How to make a bootable OS X 10.11 El Capitan installer USB

This tutorial provides the excise steps of making OS X El Capitan USB installer. I will skip any introduction because I believe many of readers only want to read short insightful notes and this may not be the first time for reinstalling your iMac or Macbook. So, I will start with a simple of requirements for making OS X El Capitan installer.

What you need

This is a short list and you probably already have all of them.
1. El Capitan installer from the Mac App Store
2. A thumb drive or USB stick of 8GB minimum

The simplest way

There are a number of different ways of performing OS X bootable installer drive depending on which version of OS X you were running and your comfort level of using utilities. However, in this tutorial I will only mention the latest and simplest way that can be performed starting from Mavericks by using a hidden Unix program called createinstallmedia for creating a bootable installer drive.
This method uses only a single command in Terminal, it works effectively and officially, and no need to do copy and paste manually from complex directories. Despite of its goodness, it does not work any OS X under 10.6 Snow Leopard. But you can always upgrade to latest version of OS X - El Capitan from App Store free.

Format your drive

In order to able to hold OS X installer and all its data, the drive must be formatted as a Mac OS Extended (journaled) volume type by using a GUID partition Table. You can do this in Disk Utility or through command lines using terminal. However, your OS X user account must also have administrator privileges.
Leave the drive name Untitled, which is a default name given by Disk Utility. The terminal command provided in this tutorial is produced by assuming that the drive is named Untitled.

Making the installer drive

  1. Connect your thumb drive or USB stick (properly formatted as described above).
  2. Make sure the El Capitan installer, named Install OS X El, is located in its default location - main Applications folder.
  3. Launch Terminal (from /Applications/Utilities).
  4. Copy and paste the following command in Terminal.
    sudo /Applications/Install\ OS\ X\ El\ --volume /Volumes/Untitled --applicationpath /Applications/Install\ OS\ X\ El\ --nointeraction
  5. Type your admin-level account password when prompted, and then press Return.
  6. A warning message "To continue we need to erase the disk at /Volumes/Untitled. If you wish to continue type (Y) then press return:" may be prompted. If so, type the letter Y and then press Return. If you do not see this message, ignore this step.
  7. Then, the Terminal window will displays the progress of the each step as shown in following screen shot. Terminal Screen Shot
  8. The overall process of createinstallmedia can take minimum 10 minutes to maximum 30 minutes. This depends on the performance of your mac and data transfer speed to your thumb drive - Old USB 2.0 sticks take longer than USB 3.0. Once the copying process is completed, you will see Copy complete. Done. in your Terminal window.

The Result

Finally your drive is renamed from Untitled to Install OS X El Capitan and ready to use as a bootable OS X 10.11 El Capitan installer.

Boot from the installer

  1. Connect your prepared thumb drive or USB stick to your Mac.
  2. Restart your Mac and hold down Option key while starting up.
  3. Then OS X's Startup Manager will appears, choose your thumb drive installer. Once booted from your installer, you will see there are some tasks such as Install OS X, Recovery and Restore OS X from Time Machine.

Nay Win Myint

Founder and CEO of Pancasikha Music Streaming Provider, JavaScript full-stack and Android developer and Graphic designer.

Rangoon, Myanmar