Make an OS X Mavericks boot drive

Note: This post is part of the the series: Reformat Macbook Pro to make brand new. You can always refer back to the table of contents to follow the entire process.

In our last chapter, we learned how to backup your Macbook Pro with Time Machine in the event we have an issue while reformatting your Macbook Pro. It also serves as an important archive for your data so you can access it and grab files whenever you want them on your ‘new’ Macbook Pro. In this next chapter, we’ll learn how to create an OS X Mavericks boot drive so once the computer is wiped clean, we can tell it to reinstall an operating system and come back to life.

Let’s get started.

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Make a OS X Mavericks boot drive

In this step, we’re going to make a OS X Mavericks boot drive. When you wipe your Macbook Pro clean, it needs some direction on how to come alive again. This little flash drive will plug into the side of the computer and we’ll tell the computer to read from it and install the operating system. Boom. Easy.

A. Download a copy of OS X Mavericks

  1. Open the App Store.
  2. Find OS X Mavericks and click Download (chances are you already have it)
  3. It may ask Would you like to continue? Yes, continue.
  4. This will take some time to download (it will download to your Applications folder, which we want).
  5. Take a sip of coffee and wait a bit.

B. Prepare flash drive, create boot drive

While you’re waiting for Mavericks to download, you can prepare your flash drive to be productive.

  1. Plug your flash drive into a USB port on your computer.
  2. Click on the name of the drive once, so it highlights. Change the name to: Untitled. (The code we’re going to enter will assume this drive is named Untitled.)
  3. Go to Applications ›› Utilities ›› Terminal. Open the program.
  4. You’ll see a scary-looking programming box come up. Don’t be scared. We’re going to add a piece of code that will copy OS X Mavericks to the thumb drive.
  5. Select the text of this Terminal command and copy it:
sudo /Applications/Install\ OS\ X\ --volume /Volumes/Untitled --applicationpath /Applications/Install\ OS\ X\ --nointeraction
  1. Paste the copied command into Terminal and press Return. Warning: This step will erase the destination drive or partition, so make sure it doesn’t contain any valuable data.
  2. Enter your admin-level account password when prompted.
  3. Now you’ll see the following messages:
Erasing Disk: 0%... 10%... 20%... 30%...100%...    
Copying installer files to disk...

This process will take about 30 minutes or so (depending on the speed of you computer). I was a bit worried that it was taking longer than expected. If you think it’s messed up, just wait longer. Give it 45 minutes if it needs it. Maybe an hour if your computer is really slow.

Once done, congratulations! You have your bootable OS X Mavericks drive. Keep this for any future projects (although you’ll want to update to the newest version of OS X Mavericks installer before attempting this process again if any length of time passes by.)

NOTE: (4.): This process will not work with Snow Leopard. It works only in Lion, Mountain Lion, or Mavericks. If you need to create a Mavericks install drive while booted into Snow Leopard, you should use Disk Utility instructions found here.

To continue with the series, head to the next chapter where completely wipe your Macbook Pro clean and delete all the files (including the ones slowing it down!). This is a crucial step in getting your laptop back to the ‘factory fresh’ feeling.

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About the author

Josh Benson


  • I am getting an error that “/Applications/Install OS X command not found”

      • Sorry to hear you’re having issues. I did some searching and here is something that may help:

        Thought the file “createinstallmedia” was missing, but that wasn’t the case. Then I realised I simply needed to make it executable with the following command:

        sudo chmod +x /Applications/Install OS X

        This will create the executable that DiskMaker X initially couldn’t find. After running the command above you shouldn’t have the error anymore.

        Hope that helps. Thanks for the comments.

        • Hi Josh, I can’t key in my admin password tho my keyboard is in perfect condition. Any idea why is that so?

          • Are you in Terminal? If so, you won’t see the cursor move when you enter in your password. You have to type it in and hit enter and it’ll work. It’s a bit confusing when you first try to enter in a password, but once you see how it works, you’ll never forget! Hope that helps.

        • Hi josh, Ive been following all these steps, however after i enter my password code you placed in the steps it says command not found. After i ender the sudo chmod command it comes up with chmod: /Applications/Install OS X No such file or directory.
          Is there another code or way?

  • According to the genius bartenders, my Macbook doesn’t have enough speed to run Mavericks; is there a way to do this with Mountain Lion (10.8.5)? I looked for Mountain Lion in Appstore, no luck, though did fid a $19.99 through the Apple web site. Is this where I pull out the system disks that came with my Mac? Thanks.

