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Thunderbolt Supports Booting From External Disk

Ever since Apple and Intel introduced the Thunderbolt high-speed data connectivity standard back in late February, there has been speculation about whether the standard would support booting from external disks. At that initial release on revamped MacBook Pros, Andy Ihnatko reported that booting was not supported, although Target Disk Mode was supported. But a report from The Mac Observer early last month indicated that booting from disk would be supported over Thunderbolt.

With Apple's Thunderbolt cable and the first third-party drive systems hitting the Apple Store yesterday, Apple posted a few support articles outlining some of the Thunderbolt functionality, but failing to disclose any booting capabilities and thus leaving potential customers still in the dark about compatibility.

AnandTech's 12 TB Promise RAID setup

It now appears, however, that we do have confirmation that booting over Thunderbolt is supported, as we received word yesterday from a reader who had received multiple confirmations from LaCie representatives that the feature will indeed be supported. Meanwhile, AnandTech has already received one of the new 12 TB RAID systems from Promise and confirms that booting over Thunderbolt is supported.

Top Rated Comments

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42 months ago

There's really no reason why it shouldn't.
If Apple expects their proprietary cable to become a defacto standard they can't be imposing restrictions just to protect their precious... (OSX).

…Proprietary?

The fact that they are currently the only people making them doesn't mean it's proprietary.
Rating: 18 Votes
42 months ago
Anything else would have been a big fail.

This is the beauty of MacOS that you can easily clone (a live running) system to external drives and than boot up the same (or complete different Mac) from that image. Would have been sad not to support this.
Rating: 12 Votes
42 months ago
Um... any modern mac can boot from USB as well as FW, not sure why anyone expected TB to be any different.
Rating: 9 Votes
42 months ago
Its not proprietary, and its not Apple's. It's Intel's.

Didn't we have a story last week where either HP or Sony was adding Thunderbolt technology to their systems, but under a different name?


There's really no reason why it shouldn't.
If Apple expects their proprietary cable to become a defacto standard they can't be imposing restrictions just to protect their precious... (OSX).

Rating: 9 Votes
42 months ago

I'm sorry, but this alone is worth the "absurd" $50 cable.

I assume that other manufacturers will start shipping TB cables for less money.

Just like an HDMI cable that sells for $75 at a retail store can be purchased for $10 from other suppliers, I expect that in a few months, we'll be able to find TB cables selling in the $5-10 range.
Rating: 7 Votes
42 months ago
It's 2011, ALL storage buses should be bootable.
Rating: 6 Votes
42 months ago
Sweet! Now I just need to wait for OWC to make Thunderbolt enclosures and Monoprice to make Thunderbolt cables, and I can buy an iMac instead of a Mac Pro for my next computer.
Rating: 5 Votes
42 months ago

The problem is that by then, current programs will be out of date, and the new ones will be flashier and more resource intensive. The MacPro will still deliver a smoother, faster experience.


False: current programs won't be out of date by then. Current programs don't need Rosetta, and I doubt there will be a major processor upgrade within a handful of years which will negate the ability to run 2010-on programs.

Sure, newer programs will always be flashier, but they have come to a point where everything aside from professional video and CGI are hitting a ceiling with function. Web stuff will always evolve, true. Anything with basic writing and graphics and data shoveling is pretty much closing in on a natural limitation, so for 95% of the market, a MacPro is completely over-blown computing.

The MacPro will always deliver smoother, faster, but how fast do you need for the majority of work? So few people need that. Double the speed of the current MacPros and what do you have? A great video editor, a great CGI machine, perhaps. PS filters going from 5 seconds to 2.5 seconds isn't that big a deal-maker. Back in the days of wait-10-minutes-to-fill, MacPros were luxurious for anyone doing professional work in graphic, forget video or CGI. Now, and onward, they will become "mildly better" for the vast market majority.

Computer hardware on desktops is hitting a natural boundary at last. I've seen it progress toward this point. 10 years ago, a "MacPro" (Power Mac) seemed like heaven compared to the iMacs. That doesn't hold true anymore because of capabilities of programs being easily met by processors and memory. The industry is going to change away from the steady pace it progressively, routinely took over the last 25 years. We're right at that peak, at this moment, where the shape and function of computers will morph into something a little different.
Rating: 5 Votes
42 months ago
Imagine a Mac Mini, a Mac Micro if you will, that did not contain the hard drive or optical drive, with those drives residing in external Thunderbolt enclosures.
[LIST]
[*]Your Mac Micro starts having issues with WiFi, video, or just is dead.
[*]You unplug your drive enclosure(s) from it, take it to the Apple store, and pay them $200 to exchange it for a working refurbished one.
[*]You plug your drives into that, turn on the power, and you've lost nothing.
[/LIST]

Want to replace the drive? Get a second TB drive, run software to clone the old drive to the new one, unplug the old drive, and reboot.

Want to upgrade to the new Mac Micro? Just buy it, move the peripherals, including the drives over, and you've got an upgraded system with all of your programs, settings, and files.

Sure, I know how to do all of that already without Thunderbolt. So do many of you. But I'm thinking about the average consumer who believes that the guys in the Best Buy Geek Squad are technical wizards. Take the pain out of repairs, replacements, and upgrades and you make a lot more sales.
Rating: 4 Votes
42 months ago

I have to admit that I have not yet understood what is so amazing about this? It seems to me it only matters if the external drive is much faster than the internal drive of the computer. Why are you all assuming that is the case, especially with the only currently available external drives supporting TB?

I have an SSD in my Air and my OS on an SSD in my future iMac. Why would I care about booting from an external drive via TB?

Again, excuse my ignorance if this question has an obvious answer.


Having an external drive to boot from helps when cloning your system drive, doing maintenance, etc. Some also use external drives to try out new operating systems (like the Lion Beta).
Rating: 4 Votes

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