Creating a Bootable Snow Leopard External Hard Drive

I am reluctantly getting ready to upgrade my laptop to OS X 10.7  Lion. (The “reluctantly” part is a subject for another post). Because I have some PowerPC apps, including a couple of favorite games that I still use, I decided to pick up an external hard drive, and install Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard on it. Unfortunately, it wasn’t as easy as I’d hoped.

Hanging at the Gray Apple

My first stab was to pick up a USB flash drive, and try to install Snow Leopard on that. I had a Snow Leopard box set, so I dug that out, and it dutifully ran, but when it restarted to finish the installation, it hung at the gray Apple logo at start up. Powering down and back up didn’t help.

My next thought was that perhaps it was the flash drive, so I picked up an external Seagate GoFlex drive, which the person at the Apple store assured me could be booted from. My plan was to create a stripped down drive with just Snow Leopard and my PowerPC apps. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t boot either. I installed from the Snow Leopard CD, and once again, it wouldn’t boot.

Use the Restore Disk

At this point, I was starting to suspect something was wrong with the computer. I did some searching online, and finally found the answer. My laptop is newer than my Snow Leopard CD, and came with a newer version of Snow Leopard; version 10.6, which is what was on the CD, was too old. So I dug the laptop box out from under the eaves, got out the restore CD, and installed Snow Leopard onto the external hard drive. Success!

Carbon Copy Cloner

Except that it wasn’t an unalloyed success. Yes, I had a running Snow Leopard install, and yes, it was kind of cool to be able to set it up from scratch, but the apps had lost their software registration. So I downloaded Carbon Copy Cloner, and created a bootable duplicate of my hard drive.

The external drive is a little slow, but it’s workable, and a side benefit is that I now have an extra backup of my pictures, apps and music.