How to Build a Bootable USB Installer for OS X Mavericks

Posted in How To, OS X on 11/10/2013 by J. Glenn Künzler


It’s finally here – yes, Apple has finally released OS X Mavericks to the public!  With the public release, Apple has changed the necessary steps required to build a fully functional bootable USB installer for the preview.

OS X Mavericks

A USB install disc can be an important tool to quickly and easily install a fresh copy on your Mac, without first having to install OS X Mountain Lion and then upgrade using the Mac App Store method. Since Apple has changed a few things since their first developer preview, we’ve got a new method for creating a USB install disc also – and this one should work for many versions of OS X to come.

Note: While the old method still technically works, it will not install a Recovery Partition, whereas this new method will. Before you proceed, please note that you will need a flash drive at least 8GB in size or larger.

Here’s how to make it work, courtesy of some helpful instructions from MacRumors forum member tywebb13:

Your 8 GB USB drive should be called Untitled and formatted as Mac OS Extended (Journaled). The installer should be called Install OS X and should be in your Applications folder.

Run this in terminal and wait about 20 minutes:

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

You should see something like this:

Erasing Disk: 0%… 10%… 20%… 100%…
Copying installer files to disk…
Copy complete.
Making disk bootable…
Copying boot files…
Copy complete.

Patience is key. The process can take up to 20-30 minutes to finish, even though Terminal may not look like it is doing anything. Make sure to wait until you see the “Done.” prompt before exiting Terminal or interrupting the process.

That’s all there is to it! For reference, the original method of creating a USB boot drive can also be found at this link.

Update (10/24/13): Fixed a minor issue in how the code was displayed, and updated to reflect the public release of Mavericks.

For more helpful tips, check out our full collection of tutorials by visiting our How-To category!


J. Glenn Künzler

Glenn is Managing Editor at MacTrast, and has been using a Mac since he bought his first MacBook Pro in 2006. Now he's up to his neck in Apple, and owns an old iBook, a 2012 iMac with an extra Thunderbolt display for good measure, a 4th-generation iPad, an iPad mini, 2 iPhones, and a Mac Mini that lives at the neighbor's house. He lives in a small town in Utah, enjoys bacon more than you can possibly imagine, and is severely addicted to pie.