How to Boot Mac from USB

There are always good reasons to have a free boot Mac drive at hand, whether as a USB, external hard drive or even an optical disk (CD/DVD). Disk Drill is a combo app that lets you create bootable USB drives for your Mac with the super-powers to recover your lost data and also perform multiple disk-related tasks.
How to Boot Mac from USB
To build bootable Mac disks of your own Disk Drill relies on AppleScript where needed and also implements its own data management algorithms. Disk Drill is the easiest way to create a free bootable Mac OS X USB drive and use it for data recovery and emergency data management.

Mac OS X and macOS don't ship on a bootable disk any more for a long time now. For some, this might be a big inconvenience, as you actually need a running Mac computer to download and install macOS from the Mac App Store, and there's nothing you can do if your only Mac crashes into an unbootable state, except for taking it to the repair shop. It could be so much easier to just insert a bootable Mac USB drive into your MacBook, and start fresh, or, and it's a much better alternative in case of an emergency like that, use Disk Drill's bootable drive, which helps you recover your data from a glitchy Mac before reinstalling macOS.

The new OS installation may and most probably will format your hard drive and easily overwrite all your existing data. Disk Drill prevents that from happening and lets you create a USB boot drive for your Mac to run data recovery from it in a matter of minutes, so you can safely proceed with resurrecting your Mac afterwards.

#1 Most common cases when you need to boot Mac from USB:

  • Your system disk has gone wild and you no longer can boot from it
  • You need to recover your lost data and don't want to install any additional apps on your Mac until the needed data is restored
  • You want to install Mac OS X on multiple Macs in a convenient way
  • You don't feel safe not having an emergency drive with the latest macOS
  • You don't want to download a complete macOS installer from the Mac App Store every time you need to reinstall your Mac OS from scratch
  • 1Download Disk Drill
  • 2Drag to Applications Folder
  • 3Launch Disk Drill

#2 Choose the type of bootable USB you need for your Mac

There are several widely known ways of creating a bootable Mac hard drive or flash drive. You can run a few commands in Terminal, search online for ready-made ISO disk images and create bootable USB from ISO on Mac, or go for one of the apps out there like DiskMaker X and others. Apple officially recommends this instruction:

  1. Start with downloading the macOS installer from the Mac App Store. Obviously this will only work with the Apple's latest and greatest macOS Sierra. Quit the installer if it opens automatically, you will only be using it as the source of system files for the bootable drive.
  2. The installer will be stored in your Applications folder.
  3. Mount your USB flash drive or other volume that you want to convert into a bootable one.
  4. Launch the Terminal app. The official one is in the Utilities subfolder among Applications. There are a few alternatives you might be already familiar with.
  5. Once in Terminal, use the "createinstallmedia" command to generate the bootable installer. Then enter the following path in Terminal: /Applications/Install\ macOS\ Sierra.app/Contents/Resources/createinstallmedia

#3 Disk Drill to boot your Mac from USB

If you need a more automated solution and some extra features, Disk Drill is a modern alternative to utilities like DiskMaker X (formerly Lion DiskMaker) and adds a ton of value to your Mac's boot options available out-of-the-box. Installing a fresh macOS is generally easy, when your Mac works normally, of course. And when it doesn't, a boot drive is the surest way to bring it back to life. However, during this installation process, you are very likely to lose your data. Use Disk Drill to save your data before you install a new macOS on your hard drive, if you can't copy it out the regular way.

#4 Disk Drill's power-ups!

Here are a few benefits of the emergency boot disk for Mac created with Disk Drill (as compared to Lion Disk Maker and other alternatives):

  • Free, always at hand, safe and secure
  • Created from your own Mac, fully licensed
  • One of the best emergency boot disk suites
  • Multiple disk-related tasks packed into one boot drive for free
  • No need to download full installation DMG (4+ GB) of macOS or Mac OS X
  • Fast and reliable creation of a boot drive
  • Simple user-friendly process

#5 How to make a bootable USB for Mac for data recovery

As promised, it's easier than you thought. Just download the latest release of Disk Drill for Mac OS X, install it, launch it and choose "Create boot drive" which will be the first extra feature on the main toolbar. Then you'll need to choose the source drive, and also the destination drive, which will be formatted and turned into a bootable hard drive or bootable USB.
That's it. The whole process usually takes no longer than a few minutes. Friendly instructions will be provided by Disk Drill itself.

How is Disk Drill's free boot drive different?

There's one task, though, that you can't accomplish with the boot drive by CleverFiles: you won't be able to install the new instance of macOS Sierra or Mac OS X Yosemite, or the previous ones. But we are working on the update of Disk Drill that will offer this functionality. Yes, you are right, you can also use AppleScript to create your own bootable drive with a minimal feature set to install macOS. As mentioned before, it's relatively easy for almost any user, if you can comfortably run a bunch of Terminal commands. If you rather not to, refer back to Disk Drill, a very powerful alternative to Lion Disk Maker, it's always ready to help you out and boot your Mac in Safe Mode.
How is Disk Drill's free boot drive different?

#6 Is Disk Drill's USB boot disk compatible with macOS Sierra?

Yes, Disk Drill will run perfectly on macOS Sierra 10.12, and will create very effective boot USB disks with macOS Sierra on board. It's also capable of creating Mac OS X Mountain Lion, Mavericks and Yosemite, as well as Mac OS X El Capitan (10.11).

#7 Once you have it, how to boot from a bootable external drive?

Insert the bootable drive that you just created with Disk Drill on a healthy Mac, into the Mac that refuses to boot or needs data recovery. Boot it up holding down the Option (⌥) key. You will see the list of available drives to boot from representing your Mac boot options. Look for the one named "Disk Drill Recovery". Select it with your mouse pointer or arrow keys and proceed with booting your Mac up. The Disk Drill app will run automatically and will be licensed as a PRO or Enterprise if you had the license at the time of the drive's creation.
If you created the startup disk with another tool, the process of using it to boot your Mac will be relatively the same (hold down the Option key immediately after turning on or rebooting your Mac), except for you will be booting from a drive with something like "External Drive" in the name, and it will not let you save your data, but will proceed with the new Mac OS X installation. Once booted, select "Install macOS" from the menu.

If for any reason you cannot boot your Mac computer with the freshly created USB drive, it's possible that you are using one of the most recent Macs and you may need to use macOS Recovery over the Internet.

Disk Drill is a data management multi-tool

With all the data recovery, data backup, disk management and optimization features Disk Drill becomes your all-in-one stop to perform disk imaging and secure data recovery at any time. Disk Drill is a well-known product available for multiple platforms for years.

Take care of your important files now!

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Bootable Data Recovery for Mac
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Don't just take our word for it:

  • Sebastian Haase
    In case you lose your data on your Disk Drill by CleverFiles is THE solution.
  • This application is pretty talented. In fifteen minutes it had found over one thousand deleted images. One thousand!