Intel, backup, and drive formats

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Reader Michael Jones has walked through the fire and emerged a more enlightened soul. He seeks only a tiny bit of additional information to complete his quest for an Intel-compatible Time Machine backup drive. He writes:

I have been a Windows user all my life and my Acer laptop hard drive crashed. I replaced my machine with a new Apple laptop, which I love. DriveSavers recovered my photos to an external hard drive that could work with both a Mac and a PC. I was able to download all my pictures onto my new Apple, but they told me I needed to reformat the drive to be optimal for backing up a Mac. What is the best format for the Mac OS and what resources can I use to help me do it?

I’m going to assume that your new Apple laptop is really a new Apple laptop, meaning that it’s a MacBook or MacBook Pro, both of which contain Intel processors. For a Time Machine drive connected to an Intel Mac, Apple recommends that you use a GUID partition type. (Those with PowerPC Macs should use the Apple Partition Map scheme.)

To impose this partition type on the drive, launch Disk Utility (found at /Applications/Utilities), select the drive in the resulting Disk Utility window, and click the Partition tab.

From the pop-up menu labeled Current, choose the number of partitions you’d like on the drive (1 Partition is perfectly acceptable if you want to create just a single volume). Now click the Options button. In the sheet that appears, choose GUID Partition Table. Click OK to dismiss the sheet. Click Apply and the drive will be reformatted with the GUID partition scheme.

Note: When you reformat that drive, you erase everything on it. Be sure you’ve copied everything you want off that drive before you do this.

Another note: You’ll go through this same process if you’re formatting a drive that was originally used with a PowerPC Mac for use when booting an Intel Mac. For example, I had a FireWire drive that I used with my Power Mac G5. In the early days of Leopard, I wanted to install OS X 10.5 on this drive so I could take the new OS for a spin without committing my Mac Pro’s internal drive to it. Although my Mac Pro could use this drive for external storage, when I attempted to install Leopard on it, I was told that, as it was connected to an Intel Mac, I must use the GUID partition scheme. This I did and the installation proceeded in hitchless fashion.

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