Let me tell you a secret that I’m surprised more people don’t know…The ‘T’ key on a Mac keyboard is magical!
I know it sounds strange, and no, when you press it there is no pixie dust. But, this is one special key and when I tell you what it does you might just go “hummmmm.”
Now for something random; have you ever heard of Mac Love? I promise this is not the kind of love that makes you avert your eyes. I know what you’re thinking, “This guy is crazy!” Well, I might just be, but I do have a point. The two features I’m going to tell you about will probably save your bacon. I know they have saved mine!
OK, no more crazy talk. Let’s get down to business. Lets talk about the ‘T’ key, the mild-mannered simple T. It seems that this key shouldn’t be special, but did you know that holding it during start-up will turn your Mac into an external hard drive? This is one of the many options you can press when you boot your Mac, it just so happens to be one of the most important. Apple calls this, “Target Disk Mode.” I call it, “Genius.”
At first glance it seems useless, but take a look closer. What if your Mac won’t boot into OS X? Ah ha, eureka, and the best part is you can usually get into Target Disk Mode even if your OS is hosed or the system has other failures because it’s a firmware function. Now, that’s a useful piece of information. Use Target Disk Mode as one of the tools to make a backup or recover important data. Those Apple people are definitely using their noggins!
Now, let’s talk Mac Love. Everyone knows Macs work really well with other Macs. Now, let’s take this one step further. Did you know that any installed Mac OS X on any Mac computer will run on any other Mac computer?
Let me break this down. I have a MacBook Pro with OS X running on it. One fine day the video card in my pretty silver box decides to die. Uh-oh, no video! I pull the hard disk drive out of my pretty silver MacBook Pro and put it into another one and, voilà, I’m back in business. Well, that seems pretty simple…However, take it one step further. MacBook Pro to MacBook, or Mac Pro to MacBook or iMac to MacBook Pro. Any combination. Any version of Mac OS X. There’s just one caveat: The machine has to have existed BEFORE the version of Mac OS X you want to run on it. This caveat is very important because you can’t pull out a 2012 MacBook Air and expect to run Mac OS X 10.4 on it. Furthermore. what if you didn’t pull the hard drive? Now, that’s when this really becomes useful. Make a backup of the drive using your favorite cloning software – mine just so happens to be Carbon Copy Cloner – and restore it on any Mac you like.
So, I’ve given you information about two great features and now I am going to put it all together for you.
Follow me on this scenario: One day everything is going great. Work is going well. You’re super productive, and BAM!! Major system error and the machine you’re working on shuts down. You try to boot back up, but it’s just not happening. The system tells you it’s a hardware failure of some kind. That’s ok. You get yourself a FireWire 400/800 or a spiffy new Thunderbolt cable and plug your broken machine into a spare one sitting on the shelf. Press the Magical T key on your broken Mac and boot your spare Mac by pressing the Option Key. The Option key allows you to choose your boot volume on start-up. Once in the boot menu, select to boot from the hard drive on the failed Mac, and in no time you’re back in business!
You can then use Carbon Copy Cloner, or another cloning app, to clone your broken machine’s OS to the backup machine. Send the machine that needs some love to Apple for a repair, and all the while you haven’t missed a beat. When the repaired machine comes back, do the process in reverse and clone everything back. All your files, all the work, everything that has been done isn’t lost and literally takes just a couple of hours to get back in place on your mended Mac.
This scenario works in all kinds of situations. The key features of the Mac that make this possible are; the ability to boot from external storage, Target Disk Mode using the T key on start-up, the boot source menu using the Option key on start-up, and the most important Mac Love feature. I promise you I’m not a Microsoft Windows hater, but try that with a Windows machine and you’ll be very disappointed!
Here are some great links to help you understand the features I mentioned in more detail:
Carbon Copy Cloner – Give these guys some love, they’re the ‘save your bacon’ peeps!
Target Disk Mode – I love me some Wikipedia!
Startup Key Combinations for Intel-based Macs – The source for all your key combos!