    • Just be sure you have a complete backup of your computer on Time Machine. If you see that it shouldn’t be a problem to upgrade, then give it a shot. If it for some reason doesn’t work, load your ML OS and continue the process. You’ll still have ML, but you’ll have a nice, clean and fast Mac.

  • I got to this stage and copy pasted into Terminal, added my admin password and got told ‘command could not be found’ what now?

  • Hello Josh. So far I’ve doing everything as instructed by you (great instructions, BTW). Just one thing: how do you know when this step is done? It’s been over 1 hour and the terminal window still reads “Copying installer files to disk…” I tried to close the Terminal window and it said “Closing this window will terminate the running processes: createinstallmed, sudo.”. Do I start it over?

    • Hi Diegvni. Glad it’s working out. Your at the painful part…waiting. (: I suggest you give it plenty of time before you worry about it not working. I remember sitting there and thinking something was wrong, but I was just antsy. I would work on something else for awhile and come back to it. And if it’s not completed in say another hour, then you can run the process again. Frustrating, but it likes to be left alone. Let us know how long it took once it finally finishes up! Thanks.

  • Hi, Josh. Thank you for the instructions. Refer to your instruction – B. Prepare flash drive, create boot drive, which I have done and found that the boot drive in Arab language. May I know how to make an English boot drive?

  • Hello, Will this work with the new operating system Yosemite? Can I just change the code in the beginning from Maverick to Yosemite?

  • Does the flash drive have to be clean and what size min?
    thanks Josh. Like your site. trying to clean my macbook pro back to factory. Can’t find mavericks on app store. I’m wondering actually if Yoni had the right idea? If you’re out there Yoni, did you try changing the name in the code? Did it work? Can it work??

  • Im trying to do the step by step, but unfortunately it seems that MAC OS X Mavericks is no longer available from the app store. How do I proceed?

    • Try going to the “purchased items” tab on the App Store – it should still show up there and be downloadable

  • Josh, i manage to download a copy of mavericks from, however the files was downloaded into the “downloads” folder, and i tried to drag the .dmg file into application folder then input your terminal command. Unfortunately it say command not found. What should i do now?

  • Hi I get this message after putting in my password:
    Applications/Install OS X No such file or directory.
    Please help. OS X Mavericks is still downloading maybe that’s why?

    Also is your process the same as restarting my mac and holding on to command and R and click reinstall Mavericks?

  • Hey Josh, once I get to the terminal app it won’t let me type my password, I still type it but nothing comes up on the code box, then it proceeds so say sorry. What should I do?

  • When typing the code into Terminal…..this is the message I get – chmod: /Applications/Install OS X No such file or directory WHAT SHOULD I DO?

  • I typed this into Terminal –

    sudo /Applications/Install OS X –volume /Volumes/Untitled –applicationpath /Applications/Install OS X –nointeraction – and get “command not found”


  • I get this:

    sudo: /Applications/Install OS X command not found


  • hello, i downloaded mavericks from my purchased folder in app store. i insered a 1TB external (and before that tried with a 16GB flash drive) and put the code into terminal and entered my admin. password and i got the same error as everyone else: sudo: /Applications/Install OS X command not found

    what else can i do??

  • Tried this yesterday on an El Capitan MacBook Air installing Mavericks to a Patriot LX Series 200GB High-Speed Micro SDXC card. Starting Mavericks was troublesome. It asked to connected to a Wifi network. I typed the correct password but it wouldn’t work so I went ahead without a network connection. Then it asked me to set up a user account, which I did. Then it went back to the choose network connection prompt. And again with the create user account. Third time around I forced a shut down and reboot spent 15 minutes on spinning grey icon on Apple logo. Today I booted into the 10.9 System Recovery mode to run Verify Disk on the Mavericks partition, the result being no problems. But booting into the Mavericks SD partition was a no go. I gave up after 15 minutes of spinning grey icon on Apple logo. I guess I’ll reinstall from scratch tomorrow. Are SD cards not good for installing OS X on? I don’t understand what’s going wrong.

  • Here’s the terminal code to make a Sierra boot disk

    sudo /Applications/Install macOS –volume /Volumes/Untitled –applicationpath /Applications/Install macOS –nointeraction

  • For Sierra (Erik’s reply below has been truncated – remove the spaces around the word ‘Resources’ and use this one): sudo /Applications/Install macOS Resources /createinstallmedia –volume /Volumes/Untitled –applicationpath /Applications/Install macOS –nointeraction

Josh Benson


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