How to make a bootable macOS High Sierra install disk on USB or Thunderbolt drive

Posted:
in macOS edited January 26
If you don't have a macOS Server installation and have multiple macs to upgrade, it can be a bandwidth-sucking chore. Instead, there's a way to download a full install of the latest version of High Sierra and make install media using the Terminal -- AppleInsider shows you how.




If you only manage one Mac, you really don't need to do this, unless you want a local copy on hand form some reason. If you still want to get started, download macOS from the Mac App Store.

The installer will launch automatically after download. Quit the installer without installing High Sierra.




After downloading the installer, mount the volume you want to use to make the bootable installer. Your best bet is something fast, like an external SSD, or fast flash drive -- the speed of your installs will vary greatly based on the speed of your media on both ends of the install.

For the purposes of this tip, in the Finder name the external drive macinstall.

In the Utilities folder, open the Terminal.




Enter:

sudo /Applications/Install\ macOS\ High\ Sierra.app/Contents/Resources/createinstallmedia --volume /Volumes/macinstall and hit Return.

The Terminal will request your administrator password, so enter it to validate and hit Return.




Confirm the external volume erase, rename, and copy, by hitting Y and hit Return when prompted.




When the Terminal informs you that the process is done, you should have bootable media which can be used on any compatible Mac. This works with nearly all media -- but we've found that some cheap USB 3.0 flash drives won't boot, and there is no solution other than using a different drive.

If you do have a macOS Server installation, you can cache upgrade files on the server to only download them once. How to use macOS Server to do that is a tip for another day.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 27
    SoliSoli Posts: 7,360member
    I did this last week when my new MBP, fresh out of the box, failed to both start or boot into Recovery when the OS update it asked me to do failed.

    I remember when it was a lot more work to create a bootable drive. Still, a GUI option would be a nice option built into the installer to help that may need to help others over the phone,
    edited January 26
  • Reply 2 of 27
    maltzmaltz Posts: 91member
    Yeah, I really don't understand why this is a command line only thing.  BTW, this method has actually been around since 10.9 Mavericks.
  • Reply 3 of 27
    I have found this useful in the past: https://macdaddy.io/install-disk-creator/
  • Reply 4 of 27
    dysamoriadysamoria Posts: 1,712member
    Proofread. Check paragraph two...

    Will this work from a read-only volume like a DL DVD-RW? I'm considering testing High Sierra on an external drive to see if I want to upgrade to it on my iMac now that El Capitan is abandoned by Apple on Logic X 10.4.
  • Reply 5 of 27
    macxpressmacxpress Posts: 4,364member
    I use this method all the time when building USB boot drives. Its always worked great for me.
    hike1272
  • Reply 6 of 27
    macxpressmacxpress Posts: 4,364member
    I have found this useful in the past: https://macdaddy.io/install-disk-creator/
    This sometimes doesn't always work...especially with new OS's. You have to wait for them to update the software. But, after they do it should work fine. 
  • Reply 7 of 27
    I use a sweet little free app called Boot Buddy. I've used a few of this type of app and this is definitely the quickest and easiest to use.

    https://sqwarq.com/boot-buddy/

    sqwarq is Phil Stokes' site for his troubleshooting software. He's well known in the ASC (Apple Support Community) for helping users troubleshoot their system issues.
    jony0
  • Reply 8 of 27
    FYI, for those who cannot upgrade to High Sierra yet due to hardware or software compatibility issues, if you bug Apple Support enough they will send you a link to the MacOS Sierra installer. I did this about a month ago and created a bootable Sierra install disk on a USB thumb drive using instructions similar to the ones above.
  • Reply 9 of 27
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 2,697administrator
    Settle down, everybody. If you can't see your comment, re-read our commenting guidelines.
  • Reply 10 of 27
    neilmneilm Posts: 526member
    macxpress said:
    I have found this useful in the past: https://macdaddy.io/install-disk-creator/
    This sometimes doesn't always work...especially with new OS's. You have to wait for them to update the software. But, after they do it should work fine. 
    It works fine for High Sierra. Made a couple of install disks with it last week.
  • Reply 11 of 27

    I already explained that I searched for the Sierra install and found the exact same help page that you indicated. The link to the Sierra installer on that page went to the High Sierra installer instead. THAT is why I needed to "bug" Apple Support. And I had to "bug" them a few times because the first time I contacted them they replied by sending a link to the exact page that I had already found with the Sierra link that went to High Sierra. So I had to "bug" them one or two more times to explain that the link on that page was NOT going to the Sierra install, but to the High Sierra install. The "bugging" involved me convincing them that the link was not going to the Sierra installer. Once they understood, they sent me a direct link to the Sierra installer page via email. FYI, the exact date that they emailed the link to me was Nov. 3, 2017. 

