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How to make a bootable OS X

10.10 Yosemite install drive

Dan Frakes (/author/Dan-Frakes/) | @danfrakes (

Senior Editor, Macworld

Oct 18, 2014 5:30 PM

Back in the day when we bought OS X on discs, as long as you kept that disc, you
always had a bootable installer just in case. Modern, downloadable versions of OS X
create a recovery partition (
recovery-partition-creator-adds-os-x-recovery-to-any-drive.html) on your drive, but
it's always a smart idea to make your own bootable installer drive too.

I recommend making one for Yosemite, on an external hard drive or USB thumb
drive, for many of the same reasons I recommend making a bootable Mavericks
installer drive (
mavericks-install-drive.html): If you want to install Yosemite on multiple Macs, using
a bootable installer drive can be more convenient than downloading or copying the
entire installer to each computer. If you want to erase the drive on a Mac before
installing Yosemite, or start over at any time, you can use a dedicated installer drive
to boot that Mac, erase its drive, and then install the OS clean and restore whatever
data you need from a backup. And if your Mac is experiencing problems, a bootable
installer drive makes a handy emergency disk.
Macworld also has bootable-install-drive instructions for Mavericks
(OS X 10.9) (
make-a-bootable-mavericks-install-drive.html), Mountain Lion (OS
X 10.8)
and Lion (OS X 10.7)

As with previous versions of OS X, it’s not difficult to create a bootable installer drive
from the Yosemite installer, though the processes have changed slightly since
Mavericks. I show you how, below.

Keep the installer from being deleted

Like all recent versions of OS X, Yosemite is distributed through the Mac App Store.
As with the Mavericks installer (
mavericks-what-you-need-to-know.html), if you leave the Yosemite beta installer in
its default location (in the main Applications folder) when you install OS X 10.10, the
installer will delete itself after the installation finishes. If you plan to use that installer
on other Macs, or—in this case—to create a bootable drive, be sure to copy the
installer to another drive, or at least move it out of the Applications folder, before you
install. If you don't, you'll have to redownload the installer from the Mac App Store
before you can create a bootable installer drive.

Create the Yosemite install drive: The options

I’ve come up with three ways you can create a bootable OS X install drive for the
Yosemite: using the installer’s built-in createinstallmedia tool; using Disk Utility; or
performing the Disk Utility procedure using Terminal.

The createinstallmedia method is the easiest; if you’re at all comfortable using

Terminal, it’s the approach that I recommend you try first. (Note that the
createinstallmedia tool doesn’t work under OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard—it requires OS
X 10.7 Lion or later.)
The Disk Utility method is the way to go for people who are more comfortable in the
Finder (though it does require a couple Terminal commands), and it works under
Snow Leopard, Lion, Mountain Lion, Mavericks, and Yosemite. The Disk Utility-via-
Terminal approach is for the shell junkies out there.

Whichever method you use, you need a Mac-formatted drive (a hard drive, solid-
state drive, thumb drive, or USB stick) that’s big enough to hold the installer and all
its data—I recommend at least an 8GB flash drive. That drive must also be formatted
with a GUID Partition Table. (Follow this tutorial
mac.html) to properly format the drive.) Your OS X user account must also have
administrator privileges.

Option 1: Use createinstallmedia

Starting with Mavericks, hidden inside the OS X installer is a Unix program called
createinstallmedia (, provided by Apple
specifically for creating a bootable installer drive. If you’re comfortable using
Terminal, createinstallmedia is a relatively simple tool to use.

As mentioned above, the createinstallmedia tool works only in Lion, Mountain Lion,
Mavericks, or Yosemite—you can’t create an installer drive this way while booted
into Snow Leopard. If you need to create a Yosemite beta install drive while booted
into Snow Leopard, you should use the Disk Utility instructions, below.

