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How to Create a Bootable Big Sur Installer Drive

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Apple just recently launched Big Sur and while there are noticeable updates, some say it’s not the big update expected. Still, a high adoption rate should be seen soon. In today’s post, we’ll talk about how to create a bootable installer for the new macOS version.

For this process, you can opt to use an external drive that you would be utilizing as a startup disk from which you can download the new macOS. Do take note that this process isn’t exactly made for beginners but for system administrators or for people who know how to use the command line. Still, you can try this process for yourself, as it’s pretty detailed anyway.

If you’ve been a Mac user for a long time, you should know that you don’t really need a bootable installer in order to update your macOS or reinstall it. However, having one can be useful and can save up your time if you’re installing it on several computers. That way, you won’t have to download the installer for every computer that you’ll be upgrading.

You won’t need much to create a bootable installer drive for Big Sur. You only need two things: an external drive and a downloaded installer for macOS Big Sur. The external drive can be a simple USB flash drive or any other secondary volume. What’s important is that it should be formatted as Mac OS Extended and should contain at least 12GB of memory space.

First up, download macOS Big Sur. When you do, it’ll automatically download to the Applications folder as an app. In case it opens right away after downloading, quit the process, and stop the installation. Also, make sure that you’re downloading from Apple to get the correct installer. After downloading the installer, follow these steps:

  1. Connect the external drive that you’ll be using as a startup disk to your computer.
  2. Open the Applications folder and click on the Utilities folder.
  3. Find and open the Terminal app.
  4. Type or paste this command in Terminal:

sudo /Applications/Install\ macOS\ Big\ –volume /Volumes/MyVolume

If you’re using a Mac that’s running on macOS Sierra or earlier, add the –applicationpath argument and installer path.

Do note that with this process, you have to make sure that the installer in your Applications folder. In addition, the external drive should be named MyVolume. Otherwise, you must first change the “MyVolume” in the command to the actual name of your external drive.

Once you’ve typed this command, here are the next steps:

  1. Press the Return key on your keyboard in order to enter the command.
  2. You will be prompted to enter your administrator password. After which, press Return again. Something to take note of is that the Terminal won’t display any characters as you enter your password.
  3. You will then be prompted to confirm that you wish to erase the volume. Press the Y key then press Return. The Terminal will display the progress of the deletion.
  4. Once the volume has been erased, the Terminal would send an alert that it would like to access the files on the external drive. Click OK and it will proceed to copy the installer.
  5. Once finished, the Terminal will let you know and you can simply quit the App. Properly eject the external drive and you’re done.

Now, how do you use the bootable installer? Here’s what to do if you’re using a Mac with Apple Silicon:

  1. Connect the external drive to the Mac that you’ll be updating. Make sure that it’s connected to the internet and is compatible with macOS Big Sur.
  2. Press and hold the Power button of your Mac to turn it on until the startup options window appears on the screen. It should display the bootable volumes as well as a gear icon.
  3. Choose the volume that contains the macOS Big Sur installer and click Continue.
  4. This would open your macOS Big Sur installer. After which, the screen will display the instructions on how to install it properly on your Mac. Simply follow these steps until the installation is complete.

On the other hand, if you’re using a Mac with an Intel processor, this is what you should do:

  1. Connect the external drive to the Mac that you’ll be updating. Make sure that it’s connected to the internet and is compatible with macOS Big Sur.
  2. Turn on or restart your Mac. Following this, immediately press and hold the Option/Alt key.
  3. Once a dark screen with your bootable volumes is in view, release the Option/Alt key.
  4. Choose the volume that contains the macOS Big Sur installer and press the Return key. You can also just click the Up arrow after selecting the right volume.
  5. If prompted, select your desired language.
  6. From the Utilities window, click on Install macOS. Click continue and the screen should display the instructions. Simply follow these steps until the installation is complete.

Also read “What to Do When Your MacBook Keeps Restarting”

Kokou Adzo

Kokou Adzo

Kokou Adzo is a stalwart in the tech journalism community, has been chronicling the ever-evolving world of Apple products and innovations for over a decade. As a Senior Author at Apple Gazette, Kokou combines a deep passion for technology with an innate ability to translate complex tech jargon into relatable insights for everyday users.

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