Cre­ate a bootable in­staller drive

Ro­man Loy­ola ex­plains how to put the macOS Mo­jave in­staller on an ex­ter­nal drive and use it to in­stall the OS on a Mac

Macworld - - CONTENTS -

When­ever Ap­ple re­leases a new ver­sion of macOS, I like to cre­ate a bootable USB in­stal­la­tion drive. I test dif­fer­ent Macs, and when I need to up­grade those ma­chines, it’s a lot more ef­fi­cient to plug in the USB in­staller drive and run the in­staller, than to log into the App Store, down­load the 5GB OS in­staller, and then run it.

Be­cause it’s so easy to cre­ate an ex­ter­nal in­stal­la­tion drive, it’s my pre­ferred means of

in­stalling the op­er­at­ing sys­tem. I keep it around for

those time when I would rather use the drive than

rely on boot­ing in Re­cov­ery mode.

In this ar­ti­cle I’ll go over the dif­fer­ent ways you

can cre­ate a bootable macOS Mo­jave in­stal­la­tion

drive. But be­fore I give in­struc­tions on how to

cre­ate the drive, I’ll go over the items you’ll need

and how to get them.

Ed­i­tor’s note: This tu­to­rial was writ­ten us­ing the

first ver­sion of the macOS Mo­jave Pub­lic Beta.

Get an ex­ter­nal drive and an adap­tor

The macOS Mo­jave Pub­lic Beta in­staller soft­ware is over 5GB. So you need a USB ex­ter­nal drive that can hold that much data. The drive can be a thumb drive, hard drive, or SSD.

If you want to use a thumb drive, an 8GB drive works per­fectly. I used an 8GB Kingston Data Trav­eler G4 (£5 from; it’s cheap and it sup­ports USB 3.1, so it’s fast. I’ve also used a Vi­sionTek 120GB USB 3.0 Pocket Solid State Drive (£109 from and older USB thumb drives that sup­port USB 2, which is slower, but works.

If you have a 2015 or newer MacBook or a 2016 or newer MacBook Pro, you may need Ap­ple’s USB to USB-C adap­tor (£19 from This will al­low you to con­nect a stor­age de­vice that uses a USB type-A con­nec­tor. If you don’t have an ex­ter­nal drive and you have a USB-C Mac lap­top, you could buy the SanDisk Ul­tra USB Type-C Flash Drive, which has a USB-C con­nec­tor.

When cre­at­ing the boot drive, the stor­age de­vice is re­for­mat­ted, so there’s no need to for­mat the drive be­fore­hand.

Get the macOS Mo­jave in­staller soft­ware

In or­der to get the Mo­jave in­staller, you need to sign up for the Ap­ple Beta Soft­ware Program (­fuwnz). Once you’re en­rolled, Ap­ple will give you ac­cess to the Mo­jave in­staller in the App Store. If you launch the App Store app and look for it in the Up­dates sec­tion, you won’t find it.

Note that if you de­cide to par­tic­i­pate in the Beta Soft­ware Program, there is a pol­icy that Ap­ple asks you to agree to. And keep in mind that this is beta soft­ware, so you could run into prob­lems with the

OS and with the app that you use. You can read the in­for­ma­tion to learn more about Mo­jave. When you’re ready to down­load the soft­ware, click the Down­load but­ton un­der the icon on the up­per left. (If you’ve al­ready down­loaded the in­staller, the but­ton will say Open in­stead of Down­load.)

Once the down­load is com­plete, the in­staller will launch au­to­mat­i­cally. But don’t con­tinue with the in­stal­la­tion. In­stead, press Com­mand-Q on your key­board to quit the in­staller. The Mo­jave in­staller app will be in your Ap­pli­ca­tions folder, so you can go there and launch it later to up­grade your Mac to the new op­er­at­ing sys­tem.

The quick way

I used a free app called In­stall Disk Cre­ator ( to make the in­stal­la­tion drive.

There’s an­other app called DiskMaker X (­puJ), but at the time of writ­ing I wasn’t able to make it work with the Mo­jave Pub­lic Beta in­staller. Down­load In­stall Disk Cre­ator by click­ing on the link above. When the down­load is done, you can move it over to your Ap­pli­ca­tions folder. Then fol­low these steps to cre­ate your bootable macOS Mo­jave drive.

