Thursday, April 16, 2009

HowTo: Install OSX on a Dell Mini 9 with an external DVD

Yes, I know that there a gazillion guides on how to install OS X on a Dell Inspiron Mini 9, but for some reason they were all just a little bit off or outdated or just really complicated and hard to follow.  This guide was the most comprehensive, but not the easiest to follow.
This guide is for installing OS X 10.5.6 on a Dell Inspiron 9 with an external DVD drive, no USB drives needed.
Things you need:
  • Dell Mini 9 with at least 16GB SSD drive
  • External DVD with USB interface 
  • OS X 10.5.6 Retail version
  • DellMiniBoot v8.02b1 iso
  1. Download the the DellMiniBoot iso and burn it to a bootable CD.
  2. Connect the external DVD to the Dell Mini and turn on the Mini.  Press "0" to enable the boot menu, choose CD/DVD to boot to the DVD drive.
  3. The system will load a linux kernel and return with a prompt that says "boot:"   At this point, remove the boot disk and put the OS X disk in the DVD drive.
  4. Press ESC to bring up the drive options, type in "9f" then enter to select the dvd drive.  At this point, my install returned an "ebios read error".  This means that drive is having problems reading the disk.  The solution is to turn of the external drive and turn it on again while the Mini is still running.  Plugging and unplugging the USB cable is also supposed to work.  There will be a couple more "ebios read errors" then the drive should catch and start to load the OS X installer.
  5. The installer will ask to partition and reformat your SSD drive, it should do this automatically.  However, in my case I installed a third party 32gb Runcore SSD* so I had to  manually partition the disk using the disk utility that comes with the installer.  I partitioned the drive as a Mac OS Extended (journaled), pressed "Options..." selected GUID and pressed "Apply".  I then returned to the install, which took about 45 minutes.
  6. When OS X is installed and running, replace the OS X disk with the DellMiniBoot cd.  Open the CD in Finder and open the DellMini9Utils directory.  Click on the DellEFI app, this will install the boot loader and other extensions such as the WiFi driver.
  7. In the same directory, click on the AboutThisMac.pkg package to update the system information.
  8. Restart the Mini 9, and it should boot to OS X with wifi, sound, bluetooth and the other goodies enabled.
  9. Other things I did was upgrade the system memory  from 512mb to 1gb, added a 16gb SDHC for extra storage, added a bluetooth dongle I had lying around.
  10. Enjoy typing on a ridiculously small keyboard!
* I installed a Runcore SSD because it currently has the fastest read/write speeds for a MLC (Multi-Level Cell)  SSD card.  My brother-in-law installed a Crucial SSD and the system was unusably slow.  I ordered my SSD from MyDigitalDiscount and it took over a month for them to ship the SSD because demand is far outstripping supply.  That being said, it was definitely worth the wait because the OS X boot time about 15-20 seconds and everything runs quite quickly.
So totaling up the costs (including shipping and taxes):
$170.00  Dell Inspiron Mini 9 (refurbished)   $124.00  Runcore 32gb SSD                                $137.00  OS X 10.5.6 Retail                                 $ 30.00   16gb SDHC                                             
A bit more than the often touted $300 netbook, but I'm willing to pay the extra premium for an OS that enhances my productivity.


  1. I have created this step by step tutorial for anyone who are interested to install Mac OS X on DELL Mini 9. Instructions are also written specifically for owners who have only a 8GB SSD, does not have any external DVD drive and also do not have a Mac at home. All you need is the original OS X DVD, a Windows PC, 2 USB thumb drive and of course your DELL Mini 9. For any other owners with more than 8GB SSD, you can skip some steps.
    Check this out:

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