Let’s add Mavericks To A USB Drive, shall we?

Apple decided to break the mold and release OS X Mavericks for free through the App store. YAY. But for people that never got past OS X 10.6.8, we didn’t realize how much of an issue we would run into. I’ve seen a bunch of people running into the same errors that I did but no one had a fix. The error is this: When trying to use the multiple methods offered for creating a bootable thumb drive version of Mavericks (Requires a thumb drive 8GB or higher), you get this error: Failed to start erase of disk due to error (-9999, 0). The methods I tried that were suggested were:

Installing DiskMaker X (http://liondiskmaker.com/) – Didn’t work. Error Message saying it had problems erasing the drive.

Running this in Terminal (courtesy of Nerd Answer. http://nerdanswer.com/answer.php?q=345102): sudo /Applications/Install\ OS\ X\ Mavericks.app/Contents/Resources/createinstallmedia –volume /Volumes/Untitled –applicationpath /Applications/Install\ OS\ X\ Mavericks.app  (Terminal gave me the -9999 error)

And running a Script version of the Terminal option (with the same results. Insanity, I know).

Let’s Dig Deeper

So I did some deeper digging because I wanted to get my iMac running 10.6.8 into the DANGER ZONE as soon as possible. When I happened onto this post from 9to5Mac (http://9to5mac.com/2013/06/13/how-to-create-a-bootable-os-x-mavericks-usb-flash-drive-from-original-app-store-package/)

The Marek Bell blog  notes that creating a bootable flash drive of Mavericks is a bit more intricate than Mountain Lion because “it is no longer possible to simply restore the InstallESD.dmg to get a bootable image for USB / Flash drive installation.”  But there is a way around this obstacle, which Marek outlines in his thorough walkthrough of creating a bootable OS X Mavericks flash drive.  You will need at least a 8GB Flash Drive (USB 3.0 is obviously a better choice).

  1. You are going to need to see some hidden files for this.  So start by opening Terminal.app and pasting in the following (don’t worry, we’ll undo this change when we are done)… defaults write com.apple.Finder AppleShowAllFiles YES
    killall Finder
  2. Download the installer as normal from the app store. (At time of writing this is only possible for those with access to the developer previews).
  3. After download you will have the ‘Install OS X 10.9′ app in your /Applications folder. Right-click it and select ‘Show Package Contents’.
  4. Navigate to the Contents/SharedSupport.  There you will see the InstallESD.dmg file.  Unfortunately, you can’t just grab it and restore it.  Instead double-click it to mount it.
  5. You should now see the normally hidden BaseSystem.dmg file in the mounted volume.
  6. Open Disk Utility and restore the source BaseSystem.dmg to the destination of your USB drive.
  7. Now open up the restored USB volume (default name is OS X Base System) and navigate to System/Installation. In there you will see an alias for Packages. Delete this alias.
  8. Copy the full Packages folder from the root of the mounted InstallESD volume (the same place you got the BaseSystem.dmg file) to the USB volumes System/Installation folder. Basically, replace the Packages alias you just deleted with the real Packages folder from the original InstallESD volume.
  9. The USB drive should now be bootable. So simply restart, hold down the Option key (Alt) when booting with the USB drive in your machine, and you should get the option to boot from the USB drive. If you only have 1 USB Port and it’s being used by your mouse (I’ve encountered this a few times in our shop at the office) you can get a USB hub here.
  10. Remember, to rehide the normal hidden files just repeat step 1 but change YES to NO.


And by Jove, that works! So for all of you that were either too broke to upgrade or just never made it past 10.6.8, this should be your salvation. If you run into any issues with it, leave a comment and I’ll help ya get squared away.