Target Disk Mode vs. FireWire networking

Reader Barry Wallack would like to take advantage of the wonder that is FireWire to use another Mac’s hard drive as a local volume. He writes:

I am trying to connect two Macs together via a FireWire cable so that I can see the hard drive on the second Mac on the screen of my primary Mac. I want to use my second Mac primarily for additional storage and to test new software and updates before I load them on my primary Mac. When I attach the cable and go into Network and apply I still do not see the second Mac on the screen of my primary Mac. Can you please help?

Oh sure. From all appearances you’ve got some of the elements of two different procedures in place, but you haven’t completely followed through on either. By this I mean that you could accomplish this either by flipping the Macs into FireWire Target Disk Mode or setting up a network connection via that FireWire cable. Here’s how to do both:

Target Disk Mode

Shut down the second Mac and string a FireWire cable between the two computers. Start up the second Mac while holding down the T key. In a short time a FireWire symbol will appear on that Mac’s display. That Mac’s drive should appear on your primary Mac’s display as a local volume. At this point you can have your way with the drive—treating it just like a drive that’s physically attached to your primary Mac (which, in a way, it now is).

Networking via FireWire

The other option is to mount the secondary Mac’s drive as a network volume. To do so, string that FireWire cable between the two Macs. On the secondary Mac, launch System Preferences, open the Sharing system preference, and in the Services tab enable Personal File Sharing.

Return to the primary Mac, open its network system preference and from the Show pop-up menu, choose Built-in FireWire. From the Configure IPv4 pop-up menu choose Using DHCP and click Apply Now. In short order a self-assigned IP address will appear—something that begins with 162.254. (If no IP address appears almost immediately, click the Renew DHCP Lease button.)

In the Finder select Go > Network. In the Network window that appears you should see the secondary Mac. Click its icon and then the Connect button that appears. In the Connect to Server window that pops up, enter the user name and password for that secondary Mac (that Mac’s Admin name and password), and click Connect. In the next window choose that Mac’s hard drive and click OK. The secondary Mac’s hard drive will mount on the primary Mac’s Desktop as a network volume.

A first word of caution: You mention that you’d like to test applications that reside on that secondary Mac. They may not run—or will run, but oddly—on the primary Mac because you haven’t installed the applications and their support files on your primary Mac. If you’d really like to see how they’ll perform on the primary Mac, you might consider creating a Target Disk Mode setup, restarting your primary Mac, holding down the Option key, and, in the screen that appears, choosing the secondary Mac’s hard drive as the startup drive. This boots the primary Mac from the secondary Mac’s hard drive.

A second word of caution: This may not work if the secondary Mac’s hard drive can’t boot the primary Mac. For example, I can’t boot my PowerBook G4 from my Intel Mac mini’s hard drive because the systems aren’t compatible. I can, however, boot that PowerBook from my older, PowerPC-based Mac mini.

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