    Now that I think about it, another reason why I suggested that you would have to “bug” Apple Support is because at one point I called them and I was specifically told that the Sierra installer was no longer available. I explained that it couldn’t be the case because some people can’t upgrade to High Sierra yet due to compatibility issues. The tech support rep’s response was basically that those people are out of luck, because the Sierra installer was no longer available, so I hung up.  At that point I thought that Apple was intentionally pushing people to upgrade to High Sierra and that I would have to plead my case for a Sierra installer. So I called Apple Support again and spoke with a rep that was much more understanding.  After I explained my situation, she emailed me the direct link to the Sierra installer.  So based on my experience it seemed to me that Apple did not want to make the Sierra installer readily available, but if you “bugged” Apple Support and pleaded your case they would make it available to you. I did not necessarily think it was a bad link that needed to be fixed. So if the link to the Sierra installer is now working properly, terrific. Again, I was just trying to be helpful.

    edited January 26
  • Reply 12 of 27
    dr. xdr. x Posts: 143member
    I use DiskMaker X and it works wonderfully and is easy to use. I've used it to make bootable OS X, MacOS install drives from 10.7 Lion all the way up to 10.13, High Sierra.
  • Reply 13 of 27
    larz2112 said:

    I already explained that I searched for the Sierra install and found the exact same help page that you indicated. The link to the Sierra installer on that page went to the High Sierra installer instead. THAT is why I needed to "bug" Apple Support. And I had to "bug" them a few times because the first time I contacted them they replied by sending a link to the exact page that I had already found with the Sierra link that went to High Sierra. So I had to "bug" them one or two more times to explain that the link on that page was NOT going to the Sierra install, but to the High Sierra install. The "bugging" involved me convincing them that the link was not going to the Sierra installer. Once they understood, they sent me a direct link to the Sierra installer page via email. FYI, the exact date that they emailed the link to me was Nov. 3, 2017. 

    Now that I think about it, another reason why I suggested that you would have to “bug” Apple Support is because at one point I called them and I was specifically told that the Sierra installer was no longer available. I explained that it couldn’t be the case because some people can’t upgrade to High Sierra yet due to compatibility issues. The tech support rep’s response was basically that those people are out of luck, because the Sierra installer was no longer available, so I hung up.  At that point I thought that Apple was intentionally pushing people to upgrade to High Sierra and that I would have to plead my case for a Sierra installer. So I called Apple Support again and spoke with a rep that was much more understanding.  After I explained my situation, she emailed me the direct link to the Sierra installer.  So based on my experience it seemed to me that Apple did not want to make the Sierra installer readily available, but if you “bugged” Apple Support and pleaded your case they would make it available to you. I did not necessarily think it was a bad link that needed to be fixed. So if the link to the Sierra installer is now working properly, terrific. Again, I was just trying to be helpful.

    Next time, ask for senior tech. They are way more helpful than the normal one.
  • Reply 14 of 27
    ednlednl Posts: 9member
    Useful addition for those daunted by typing that Terminal command letter-by-letter: you can use Tab to auto-complete every part of the location. For instance, type /A and Tab and it will say /Applications/. Sometimes you need a few extra letters to make the choice unique. If it stalls with a beep then you have to choose, type Tab again to see your options.
  • Reply 15 of 27
    macxpressmacxpress Posts: 4,364member
    ednl said:
    Useful addition for those daunted by typing that Terminal command letter-by-letter: you can use Tab to auto-complete every part of the location. For instance, type /A and Tab and it will say /Applications/. Sometimes you need a few extra letters to make the choice unique. If it stalls with a beep then you have to choose, type Tab again to see your options.
    You can also just copy and paste the commands which is what I do. To me, thats why the commands are usually formatted differently from the article.
    Soli
  • Reply 16 of 27
    macxpressmacxpress Posts: 4,364member

    neilm said:
    macxpress said:
    I have found this useful in the past: https://macdaddy.io/install-disk-creator/
    This sometimes doesn't always work...especially with new OS's. You have to wait for them to update the software. But, after they do it should work fine. 
    It works fine for High Sierra. Made a couple of install disks with it last week.
    Most likely because they updated it to work properly. 
  • Reply 17 of 27
    MacProMacPro Posts: 17,291member
    jrhall said:
    I use a sweet little free app called Boot Buddy. I've used a few of this type of app and this is definitely the quickest and easiest to use.

    https://sqwarq.com/boot-buddy/

    sqwarq is Phil Stokes' site for his troubleshooting software. He's well known in the ASC (Apple Support Community) for helping users troubleshoot their system issues.
    Thank you for the heads up on Phil's site.  Some great utilities there.
  • Reply 18 of 27
    cornchipcornchip Posts: 1,051member
    Just did this the other day upgrading from a 640GB to a 1TB but used disk maker X for my old El Cap MP. The 1TB was the old time machine and I had already switched to a 2TB for Time Machine.  Worked like a charm. Although Somewhere in the process, I or a wife or kid clicked something wrong and did a clean instal. Thank God for Time Machine. 
  • Reply 19 of 27
    macdoktormacdoktor Posts: 1unconfirmed, member
    Here's the command that worked for me: sudo /Applications/Install\ macOS\ High\ Sierra.app/Contents/Resources/createinstallmedia --volume /Volumes/macinstall --applicationpath /Applications/Install\ macOS\ High\ Sierra.app
  • Reply 20 of 27
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 2,697administrator
    macdoktor said:
    Here's the command that worked for me: sudo /Applications/Install\ macOS\ High\ Sierra.app/Contents/Resources/createinstallmedia --volume /Volumes/macinstall --applicationpath /Applications/Install\ macOS\ High\ Sierra.app
    What did you need the applicationpath for? It's not necessary -- was it throwing you an error?
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