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Apple's new MacBook Pros can boot from media in SD card slot

post #1 of 86
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Apple's new 13- and 15-inch MacBook Pros introduced this week feature an SD (Secure Digital) card slot primarily for reading and writing media files to SD cards, but this tiny slot can also serve as a lifesaver, allowing you to boot from an SD card during a state of emergency.

In a tech note published this week summarizing uses and compatibility for the SD slots, Apple notes that you can install Mac OS X on an SD card and use it as a startup volume simply by changing the default partition table to GUID using Disk Utility, and then formating the card to use the Mac OS Extended file format.

This capability can be particularly useful in the event that you run into problems with a MacBook Pro's built-in storage options, particularly those equipped with traditional hard disk drives, which include moving parts. Should these drives fail or show early warning signs of failure, you'll want to abstain from any extensive reading and writing from them immediately to best preserve the integrity of their data.

Having a properly formatted SD card containing a Mac OS X installation could in some cases prove incredibly useful, allowing you to boot from the card and troubleshoot or rescue critical files from the problematic drive before matters grow worse.

Running DiskWarrior or other drive diagnostic and repair applications off the SD card boot volume would also be more efficient then using the traditional method of bootable optical discs that can also contain those apps, but function at a fraction of the speed.

Of course, Apple's stated intention behind its move towards SD card slots on the first two tiers of its professional notebook offerings is geared towards the rapid transfer of media -- such as photos and video -- from the wealth of SD digital cameras on the market.



The company notes that the new MacBook Pros have a maximum speed of 240 Mbit/s for SD media using the SD card slot, which easily exceeds the transfer rate of most SD media. For example, Class 2 media has a maximum transfer rate of 4 Mbit/s; Class 4 media has a maximum transfer rate of 4.8 Mbit/s; and Class 6 media has a maximum transfer rate of 45 Mbit/s.

Any SD card that conforms to the SD 1.x and 2.x standards should work in the slots, though they also accept cards that are Standard SD (4 MB to 4 GB) and SDHC (4 GB to 32 GB).* MultiMediaCards (MMC) can also be used, as well as MiniSD, MicroSD, and higher density formats like MiniSDHC and MicroSDHC, assuming they're first inserted into one of the "passive" adapters on the market that conform to the width and thickness specifications for the slot.

The SD card specification for a memory card is 32 mm by 24 mm by 2.1 mm.* But Apple says you can also use thinner cards, such as the aforementioned MMCs.* Cards that have a thickness greater than 2.1mm or that have surfaces that exceed 2.1mm, should not be used, the company warns, as*they may damage the SD card slot if inserted.



The slots also accept cards that exceed 32 GB, but as Apple notes, most media manufactures preformat their media using common block-and-cluster sizes that do not approach the theoretical limits of a given file system.*

Most SD cards use the FAT32 file format which is commonly available up to a capacity of 32 GB.* Some smaller capacity cards use the FAT16 file format, which is generally available in capacities of up to only 2 GB.


SD cards that use the exFAT file system are not supported, nor are SDIO (Secure Digital Input Output) cards.
post #2 of 86
Security issue also. Bypass logins that way.
post #3 of 86
Quote:
The company notes that the new MacBook Pros have a maximum speed of 240 Mbit/s for SD media using the SD card slot, which easily exceeds the transfer rate of most SD media. For example, Class 2 media has a maximum transfer rate of 4 Mbit/s; Class 4 media has a maximum transfer rate of 4.8 Mbit/s; and Class 6 media has a maximum transfer rate of 45 Mbit/s.

SD cards that use the exFAT file system are not support, nor are SDIO (Secure Digital Input Output) cards.


Ok, that means the new SDXC format just announced by SanDisk using speeds 104-300 Megabytes per second, storage of up to 2TB and exFAT is not supported on these new MacBooks. The new SD format/card was just announced, I might repeat.

