How to Create a Bootable OS X Mavericks USB

How to Create a Bootable OS X Mavericks USB

OS X Mavericks is an impressive update and an overall big step forward for Apple. On top of that, the massive tech company has also managed to offer the software for free. Luckily for us at USB Tips, the new operating system also still has the capability to be uploaded and booted from a USB Flash Drive. In this brief tutorial we will go through how you can create a bootable OS X Mavericks USB flash drive that you can use anywhere. But before we get into that, you’ll need a number of items in order to complete the process:

  • 8 GB USB Flash Drive (or SD Card)
  • Install OS X (installer downloaded from Mac App Store)
  • Apple computer with Mac App Store (OS X 10.6.8+)
  • User Account with Administrative privileges

Working from a Mac with at least OS X 10.6.8 installed, access the Mac App Store and download the Mavericks 10.9 app installer. From there, insert your 8 GB flash drive into the Mac and launch Disk Utility. Click on the USB flash drive from the menu and select the Partition tab. From there, click on the drop-down menu, selecting one partition. Select Mac OS Extended (Journaled) for the format-type from the drop-down menu.


Click on the Options button, select the radio button for GUID Partition Table, and then click OK.


Launch the by clicking on it from the /Applications | Utilities folder and execute the following command:

defaults write AppleShowAllFiles TRUE;\killall Finder;\say Files Revealed


Once you finish the USB formatting, locate Install Mac OS X, right-click on the file and select Show Package Contents.


Look through the file structure Contents | Shared Support and double-click the InstallESD.dmg file mount OS X Install ESD on the desktop.


Double-click the mounted .dmg file and locate the hidden BaseSystem.dmg.


Go back to Disk Utility and click on the newly formatted USB Drive in the menu, then click on the Restore tab. Drag the BaseSystem.dmg over to the Source text box. For Destination, drag and drop the partition created on the USB drive onto the textbox.


Once you’ve verified that the fields are correct, click the Restore button and select Erase from the application, if prompted to do so.


The process may take more than one hour, but in my experience, the process takes significantly less time to complete.


Once the files have finished copying over, the drive should mount automatically. Navigate the file structure to System | Installation and delete the alias to the Packages directory.


Going back to the mounted Install ESD.dmg file on the desktop, locate the directory named Packages and copy it to the directory.


And that’s it! You now have a bootable copy OS X Mavericks on USB Flash Drive that can be used to install, upgrade, and/or troubleshoot compatible Apple computers. The process has become a bit more cumbersome, but once all the files are in their proper place, the USB drive works much the same. Simply insert your drive, power on the computer, and hold down the Option key to access the boot selection menu. From there, select the USB drive partition and press enter to initiate the boot process.

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Vincent Clarke

Vincent Clarke is the Universal Serial Bus (USB) Guru for When he's not writing tutorials and catching up on the latest USB news, Vincent is busy preparing his next blog post and answering USB questions from his readers and subscribers.

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