Create a bootable MacOS USB or ISO

From .dmg, .pkg, or .app to .iso and USB.

My computer runs...

Microsoft Windows icon

Windows 10

Linux icon

Ubuntu 18.04
Debian

VirtualBox icon

VirtualBox 6.1.4+

Apple Internet Recovery icon

Recovery Mode

macOS icon

macOS 10.12+
OS X 10.10+

I need a...

Bootable USB
Card image cap

Physical USB Flash

Bootable DVD
Card image cap

Physical DVD / BD

Bootable ISO
VirtualBox Icon

Disk Image File

How to Create a Bootable Mac OS Installer from Windows

Windows is not directly compatible with the HFS+ disk image formats used by macOS.

You'll need to install Ubuntu Linux in VirtualBox to create the macOS recovery disc.

  1. Install VirtualBox v6.1.4 (not v6.0)
  2. Install VirtualBox Extension Pack v6.1.4 (must match VirtualBox version)
  3. Create a New VirtualBox virtual machine
    • named "Ubuntu Linux 18.04"
    • Dynamically allocated VDI
    • 60.00 GB
    • defaults for all other settings
  4. Plug in a USB drive, attach it VirtualBox, then EJECT it.
    • Go to SettingsPortsUSBUSB 3.0 xHCI ⇨ Add your USB drive/reader
  5. Download, Boot, and Install Ubuntu Desktop 18.04 LTS
    • Start the VirtualBox machine and select `ubuntu-xxx.iso` as the boot disk

Note: It's safe to erase and format the virtualbox hard drive (it's just a file on your real hard drive)

Continue with "How to create a Bootable MacOS Installer with Linux"

How to Create a Bootable Mac OS Installer from Ubuntu Linux

From Linux you can read and write Apple-compatible HFS+ disk images.

By creating an El Capitan recovery disc, you can then create an installation disc, and then access the App Store for other free installers, such as Catalina and Mojave.

  1. Format a >= 32gb USB drive as ExFAT
  2. Download El Capitan (InstallOSX.dmg) to the USB drive
  3. Download empty.2100m.img.bz2 to the USB drive
  4. Download and Run install-mac-tools.sh in the USB drive
  5. Download and Run linux-create-bootable-macos-recovery-image.sh in the USB drive

You should now have both InstallESD.dmg and el-capitan-rescue.iso on the USB drive.

Continue with "How to Boot MacOS with VirtualBox"
(or use Etcher to create a USB and boot with your Mac)

IMPORTANT: If you just came from the Windows section, you are now done with Linux. Eject your USB, shutdown Linux, and delete it if you wish.

How to Boot MacOS with VirtualBox

You can boot recovery or full MacOS from Windows, Linux, or MacOS. This is the only known way to download the latest MacOS.

  1. Install VirtualBox v6.1.4 (not v6.0)
  2. Install VirtualBox Extension Pack v6.1.4 (must match VirtualBox version)
  3. Create a New VirtualBox virtual machine
    • named EXACTLY "OS X El Capitan"
    • Dynamically allocated VDI
    • 100.00 GB
    • defaults for all other settings
  4. Plug in a USB drive, attach it VirtualBox, then EJECT
    • Go to SettingsPortsUSBUSB 3.0 xHCI ⇨ Add your USB drive/reader
  5. Download and Run this VirtualBox setup script:
  6. Boot the VM with el-capitan-rescue.iso (or any other MacOS / OS X .iso)
    • Important: if you boot with the wrong settings or disc and it doesn't work, delete the VM and start over

Continue with either

How to Create an OS X Installer Boot from Recovery Mode

From recovery mode you can mount a USB with InstallOSX.dmg or InstallESD.dmg and create the appropriate installer .iso with hdiutil, pkgutil and asr.

  1. Download El Capitan (InstallOSX.dmg) to the USB drive
  2. Download create-bootable-installer-for-os-x-el-capitan.sh to the USB drive
  3. Boot into Recovery Mode
  4. Insert the USB drive
  5. Open Terminal
  6. Run bash create-bootable-installer-for-os-x-el-capitan.sh from the USB drive

Continue with either

Note: If you need to create the USB from the recovery computer, you can copy the .iso to Macintosh HD and restore it to the USB drive with Disk Utility.