Next round of Mac's hopefully should have a flush mount spring release SD reader (to avoid accidents) and to be able to use the SD as a auto file/time machine/bootable clone backup by keeping the SD card inside the Mac nearly all the time. Along with compatability with the new SDXC standard, I hope.

Perhaps Apple will come out with it's own eHFS+ or something or are we slipping ever further into becoming a Windows PC. *cue horror music*

Quote:
...this tiny SD slot can also serve as a lifesaver, allowing you to boot from an SD card during a state of emergency.

Note you want to use SDHC for 20 MB/s fastest boot speed (otherwise known as SD Extreme) on these new MacBook Pro's w/SD, still it's slower than a hard drive 3-4x slower and less capacity. You might want to use a large USB instead it's faster to boot from.
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post #4 of 86
Quote:
Originally Posted by CU10 View Post

Security issue also. Bypass logins that way.

Ummm kinda like USB and FW?

Not sure I get your point?

Dave
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post #5 of 86
Begone CD's and DVD's!
post #6 of 86
Without knowing hard drive speeds off the top of my head, how long is it going to take to boot from an SD card compared to booting from a hard drive?

How will SD cards of the near future change things?

I'm skeptical about the security by-pass concern. The system is the one on the chip and you won't have any access to the hard drive unless you know the user ids and passwords.

The OS X Install disc is a bigger security threat as far as I can see.
post #7 of 86
Quote:
Originally Posted by paxman View Post

Begone CD's and DVD's!

Exactly. This also makes me wonder if I can create a boot disk on an external USB 2 Scan Disk device on a Mac Pro or is it specific to Apple's internal version ... Ok gotta try lol
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post #8 of 86
Quote:
Originally Posted by MacTripper View Post

... Next round of Mac's should have a flush mount spring release SD reader (to avoid accidents) and to be able to use the SD as a auto file/time machine/bootable clone backup by keeping the SD card inside the Mac nearly all the time. ...

I'm pretty sure this is the exact purpose that Apple *doesn't* want you to use the slot for. It's that kind of gimmickry that is really out of place in the Mac World and one of the main reasons they don't generally like to put card readers on their devices.

Personally, I hate the spring loaded slots as they never work right and tend to lead you to leaving the card in the device, but I would bet that the main reason they left such a mechanism out is that they are telling you (wordlessly) that the card is a temporary storage port and not a spare removable HD.
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post #9 of 86
Quote:
Originally Posted by CU10 View Post

Security issue also. Bypass logins that way.

Should be able to lock out the sd slot-good market niche here.
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post #10 of 86
Quote:
Originally Posted by paxman View Post

Begone CD's and DVD's!

I was thinking the same thing when the discussion of the SD card slot came up in another thread. It might sound crazy, but I can imagine the path forward that drops those huge (relatively speaking) optical drives. The CD/DVD drive is a severe constraint for Apple in making their laptops smaller, cheaper, lower power consumption, lighter, etc. SD card slot looks like a promising option.

One step would be to deliver OS X on an SD card (this will require all Macs to have the slot of course). But Apple could offer both retail packages options. That seems very un-Apple though.

But I think this is definitely a leading indicator.
post #11 of 86
My first thought when I heard about these SD slots, was actually to format one for windows, and use the SD card as your bootcamp volume, so you're not wasting space on your real hard drive.
post #12 of 86
Quote:
Originally Posted by Virgil-TB2 View Post

I'm pretty sure this is the exact purpose that Apple *doesn't* want you to use the slot for. It's that kind of gimmickry that is really out of place in the Mac World and one of the main reasons they don't generally like to put card readers on their devices.

Personally, I hate the spring loaded slots as they never work right and tend to lead you to leaving the card in the device, but I would bet that the main reason they left such a mechanism out is that they are telling you (wordlessly) that the card is a temporary storage port and not a spare removable HD.

i agree. i'm incline to think that most users using SD cards to transfer their image files to their computer would rarely leave their card in the slot. when the image files are transfered, the SD card is removed from the slot and back into the camera. if there is more than one SD card, then one goes back into the camera and the other goes back into its storage case.
post #13 of 86
Quote:
Originally Posted by Virgil-TB2 View Post

they are telling you (wordlessly) that the card is a temporary storage port and not a spare removable HD.

