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The T2 Macs, the end of NetBoot and deploying from macOS Recovery

August 15, 2018 9 comments

In late 2017, Apple released the iMac Pro. Along with the new Secure Enclave protection provided by Apple’s T2 chip, the iMac Pro brought another notable development: It did not support booting from a network volume, otherwise known as NetBoot.

The one exception was Apple’s Internet Recovery, where Apple is providing a NetBoot-like service to provide access to macOS Recovery. The iMac Pro is still able to boot to Internet Recovery, which provides a way to repair the Mac or reinstall the operating system in situations where the Mac’s own Recovery volume is missing or not working properly.

With NetBoot not being available for the iMac Pro but still available for other models, it wasn’t yet clear if NetBoot-based workflows for setting up new Macs or rebuilding existing ones were on the way out. However, Apple’s release of of T2-equipped MacBook Pros in July 2018 which also could not use NetBoot has made Apple’s direction clear. As Apple releases new Mac models equipped with T2 chips and Secure Enclave, it is unlikely that these future Mac releases will be supporting NetBoot.

Screen Shot 2018 08 15 at 10 23 19 AM

For Mac admins using NetBoot-based workflows to set up their Macs, what are the alternatives? Apple has been encouraging the use of Apple’s Device Enrollment Program, which leverages a company, school or institutions’ mobile device management (MDM) service. In this case, you would need to arrange with Apple or an Apple reseller to purchase Macs that are enrolled in your organization’s DEP.

When a DEP-enrolled Mac is started for the first time (or started after an OS reinstall), it is automatically configured to use your organizations’ MDM service and the device checks in with the MDM service. The MDM service then configures the Mac as desired with your organization’s software and configuration settings. A good example of what this process may look like can be seen here.

What if you don’t have DEP, or you don’t have MDM? In that case, you may still be able to leverage Recovery-based deployment methods, which would allow you install the desired software and configuration settings onto the Mac’s existing OS, or install a new OS along with software and configuration settings. For more details on these methods, please see below the jump.

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