Tips on how to Set up macOS From USB

As you may know, you can use the internet recovery method to reinstall macOS on your computer. But did you know you can also create a bootable USB drive to install macOS? This allows you to start your Mac from another source if it isn't working normally, and it's easy to install on multiple computers.

Why should you install macOS from a USB?

Creating a bootable USB drive and using it to reinstall it on macOS is a slightly longer process than simply updating macOS from the Software Update section of System Preferences, but it has its advantages.

By creating a bootable USB drive, you can install or update macOS on multiple systems without downloading the installer on each Mac. This can save quite a bit of time considering that most versions of macOS have an installation size of 12 GB.

You can also use the built-in recovery tools that come with the macOS installer to troubleshoot and fix various types of problems. These include restoring access to a Mac that refuses to boot or restoring files that appear to be lost. Another benefit of using a bootable disk for a macOS installation is that you can do a fresh install.

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A clean install allows you to remove junk apps and files that may have built up over time. This almost always results in a Mac running faster after a clean install, as macOS started over with a clean slate.

Related: Is Your Mac Running Slow? Simple tips to speed up

Select a USB flash drive to install macOS

USB sticks are cheaper than ever, so you don't have to spend a lot for this task. However, make sure to buy a branded flash drive (such as SanDisk, Kingston, or PNY) from a reputable store. Stay away from cheap drives with suspiciously high storage space on sites like eBay.

The firmware on these drives is often hacked to report an incorrect size to your operating system. Not only are transfer speeds painfully slow, but they can also result in data loss or even a damaged USB port.

Also, check what ports you have on your Mac. Most current MacBook models from Apple only offer USB-C ports. Fortunately, there are plenty of USB-C drives out there, or you can use a USB-C to USB-A adapter.

It is best to use a USB 3.0 drive with a minimum size of 16 GB. Overall, the Samsung BAR Plus offers a good price-performance ratio; We've also rounded up the fastest USB 3.0 drives you can buy for more options.

Format your USB flash drive

You can only create a bootable installer for macOS on a Mac. If you are using a flash drive that already has data stored on it, make sure that you back up any important files now as you will be erasing everything shortly.

Open minded finder. Then navigate to Applications > Utilities, and open Disk utility. You should see your flash drive under the External Section in the left pane. After making your selection, click the Extinguish Button up.

Choose a friendly name (which you will use later) and make sure you choose it Mac OS Extended (Journaled) for the format. Then click on Extinguish.

Download the macOS installer

Apple changed the method of downloading versions of the macOS operating system. While the installers were previously available for download from the App Store, newer versions (macOS Mojave and higher) update the system via the system settings.

To download the latest version of the macOS installer for installation on a USB, open System settings and navigate to Software update. You should see the option to download the installer here.

You can also use the App Store to open System Preferences and download the update. Open that Appstore and find your version of macOS. click on the view or Will Button that opens System settings to download the installer. If you're using a version of macOS prior to Mojave, you can still download the installer directly from the App Store.

If you are already running the latest version of macOS, you may not see the option to download the installer in System Preferences. In this case, use the App Store method described above. This will force System Preferences to download the installer, which will then allow you to create the bootable floppy disk.

In either case, exit the installer once it has downloaded and opened without continuing the installation.

Create a bootable USB stick with terminal

terminal is the easiest way to create your bootable USB drive. Just replace the My volume Part of the commands below with the name you gave your drive in the Disk Utility step above.

Note that the commands to create bootable USBs differ slightly for different versions of macOS. If you want to create a bootable drive for macOS Monterey, use the following command as it is. Otherwise replace Monterey with the macOS version name (for example Mojave) etc.

To create a Monterey installer:

sudo / Applications / Install macOS Monterey.app/Contents/Resources/createinstallmedia –volume / Volumes / MyVolume

Copy and paste the command you need above in your terminal window and hit the To return Key. After entering your password, confirm that you want to erase the USB drive by typing Yes followed by To return.

The terminal will now erase and create your bootable USB drive ready to boot.

Creating a bootable hard drive with software

If you prefer to create a bootable hard drive using the software method, you can use third-party applications to do so. Diskmaker X was the famous bootable disk creation utility, but it doesn't support the latest versions of macOS (High Sierra or higher). Instead, you can use MacDaddy's Install Disk Creator to create a bootable macOS installer.

After you've downloaded the software, just open it. The app should automatically detect the macOS installer in your Downloads folder. Just select the USB drive you want to create a bootable drive on from the drop down list of the top volume and click Create installer.

Related: How to Start Your Mac in Safe Mode

Boot your Mac from a USB drive

Now if you find yourself in a difficult situation where your Mac won't boot or you want to do a fresh install of macOS, you have a solution. You can boot from your USB drive and don't have to download the macOS installer again. This is useful for resolving the macOS could not be installed error.

There are two different methods for starting your Mac from a bootable USB stick, depending on the processor your Mac has.

Intel Macs

Simply insert your created USB drive into a free USB port on your Mac. Turn on the system, or restart if it is already on and immediately hold the. pressed Option (old) Key when it starts to boot.

M1 Apple Silicon Macs

To boot an M1 or Apple Silicon Mac using a bootable USB storage device, turn on the system or restart it if it is already on and hold the On / Off button pressed down.

You should now see an option to select your USB drive as your startup disk. After selecting it, your system will boot from your USB drive and start macOS recovery with the macOS Monterey installer that will appear on your screen. If you want to erase your hard drive first to do a fresh installation, exit the installer and run Disk Utility from the recovery menu. You can then format the drive and then go back to the recovery menu and install macOS Monterey.

Some wireless keyboards may not work at this point. If you're having trouble, try connecting a wired keyboard instead. If your USB drive doesn't show up as one of the startup options, try a different USB port.

What to do if your Mac won't start via USB

In some cases, Intel Macs with a T2 chip (Intel Macs released after 2018) may not be able to launch a macOS installer from an external drive. This is due to a setting in the Security Startup Utility that needs to be adjusted. This can be done by following the steps outlined below:

  1. Start macOS recovery by pressing Command + R while turning on the Mac.

  2. A list of users is displayed. Select and log in to the administrator account.

  3. When the Mac boots up, select the Utilities Menu and select Boot Security Utility.

  4. You may be asked to authenticate again. Enter the macOS password, choose an administrator account, and enter the password.

  5. After starting the app, select the option to Allow booting from external media in the External Boot section at the bottom of the window.

  6. Quit the app and restart the Mac.

That's it! You should now be able to boot from the external hard drive normally by following the steps above.

Using your bootable macOS USB

You can reinstall macOS, restore from a Time Machine backup, or access tools like Disk Utility from the macOS Utilities screen. You can also use your USB drive to update macOS to the latest version. When you need to troubleshoot your Mac without a network connection, this USB drive can be a lifesaver.

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About the author

Shujaa Imran
(27 published articles)

Shujaa Imran is a die-hard Apple user and loves helping others with their macOS and iOS issues. Apart from that, he is also a cadet pilot who wants to become a professional pilot one day.

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