Bootable OS X Mavericks USB Flash Drive -9999 error Fix

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 ( – Didn’t work. Error Message saying it had problems erasing the drive.

Running this in Terminal (courtesy of Nerd Answer. sudo /Applications/Install\ OS\ X\ –volume /Volumes/Untitled –applicationpath /Applications/Install\ OS\ X\  (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 (

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 and pasting in the following (don’t worry, we’ll undo this change when we are done)… defaults write 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.



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  1. Thanks, this was the solution i needed! though i had to mount basesystem.dmg through the terminal before the disk utility would see it and let me copy it over.

  2. Wonderful Tut. But unfortunately step 6 does not work for me. The “restore” button is not activated. Do you have any suggestions?

    1. Step 6, It took me a few minutes to figure out but, if you look on the left hand side of your disk utility window where the mounted volumes are, click and drag it to the field you should get the green “Plus” and it should populate the path. If it doesn’t work, let me know and I’ll do a quick youtube video on how to make it work.

  3. Okay, maybe not the solution to the “step 6 problem” as my system won’t boot to the USB drive. I guess I’ll just settle for the bonehead upgrade install.

  4. Thanks for taking the time to write this post. It worked perfectly!

    I created the flash drive then installed OS X onto an external USB SSD and once it was bootable I moved inside the iMac as the main drive.

  5. Thanks so much for this! In Step 5, I think you need to mount the BaseSystem.dmg image-file, in order to be able to restore it in Step 6.

  6. Great post. You can skip step 1 if you mount the hidden .dmg from terminal instead, disk utilities will see it after it is mounted. Terminal command to do this:

    hdiutil attach “/Volumes/OS X Install ESD/BaseSystem.dmg”

  7. I did everything that was said, but once i restart my computer and hit the option/alt tab and try to boot from USB, it brings me back just to the regular screen for 10.6.8 ): need some help please /:

    1. I used the command:
      defaults write AppleShowAll Files 1
      and it worked perfectly. Wondering if anyone has any insight on how to reverse it now that has done its job. Ghostly files are starting to show up on my desktop!

  8. This solution still works. Thank you so much for writing it in easy steps, for us still on snow leopard. Some people may have trouble with Step 6. Just fiddle around with it, and you’ll figure out how to drag the file to source. I think you need to have selected your writable media.

    Also if anyone is wondering. You can boot from a SD card. Of in my case a 32gb microsd in an SD Card Adapter.

    I didn’t have a USB drive available. And I searched on the net if this was possible, but couldn’t find a straight answer. But I can confirm that it works. Saving me from buying a new USB drive.

    Lastly this is going to be a great way to upgrade to Yosemite. I’ve created a second partition (using ipartition boot disc) and installed Mavericks on there, and it worked beautifully. So when Yosemite comes out. We don’t have to go through this damn procedure again, for us users on the snow leopard system. We can simple upgrade.

    Though I would prefer a fresh install any day over an upgrade.

  9. Just thought I would add something after fighting with ANY installation of MacOSX on my (mid2011) 27″ IMac. After trying to upgrade to Mavericks (from Snow Leopard) I could not successfully install anything. This tutorial to make the bootable USB was invaluable in the end, but did not resolve the issue.

    My last resort, after 3 days, was to buy a new SSD to install on – this also failed! I then stumbled across a reference on the apple support site that sometimes 3rd party RAM can cause problems during installation, even if the RAM is fine. I had upgraded to 16Gb a couple of years ago fitting Crucial Memory (less than a 10th of the price of buying from Apple). Upon removing this additional memory the system installed perfectly from the bootable USB I made from this tutorial.

    I hope that helps if someone comes across the same problem, btw I went into an apple store to ask about options and the advice was purely – “there is nothing we can suggest until you bring the system to us ….. $$$ ”

    PS I had to use the suggested method of Joe:

    hdiutil attach “/Volumes/OS X Install ESD/BaseSystem.dmg”

    Thanks a lot for the help!!

  10. When I arrive at the step where you replace the alias packages with the actual packages the alias cannot be replaced and the actual packages cannot be moved to the OS X base.

  11. I have downloaded 4 different versions of the Mavericks 10.9 install file – however they were all from torrents – I had to do this because Apple deleted the link to the original 10.9 file, so I had to seek other options. I have tried all methods, including this one – the only thing I can think of is that I just happened to download 4 corrupted files. When you do an internet install, Apple will put 10.9.5 onto you computer – the problem with this is that all updates past 10.9.3 will mess up your Apps – particularly Avid products (Protools and the hardware drivers) Does anyone have a solid 10.9 they could dropbox me? I have a MacBook Pro, Late 2013 and have not been able to use it yet (AHH! – ha) if you are an angel

  12. I got an error that said

    Erasing Disk: 0%… 10%…
    Error erasing disk error number (-69888, 0)
    A error occurred erasing the disk.

    I tried this anyways, but I couldn’t find the ‘Install OS X 10.9′ app even after I unhid everything? I have the “Install OS X Mavericks” in my applications so I’m very confused. Can anyone help?

  13. this method works on a imac running os X 10.6.8 (incapable of running anything higher) for El Capitan
    download El Capitan in the app store
    use this method to make the usb disk

    note- when copying the package folder, was asked for password, then nothing seemed to happen in the copy window. just wait it out – it is copying, just no feedback in the window. it might take 15 minutes on a slow usb stick.

    anyone having problems with the createinstallmedia method or discmaker x method that only works on os X 10.7 – i hope this helps.

    (preparing a bootable usb stick on an old imac running 10.6.8, for another newer iMac)

  14. Man, you’re a real hero. I mean it.
    Even if this should not work for me you deserve appreciation for making things clearer and dissolve that creepy “error (-9999, 0)”-sh*t.

  15. This did not work. I’ve also tried lots of different ways found online but my Mac does not identify the USB stick as a startup disk. Can someone help?

    I can’t drag BaseSystem.dmg into Source in Disk Utility, but I was able to drag OS X Base System, so I figured that’s the right thing to do. I then completed all the steps but when I press ALT during restart my laptop still starts up as normal instead of giving me the option to start from the USB stick. The USB stick also isn’t in System Preferences>Startup Disk.

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