How to Make an OS X Mavericks Install USB Flash Drive

How to Make an OS X Mavericks Install USB Flash Drive

When Apple released OS X 10.7 about 2 years back, it also stopped selling operating system DVDs in its stores. The company also stopped shipping recovery disks with new Macs, and switched to downloadable installers for OS X upgrades. These “download-only” type installers have actually integrated pretty well into the market. Personally, I’ve never had (nor heard) of anyone having an issue downloading the software from the Mac App Store or restoring a Mac using the Internet Recovery feature when something ended up being corrupted or broke down. That being said, it’s still nice to have a physical install backup ready for those rare occasions that you don’t have a stable internet connection or have multiple Mac computers and rather not have to download the installer onto each and every one of them separately.

The good part is, (just like with Lion and Mountain Lion), it is also possible to create a local USB installer for OS X Mavericks. The only downside is that it’s no longer as easy as it was before. Apple has completely changed the way that the installer now operates, and manually making an install disk is a lot more difficult than it used to be. Before we get right into it, here are a couple of supplies you’ll need:

  • An 8GB or larger USB flash drive, or an 8GB or larger partition on some other kind of external drive.
  • The OS X 10.9 Mavericks installer from the Mac App Store in your Applications folder. The installer will delete itself when you install the operating system, but it can be re-downloaded if necessary.
  • The latest version of Diskmaker X app, available here. This app is free to download, but the creator accepts donations if you want to support his efforts.
  • An administrator account on the Mac you’re using to create the disk.

As soon as you’ve collected all the necessary things you need, install the Diskmaker X app to your Application folder. The application can currently make installers for OS X 10.7, 10.8, and 10.9, but we’re only interested in Mavericks today. Diskmaker X has actually been around since the days of OS X 10.7 (it previously known as Lion Diskmaker), but it’s more important now because Apple has made alterations to the installer that prevent the old Disk Utility method from working.

It’s still technically possible to make a disk manually using a Terminal command (which we’ll go into momentarily), but Diskmaker X presents an easy GUI-based way to do it that is less intimidating to most people. Keep in mind however, Diskmaker X no longer supports creating OS X install DVDs. This isn’t going to be a problem for any Mac that can actually install Mavericks, but if you’d rather use a disc than a USB flash drive, you’re apparently out of luck.

Ok, select OS X 10.9 in Diskmaker X, and the application should automatically find the copy you’ve downloaded to your Applications folder, but clicking “Use another copy” will let you browse the flash drive if you just so happen to move it. It will then ask you where you’d like to copy the files. Click your 8GB USB flash drive if you have a single drive to use, or “Another kind of disk” to use a partition on a larger flash drive or some other kind of external drive.

Select your disk (or partition) from the list that appears, verify that you would like to have the disk (or partition) erased, and then wait for the files to copy over. If you don’t want to use Diskmaker X for some reason, here’s a more manual version of the installation:

Assuming you still have the OS X Mavericks installer in your Applications folder, and you have a Mac OS X Extended formatted volume named “Untitled” mounted on the system, you can make a Mavericks install drive by typing the following command into the Terminal:

  • sudo /Applications/Install\ OS\ X\
  • volume /Volumes/Untitled
  • applicationpath /Applications/Install\ OS\ X\
  • nointeraction

The command will completely erase the disk and copy the install files over. Give it some time, and your volume will soon be loaded up with not just the OS X installer, but also an external recovery partition that may come in handy if your hard drive dies and you’re away from an Internet connection. Whichever way you decide to go about it, you should be able to boot from your new USB flash drive either by changing the default Startup Disk in System Preferences or by holding down the Option key at boot and selecting the drive. Once booted, you should be able to install or upgrade Mavericks as you normally would.

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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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