Bootable install disks for OS X

When it comes to computer operating systems, many companies are doing away with the install DVDs and allowing users to simply download the OS. This is a bit of a double-edged sword because if anything happens to your computer, or if you need to reinstall the OS, you can’t do so because you don’t have the install DVD. To prevent this from happening you can create a bootable install DVD or USB stick.

A bootable install dish is a DVD or USB drive that contains a copy of the operating system, usually for backup purposes. If your computer crashes you can reinstall the OS by simply putting the DVD or USB into the related drive and following the prompts. This is also useful if you have other Macs in the home or office and don’t want to download new versions of the OS on every computer. Note: There seems to be a trend with some Apple products to not have a DVD drive, so it may be a good idea to do this on a USB stick.

Starting from OS X 10.8, Apple has said that any new OS will be available only as a digital download. The way this works is that you download the OS file on each system you want to install it on. Once you download the update and install it the original download file is deleted. If you need to install again you have to re-download the OS again. Therefore, it’s a good idea to create a bootable drive.

Before you create a bootable disk you need a few things:

For a bootable DVD

  1. A computer with a DVD burner.
  2. A blank DVD with 4.7GB of storage space.
  3. A downloaded copy of the latest Mac OS (In this case: OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion). You can download this from the Apple Mac Store.

Note: The link is to the US version of the store, if you aren’t in the US, you will need to go to your country’s Apple Store.

For a bootable USB

  1. A blank USB stick with at least 8GB of space.

Note: The drive needs to have nothing on it, so buying a new one is the preferred method.

  1. A downloaded copy of the latest Mac OS (In this case: OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion). You can download it from the Apple Mac Store.

Note: The link is to the US version of the store, if you aren’t in the US, you will need to go to your country’s Apple Store.

How to create a bootable install
After you have downloaded the OS it’s important that you DON’T open it and start installing the update. In other words: You need to create the bootable drive before you install.

Here’s how to create your bootable install drive:

  1. Navigate to where you downloaded the OS. It is usually in your Downloads or Applications folder and should be labeled Install OS X Mountain Lion (If you downloaded Mountain Lion).
  2. Right click on the file and select Show Package Contents.
  3. Navigate to Contents followed by Shared Support. You should see a file called InstallESD.dmg.
  4. Open the Applications folder and select the Utilities folder. Open the Disk Utility app.
  5. Drag the InstallESD.dmg file into the empty space of the white box in the right-hand side of the Disk Utility app.
  6. Insert the blank DVD or USB device. If you are using a USB device, it must be blank and formatted as Mac OS Extended (Journaled). It should show up in the list of drives located above the white box in Disk Utilities.
  7. Drag the USB or DVD icon into the Destination bar in the central part of the window. Note: The Source bar should read: InstallESD.dmg.
  8. Click Restore – located in the bottom of the central part of the Disk Utility – if you are using a USB drive. Click Burn if you are using a DVD.

It will take a few minutes to burn or copy the files to the DVD or USB. When this is finished you should have a bootable install drive. You now have a few options.

  • If you would like to do a ‘fresh install’ – delete everything on your system – you can put the disk in the drive, turn off your computer, turn it on again and hold the Option key to open the installer. Be warned though, this will delete everything on your Mac’s hard drive.
  • If you would like to upgrade, but keep all of your settings and files, you can open the installer from the disk, and follow the instructions.

Creating a bootable install drive is a good idea and should be a part of any company’s backup and disaster recovery plans. If you have any questions about the process, or would like to learn more, please contact us.

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