Using the createinstallmedia command in Terminal

Here are the required steps:

1. Connect to your Mac a properly formatted 8GB (or larger) drive, and rename
the drive Untitled. (The Terminal command used here assumes the drive is
named Untitled.) Also, make sure the Yosemite installer, called Install OS X, is in its default location in your main Applications folder
(/Applications). This means that if you moved it before installing Yosemite, you
need to move it back before making your installer disk.
2. Select the text of this Terminal command and copy it:

sudo /Applications/Install\ OS\ X\ --volume /Volumes/Untitled --a

3. Launch Terminal (in /Applications/Utilities).

4. Warning: This step will erase the destination drive or partition, so make sure that
it doesn’t contain any valuable data. Paste the copied command into Terminal
and press Return.
5. Type your admin-level account password when prompted, and then press
6. The Terminal window displays the progress of the process, in a very Terminal
sort of way, by displaying a textual representation of a progress bar: Erasing
Disk: 0%... 10 percent...20 percent... and so on. The program then tells you it’s
copying the installer files, making the disk bootable, and copying boot files.
Wait until you see the text Copy Complete. Done. (see the screenshot above),
which could take as long as 20 or 30 minutes, depending on how fast your Mac
can copy data to your destination drive.

You now have a bootable Yosemite install drive. If you like, you can rename the drive
from its default name of Install OS X Yosemite, though I think it’s kind of a catchy

Option 2: Use Disk Utility

You’ll find Disk Utility, a handy app that ships with OS X, in /Applications/Utilities.
Here are the steps for using it to create your installer drive. The procedure is a bit
more involved with Yosemite than it was for Mavericks (which was itself a bit more
involved than under Mountain Lion and Lion).

1. Once you’ve downloaded Yosemite,

find the installer on your Mac. It’s
called Install OS X
and it should have been
downloaded to your main
Applications folder (/Applications).
2. Right-click (or Control+click) the
installer, and choose Show Package
Contents from the resulting
Right-click (or Control+click) the Yosemite installer to
contextual menu. view its contents.
3. In the folder that appears, open
Contents, then open Shared Support; you’ll see a disk image file called
4. Double-click InstallESD.dmg in the Finder to mount its volume. That volume will
appear in the Finder as OS X Install ESD; open it to view its contents.
5. Several of the files you’ll need to work with are hidden in the Finder, and you
need to make them visible. Open the Terminal app (in /Application/Utilities),
then type (or copy and paste) the following command, and then press Return:

defaults write AppleShowAllFiles 1 && killall Finder

(This tells the Finder to show hidden files—we’ll re-hide such files later.)
6. Launch Disk Utility (in /Applications/Utilities) and then drag BaseSystem.dmg
(in the OS X Install ESD volume) into Disk Utility’s left-hand sidebar.
7. Select BaseSystem.dmg in Disk Utility’s sidebar, and then click the Restore
button in the main part of the window.
8. Drag the BaseSystem.dmg icon into the Source field on the right (if it isn’t
already there).
9. Connect to your Mac the properly formatted hard drive or flash drive you want
to use for your bootable Yosemite installer.
10. In Disk Utility, find this destination drive in the left sidebar. You may see a
couple partitions under the drive: one named EFI and another with the name
you see for the drive in the Finder. Drag the latter—the one with the drive name
—into the Destination field on the right. (If the destination drive has additional
partitions, just drag the partition you want to use as your bootable installer
11. Warning: This step will erase the destination drive or partition, so make sure that
it doesn’t contain any valuable data. Click Restore, and then click Erase in the
dialog box that appears; if prompted, enter an admin-level username and
12. Wait for the restore procedure to finish, which should take just a few minutes.
13. Open the destination drive—the one you’re using for your bootable installer
drive, which has been renamed OS X Base System. Inside that drive, open the
System folder, and then open the Installation folder. You’ll see an alias called
Packages. Delete that alias.
14. Open the mounted OS X Install ESD volume, and you’ll see a folder called
Packages. Drag that folder into the Installation folder on your destination drive.
(You're replacing the deleted Packages alias with this Packages folder.) The
folder is about 4.6GB in size, so the copy will take a bit of time, especially if
you’re copying to a slow thumb drive.
15. Also in the mounted OS X Install ESD volume, you’ll find files named
BaseSystem.chunklist and BaseSystem.dmg. Copy these files to the root (top)
level of your install drive (OS X Base System, not into the System or Installation
16. Eject the OS X Install ESD volume.
17. You’ll likely want to re-hide invisible files in the Finder. Open the Terminal app,
type (or copy and paste) the following command, and then press Return:

defaults write AppleShowAllFiles 0 && killall Finder

You now have a bootable Yosemite install drive. If you like, you can rename the drive
from OS X Base System to something more descriptive, such as Yosemite Installer.
You can use Disk Utility's Restore screen to create a bootable Yosemite installer drive.

