The iPod as Startup Disk (Macs Only)

For years, Mac-heads worldwide have taken comfort in a backup startup disk: a CD or external hard drive containing a working System Folder that can start up the computer when its own copy of the system software gets hosed. Many techies even put copies of their favorite disk utility programs (Tech Tool, Disk Warrior, Norton Utilities, or whatever) on there, too, to make fixing a crashed, cranky, question-mark-flashing Mac as quick and efficient as possible.

Thanks to the iPod, that trick is more convenient than ever. The following instructions guide you through turning your Macintosh iPod into a bootPod. It assumes that you have enough space left on your iPod over and above all your music and other files.


A Windows iPod can’t, alas, start up a PC. An iPod Mini can’t start up anything, not even a Mac.

Which OS?

Before you begin, consider which version of the Mac OS you want to use. Mac models that debuted after January 2003 can’t start up using Mac OS 9 at all. But if your older model can, note that Mac OS 9 is less complicated to get on the iPod, it’s easier to take off, and takes up much less drive space than Mac OS X. (A lean Mac OS 9 can take up as little as 300 MB, compared to 2 GB and up for Mac OS X.) Furthermore, top-notch disk-rescue programs like Disk Warrior run fine in Mac OS 9, yet diagnose and fix problems found on both OS 9 and OS X systems.

While you can erase a Mac OS 9 System Folder by tossing it in the Trash, getting a Mac OS ...

Get iPod & iTunes: The Missing Manual, Second Edition now with O’Reilly online learning.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from 200+ publishers.