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ATPM 9.03
March 2003




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How To

by Sylvester Roque,

A Custom Pair of Boots: Building Customized Boot CDs

Okay, I confess. I like to tinker with my Mac. Unfortunately, sometimes things go wrong. I have never really ruined any significant hardware, unless you count one Apple IIGS logic board, but I have damaged system files and hard drive structures more times than I care to count.

Because I had become so good at making a complete mess of my Mac, I had to be at least decent at cleaning up the mess that I had made. Sometime in between System 7.1 and Mac OS 9.2, I started creating emergency CDs that contained the system software needed to boot the computer, and utilities that I used frequently to repair it. This was a real time saver; it meant I could boot from one CD and run several utilities, rather than restarting from multiple CDs to run the same utilities. There are also times when booting from a utility CD is a necessity, especially when a utility cannot make repairs to the boot partition or drive. In order to do that, you must boot from either another hard drive, or a utility CD.

With the advent of OS X, that process came to a complete standstill. Suddenly the techniques for creating an OS 9 emergency CD did not work; creating an OS X emergency CD required an understanding of Unix commands and files as well as Mac files. I must admit, I was not that knowledgeable. What was a guy like me to do? Well, when I don’t know the answer, I try to find people who do.

The good news is that smarter Mac users than I have come to the rescue. There is indeed a way to create an OS X emergency CD that is capable of booting the system. So, let’s roll up our sleeves, gather our tools, and get to work.

Gather the Tools

This task will not work without the right tools at hand. It is time for a trip to the virtual toolbox.

For an OS X CD:

  • Disk Copy, Disk Utility, and the BSD subsystem must be installed. If you have removed any of these items from your Mac OS X installation, reinstall them before attempting to create your emergency CD.
  • BootCD creates the bootable OS X CD. Version 0.5.3 (current at press time) requires OS X 10.2 or later, but a previous version supports other versions of OS X. The current version will work with “Old World ROM” machines such as the beige G3. The program is localized in Dutch, English, French, German, Japanese, and Spanish. The file that I download contained directions written in both English and French.
  • You need a CD burner that is fully supported by Disk Copy. This could be very important. The first time I tried to complete this process I used a burner that was supposed to be compatible with Disk Copy. The disk was never successfully burned with that burner but burned easily with another burner.

For an OS 9 CD, you need an OS 9 installer CD, a CD burning program capable of creating a bootable OS 9 CD, and installers for any utilities you wish to use.

Getting Started

The directions included with the current version of BootCD are sparse, but they are accurate and easy to understand. Most users will have little difficulty understanding these directions. Here is what you must do to create a bootable OS X CD.

Launch BootCD and choose a name for your CD. Enter this name into the Volume Name field in the dialog box. (Don’t start it with a period.) For the purposes of this article, mine was called Emergency Boot CD. In the same dialog box, set the size of the CD and the size of the RAM Disk. If you are using a 700 MB CD, change the size to 700 MB.

The RAM Disk size is set to 10 MB by default. According to the program’s author, most users should find this sufficient. Increasing the size of the RAM Disk may not improve boot speed, and if increased too far may decrease boot speed by leaving less memory available for program use, forcing it to access the CD more often.

Click the “Create Bootable CD Image” option. You must enter an administrator account username and password (yours, if you are the only user) or the program will not proceed. The next screen is a standard OS X Save dialog. Choose a location for the Emergency CD image file that has at least as much free space as the CD you are creating: I find it convenient to place the file on the desktop.

BootCD will now begin to create the image file. According to the program’s documentation, this process often takes between eight and fifteen minutes. On my iBook SE running 10.2.3 it took about 18 minutes.

Next, a standard Open dialog box will appear that allows you to choose which utilities you want on your CD. Once you choose an application, BootCD takes a moment to add that program to the disk image. Continue choosing applications until you have all the applications you need.

During this stage in the process, choose utilities that are “self-contained” and do not litter the hard drive with additional files. If a program has files in several locations on the hard drive, this is not the time to add that program. Do not include System Preferences, Terminal, Disk Utility, or Console. BootCD includes these programs in the disk image by default.