Option 3: Use Terminal

If you're a Terminal jockey, you likely know that most of Disk Utility's features can be
accessed using shell commands—which means that you can perform the Disk Utility
procedure using a few commands in Terminal.

1. Download the Yosemite installer from the Mac App Store and make sure it’s in
your main Applications folder (/Applications)—it’s called Install OS X
2. Connect to your Mac a properly formatted 8GB (or larger) drive. Rename the
drive to Untitled. (The Terminal commands I provide here assume the drive is
named Untitled.)
3. Open Terminal and type (or copyFOR
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one, pressing return after

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command drive finishes—in
other words, you see a command prompt—before running the next command.
Enter your admin-levelRead
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sudo hdiutil attach /Applicatio

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sudo asr restore -source /Volumes/OS\ X\ Install\ ESD/BaseSystem.dmg -target /Volumes/Untitled -erase -format HFS+

(During this step, you’ll be prompted to confirm that you want to erase the
contents of Untitled. Type yand press Return.)

sudo rm /Volumes/OS\ X\ Base\ System/System/Installation/Packages

sudo cp -a /Volumes/OS\ X\ Install\ ESD/Packages /Volumes/OS\ X\ Base\ System/System/Installation/Packages

sudo cp -a /Volumes/OS\ X\ Install\ ESD/BaseSystem.chunklist /Volumes/OS\ X\ Base\ System

sudo cp -a /Volumes/OS\ X\ Install\ ESD/BaseSystem.dmg /Volumes/OS\ X\ Base\ System

hdiutil detach /Volumes/OS\ X\ Install\ ESD

You now have a bootable Yosemite install drive. If you like, you can rename the drive
from its default name of OS X Base System to something more descriptive, such as
Yosemite Installer.

Booting from the installer

Whichever of the above processes you've
used, you can now boot any Yosemite-
compatible Mac from the resulting drive:
Just connect the drive to your Mac and
either (if your Mac is already booted into
OS X) choose the install drive in the
Startup Disk pane of System Preferences
( https://cms-
or (if your Mac is currently shut down)
hold down the Option key at startup and beta-terminal-procedure-100361821-
choose the install drive when OS X’s orig.png)
Startup Manager appears. You can perform the Disk Utility procedure entirely
in Terminal.

When your Mac is booted from your

installer drive, you can, of course, install the OS, but you can also use any of the OS
X installer’s special recovery and restore features
Depending on how you made your installer drive, when you boot from that drive, you
may even see the same OS X Utilities screen you get when you boot into OS X
Recovery (recovery mode). However, unlike with recovery mode, your bootable
installer includes the entire installer.

Related: OS X (/Category/Os-X) OS X Yosemite (/Tag/Osxyosemite/)

Shop ▾ What is this?

Dan Frakes Senior Editor

( (

Dan writes about OS X, iOS, utilities, cool apps, and troubleshooting. He also covers hardware; mobile,
audio, and AV gear; input devices; and accessories. He's been writing about tech since 1994, and he's
also published software, worked in IT, and worked as a policy analyst. You can find him on the web at (
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Drew McArthur 3 hours ago

Will this method work to install OS X on a PC? 

