I recently passed along an old Mac mini to my son. When setting it up, I inserted a CD to install some software and discovered that the media drive is broken – the CD just spins and never mounts. I have a MacBook with a working media drive. Is there some way I can connect the Mac mini to the MacBook to install software?
Karen Evans

Yes, you can use the media drive on your MacBook to install software on the Mac mini. There are three ways to do this:

FireWire Target Disk mode method String a FireWire cable between the two Macs. Restart the MacBook while holding down the T key. Then boot the Mac mini; you should find that the MacBook’s hard drive appears on the mini’s desktop. Now insert an installation CD or DVD in the MacBook’s media drive. It too will appear on the mini’s desktop as a removable volume. Open that volume and double-click on the installer. The installer will go about its business.

Disc-sharing method Disc sharing was designed by Apple to allow a MacBook Air to use a disc inserted in another Mac on the same local network. With a slight bit of trickery you can make it work with your MacBook and Mac mini, too.

Launch System Preferences on the MacBook, select Sharing, and enable DVD or CD Sharing. Launch Terminal (in /Applications/Utilities) on the Mac mini, and enter the two commands shown in the Enable Disc Sharing code box, pressing Return after each.

Restart the Mac mini. With the two Macs on the same network, insert the installation CD or DVD into the MacBook’s media drive. A Remote Disc entry will appear in a Finder window’s sidebar on the Mac mini. Select it and you’ll see the name of the MacBook. Double-click on the MacBook entry, and you’ll find the disc that’s inserted in the MacBook’s drive. Double-click it to install.

Disk-image method Finally, you could create a disk image on the MacBook, copy it to the Mac mini, and then run the disk image as if it were the original disc. Insert the disc in the MacBook’s media drive and launch Disk Utility (in /Applications/Utilities). In Disk Utility’s Sources list, select the disc. Choose File > New > Disk Image From nameofdisk. In the sheet that appears, choose DVD/CD Master from the Image Format pop-up menu, select None from the Encryption pop-up menu, and click Save. Disk Utility will create the disk image. Once the image has been created, copy it to the Mac mini over the network, double-click on it to mount it, and run it as if it were the original disc.