is no box in the middle, its A-A (the end you plug in to the computer) I am hoping apple alows us to do that, or put fire wire back in all of the line of computers, or make usb TDM in all of the computers

  17. Christopher Price
    Christopher Price July 29, 2009 at 7:44 pm |

    A-A cables typically serve as extension cables. As I noted above, you would need one of those “in the middle” chipsets to handle communications… but an Apple-built cable that communicated with a driver in EFI is certainly possible.

    As to supporting G3’s, sorry, that’s dreaming… er… hallucinating. It would be stupid of Apple to spend time going back and adding TDM to a firmware platform (OpenFirmware) that they don’t support anymore.

  18. Yuhong Bao
    Yuhong Bao July 26, 2010 at 12:38 pm |
  19. thomas seaman
    thomas seaman January 23, 2011 at 2:40 pm |

    Macbook air is my favorite except for this issue of no target mode… especially as the new ones (I was told) have no discrete HD that can be removed for rescue! I find it just insanely stupid and wonder what could be their reason, maybe so they will sell another one instead of have one be repairable? But it just leads me to not even buying it at all!
    I’m ready to upgrade but have waited to see if the newer macbook air had target mode. So far I have not found a way, so therefore have not bought a new computer. I’m still using my 12″ g4 powerbook, it is starting to be old enough to really want to upgrade, but I value target mode way to much to get anything without it…
    Please if anyone finds a way to effectively put the Air into target mode, please come tell us how!
    A new kind of cable, or anything…


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