Making a bootable recovery disk for Mac OS X Mavericks (USB)

I picked up a used (new to me!) Mac Mini. If you get the 2009 or later model, you can upgrade to the latest Mac OS. My interest in doing this is mainly so I can better understand how to use Mono and MonoGame on the Mac – and just to stay current what what the latest is.

Upgrade the Hard Drive:
Just like with a PC, a Mac can benefit greatly from using a solid state drive. Mac Mini’s use 2.5” SATA type drives. But how do you even open the case – there are no screws!! Well, luckily, there are tutorials on YouTube. In short, you need a firm putty knife. This video explains it, exactly – and what I did was this, exactly – and it went very smooth. It took just a few minutes!

Why upgrade? Well, with the 5400RPM drive, the install of the OS took about an hour, and with the new SSD, it took 15 minutes. Second, once you have the OS loaded, the difference is noticeable with everything you do. It makes such a big difference – it’s VERY noticeable!

Making a bootable disk:
I guess it’s somewhat common for people to have two disk partitions on a Mac – the operating system, and then a partition that has the operating system installation. That way, you can always completely re-install the operating system without having the DVD handy.

For me, that seemed like that was going to be a bit too complicated – mainly because of my ignorance. I’d have to know how much room the installation would need, BEFORE I installed the OS. That is because you use the “Disk Utility” before the install to partition your drive. If I guessed wrong on the size, partition type, or file system, then I’d have to do it over again.

Besides that, when I searched on the internet for how to do this – pretty much everyone had tutorials on how to instead, put the OS Installation on a USB drive. So, I just wanted to write down what I learned. I basically followed the directions from here:

Here’s how to do it:

First, go into the App Store and download the Mavericks update to your hard drive (this will take a while). This is assuming you’ve already upgraded to 10.9. When you go into the App Store, you will see an option simply to “Download”. Meanwhile, you can do these other steps.

You need an 8GB USB drive or greater. Launch the Disk Utility. Click on the USB drive listed, go to the Partition Tab. For the Partition Layout, choose 1 partition, then click “Options…” and choose “GUID Partition Table”


Click Apply. Then click on the new partition and erase it – formatting it as a “Mac OS Extended (Journaled)” file system.

Now open a Terminal window. In there, type:

sudo /Applications/Install OS X –volume /Volumes/untitled –applicationpath /Applications/Install OS X –nointeraction

That should be all one line, and the “untitled” should be replaced with whatever that new partition name is. Magically enough, this takes about 10 minutes, but you should see:


Booting from that USB Drive:
If you are already logged into the Mac, go to Spotlight and search for Startup Disk:


And you will now see the option to boot from (and re-install) the Mavericks 10.9 operating system – so long as that USB drive is plugged in:


If you have a Mac keyboard plugged in, you can also hold down the “Option” key while booting to choose the boot device, and you can boot that way too.

Posted in Apple Stuff, Infrastructure, Uncategorized
One comment on “Making a bootable recovery disk for Mac OS X Mavericks (USB)
  1. […] so that I can do a fresh install of this new OS if I ever need/want to. I wrote how to do this for a USB drive, and a hard drive for OS X Mavericks. Well, you might not be surprised the operation is pretty much […]


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