Mac OS X USB Stick

Create a bootable USB stick with Apple Mac OS X also for downgrading

Today I'll describe to you how you can create a bootable USB stick in an emergency or to upgrade or downgrade an existing Mac OS X operating system.

Contrary to some statements that can be found on the Internet, it is currently possible to downgrade the operating system again, i.e. to install an earlier operating system.

If your iMac , MacBook Pro or Mac Mini / Pro had a release date of 2013 and the first devices were released with, for example, OS X Mavericks 10.9, you can downgrade the device back to this operating system if it has been updated.

It is not possible to install an operating system that was released before the release date of your device.

Here are a few release dates for Apple operating systems:

Mac OS X Snow Leopard 10.6 - August 28, 2009

Mac OS X Lion 10.7 - 11/20/2011

Mac OS X Mountain Lion 10.8 - 11/25/2012

Mac OS X Mavericks 10.9 - 10/22/2013

Mac OS X Yosemite 10.10 - 10/16/2014

Mac OS X El Capitan 10.11 - 09/30/2015

Mac OS X Sierra 10.12 - 09/20/2016

Mac OS X High Sierra 10.13 - 09/25/2017

Mac OS X Mojave 10.14 - 09/24/2018

Mac OS X Catalina 10.15 - 10/07/2019

Mac OS X Big Sur 11.0 - November 12, 2020

Mac OS X Monterey 12.0 - October 25, 2021

Mac OS Ventura 13.0 - October 24, 2022

Mac OS Sonoma 14.0 - September 26, 2023

There are two ways to create a bootable stick:

1. The integrated Apple tool that is started via the terminal.

2. Free software such as DiskMaker for Mac OS X.

Creating the USB stick

First we need the image for the operating system, i.e. a file that contains the software.

I would always only recommend images directly from Apple, as other sites may have integrated malware.

Here are some images for the operating systems directly from Apple:

High Sierra:



Big Sur:




Just download the required image but do not install it. Once the download is complete, the stick can be created.

To create a stick, an 8GB USB stick is required for older operating systems up to Mojave. For Catalina it should be a larger stick 16GB.

First, the stick must be deleted.

To do this, open the Disk Utility program (click on the magnifying glass at the top right and search for and select Disk Utility).

Select and delete the stick in the disk utility and give it a name (Mac OS Extended /Guide partition table).

I call the stick “empty” here.

If the stick is deleted, close the hard drive utility.

If you create the stick using software such as Diskimage, you can skip the following steps and simply start your software.

This description refers to the built-in Apple tool for creating a boot stick.

Open Terminal (click on the magnifying glass at the top right and search for Terminal and confirm).

Here are the terminal commands for the different operating systems:


sudo /Applications/Install\ macOS\ --volume /Volumes/leer


sudo /Applications/Install\ macOS\ --volume /Volumes/empty


 sudo /Applications/Install\ macOS\ --volume /Volumes/ empty

Big Sur:

 sudo /Applications/Install\ macOS\ Big\ --volume /Volumes/ empty

Catalina :

sudo /Applications/Install\ macOS\ --volume /Volumes/empty

Mojave :

sudo /Applications/Install\ macOS\ --volume /Volumes/empty

High Sierra :

sudo /Applications/Install\ macOS\ High\ --volume /Volumes/empty


sudo /Applications/Install\ macOS\ --volume /Volumes/empty

El Capitan :

sudo /Applications/Install\ macOS\ El\ --volume /Volumes/empty

The command can simply be copied and pasted into the terminal. If you have also called your stick empty , all you have to do is press the Enter key. If you have named your stick something else, the blank must be replaced with the name you gave it.

Now you have to enter your administrator password, which you use in Mac OS X, to confirm it and then confirm it with the Y key.

Now the stick is created. Terminal reports when the stick is ready.


In order to install the operating system via the stick, it obviously has to be connected to the device. If the device is not yet switched off, switch off the device.

To start from the stick, the left ALT (Option) key must be pressed and held until the stick appears in the display (Install Mac OS...).

Then select the stick and start.

Then select the desired language.

If you want a complete new installation (clean install, without all your data) or a downgrade/older operating system, the hard drive must be deleted first. With a simple update, if you want to keep your data, this is not necessary . Here you can go directly to install macOS and confirm the further steps.

Description Downgrade/Clean Install (attention all data will be deleted)

Select Disk Utility from the menu.

In the disk utility, click on “View” at the top left and set it to “Show all devices” .

Select the hard drive/SSD - not the partitions!

Then click Delete and give the hard drive a name. Then confirm the whole thing.

If the hard drive is erased, exit Disk Utility.

The operating system can now be reinstalled. To do this, go to “Install macOS” and continue.

Confirm all further steps with Continue and select the hard drive on which the operating system should be installed.

Finally confirm the installation.

The whole thing is described here again directly by Apple, in case anything is unclear:

Attention, very important! Always connect the device to a power adapter/power supply during installation. Always wait for the installation to complete. For some operating systems such as High Sierra, Mojave or Catalina, the firmware is also reinstalled. Sometimes the screen goes completely black for several seconds or even minutes, which can lead you to incorrectly assume that the installation has failed and then turn off or restart the device. Under no circumstances should you switch off or restart the device, otherwise the firmware may be damaged and the device will no longer start at all. If your screen goes black, wait at least 30 minutes before you do anything.

Attention, we assume no liability for any errors that occur! You act on your own responsibility, which is why installations should only be carried out by experienced users.

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