Make an OS X Yosemite 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. This post is in addition to the original instructions with the release of OS X Yosemite. This post will teach you how to make an OS X Yosemite boot drive.

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 Yosemite boot drive so once the computer is wiped clean, we can tell it to reinstall the brand new operating system and bring it back to glorious life.

Are you ready to get started? Here we go!

[su_divider top=”no” divider_color=”#ccc” size=”0″]

Make an OS X Yosemite boot drive

In this step, we’re going to make a OS X Yosemite boot drive. Apple’s latest Mac operating system, OS X Yosemite, is available as a free download from Apple. Announced at WWDC 2014, Yosemite features a brand new look and feel, as well as integration with iOS 8. 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 Yosemite

[su_note note_color=”#fefebb”]Note: You will need an 8GB flash drive for this little operation. The file you download is a 5.16GB file named “Install OS X Yosemite” to your Applications folder.[/su_note]
  1. Open the App Store or click this link to go there (you may have to click launch application so do so.)
  2. Once you’ve found the app and you’re in the App Store, click FREE and enter in your Apple ID and password.
  3. Once you’ve logged in, it will start downloading.
  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. Format flash drive

While you’re waiting for the OS X Yosemite to download, you can format your flash drive. Remember, you’ll need an 8GB thumb drive. You will lose any information you have saved on this drive, so be sure to move any files off of it prior to this step.

  1. Insert the thumb drive into a USB port on the computer.
  2. Go to Hard Drive ›› Applications ›› Utilities ›› Click to open Disk Utility.
  3. Select the 1st of the two options you have for your flash drive so it’s highlighted.
  4. Click on the ERASE tab. Select Mac OS Extended (Journaled) as the format type and keep the name as “untitled.”
  5. Your flash drive will be erased and it will be formatted properly for Mac.
  6. Your drive is ready.

C. Make an OS X Yosemite Boot Drive with DiskMaker X (Option 1)

Now you’re ready to move the install of OS X Yosemite onto the flash drive. The easiest way is to use a program like DiskMaker X. Yosemite is so new that DiskMaker is updating their files but have a working beta version that supports OS X 10.10 and will build a bootable USB for you easily.

D. Make an OS X Yosemite Boot Drive with Terminal (Option 2)

If you want this process to happen faster, you can manually add in the commands with Terminal. This is faster than the DiskMaker X option but you will have to add in a command.

  1. Insert your flash drive (8GB recommended) 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 Yosemite 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, Mavericks and now Yosemite. If you need to create a Mavericks install drive while booted into Snow Leopard, you should use Disk Utility instructions found here.
[su_divider top=”no” divider_color=”#ccc” size=”0″]

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.

Subscribe to receive inspiration, news, and ideas in your inbox.

About the author

Josh Benson


  • FYI…It seems choosing option D by using terminal. Command doesn’t work if you have no password as I did. You must have a password chosen under user account for terminal to work it seems.

  • I go the error message after it said Making disk bootable…. Should I be concerned

    Couldn’t mount dmg /Volumes/Install OS X Yosemite/Install OS X (error code 112)Mount of outer dmg failed.

  • What if I already have OS X Yosemite installed on my MacBook Pro?
    Do I still need to re-download the software from the App Store? Or should the install file already be on my computer?

    • Nope just go to the App Store, then on the task bar, Store > Purchased. You should be able to see your list of previously installed OS X. Then just download the one you want to install.

  • When I try to run the command in Terminal I get this message… -sudo: /Applications/Install: command not found Plse tell me what I am doing wrong. Thanks very much

  • I found it worked when I changed the first bit of the command to use the destination name Untitled at the end (i.e. in the middle of the whole string, as below: Applications/Install OS X –volume /Volumes/Untitled

  • Hi Josh, When i downloaded the copy of Yosemite, in applications it displays a file that says “Install OS X Yosemite”, not a file that says “Yosemite”, do I need to open up the Install OS X Yosemite application and proceed to install that as well? Please let me know! Thanks

  • Hi, when I click on the link for Yosemite in the app store, the app store opens and says “this item is not available in your country”. I’ve searched for yosemite AND mavericks. Now I have a computer that has no OS on it because i’ve already erased it. Where can I find an OS X???

    • Try to go to your App Store, then go to task bar search for Store > Purchased. You should be able to see your good old Mavericks and Yosemite there. Just click download. Hope it helped.

  • Hello Josh, thanks for this it is the first set of easy-to-follow instructions I have found! I have followed your instructions for erasing everything and using the bootable Yosemite and all was going well until the time came to reboot the Mac. I inserted the flash disk with the “Install OS X Yosemite” on it and chose it to install on my wiped Mac, but it keeps saying it’s a corrupted download. Should I just start all over again, reformat the flash drive and everything? Or am I being stupid about something? Thank you.

  • Followed your terminal instructions to the letter but I still get a ‘command not found’ message, why?

    • Are you sure you are on Yosemite? If not you will need to use a different command either for Mavericks or Sierra.

Josh Benson


Let’s Connect!