While you are still choosing applications, you can find out how much space remains on your new CD by returning to the Finder, clicking on the icon of the mounted volume, and choosing “Get Info” from the File menu. You may then return to BootCD to continue adding applications.

When you have finished choosing applications, click Cancel and BootCD will complete the imaging process. An alert will inform you that you have a bootable CD. It is now safe to quit BootCD and unmount the disk image volume.

Installing Applications That Are Not Self-Contained

Some applications have critical files that are stored in more than one place on the hard drive. Some of these programs will work from a boot CD and others will not. If the program must write files back to the hard drive during operation, it may not work correctly from a CD.

Here is a short procedure that you can try. I cannot guarantee that this process will make your chosen “scattered” utility work, but at least the program will be on the CD so you can test it. This only works with utilities which, upon installation, let you choose the destination volume.

Locate the disk image created by BootCD and mount its volume by double-clicking on the disk image. Wait for the volume to appear on the desktop.

Insert the installer CD for the program that you want to add. Double-click the installer and let it run. When asked to choose where the program will be installed, choose the mounted volume of your emergency CD, not the disk image. If there are any additional drivers (apart from the included USB and FireWire drivers) that are essential in troubleshooting your system, this is the time to add them.

Burn Baby Burn

Now that you have finished adding programs to the disk image, it is time to do some burning. Unmount the volume by dragging it to the Trash, which should change to an Eject symbol. Do not drag the image file to the Trash.

We are almost ready to burn the CD at this point but there are a few things to keep in mind. Do not use the Finder to prepare the image for burning. This process appears to be most successful when using Disk Copy to complete the burn; try Toast if Disk Copy is unsuccessful.

Open Disk Copy and choose “Burn Image” from the File Menu. In the Open File dialog that appears, locate and open the image file that BootCD created. It will take approximately 15-20 minutes to burn the CD depending on the speed of your CD burner. With any luck, you should have a bootable OS X CD.

Give It the Boot

Booting from your emergency CD is about as easy as it gets. Insert the CD into your internal drive, restart the computer, and hold down the “C” key on your keyboard until you hear enough drive activity to convince you that the machine is booting from the CD.

It may take quite some time for the machine to boot from your CD. My iBook takes about fifteen minutes to boot from my current Emergency CD. This does not appear to be due to a flaw in the BootCD program, but is a function of the process needed to boot from the CD. The same iBook takes four to five minutes to boot from the Drive 10 CD as well.

At some point during the boot process, you must enter a user name and password. For the current version of BootCD, the username is root and the password is set to bootcd. Both words must be typed in lowercase.


Bootable CD Success!

This is the first process I have seen that yields a bootable CD containing the Finder, Dock, and basic utilities included as part of a standard OS X install. The screenshot shows my iBook successfully booted from a custom CD. At the time this screenshot was taken I had tested all of the applications shown in the Dock except for Network Utility. Safari was the only program that refused to work.

The only problem I have encountered is that sometimes self-contained “package” programs appear in the Dock as folder icons instead of program icons. Hovering over such an icon will show the name of the program. If this happens when you boot from your new CD, go ahead and click on the program’s folder icon in the Dock; it will probably still open and run normally.

Make Mine a Size 9 Boot

Creating a truly effective emergency kit may require running utilities that must run under OS 9. In fact, the current versions of DiskWarrior and Norton SystemWorks require booting into OS 9. Using either of these utilities will require an OS 9 emergency CD. This phase of the project was completed using Toast Titanium 5.2, but it should work with other programs that are capable of burning a bootable CD. The general idea will be the same, but the specific steps in burning the CD will vary depending upon which program you choose to use.

The help file in Toast describes how to use an existing OS 9 System Folder as a basis for a bootable CD. I chose to start from scratch and use a fresh OS 9 installation. This way there are fewer opportunities for extension conflicts or damaged system files to cause a problem. If you choose to start with a fresh install, boot the system directly into OS 9. Some of the update installers for OS 9 may not run properly from Classic. This process will assume that we are going to start with a fresh install.