OMG- like how many times have we told them this over and over this week? It's even stated in the body of this thread itself. This SD slot's inclusion have been spelled out for them from the getgo over and over yet they complain that it's not something else?
post #14 of 86
Interesting now given the fact most digital camera now can send the pictures directly to your laptop wirelessly..via wifi or blutooth....this seems like a step back plus having it stick out so much is really un-Apple like...appears as an after thought......

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post #15 of 86
Quote:
Originally Posted by danielchow View Post

i agree. i'm incline to think that most users using SD cards to transfer their image files to their computer would rarely leave their card in the slot. when the image files are transfered, the SD card is removed from the slot and back into the camera. if there is more than one SD card, then one goes back into the camera and the other goes back into its storage case.

Funny how our individual experiences mold our preferences.

I once had a HP work laptop and I popped my card in and it fit flush. Great ...downloaded my photos and all that and then "out of sight..out of mind" I forgot about it. Days later I'm grabbing my camera and I wonder where a bunch of my pics are. "Oh shit!" I left it in the laptop.

To me a card sticking out slighly is in fact a reminder that it's there and I like it.
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post #16 of 86
Quote:
Originally Posted by DimMok View Post

Interesting now given the fact most digital camera now can send the pictures directly to your laptop wirelessly..via wifi or blutooth....this seems like a step back plus having it stick out so much is really un-Apple like...appears as an after thought......

Yes but once you get to 32GB these cards become secondary storage and thus viewing them within the context of "only" photography does them injustic.

Imagine 32GB of music or videos or whatever you wish. If Apple follows the trend to SDXC in 3 years you could be running a 256MB card that can throughput 40-50 megabytes per second.

I think the small size is more attractive to Apple than ExpressCard.
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post #17 of 86
Quote:
Originally Posted by derev View Post

Should be able to lock out the sd slot-good market niche here.

Or keep your laptop with you, either way.
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post #18 of 86
Funny how people are trying to turn a lousy little SD card slot into lemonade.

you can i believe boot from the USB also ie using a techtool pro data USB card.

they ought to put the expresscard back in there.
post #19 of 86
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Cuilla View Post

I think this is definitely a leading indicator.

I agree. Remember when Apple was the first to ditch floppies.
I see optical drives gone within 2 years on all Macs.
If you want to use discs (Blu-ray, etc.), you will buy an external drive and connect via FireWire.
post #20 of 86
Quote:
Originally Posted by hmurchison View Post

Yes but once you get to 32GB these cards become secondary storage and thus viewing them within the context of "only" photography does them injustic.

Imagine 32GB of music or videos or whatever you wish. If Apple follows the trend to SDXC in 3 years you could be running a 256MB card that can throughput 40-50 megabytes per second.

I think the small size is more attractive to Apple than ExpressCard.

Even better. In 3 years make iTunes store all your media in the cloud and have all your computers in-sync also. No storage taken up on your computer at all
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post #21 of 86
Quote:
Originally Posted by Virgil-TB2 View Post

...but I would bet that the main reason they left such a mechanism out is that they are telling you (wordlessly) that the card is a temporary storage port and not a spare removable HD.

I guess we will see if the complaints start rolling in about people damaging their SD cards and slots by forgetting to remove it then shoving their MacBooks into their carrying bags, if it's a problem or not.

I'm looking forward here, to revisions to the MacBook Air lineup.

With up to 2TB on a SDXC and a thin form factor, perhaps it will eventually be some sort of internal mass storage for a new line of ultra thin Macbook Airs. Maybe that's why the MacBook line is nearly extinct now. (white one is the exception)

Since SD cards can be formated GUID and OS X installed...

