I have recently been researching the subject of booting a MacBook from an external eSata drive, more specifically a MacBook Pro. Many people are having trouble doing that, some even claim that it is not possible. However, I have read a few posts from people who have succeeded. The trick is to use an eSata ExpressCard that uses the JMicron chipset (JMB360) instead of the Silicon Image one (Sil3132). Unfortunately these former cards are harder to find. Most of the eSata Express Cards on the market use the Silicon Image chipset. I believe Windows has built-in drivers for this latter chipset. That would explain why ExpressCards with the Silicon Image chipset would be more popular. From what I have read, OS X (10.5.5) would have built-in drivers for the JMicron chipset.
So, I decided to make a list of all the eSata ExpressCard brands I would find and to find out which chipset they use.
Here is the list of the brands that use the Sil3132 chipset. Sometimes, I also wrote the model and the number of eSata ports the card has:
- ApioTek (2 port card) (EXTREME Dual eSATAII Express Card)
- BYTECC BT- ECES2
- FirmTek SeriTek/2SM2
- Koutech ECSA221
- Kouwell BT-5652E3
- Rosewill RC-605
- Sonnet Tempo
- Syba SD-PCBX-ESA2 (2 ports)
- St Lab
And here are the cards with the JMB360 chipset:
- ApioTek (1 port card) (EXTREME eSATAII Express Card)
- Best Connectivity (1 esata)
- GWC Technology (GWC BS1020) (2 ports)
- nGear (Moved to the Sil3132 chipset list. See my more recent post about this)
- PPA Int’l (2 ports)
- VC (an original brand of Vintage Computer Inc.)
- Syba (1 Port)
- Sunix ECSA24J (Discontinued)
You will want to use an eSata ExpressCard from one of these brands if you want to be able to boot your MacBook from an external drive. This is true if you are using OS X v10.5. I haven’t researched the subject for previous versions of OS X.
I just ordered an nGear eSata ExpressCard, a Seagate Barracuda 1 TB drive, and a Vantec enclosure, so I will soon be able to experiment with this and report about it here. If you are wondering why a Barracuda drive, because they are silent and Seagate offers a 5 year warranty.