Can I boot from USB 3.0?

Mac Format - - MAC SOS -

I used Macs a long time ago and I re­mem­ber that you used to be able to boot them from ex­ter­nal FireWire drives. Af­ter a spell in Win­dows land, I am back with a new Mac­Book Air and I’m as­sum­ing that this will boot from Thun­der­bolt. But will it also boot from a USB 3.0 drive? They are so much cheaper… Len Pritchard Pos­si­bly, but it isn’t guar­an­teed. To boot from an ex­ter­nal drive, the Mac’s firmware must recog­nise the drive. In the days be­fore In­tel Macs, you could only boot from FireWire drives but since 2006 we have been able to boot from USB 2.0 ex­ter­nal disks (and if you are pa­tient USB 1.1 as well). Since the end of 2012, Macs have had the hard­ware for USB 3.0 sup­port, but hard­ware sup­port is only half the battle; you need op­er­at­ing sys­tem driv­ers as well. When the Mac starts up, the OS ob­vi­ously hasn’t loaded yet (that’s what the boot process is try­ing to do) so the Mac is re­liant on the firmware to in­ter­face with the USB con­troller, and the firmware driv­ers are much less com­pre­hen­sive. Some USB 3.0 drives will work and oth­ers just won’t.

Sea­gate drives seem par­tic­u­larly trou­ble­some, whereas Toshiba and Hi­tachi have a higher suc­cess rate. There doesn’t seem to be an easy way of telling in ad­vance whether it will boot on a Mac, so make sure that you men­tion that this is what you want to do when you or­der; then you can re­turn the drive if it doesn’t work.

You can boot from all ex­ter­nal USB 2.0 drives, and some USB 3.0 drives as well.

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