An internal configuration file that was discovered in Mountain Lion hinted yet-to-be released new generations of iMac and Mac Pro. Both devices feature a USB booting option, which indicates that the iMac and Mac Pro will lack built-in optical drives for the first time in almost 20 years.
iMac and Mac Pro with USB Booting Option
The discovered Apple files came from a configuration plist. It was used by Apple’s Boot Camp Assistant to distinguish the Mac models that can support either an optical boot disc or a USB flash drive volume.
Although all modern Macs can boot OS X from a USB drive, the Boot Camp Assistant refers to the plist to list newer Mac models with EFI-level support. The EFI-level support allows a device to boot its legacy operating system from a USB flash drive. In addition, the list refers to each model by its initials, as well as its internal architectural version number. This includes the so-called Mid-2011 Mac mini and other optical-free models like the MacBook Air.
Ditching the Optical Disc Drive to Future Mac Models
Meanwhile, listing new Mac Pro and iMac models that have USB booting support doesn’t mean that the upcoming models will ditch the optical drives entirely. That’s because the configuration list also features MacBook and MacBook Pro devices that has optical drives.
On the other hand, Apple has clearly indicated that they plan to remove the optical drives to their Mac Mini and MacBook Pros as soon as possible. The company would also provide an external USB drive as an option to those who would need one.
It only makes sense that the MacBook maker removes the hard drive on its devices, as majority of third-party software are now available as a digital download. Digital distribution is also deemed as the future of music and movies, as exemplified by Apple TV, which never required an optical drive.
Furthermore, Apple introduced technologies that are designed to wean its Mac devices from optical disc dependence. The MacBook Air, for instance, is designed to remotely share disc drives available on the local network through Remote Disc. It can also handle Migration Assistant tasks via wireless network connection.
Users can also update their devices via digital downloads, while Apple’s latest Mac models can boot legacy operating systems using a USB flash drive. By removing the optical drive on its devices, the company can not only make new Macs smaller and more energy efficient, it can also increase the Macs’ overall reliability.
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