2TB...whoppie!!!
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post #22 of 86
I'm sorry, but I was disappointed hearing Apple removed the expresscard. This is what sets it apart from the MacBooks. I have a 1st gen MacBook Pro where I use the expresscard when I'm at home to hook up eSATA drives. The SD is a nice feature, but I already have a cheap USB dongle solution for that. Booting from a SD card is a nice feature, but it isn't practical today as the I/O is slow. Yes, one could go with a 17" MBP, but we're talking about a $800 price difference. Not to mention the extra weight.
post #23 of 86
Quote:
Originally Posted by hmurchison View Post

To me a card sticking out slighly is in fact a reminder that it's there and I like it.

Uh, that little glitch can solved in software, a reminder that you have a SD card in the flush mount before sleep/shutdown would do the job.

But break your SD card slot or even a SD card full of important data and you might be changing your mind about flush mount.
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post #24 of 86
Quote:
Originally Posted by hmurchison View Post

Yes but once you get to 32GB these cards become secondary storage and thus viewing them within the context of "only" photography does them injustic.

Imagine 32GB of music or videos or whatever you wish. If Apple follows the trend to SDXC in 3 years you could be running a 256MB card that can throughput 40-50 megabytes per second.

I think the small size is more attractive to Apple than ExpressCard.

Yeah, but who doesn't walk around with a USB memory stick in their pocket these days? I just bought a new 16GB one for $30 at Radio Shack. 400Mbps transfer on USB which beats out the SD-card slot, and they're given away like candy at many places.
post #25 of 86
Quote:
Originally Posted by Booga View Post

Yeah, but who doesn't walk around with a USB memory stick in their pocket these days? I just bought a new 16GB one for $30 at Radio Shack. 400Mbps transfer on USB which beats out the SD-card slot, and they're given away like candy at many places.

I concur...

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post #26 of 86
Quote:
Originally Posted by CU10 View Post

Security issue also. Bypass logins that way.

Would a firmware password not stop that?
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post #27 of 86
If just over 1% of customers polled used the ExpressCard and a vast majority of consumers use the SD slot, use your head. Apple consolidated on the volume, not the edge cases.
post #28 of 86
Quote:
Originally Posted by macFanDave View Post

Without knowing hard drive speeds off the top of my head, how long is it going to take to boot from an SD card compared to booting from a hard drive?

With the new SDXC just announced (for sale?):

note: not compatible with new MacBook Pros's.

SDXC - 104 Megabytes per second. 300 eventually.

http://www.sdcard.org/developers/tech/sdxc

(My MacBook Pro gets over 60 Megabytes per second off a 7,200 RPM hard drive.)


The other SD standards are slower, SDHC having 20 megabytes per second, which is I believe is the fastest supported on the new MacBook Pro's with SD slot being SD 2.

Heck so what if it takes 3 times as long to boot off a SDHC? It's only for emergencies.

But I want a SDXC 2TB and flush mount for my new MacBook Air.

http://www.sdcard.org/home
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post #29 of 86
Quote:
Originally Posted by Booga View Post

Yeah, but who doesn't walk around with a USB memory stick in their pocket these days? I just bought a new 16GB one for $30 at Radio Shack. 400Mbps transfer on USB which beats out the SD-card slot, and they're given away like candy at many places.

Right, so no big deal booting of SDHC anyway, it's three times slower than a 7,200 RPM hard drive.

It's the SDXC that's gets the attention, with 104 MB/s is about 1.5x as fast as a 7,200 RPM hard drive. Plus its very thin and it's capacity is up to 2TB. Unlike the bulky and pricey SSD drives.

SDXC (or something like it on a chip) makes a prime boot drive for very thin MacBooks and Tablets. It could be included right on the logic board.

Apple didn't need to put a SD drive on Mac's, but they did, my theory is they are warming up to SanDisk because of the new SDXC's huge potential for ultra thin laptops.
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post #30 of 86
Quote:
Originally Posted by paxman View Post

Begone CD's and DVD's!