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mgtparkerj 1 day ago

if i put mac os x yosemite disc install files from my macbook air on my USB 3.0 then plug that
into my macbook pro HDD

i installed mac os x yosemite using the USB 3.0 mac os x yosemite disc install files on to that USB3.0
and ran mac os x yosemite.

then redownloaded mac os x yosemite disc install files on the USB 3.0 and clicked "setup mac os x
yosemite disc install files on my macbook pro HDD" then once it transfered and restarted i
unplugged my USB 3.0.

my macbook pro then setup "mac os x yosemite from the install disc files that i just transfered"


got it up and running wooooh!!!!

then restarted my macbook pro only to find that it is/may be reinstalling mac os x yosemite disc
install files AGAIN that may have still been on that HDD!!!!!!

i tried to abort and bypass it but holding down the option/alt key i can only boot HDD or boot HDD

anyone have any advice.....

Like Reply Share 0

Nicky Scarola 15 days ago

Hi, I have a Macbook 2014 with yosemite, I want to downgrade to Mavericks, I used Internet
Recovery but my internet connection is too slow.
I read that only with the Mavericks 10.9.1 13B3109 will work but I don´t understand the process.
Could you please teach me how to do that?
Thank you very much.

Like Reply Share 0

Robert Hartle 21 days ago

Awesome Dan!  Bada Bing Bada Boom! Used Option 1... Copied and pasted into terminal and
30 minutes later..... done a bootable USB... I dunno what all the haters are talking about here... They
must me former Windows users looking for the hardest way possible to do something on a Mac... or
S.O.S. Stuck on Stupid.

Like Reply Share 0

Chance Moore 23 days ago

Can you have the install drive on the same external hard drive as I have my time machine

Like Reply Share 0

SarahJelley 32 days ago
I want to use Option 2, however, am having some difficulty right clicking, as mentioned in step 2. I
am very familiar with right clicking or Control+Click, but when I try to do either of those, it gives me
the prompt to continue with installation. I'm very frustrated and would appreciate any help. 

Like Reply Share 1 reply 0

LeoRBLX 32 days ago

Are you using a mouse? If so, do not press Control, just click the right mouse button.

Like Reply Share 0

Maher Uraijah 41 days ago

You are the best , it really helped out. This article is easy to follow and applicable. 

Like Reply Share 0

Lukas Loskot 51 days ago

this article is wasted space. congratulations, you've succesfully managed to bring the PC
approach to the mac - let's make it so that it's difficult, ugly, and slow.

why bother with three explanations when two of them are redundant and confusing? please explain
to me why you would ever need to use anything but option 2? even the number of steps in option 2
is overkill. it only takes three- 3

1. insert appropriate capacity USB stick into port.

2. download yosemite/mavericks installer
3. copy and paste the command into terminal. 


yes, there will be intermediate actions like pressing enter but you're not writing to martians, the
people who need USB installation media will know what that you have to press enter in order for
something to happen. 

in summation: know your audience, learn to summarize and stop writing this verbose garbage. thx.

Like Reply Share 1 reply 0

PhilBoogie 3 days ago

Talk about waisted space¡ You could've simply not post your post if you want to save... "the

Like Reply Share 0

dek420 55 days ago

Hi i have been stuck on this part for days now. My current hard drive is failing so i purchased a
sad drive to replace it. I used time machine to back up all my files but I'm so lost when I comes to
putting the OS on a disk to transfer over to my drive. I used option 3 above. The first two or three
command i entered looked like they worked fine. after that the last four commands i entered didn't
look like anything happened ? is that normal? Is there a way to check if you have done it correctly?
when i put my usb in my mac now it comes up as OS X base system? so i know i had to have done
at least some of it right. I just want to make 100 percent sure its ready to go before i take out the old
drive and put in the new one. I have already put the new drive in and was not able to recover my OS
so i was forced to put back in my old drive until i figure out how to get the OS to my stick. Any help
would be so very welcome. I have been stuck on this step for two days and it seems so easy i don't
want to give up . thanks  

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Lukas Loskot 51 days ago

use option 2.

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CBlanchet 62 days ago

Hi! Thanks for this tutorial! I used option 2 but i have a problem. I want to do a clean install on a
MacBook Pro 7.1 but when I insert the USB drive it doesn't appear in "System preference" - "Startup
disk". I tested the USB on a recent iMac & it seems to be working just fine. I figured I would try a
SMC & PRAM reset on my MacBook but it didn't help. Do you have any suggestion? It would be very
useful! Thank you!

