How To Create A Boot Drive for OS X

I love that Apple has moved to the world of digital downloads for major OS updates, but that can sometimes prove problematic for folks who work on Mac hardware for a living. When you are troubleshooting hard drive issues, it is helpful to have a dedicated boot drive. Below is the process to create one:

  1. Buy a minimum of an 8 GB flash drive (I always just get a 16 GB).
  2. Re-download the installation file for the OS. This can be found in the purchases section of the Mac App Store.
  3. Download and install Lion Boot DiskMaker. It also works on 10.8 and 10.9 (grab the latest beta).
  4. Run the app and follow the instructions.
  5. Once it has finished (it takes a while), you can trash the OS installation file from your applications folder.

To boot from the drive, start up your Mac with the drive inserted. Once you hear the chime, press and hold the option key. You will be able to select a boot disk from the next screen. There are manual ways to do this using Disk Utility under Lion and Mountain Lion, but this is apparently a different process in Mavericks. Lion Boot DiskMaker has released a beta that works with the Mavericks GM. You can repeat this process when 10.8.X and 10.9.X updates are released to update your drive.