Exactly! about time too! And while we're at it, let's have one format already!
post #31 of 86
Quote:
Originally Posted by mitchelljd View Post

Funny how people are trying to turn a lousy little SD card slot into lemonade.

you can i believe boot from the USB also ie using a techtool pro data USB card.

they ought to put the expresscard back in there.

I've never used the express card slot but will definitely use the SD card slot.
post #32 of 86
Quote:
Originally Posted by macnyc View Post

I've never used the express card slot but will definitely use the SD card slot.

maybe, but you could always turn the expresscard slot or USB into SD accessable.

You can only turn an SD slot into very few things. it makes the laptop very very limited on what you can add to it.
post #33 of 86
USB doesn't allow you to boot up from another drive and access a user account on another drive that is password protected. Firewire does if you boot up from the master drive as a root user. That is what makes Firewire so useful for fixing problems and installing the OS by drag and drop. That is what made is so sad when Apple temporarily got rid of Firewire on Macbooks.

But your point does hold. Firewire has always allowed a user to access another computer. That is File Vault is designed to address.

Quote:
Originally Posted by DaveGee View Post

Ummm kinda like USB and FW?

Not sure I get your point?

Dave
post #34 of 86
And what about people with professional cameras that use Compact Flash cards?
post #35 of 86
Quote:
Originally Posted by mitchelljd View Post

maybe, but you could always turn the expresscard slot or USB into SD accessable.

You can only turn an SD slot into very few things. it makes the laptop very very limited on what you can add to it.

The worst thing about ExpressCard on Macs was the high probability that you would end up purchasing a card with horrendous drivers.

Not only is ExpressCard a nich of a nich in usage but I gotta figure that Apple's taken too many Tech Support calls based on problems caused by flaky ExpressCards.
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post #36 of 86
Keep in mind if you have two Firewire enabled Macs now you can use one to access the other overriding any passwords. Firewire treats one drive as a master drive, and the other as a slave. The user level of the master drive dictates what you can access on the slave drive. So if you sign in on the master drive as an administrative user you will not be able to access a password protected user account on a slave drive. However, if you sign in as a root user on the master drive, you can easily by-pass any user passwords on the slave drive. I do it all the time.

That is what makes Firewire so powerfully useful for fixing problems and saving data from an injured Mac.

USB acts more like Ethernet. It treats any connected drive as a network connection and will respect any user settings on the connected drive. Not super useful is you are trying to save data or replace a corrupted file.

Firewire has saved my life a billion times.

I suspect this feature will work like if you suggest and not like Firewire.



Quote:
Originally Posted by macFanDave View Post

I'm skeptical about the security by-pass concern. The system is the one on the chip and you won't have any access to the hard drive unless you know the user ids and passwords.
post #37 of 86
I've seen people using their SD card slots on their netbooks to actually run Windows. Kind of weird if you ask me since someone can just walk up, take the card, and your system doesn't have an os anymore lol

Still though, this seems to be a feature the majority of people prefer. I'm surprised Apple didn't do it sooner.
post #38 of 86
Quote:
Originally Posted by paxman View Post

Begone CD's and DVD's!

Isn't that what Macbook Air is there for?
post #39 of 86
Quote:
Originally Posted by CU10 View Post

Security issue also. Bypass logins that way.

...by booting from USB or FW. Both prevented with a firmware password which will work here too...
post #40 of 86
Quote:
Keep in mind if you have two Firewire enabled Macs now you can use one to access the other overriding any passwords.

Not if you have a firmware password enabled. That will prevent the computer from going into firewire target disk mode at all. That is a moot point, though. If the attacker has physical access to your system, there are ways for them to get to your data even if you have welded all of the ports closed (firewire, USB, ethernet, CD drive, etc.) You have to use File Vault or whole disk encryption to stop a physical attack.
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