For

Catalina
macOS Catalina Icon

macOS 10.15
App Store Only
(see Apple support)

Mojave
macOS Mojave Icon

macOS 10.14
App Store Only
(see Apple support)

High Sierra
macOS High Sierra Icon

macOS 10.13
App Store Only
(see Apple support)

Sierra
macOS Sierra Icon

macOS 10.12
Direct Download
(see Apple support )

El Capitan
OS X El Capitan Icon

OS X 10.11
Direct Download
(see Apple support)

Yosemite
OS X Yosemite Icon

OS X 10.10
Direct Download
(see Apple support)

Mavericks
OS X Mavericks Icon

OS X 10.9
Web download
(archive.org)

Mountain Lion
OS X Mountain Lion Icon

OS X 10.8
Buy USB
(see Apple store)

Lion
OS X Lion Icon

OS X 10.7
Buy USB
(see Apple store)

Snow Leopard
OS X Snow Leopard Icon

OS X 10.6
Buy DVD
(used on eBay)

How to create a Bootable Installer for macOS Catalina 10.15

How to create a Bootable Installer for macOS Mojave 10.14

How to create a Bootable Installer for macOS High Sierra 10.13

How to create a Bootable Installer for OS X El Capitan 10.11

  1. Download El Capitan (InstallOSX.dmg) to the USB drive
  2. Download create-bootable-installer-for-os-x-el-capitan.sh to the USB drive
  3. Boot into Recovery Mode
  4. Insert the USB drive
  5. Open Terminal
  6. Run bash create-bootable-installer-for-os-x-el-capitan.sh from the USB drive
  7. Now you should have el-capitan.iso
    (the bootable installer)
  8. Insert a blank 8.5GB DVD+R
  9. Alt-click el-capitan.iso and select Burn Disk Image "el-capitan.iso" to Disc...
  10. Download Etcher from Balena
  11. Burn the el-capitan.iso to your USB using Etcher.

Need a Good Virtual Machine?

I personally use VirtualBox, but there's also a free version of VMware Workstation Player for Windows and Linux (but not Mac).

Need a Good DVD Writer?

For best compatibility use DVD-R 4.7gb when possible, or DVD+R DL 8.5gb for larger disc images.

Here's the DVD burner I personally use, and the DVD+Rs I'd buy if I didn't already have spindle:

Need a Good USB flash drive?

I recommend using MicroSD reader with a MicroSD card rated U-III (U3), v30 or 4k (all different names for the same thing), which means that it has a guaranteed minimum write speed of 30+mb/s in the worst case scenario (meaning likely 60+mb/s in the average case).

Here's what I personally use:

Option 1: MicroSD + USB 3+ Reader

Rocketek MicroSD USB Adapter
Rocketek MicroSD USB 3 Adapter (USB 3 speed verified)
nonda USB C to USB 3 Adapter
nonda USB C to USB 3 Adapter (optional, if needed)
Silicon Power 32 GB MicroSD
Silicon Power 32 GB (USB 3 speed verified)
Samsung Evo+ 32 GB MicroSD
Samsung Evo+ 32 GB (USB 3 speed verified)
Silicon Power 128 GB MicroSD
Silicon Power 128 GB (55mb/s USB 3 write speed verified)
Samsung Evo+ 512 GB MicroSD
Samsung Evo+ 512 GB (65mb/s USB 3 write speed verified)

Option 2: USB 3+ Hard Drive

2TB USB 3 Hard Drive
2TB USB 3 Hard Drive (for backups, etc)
2TB USB-C Hard Drive
2TB USB-C Hard Drive (specifically for Mac, pre-formatted)

Why not a plain old pen drive?

I've personally bought over a dozen different USB drives, but none are as fast as modern MicroSD cards.

If you are set on getting a flash drive, however, I'd definitely recommend one of these that have relatively good ratings and are thin enough that they don't block other USB ports - even when stacked side-by-side, for some of them.

USB drives have no reliable rating for reliability or speed, and there's no accountability for false advertising - even among top brands.

After testing DOZENS of USB drives, including those from name brands like Samsung, Transcend, and Kingston, I found that they're ALL ABSOLUTE GARBAGE.

As you can see in the Amazon Reviews, even the most expensive USB drives from top brands are either very SLOW or outright FAKE. Even those that average 4+ stars are rated poorly by people who transfer large files or otherwise actually test the speed against what's advertised.

However, you can get MicroSD cards have a verified rating (such as U-I, V30, V60, V90) which refers not to a theoretical "maximum" speed, but rather a guaranteed minimum / worst performance speed.