You can complete this part of the process by burning the CD either from a separate hard drive partition, or from a disk image created within Toast. For either process you will need a few more megabytes of free hard drive space than the size of the CD you want to create. I prefer to use a hard drive partition, as this permits me to test the installation without first burning the CD. If you are burning from a hard drive rather than a Toast disk image, empty the drive partition, erase it if possible, and skip to installing OS 9.

Launch Toast and choose “Create Temporary Partition” from the Utilities menu. In the dialog box that appears, name your emergency CD, choose how large the CD will be, and choose the location for the temporary file.

From inside Toast, go to the Utilities Menu and choose “Mount Image.” Locate the image file that you just created and wait for the image to mount.

Install OS 9 on the mounted disk image or on the hard drive partition that you are using. When the installation is complete, install any OS 9 updates that you need, then any additional utilities or device drivers that you will need to troubleshoot the system. Use the same procedure that you used when the program was first installed.

Once you are finished installing, it is almost time to start burning again. Before you do though, open the System Folder on your mounted image volume. Open the Startup Items folder and remove the aliases for AirPort Setup Assistant and any other programs that you do not want launched automatically. Close any open windows.

Return to Toast and choose “Other” from the Toast menu. Choose “Mac Volume” from the pop-up menu that appears. When the window changes to “Mac Volume,” click the Select button.

In the dialog box that appears, choose the mounted disk image that you just created. I called my CD Emergency 9 CD. Make sure that you also check the “Bootable” option.


Make the CD Bootable

Now, you are ready to record. Click “Record” and follow the usual burning process. Be sure to choose “Write Disc” rather than “Write Session” when given the opportunity.

When recording is complete, try to boot from the OS 9 CD that you just created. Now is the time to find out whether the CD works. Do not wait until you really need it.

• • •

This process, especially the OS X aspect, is still in its infancy. If it does not work, try again. I have been watching BootCD for some time now and it continues to improve. I hope that you find this process as helpful as I have.

Also in This Series

Reader Comments (40)

Bill Barstad · March 2, 2003 - 15:55 EST #1
It would be great if I could download this or e-mail it to myself like on Apple's Knowledge Base.
Sylvester Roque (ATPM Staff) · March 2, 2003 - 16:11 EST #2
I assume that you mean you would like to download the article. There are a few options. Go to the main ATPM page. On the far left side are links to three versions of the magazine. The first can be downloaded and read with a web browser. The second and third can be download via a web browser and opened in Preview (part of OS X) or Acrobat Reader.
Mike Kraemer · March 3, 2003 - 12:25 EST #3
I'm wondering if there is an option for nonApple CD-R owners using Toast. I tried, but the CD would not boot.

Thanks in advance.

Sylvester Roque · March 3, 2003 - 19:25 EST #4
I am working on the option to burn with Toast. To date, I have been unsuccessful. The burner does not have to be an Apple drive, however. I used a LaCie drive, although not all LaCie drives work.

Sylvester Roque · March 4, 2003 - 02:14 EST #5
Creating a CD with BootCD does not require an Apple burner. The disk copy program does seem, however, to need a burner that is fully supported. Here is the process I used to burn a boot CD using Toast Titanium 5.2.

  1. Launch Toast 5.2 choose Mount Disc Image (command M).

  2. Select the Disc Image created by BootCD. Toast will mount the image and a CD icon will appear on the desktop.

  3. From Toast, choose Other and select Mac Volume.

  4. When the Toast window changes to Mac Volume choose Select. Do not use drag and drop. It won't work this way.

  5. In the dialog box that appears, choose the name of the CD that Toast mounted in step 2.

  6. Clear the checkbox that says Optimize-on-the-fly and check the box that says Bootable. This does not seem to work if Optimize-on-the-fly is checked.

  7. Burn the disc and be sure to choose Burn Disc and not Burn Session.

Isaac Klein · March 12, 2003 - 14:35 EST #6
This is what I was waiting for. Thanks for posting it.
Sylvester Roque · March 12, 2003 - 16:43 EST #7
Thanks for the positive feedback. In fairness, several ATPM editors had a hand in cleaning up/revising the article. I don't know if I would ever have made that third effort to get workable directions for Toast had it not been for the encouragement of guys like Mike Kraemer encouraging me to keep at it.
Alternapop · April 25, 2003 - 14:54 EST #8
I followed the instructions and then added the Drive 10 application to the image.