Like Reply Share 2 replies 0

CBlanchet 62 days ago

Ho.. and I tried to restart the computer while holding the option key but it does not work

Like Reply Share 1 reply 0

Lukas Loskot 51 days ago

there's something wrong with your option key.

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MobileMarsUSA 70 days ago

Well written. Very straight forward.

Like Reply Share 0

Joel Middendorf 72 days ago

This was very helpful. Thank you. i used Option 2.

Like Reply Share 1

Clay Melugin 73 days ago

Wonderful article that really helped me create a bootable disk so I can get my daughters
MacBook Pro updated to a new SSD.

Thank you !

Like Reply Share 0

kiranmatrixlee 80 days ago

can we make a bootable iso instead of bootable drive

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Forrest Morrisey 86 days ago

Hey, I really appreciate the auto-play video. Having to stop Hulu in another window, re-size this
window, and then stop the video was so worth my time and really made me enjoy my visit to
macworld.  I wish I could return the favor you dip wads. 

Like Reply Share 2

Dave Munger 91 days ago

There is no "Install OS X Yosemite" file/dir in my /Applications folder. I have turned on the
option to see "invisible" files in Finder, and I've also issued a sudo -ls command inside the
Applications directory. It is simply not there. I am running Yosemite that was pre-installed on a new

Like Reply Share 0

kathy villalon 92 days ago

I have a 16 gb flash drive that i partitioned and followed all your steps. My computer says there
is not enough space on the flash to continue with install.

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Jose Martinez 109 days ago

Thank you for this tutorial.
This is what I did:
Last login: Mon May 18 23:06:55 on ttys000
MacBook-Pro-de-JOSE:~ josemaria$ cd /
MacBook-Pro-de-JOSE:/ josemaria$ sudo ‘/Applications/Install OS X’ –volume ‘/Volumes/Yosemite’ –
applicationpath ‘/Applications/Install OS X’ –nointeractio’
But the window doesn't display any process and nothing happens after 3 hours.
Any help, please?

Like Reply Share 1 reply 0

Steven Keirstead 98 days ago

Make sure you have the Apple application "Install OS X" in your Applications
folder. If it's not there, there is no source for the creation of the file on your target drive. The Target
drive MUST be named Untitled with a capital U. You also truncated the command. It should be
EXACTLY this: 

sudo /Applications/Install\ OS\ X\ --volume

/Volumes/Untitled --applicationpath /Applications/Install\ OS\ X\ --nointeraction

Like Reply Share 0

Markham McGill 115 days ago

Hey Dan. Great how-to. Thank you. However, we're stuck at Step 5 with the BaseSystem.dmg
file greyed out and not able to be moved to the left side of DiscUtility. Any thoughts?

Like Reply Share 0

Amir Ali 120 days ago

thank you, Dan your explanation was I should admit the only and only one made me succeed in
to installing Yosemite from the flash thumb drive, the others do walk us through but the problem is
that they donot think of us novices who are struggling to learn. thanks again please throw some
more stuff in the net

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ashik 133 days ago

Is there a way to update the 10.10.2 Install drive to 10.10.3 without going through the whole
thing again? And thanks for the clear instructions!

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Jim Bowe 133 days ago

Isn't there an App that can do all this with a few mouse clicks??

Like Reply Share 0

acmor1 135 days ago

Registered just to say THANK YOU!!  I tried to reinstall an operation system on my mother's old
mac for hours.  This worked flawlessly.

Like Reply Share 1 reply 0

acmor1 135 days ago

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WalterWMoore 161 days ago

THANK YOU, DAN FRAKES! You rock. Your instructions were so clear, I'm thinking you could
write an instruction guide on brain surgery, or building a nuclear reactor. I really appreciate your
easy-to-follow, succinct, step-by-step guide.

Like Reply Share 0

Per Folkeson 177 days ago

THANK YOU!!! Its so easy when the instructions are correct!

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