How To Create A Recovery USB Drive in OS X

| How-To

Beginning in Lion (10.7), there's a new feature in Mac OS X to assist you if things go really wrong, since you can't boot from disk anymore. This new feature is called Recovery, and it gives you a way to start "from scratch" if you need to rebuild your Mac.

There are a couple of methods for doing this, which both lead to the same place: A USB drive (8GB or larger), safely stashed in a drawer, which has a bootable OS on it, as well as an installer to put that OS on a hard drive.

First up is the "official" method, a utility introduced with Mavericks, called Recovery Disk Assistant. This works with Lion, Mountain Lion, and Mavericks, all the versions of Mac OS that were distributed via the Mac App Store.

Using this method is pretty straightforward: download the Recovery Disk Assistant, plug in that USB drive, and follow the prompts. After a little while you will have a bootable backup of your OS.

An alternate method that dates back to the release of Lion is Disk Maker X, formerly known as Lion Disk Maker. This is a nice wrapper for a set of Applescripts that will also create a USB drive to back up from. This was the nicest option before Apple built a utility of its own. It works much the same way as Apple's too, launch the app and follow the prompts and you end up with a USB drive you can boot from.

Keep in mind you can't install an older OS than your computer shipped with, but otherwise to use this newly minted installer all you have to do is plug in the USB drive, and hold down the Option key while the machine boots. This will give you your boot drive options, then choose the USB stick and you're all set.

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Kelly, of the methods you describe, is there a preferred way ?


Furbies ~ I used DiskMaker X on a 64 GB USB stick to make a recovery/install/maintenance disk. It worked like a charm. I threw in a couple of apps to use while maintenance processes are running in the background.


Back when I supported Macs at a non-profit, I had a hard drive with 6 partitions
1) Leopard Boot Disc
2) Snow Leopard Boot Disc
3) Lion Boot Disc
4) Bootable Leopard
5) Bootable Snow Leopard
6) Bootable Lion
I had to have all these, as the company was using this many versions of OSX.  It can in handy nearly every day.


I put mine on a 16GB Class 10 SD card - full Mavericks install plus DiskWarrior, 1Password, Onyx and TinkerTool. Now I can run from the SD card and use it to repair the boot drive or reinstall software. Works great.


Recovery Disk Assistant requires only 2GB to create a Recovery HD.

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