When I boot from the CD that was created, it reaches the login window and, when I log in as 'root'/'bootcd', it is accepted but then almost immediately bounces back to the login window.

Any ideas?
el Smoko · May 6, 2003 - 19:06 EST #9
I have exactly the same problem as Alternapop. I can't get past the login window with root/BootCD. Weird. It worked for me before on a 12" PowerBook running OS X 10.2.5. I'll try again with some different applications on there.
Jagannath · June 2, 2003 - 05:02 EST #10
Please tell me how to do BootCD. I have a Norton Utilies CD without boot.
Sylvester Roque · June 3, 2003 - 02:13 EST #11
Thanks for the interesting questions. These are real brain teasers. Alternapop and el Smoko, I am looking into your problem. At the moment, I have not had these problems but I am in the process of contacting the author.

Jagannath, can you provide me with additional information about exactly what problems you are having? The directions in the article usually result in a working CD. I have been in e-mail contact with several users and none of us have been able to put Norton Utilities on a boot CD unless it was an OS 9 CD.
Sylvester Roque (ATPM Staff) · June 14, 2003 - 02:39 EST #12
For those of you who have had trouble getting past the login screen, here is the latest information that I have. I am unable to duplicate this situation. I have been in contact with BootCD's author and he has had other users report this problem.

To date, he has also been unable to duplicate this problem. Some of the users have not provided sufficient system information and, in cases where the information has been provided, he cannot seem to detect a pattern. The fixes that some users have reported do not seem to work on every system.

I'll keep you posted.
Elliott · June 26, 2003 - 20:24 EST #13
I got everything to work, except adding programs that are not self-contained. I am trying to put Norton Utilities on it but the problem is, you said install it into the mounted image. I try this, but Norton only allows an installtion on a drive running OS X. I can't install it on the mounted image. Any ideas?
Sylvester Roque (ATPM Staff) · June 26, 2003 - 21:18 EST #14
Elliot - at the time that I wrote this article, Norton Utilities had to be installed on an OS 9 disk to boot. As you discovered, under OS X, Norton will only install to a hard drive with OS X installed.

According to Symantec's web site, Norton 8.0 will boot into OS 9 or X to make repairs. I have not tested this product yet, so I don't know much about this version.
Evan · June 27, 2003 - 00:42 EST #15
A question to those having a problem logging in - are you entering root/bootcd in lower case?
Michael George · April 12, 2004 - 09:47 EST #16
I have tried BootCD on Panther and it doesn't seem to work. I create the CD just fine but when I chose it as the boot device, I got a gray boot screen with the spinning progress indicator (which kept spinning), but the boot never went beyond that.

I burned the disk with Disk Utility in 10.3.3 on an internal burner and tried to boot from the same internal burner.

Anyone had any luck with 10.3.3 (Panther)?

Sylvester Roque (ATPM Staff) · April 12, 2004 - 12:38 EST #17
BootCD is not currently compatible with Panther. Several readers have written asking whether there is a way to create a boot CD/DVD with Panther. Although Several methods have been suggested none have been successful to this point. I'll keep ypu posted should this situation change.

At present the only way I can think if to create an emergency disk with your favoorite utilities is to boot from a hard drive containing the utilities.
N. Morris · June 8, 2004 - 12:18 EST #18
There is a new release of BootCD that works fine with MacOS 10.3.3. I've created a number of boot CDs. Go to for details.
Sylvester Roque · June 8, 2004 - 14:50 EST #19
Thanks for passing on the information about the new release of BootCD. I became aware of it a few days ago because of a Versiontracker alert.

I haven't used it yet. Thanks for letting me know that it works. I have a prohect in mind that will use it to burn to DVD. I'll keep you posted.
Stan Jackson · June 8, 2004 - 16:08 EST #20
I have try it, but I'm having problem getting Norton SystemWorks 3.0 to work . It doesn't see the hard drive with speed disk or disk doctor, followed your instruction. Is there another way of get them to work?

good info will be helpful.
Sylvester Roque (ATPM Staff) · June 9, 2004 - 01:41 EST #21
I'm not sure. I had a lot of difficulty getting Norton to work before I stumbled upon the procedure in the article. I am having trouble testing anything with Norton right n now because it ddoes not seem to want to install from an external drive and my internal drive is shot.

