In the wake of this week’s WWDC keynote, in which Apple announced that new MacBook Pro laptops will finally include an SD slot, the tech press is all aflutter about what they seem to think is a new possibility: booting from SD. Sorry to break it to you all, but this isn’t a new idea, and many PCs have been doing it for years.
First, full disclosure: I’m not a Windows fanboy; In fact, I use a Mac as my primary PC. And I’m just as glad as the next guy to see that, should I decide to buy another MacBook Pro in the future, it will actually be able to read the card that comes out of my digital camera without the aid of a USB card reader.
But come on, folks. Get a grip. Tons of Windows-based laptops have been able to boot from SD since, oh, at least 2004. At least, that’s the earliest memory I have of trying that trick as a fancy-pants way of recovering a system with a trashed OS.
Basically, any computer with an SD reader that’s recognized by the BIOS can do this. And, of course, if you use a USB card reader with just about any PC, it works just like a thumb drive, which is a well-known method of booting to an alternate drive. For Windows users who want to create a bootable SD card for themselves, a little utility called CardTricks makes it pretty easy to do.
Unsurprisingly Linux users have known about this trick for years, and in the last couple of years, booting from flash memory has become a standard installation method for various distributions.
This isn’t meant to be a slam against Apple, even though I have to acknowledge how late to the party the company is in finally building a card reader into its laptops. It’s just hard to sit by and watch as various Apple fan sites titter and preen over the woefully late addition of such a basic technology as SD and then fall all over themselves praising the exciting possibility of a feature that other computers have had for at least five years.
Robert Strohmeyer is a senior editor at PC World, and he uses both Macs and PCs daily. He tweets as @rstrohmeyer.