A while back, a funny thing happened whilst working on some hints. I was testing something relatively destructive, and whenever I do such things, I try to protect my main production machine (my Dual G5) as much as possible. Instead, I was using my PowerBook G4, booted off a small FireWire drive. I worked on the testing for a while, wrote up whatever it was I was going to write up, and then closed the lid on the PowerBook.
So far so good, nothing unusual going on here. A day or two later, I noticed that the power light was still on on the FireWire drive. “Hmm, I should probably power that thing down,” I thought. At this point, the synapses in my brain badly misfired. I seemed to recall using the FireWire drive, but only as an external storage unit. I also definitely, absolutely, positively remembered dismounting the drive in the Finder before I put the machine to sleep. I’m not sure which alien species implanted that recollection, but it was vivid. So based on my memories, I did the only logical thing: I yanked the FireWire drive’s cable out of the PowerBook, and put the drive back in its usual storage spot.
Fast forward again another day or two to the next time I needed to use the PowerBook. I opened the lid, saw my familiar desktop appear, and…nothing seemed to work. Well, one thing worked: I could move the mouse around. But I couldn’t type in TextEdit or Terminal, clicking bookmarks in Camino did nothing, double-clicking applications in the Finder didn’t seem to work, and both the Dock and Command-Tab were completely useless. I will admit to some serious confusion at this point—everything looked right, but nothing was working.
I was about to reset the machine and write the whole experience off to the mysterious gods of crashing, when my eagle eye spotted a rather huge “FW 104 Boot Drive” icon on the Desktop. (How did I miss that before?) Then the brain clicked back into gear. Doh! I had just awoken a sleeping Mac, one that had been booted from a FireWire drive,
said FireWire drive attached! At this stage, panic set in. What to do, what to do…
Figuring all was lost at this point, I decided to try something outlandish. I dug the FireWire drive out of its storage spot, and plugged it back in (without trying to sleep the Mac again). After a few seconds delay, the most amazing thing happened—my stored mouse clicks were all sent to the operating system! The Dock appeared, then the Command-Tab switcher, and the applications I had launched opened up! Wow!
After using the machine for a while, I was convinced that no ill had come from this strange excursion into “no boot drive available” land. Everything was fine. I then shut down normally, disconnected the drive, and booted again from the internal hard drive.
There’s no real moral to this story—I do
recommend trying this yourself at home (though I have repeated the experiment with no ill effects). I was probably most amazed by the fact that the machine even woke up to a semi-usable state without a boot disk present. I’m not sure who to thank for this behavior, but I’m very glad it worked as well as it did!