This article will guide you through the process of creating a bootable installer for the Mac operating system. This allows you to install the newest version of macOS on multiple Macs, install a beta version of macOS, perform a fresh installation of macOS, or have a backup disk in case your Mac encounters issues and you cannot connect to Recovery mode or access it.
If you’re looking to create a bootable installation for any of the latest macOS updates including macOS Sonoma, macOS Ventura, macOS Monterey, Big Sur, Catalina, Mojave, or an older version of Mac OS X or macOS, you’ve landed at the correct destination.
You can utilize your bootable installer to conveniently install macOS on a different section of your hard drive (or a partition if you have an older version of Mac OS). This is also a convenient method to revert to a previous version of macOS, especially if the initial download of the installer was time-consuming and you don’t want to repeat the process on multiple Macs. One time is sufficient!
Fortunately, creating a bootable installer for the Mac operating system became much simpler after the release of OS X Mavericks in 2013. Since then, all versions of Mac OS X have included the ability to use the Terminal command createinstallmedia to make a bootable macOS installer. In this article, we will demonstrate how to do so.
To make a bootable USB for Mac, we will go through the following procedures:
Obtain the installation files for macOS.
Create a bootable installer for macOS
Select the appropriate createinstallmedia instruction.
If you wish to use macOS on an external drive, which is a slightly different process, we have a dedicated article for that.
To create a bootable USB for Mac, you will need the following:
– A USB flash drive with at least 8GB of storage capacity
To make a bootable USB for Mac, these items are required:
– A USB drive that can hold at least 8GB of data
To create a bootable installation drive, you will require two items: a USB stick (or a Thunderbolt drive) and the necessary installation files. Once you have both of these items, the process should not take a significant amount of time.
A minimum of 15 gigabytes of storage on a Flash Drive.
We suggest using a drive with a minimum of 15GB of storage, although having more space available is highly recommended. The installer for Monterey requires 12GB of space, while Big Sur’s installer needs 13GB.
We suggest using a Flash drive instead of a regular hard drive for faster performance. If you have a newer Mac, you may need to use a USB 3 or USB Type C drive, unless you have an adapter. For M1 Macs, it may be more beneficial to use a Thunderbolt drive due to potential issues with USB drives. Check out our list of recommended SSD drives for Mac, including the LaCie Portable SSD, but any inexpensive USB thumb drive will also work.
Please be aware that if you have any data on the drive that you intend to use, you will either need to transfer it to a different drive or obtain a new drive. This is because the drive will undergo a complete formatting and all data will be erased.
The installation files
Depending on the version of macOS you have and want to install, you can either obtain the installation files through System Preferences’ Software Update, the Mac App Store, or from another source.
The Mac App Store may be the more convenient choice, but problems can arise depending on the version of macOS your computer is using. If you were looking to download older installation files, this can be challenging – we have another article that covers how to obtain previous versions of macOS.
Having an internet connection is essential for downloading the software and may also be necessary during the installation of macOS, in case it needs to verify firmware or your iCloud login information.
1. Obtain the installation files for macOS.
As previously mentioned, the method for obtaining installation files will vary depending on your current version of macOS and the version you desire for the installer. In the following sections, we will discuss how to obtain various macOS installers, including older versions and Mac OS X. For more information on downloading past versions of Mac OS X and macOS, we have a specific article dedicated to this topic.
How to obtain the installer for macOS Sonoma
If you have not installed it yet, you can find macOS Sonoma on the Mac App Store or download it through Software Update.
Please ensure to download the installation files, however, refrain from starting the actual installation process. Once the installation begins, the files will be deleted, making it necessary to intervene beforehand.
After downloading the installation files for Sonoma, you can locate them in the Applications folder using the Finder. They will have a similar appearance to this:
To create a bootable installer on your USB stick, please use the provided installation files. Detailed instructions can be found below.
How to obtain a macOS beta installation package.
To access the most recent beta version, you must enroll in the beta program. Afterward, you can download the installation files.
We explain how to get and install the macOS beta here. We also have included the createinstallmedia code you’ll need for installing the latest beta via a USB below.
How to obtain an installer for Ventura, Monterey, Big Sur, or previous versions.
To obtain the installer for macOS Ventura, Monterey, or Big Sur, please follow these instructions:
To obtain the desired version of macOS, please click on the provided links within the Mac App Store. It may be necessary to exit the Mac App Store and utilize Safari in order for this process to be successful.
macOS Big Sur
macOS High Sierra
Press the Get button to initiate the download of the installation files.
If the software is already in use, you may receive a warning requesting confirmation before downloading it.
After downloading the installer, refrain from clicking on the install button as you will need the installation file for the next step of this tutorial.
