Installing software on a Mac with a dead DVD drive

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Reader Karen Evans has been thwarted in an attempt to install software on her Mac. She writes:

Over the holidays I passed along an old Mac mini to my son. When setting it up I inserted a CD to install some software and discovered that the media drive is broken—the CD just spins and spins and never mounts. I have a MacBook with a working media drive. Is there some way I can connect the Mac mini to the MacBook to install software?

Yes. You could use the media drive on your MacBook to install software to the Mac mini. This can be accomplished via FireWire Target Disk Mode or through disc sharing. They work this way:

FireWire Target Disk Mode method: String a FireWire cable between the two Macs. Restart the MacBook while holding down the T key. Boot the Mac mini and you should find that the MacBook’s hard drive appears on the mini’s Desktop. Now insert an install CD or DVD in the MacBook’s media drive. It too will appear on the mini’s Desktop as a removable volume. Open that volume and double-click on the installer. The installer will go about its business.

Disc sharing method: Disc sharing is a scheme designed by Apple that allows a MacBook Air to use a CD or DVD inserted in another Mac on the same local network. With a slight bit of trickery you can make it work with your MacBook and Mac mini too.

To do so, first launch System Preferences on the MacBook, select Sharing, and enable DVD or CD Sharing. (If you want to be asked before sharing a disc, make sure the Ask Me Before Allowing Others To Use My DVD Drive option is enabled.) Now here’s the trickery (via MacRumors’ forums). Launch Terminal on the Mac mini and enter these two commands, pressing Return after each:

defaults write EnableODiskBrowsing -bool true

defaults write ODSSupported -bool true

Restart the Mac mini.

With the two Macs on the same network, insert the install CD or DVD into the MacBook’s media drive. A Remote Disc entry will appear in a Finder window’s sidebar on the Mac mini. Select it and you’ll see the name of the MacBook. Double-click on the MacBook entry and you’ll find the disc that’s inserted in the MacBook’s drive. Double-click it to install. Because it’s operating over a network the installation will take longer than it would if you were using the disc in the mini’s media drive (if it worked, of course).

An install DVD seen through disc sharing

Disk image method: Finally, you could create a disk image on the MacBook, copy it to the Mac mini, and then run the disk image as if it was the original disc.

To do that, insert the disc in the MacBook’s media drive and launch Disk Utility (found in /Applications/Utilities). In Disk Utility’s Sources list select the disc. Choose File -> New -> Disk Image from nameofdisk. In the sheet that appears choose DVD/CD Master from the Image Format pop-up menu, None from the Encryption pop-up menu, and click Save.

Disk Utility will take some time creating the disk image. Once the image has been created, copy it to the Mac mini over the network, double-click on it to mount it, and run it as if it was the original disc.

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