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Mac 101: Boot options

Mat Lu

We've had some questions recently on Ask TUAW about boot options so I thought it would make for a good Mac 101. Obviously, Boot Camp has brought dual-booting to the fore on the Mac platform, but there are actually a variety of boot time options built into your Mac which allow you to interact with it to some degree before loading the OS. The most important of these, of course, is choosing the boot partition and this is easily done by holding down the option (???) key after restarting the machine. This will bring up a menu of all bootable volumes (such as a Windows Boot Camp partition), including mounted external USB and FireWire drives as well as optical discs. However, there are more handy shortcuts as well:

  • You can force OS X to boot from a mounted optical disc by holding down the C key.
  • Holding down the T key will put that Mac into FireWire Target disk mode, which will allow another Mac to access its hard drive over a FireWire cable as if it were an external hard drive.
  • Holding down the Shift key will boot into Safe Mode, which can be very useful if your Mac is misbehaving.
Apple has a nice list of a few more boot time key combos that are worth keeping in mind.

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