In a day or two I should have my other system set up and I'll be better able to test this problem. To be honest though Norton has been low on my priority list ever since they announced that they are not going to continue developing the utilities portion other than fixes to keep up with the current OS.
Boy Tigas · July 1, 2004 - 01:36 EST #22
What if i don't have a burner but i want to create a boot disk that will only use a small space and i think can be contained in a floppy disk. How will i do it?
Sylvester Roque (ATPM Staff) · July 1, 2004 - 02:49 EST #23
You didn't mention which operating system you were planning to use. In any case I don't think it is possible to boot any modern Mac OS from a floppy disk, There are just too many files that need to be present to produce a functioning operating system. Your most viable options probably are:

1. Create an additional partition on an internal drive.
2. Consider purchasing a burner
3. Use an external hard disk (if your system will boot from it

I think the last time Macs were able to boot from such a disk was sometime around System 7.1.x. I may be wrong but I think everything after that shipped on CD.
sad man · July 8, 2004 - 17:28 EST #24
seems there is no way to put norton utilities on bootcd. any disk doctor and speeddisk tools besides norton and diskwarrior?
Sylvester Roque (ATPM Staff) · July 9, 2004 - 01:07 EST #25
As you have probably discovered the problem is that the current version of Norton Utilities must be installed on the boot drive so the process outlined in the article will not work. So far I have not had any luck creating a CD with Norton.

Personally for most of my disk utility needs I use Tech Tool Pro or Drive 10 from Micromat, Apple's Disk Utility and Disk Warrior. This combination of programs recently allowed me to repair a drive that was so damaged my machine refused to boot.

If I had to choose between Tech Tool Pro and Drive 10 I'd probably choose Tech Tool because it tests for a wider variety of hardware problems. I'll keep an eye out for tools more along the lines of what you need.
sad · July 9, 2004 - 01:34 EST #26
techtool pro 4 costs $100, it's a robbery. norton speeddisk shows my hd is severely fragmented. what does apple's optimizer do after each package installation? it costs me 5-15 minutes for optimization while leaving me a fragmented hd
Sylvester Roque (ATPM Staff) · July 9, 2004 - 11:21 EST #27
Other than those two programs I haven't seen many options. Apple's official position is that most users are not likely to need to optimize due to changes in the way OS Xstores files. For more about this see article #25668 on the Apple support site.

The optimization that occurs after a program installation is updating other thing such as prebindling. Although these changes may affect how fast some programs run I don't think they generally address disk fragmentation.
steve · January 23, 2005 - 13:12 EST #28
Hi Sylvester,

It's been a while since last post. But you have people addressing this issue all the time.

I have always been on OS 9 and now I wanted to install Panther but it seems I can't make it.

Following all the instructions, I get to the point of adding the image that I have unmounted of Panther cd 1, but it says it cannot boot as a start up disk.

Almost as if i need osx to install panther. Or is it possible to make my image still bootable?

I tried adding an OS 9 system to it but, it would start up with 9 and when I try to install panther it says that the start up disk was unable to select and install disk as the start up disk (-2).

thanks in advance
Sylvester Roque (ATPM Staff) · January 23, 2005 - 17:46 EST #29
Am I to understand Steve that you do not yet have Panther installed on your system. If this is the case this procedure will not works. It depends upon your having a "bootable" version of Panther already installed. It essentially searches the boot volume and creates a minimal bootable version of whatever version of OS X is already installed.

If I am misunderstanding what you are trying to do please clarify and I will try to help.
steve · January 24, 2005 - 10:59 EST #30
Yes, Sylvester, I am only on OS 9.2 and I am trying to install Panther for the first time. I was wondering if it is possible to make bootable the cds I downloaded. I have format ".iso" and ".cdr" but no success so far.
John · May 30, 2005 - 23:35 EST #31
1. I tried on Tiger, it fails with a StringRangeError someplace.

2. Is the source code available? I have some prospects of fixing it, even improving it, and certainly learning how it works if I have source.