Finding previous versions of macOS can be challenging if you’re unfamiliar with the process, however, Apple offers dmg files for these older versions (which must be downloaded through Safari). Once the disk image named InstallOS.dmg has been downloaded, you can locate the pkg installer within it.
is the twelfth major release of macOS.
The twelfth major version of macOS is Mac OS X El Capitan.
Mac OS X Yosemite
Step 2: Make a macOS bootable installation drive.
Once you have obtained the installation files, we can proceed with creating the bootable installer.
Please note that the createinstallmedia method mentioned here is not compatible with OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard or earlier. It only works with OS X 10.7 Lion or later. Additionally, the steps have been slightly modified since Mavericks, so if you are trying to create an installation for a “Cat” version of Mac OS X, please refer to this earlier article.
Starting with Mavericks, it is now possible to create a bootable version of macOS by using a single command in Terminal. This command, known as createinstallmedia, allows you to make a copy of the installer on any drive connected to your Mac. The commands for creating an install media, including the Monterey version, are listed below.
Please be aware that using the createinstallmedia command will delete all data on your external disk. Prior to using the command, ensure that there is no important information on the disk.
Follow these steps to make a bootable USB. Please note that there may be slight variations depending on the specific installer you are using.
Insert a portable storage device with a minimum of 15GB available space, as this is the amount needed by the installation program.
Open the Disk Utility application by pressing Command + spacebar and typing “Disk Utility”.
Prior to proceeding, please take note that if you are using High Sierra or a newer version, you must click on the View dropdown located below the close and minimize buttons. From there, select Show All Devices. This will allow you to view both the external root drive and the volume below it.
Choose the main drive from the side panel (the following step will not function if only the volume is chosen).
Click on Erase.
Select “Mac OS Extended (Journaled)” as the format.
Select GUID Partition Map as the Scheme.
Your drive will likely be labeled as ‘Untitled’ as the default, but you have the option to rename it to something like ‘macOS’ or ‘USB’. (Note: You will need to replace ‘MyVolume’ in the createinstallmedia command with your chosen drive name.)
Click on Erase.
Please be patient as Disk Utility creates the partition and prepares the drive (this process may take a few minutes).
Then click Done.
You are now prepared to create your bootable installation tool. Launch Terminal (easiest method is to hit Command + spacebar and type “Terminal,” or it can be found in the Utilities folder).
Type the text from the section below into Terminal that matches the version of macOS you are installing. Be sure to use the name of your drive as designated by you, such as changing “Untitled” to “MyVolume.”
The Terminal will prompt for a password, which is your user password. Please note that the characters you type will not be visible, but this is normal. Once you have entered your password, press Enter.
The terminal may request permission to access the removable drive. Select “ok”.
The terminal will alert you that it is going to delete the drive. Therefore, ensure there is no important data on it (which there shouldn’t be if you followed the formatting instructions mentioned earlier). Press Y and then Return to proceed. The erasing process may take some time, and you will see progress in increments of 10%.
Terminal will take a few minutes to copy the installer file onto your drive. The Terminal window will display messages such as “Copying installer files to disk… Copy complete.”
After the installer has been successfully copied by Terminal, you will receive a notification stating “Copy complete” and “Done”.
Reworded: Step 3: Utilize the USB installation tool to upgrade your Mac.
Once the installer has been saved on the external drive, it can be utilized to install macOS on several Macs, as long as those Macs are compatible with the specific version.
Connect the external drive to the Mac where you wish to install the macOS.
Power on your Mac. If you have a Mac with an Intel processor, hold down the Option/Alt key while it is starting up. If you have an M1 Mac, simply press and hold the power button until you see different options.
Eventually, your Mac will show the Startup Manager. Click on your external drive to choose it as the startup disk. Your Mac will then begin starting up in Recovery Mode.
To initiate the installation of macOS, select “Install macOS” and then click “Continue”. The installation process will begin on your Mac from the version of macOS stored on the bootable drive. If you prefer a clean installation, where your Mac is wiped beforehand, please refer to the steps outlined in this guide: How to perform a clean installation on a Mac.
After some time, the Mac will reboot. Please be patient as the update is completed and then you can start using your recently updated operating system.
You have the option to operate the Mac OS from an external drive instead of your default startup disk, which can be useful for trying out new versions of the OS. However, the steps involved in this process differ from the ones mentioned earlier, and you can find more information on how to do this here: Learn about running macOS on an external hard drive.
Please be aware that previous versions of macOS utilized “applicationpath,” but newer versions do not. Using this command will result in an error. We have included the code for all versions of macOS and Mac OS X below.
The command may vary slightly based on the version of macOS you wish to utilize.
Note MyVolumeUSB or Untitled
Please refer to Disk Utilities to find the name of the external disk currently in use.
Please be aware that there have been instances of individuals plagiarizing content by copying and pasting it verbatim.--0
They changed to a 0.–
Please exercise caution when using Terminal as there should be two dashes present.