1. Con­nect your drive to your Mac. It’s okay if it’s not for­mat­ted as a Mac drive. The app will re­for­mat it.

2. Launch In­stall Disk Cre­ator.

3. In the main win­dow, you’ll see a pop-up menu un­der Se­lect the vol­ume to be­come the in­staller. Click on the menu and se­lect your drive.

4. Un­der the pop-up menu, you’ll see Se­lect the OS X in­staller. (macOS used to be called OS X.) If you have only the Mo­jave Beta in­staller on your Mac, In­stall Disk Cre­ator will au­to­mat­i­cally se­lect it. If you have other

macOS in­stall­ers, you need to click on Se­lect the OS X in­staller and se­lect the Mo­jave in­staller.

5. When you’re ready, click Cre­ate in­staller. Your

Mac may tell you that In­stall Disk Cre­ator wants

to make changes, and you need to en­ter your

user­name and pass­word. Af­ter you do this, the app

will take a few min­utes to cre­ate the boot drive. A

progress bar will ap­pear at the bot­tom of the In­stall

Disk Cre­ate win­dow. When the app is done, the

in­staller is ready to use.

The longer way us­ing the Ter­mi­nal

You don’t need to use In­stall Disk Cre­ator to cre­ate a bootable in­staller. You can do it in the Ter­mi­nal and it’s easy. Here are the in­struc­tions:

1. Con­nect the ex­ter­nal drive to your Mac. In these

in­struc­tions, I use Un­ti­tled as the name of the

ex­ter­nal drive. If your drive is named some­thing

else, you need to change Un­ti­tled to the name

of your drive.

2. Launch Ter­mi­nal (/Ap­pli­ca­tions/Util­i­ties/


3. Se­lect and copy the fol­low­ing:

sudo /Ap­pli­ca­tions/In­stall\ macOS\


cre­ate­in­stall­me­dia --vol­ume /Vol­umes/

Un­ti­tled -- /Ap­pli­ca­tions/In­stall\ macOS\


4. Go back to Ter­mi­nal and paste the copied code at the prompt. Press Re­turn.

5. Ter­mi­nal will warn you that your ex­ter­nal drive needs to be erased. To pro­ceed, type Y at the prompt and press Re­turn.

6. You’ll see that Ter­mi­nal erases your drive and then copies the in­staller file to your drive. This will take a few min­utes.

7. Af­ter copy­ing, Ter­mi­nal is done. You should see

Ter­mi­nal dis­play a ‘Copy com­plete’ and Done

no­tice. You can quit Ter­mi­nal and your drive is

ready for use.

How to boot from the in­staller drive

1. Plug your ex­ter­nal drive into your Mac.

2. Power up (or restart) your Mac. Press down on the Alt key while the Mac boots.

3. Af­ter a few mo­ments, your Mac should dis­play the Startup Man­ager, which will show you the avail­able boot drives. Click on the ex­ter­nal drive and press Re­turn. (You don’t need to se­lect a net­work to pro­ceed.)

4. Your Mac will dis­play a macOS Util­i­ties win­dow. If you want to in­stall Mo­jave and leave the data in­tact, se­lect In­stall macOS. If you want to start over and wipe out the data, you need to go into Disk Util­ity to re­for­mat the in­ter­nal drive first, and then in­stall macOS Mo­jave.

A Vi­sionTek USB drive con­nected to a 2017 MacBook Pro via Ap­ple’s USB-C VGA Mul­ti­port Adapter (£69 from

The main win­dow of In­stall Disk Cre­ator

Paste the code you copied into the Ter­mi­nal then press Re­turn. You’ll be asked about eras­ing the disk

The Ter­mi­nal. Don’t worry if your screen doesn’t look like this. I changed it in the Ter­mi­nal set­tings, and you can too. In Ter­mi­nal, se­lect Ter­mi­nal > Pref­er­ences > Pro­files, click on the one you like, and then click on the De­fault but­ton

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