Create OS X Recovery USB and Prevent Your Mac from a Disaster

macbook pro recovery usb

A bootable emergency drive on hand is something that can prevent a Mac owner from losing the entire personal data in case of any SOS situations. Since Mac OS X Lion, each Apple’s operating system possesses a tiny hidden recovery partition. This Recovery HD placed on the internal hard drive weighs just 650MB, and it is reserved for different utilities – from Terminal to Hardware Diagnostic. A user can also create a Recovery USB drive with Disk Assistant on a USB stick. Here are three reasons to have such emergency drive without any doubt:

  • It assists in repairing the hard disk in case it freezes or crashes.
  • It may reinstall the OS.
  • It restores from a Time Machine backup.
  • It allows booting from it no matter what happens.

On the whole, such drive may recover an Apple computer after any disaster. Without such insurance, a Mac owner risks losing important information. The text below explains the ways to recover Mac OS X with the help of Recovery USB drive.

USB Recovery for Mac: Basic Requirements and 3 Main Options

So, we have concluded that it is possible to restore personal data in case an Apple computer crashes free of charge. Still, there are some necessary conditions. No matter which model of Apple computer you are using – MacBook Pro, MacBook Air or any desktop Mac – you may come up with a USB Recovery drive only by meeting these requirements:

  • A USB drive with minimum 1 gigabyte of space;
  • An active recovery volume on the OS bootup disk (that is where a user should create a volume’s copy);
  • Mac OS X Lion or a later version.
recovery usb mac

In fact, two emergency drive options are available:

  • Emergency USB Drive – It is the most secure deal. As far as a device figures as an independent part of the system (you should not leave it inserted in your Mac), it keeps away from the same pitfalls the computer may face.
  • Recovery HD – Each Apple computer based on OS X Lion and up possesses a Recovery HD partition one cannot see with a naked eye. A Mac owner may apply this one to start the machine or repair the hard disk. In the first case, hold the Command and R keys at bootup. An option might work too. In most situations, it is not an option if the internal drive is ruined.

Now that you are ready to dig deeper into the details, the article will explain how to make Mac Recovery USB. The initial stages involve getting ready with the USB drive first and developing partitions in the new destination to possess a dedicated section for the recovery volume. Prepping the new destination might also be a must in certain cases. Once you are ready with the preparation, move to the next paragraph.

Create a Mac OS X Recovery USB Drive in Several Steps

Before moving on, you may wonder about the Snow Leopard and earlier versions of Mac OS X. For these systems, simply install a full edition of the operating system on the USB stick. Once you are done with a Recovery USB flash drive, put it on the keychain or place it into the pocket or bag. Make sure to find a place where you will not lose it easily.

Anyway, here is what a Mac owner should do to create a Mac OS X Recovery USB drive.

  • You will need a Disk Assistant. Find it under Utilities in the Applications folder. Apple Support page also offers this one for free. Double-click on "RecoveryDiskAssistant.dmg" file. Make sure this step has added Recovery Disk" to Applications.
  • Come up with a new drive. Connect a USB drive to the target computer and launch Recovery Disk Assistant. To do so, agree to the terms and conditions. The wizard then should identify the external drive. Choose the new recovery disk. That could be the same USB drive. At the end of this stage, pick Continue.
  • Eject and ensure the USB safety. Never eject any drive without making sure you are doing that safely! Of course, in most cases, nothing will happen, but it may result in some adverse consequences in some cases.
  • The system will not clone the original recovery volume for a while. Once the process is over, push the Quit button in the popped up window to ensure the safe removal of the USB drive. That is how you ensure your data is available anytime, anywhere.

Test whether it worked by trying to start up with this Recovery USB drive. Just hold the Options button once the computer is switched on. A drive should show up with the corresponding name in yellow. It means you succeeded!

osx flash drive

macOS Sierra and Mac OS El Capitan users may find it impossible to create a Recovery USB this way. If that’s the case, you may make use of the Terminal app to accomplish the mission. Type a special command to clone the Recovery HD to an external USB drive.

  • Launch Terminal and type the command "diskutil list".
  • Write down or remember the Recovery HD disk identifier as shown in the image (in the example below, it is disk0s3 next to Apple_Boot Recovery HD value).
  • After that, enter the given line sudo hdiutil create ~/Desktop/Recovery\ HD.dmg -srcdevice /dev/disk0s3. Make sure to type the disk identifier value of your computer (instead of disk0s3 value in the example) in the end of the line.
  • The line will generate a clone of the internal Recovery HD volume on the desktop.
  • Next, launch Disk Utility.
  • Move to the Restore tab. Stick to these stages:
  • Drag the Recovery HD volume to the Source area. Place the target USB drive onto the Destination area.
  • Pick the Restore option.
  • Type the admin’s passcode if prompted. Watch the system deleting the disk and cloning the information.
  • The procedure may last for five or ten minutes. If you would like to hide a brand new USB Recovery Disk: sudo asr adjust --target /dev/disk3s2 -settype Apple_Boot

Well, now you know everything you should about the process of creating an OS X Recovery USB. Keep your system and data safe!