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I would like to know if it's possible in any way to boot my Macbook ('11) from a disk image (of a 10.6 system) present on an external drive without restoring the image to a disk or partition?

I understand that this'll need to involve some kind of third disk to boot from, in order to mount the disk image. I've done a fair bit of googling without results.

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In general: no, because a mounted disk image and, more importantly, the program that mounts it reside in memory. When you restart the memory is cleared (or at least is treated as if it's cleared), so you have no mounted disk image to boot from. Even Apple's Lion Installer copies the disk image it contains to a hidden recovery partition it quietly creates on your hard disk.

You might be able to boot your disk image on a virtual machine or a network boot from another machine (since both of those allow the mounting program to continue running unmolested as the machine it's on isn't being restarted), but both of those involve additional set up and/or hardware - it'd be far simpler to just restore your disk image to a partition of a real disk.

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Ok, thanks! I looked around for suitable hypervisors but it all seemed a bit above my level, so I'll stick with the "real disk" option. But if anyone has a relatively easy way of booting a .dmg with a VM, please leave a comment. – Erika Jul 22 '11 at 12:00

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