3. What conditions apply to redistribution and reuse? GPL is fine by me, but the rules need to be stated. Without a licence, nobody can do either.
John · May 30, 2005 - 23:45 EST #32
I retried. It says, "NSCFString rangeOfString:options:range" "Range of index out of bounds."

Plus some bad language I dare not repeat.
Sylvester Ruque (ATPM Staff) · May 31, 2005 - 01:02 EST #33
According to the author's website the current version of BootCD is version 0.6.4. It is not Tiger compatible. Although the author has not announced a release date for a new version, there is a mailing list available for anyone who wants to know when a new version is released,

My version does not mention anything about the redistribution issues that you raised. For that information you would need to contact the author.

As you can see though the current version is not Tiger compatible. Although I have not asked the author about this so treat the following as conjecture on my part:

It would not surprise me if a version sometime in the near fuure requires a DVD to be bootable. Once you add the basic OS there isn't a lot of room for other utilities.
Knute · August 21, 2005 - 12:49 EST #34
I'm using Toast 6 on a G4 running OS 10.2
Tried making a bootable copy of the original OS 9.0.4 CD that came with this Mac.
I simply put the OS 9 CD into the drive on the Mac, did a right click (or control click) on the OS 9 CD icon on the desktop.
Selected "Toast It"
Burned the disk with an external LG DVD frewire burner to a CD.
That yielded a bootable OS 9.0.4 CD.
Tried it out in the dual boot G4. Worked fine.
Boris Mantilla · November 2, 2005 - 11:54 EST #35
BootCD 0.6.4 does't work on my PowerBook 1GHz 12" with Mac OS 10.3.9

This is the message:

Couldn't launch task /Volumes/BootCD 0.6.4/ Helper - error -60008.

what can I do?
scott lencl · December 5, 2005 - 20:39 EST #36
hi i have a power book 3400 and well i was messing around with it and did bad things to it so i reinstalled the os fron the hd but now it gets through like %10 through the loading screen and says an error has occured unimpliminted trap to tempararly turn off extensions hold shift(i obviously did that)didnt work i got a book and did every key stroke but nothing i was wondering if you knew how to create a cd to be able to get to the main screen or reinstall it or something (note that i dont have any of the cd's that came with the mac because it was given to me) i am a windows user and i would like to burn a helpful cd thnx
ATPM Staff · December 6, 2005 - 04:08 EST #37
Scott - you can download System 7.5.3 at no cost, though you will, of course, need another Mac to download, unpack, and create a boot CD. Unfortunately, Apple has not (yet) made OS 8 or 9 available for free. Combined with the fact that they don't sell it, either, going any higher than 7.x may be difficult.

The moral of the story is, a nonfunctioning Mac without any bootable external media isn't much more useful than a doorstop. Always inquire about system disks when buying a used computer and/or create your own immediately upon obtaining a used computer.
Sylvester Roque (ATPM Staff) · December 8, 2005 - 21:00 EST #38
According to the information that I Have that Mac can run Mac operating systems from 7.6.1 to 9.1. This page has a link to the free download for System 7.5.3. Downloading the image files and creating the bootable cd will require another Mac.

System spftware versions 8 and 9 are available on the LowEndmac sites but are not free downloads. Given the speed of that machine I would think the highest that you would want to go is one of the early System 8 versions. Mac System software will also appear on eBay from time to time though I suggest checking out the seller as best you can before going that route.
Jon Leach · December 11, 2006 - 22:21 EST #39
Hi, any bootcd for intel imac's. I tried using the software bootcd; doesn't work for me. Any program software developers out there? I would be willing to pay a shareware fee for someone to make this viable. I know a lot of folks are interested. Thanks, Jon
Sylvester Roque (ATPM Staff) · December 12, 2006 - 01:05 EST #40
BootCD isn't going to work with any of the Intel Macs. Given the problems users have been having with this procedure since OS 10.3, I have given up making customized CDs in favor of booting from an external hard drive. Booting from a hard drive is much faster and easier to update things as patches are released for your favorite utilities. has several hints and tips for using external hard drives to create "bootable" clones of Intel Macs. I haven't tested them yet because I don't have access to Intel hardware.

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