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Since I don't have an optical disc, and no USB thumb drives are available, but I do have a second mac, target disk mode over FireWire seems like the only way to install Mountain Lion (since this 2010 MBP doesn't have that permanent recovery mode in its firmware, and I was dumb and formatted the whole disk, instead of just the system partition, thus deleting the recovery partition).

But I'm thinking, when you install on a local disk on a MacMini, is some aspect of the installation MacMini-specific? After installing from the MacMini, will the OS be missing some MBP drivers, and include superfluous Mac Mini drivers?

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2 Answers 2

You should be fine installing that way. The OS X installer is pretty flexible, and is designed to be able to install on external drives (which is essentially what a Mac in Target Disk Mode is). With the exception of the system disks included with Macs prior to Lion, which were machine-specific, OS X installs work on any Mac the OS supports. You can even boot a Mac from a different system's drive without issue, as long as it's not a version prior to that Mac's release.

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Actually, I just booted a late 2011 MacBook Pro into Snow Leopard using Target Disk mode on a 2006 iMac. (The MacBook Pro came pre-installed with Lion.) I was only using Firewire 400, so it ran very slowly, but it did run. (I was able to launch Minecraft...) –  daviewales Dec 3 '12 at 12:17
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You have two options using Target Disk mode:

  1. Start the MBP in Target Disk and then boot the mini normally and install to the MBP disk.
  2. Start the Mac Mini as Target Disk and then boot the MBP from the Mini disc, then install to the local disk.

If you are worried that the install will be tailored to the hardware running at the time then you can try option 2. However in my experience when you install off commercial OS-X disks (not the ones that come with a particular Mac) all files are included.

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