A maverick is an unorthodox, unconventional person… and guess what? your intrepid operating system claims to fit the bill.
Usually Mavericks lives a happy life opening apps with felicity and running Safari with alacrity – but sometimes the story isn’t so sanguine. In fact, there are a faction of users who’ve seen its darker side and if you’re one of them read on.
When your Mac has you lamenting the day you switched from a PC, it could be time for a complete re-install.
There are two ways to kick off the show. The first is infinitely cooler than the second but I’ll tell you both anyway:
- From a USB Drive
- From a Recovery Drive
Before I explain I should mention a few things:
You can’t buy a Mavericks DVD
Mavericks is diskless so you can’t just march into an Apple store and demand that a Genius sell you a Mavericks DVD.
If she’s a snob, she’ll regard your request as farcical and will shoo you away but that probably won’t happen. When I visited the Apple Store at Grand Central Station about a month ago, the Genius cordially told me to download it from the App store.
Mavericks is available as a 5.3GB download from the App store… I’ll show you how to get it in a bit.
The USB install is convenient
Let’s say your a Mac man (or Mac girl) and your home looks like a Macbook Pro got frisky with a Mac Mini and gave birth to a dozen Apple devices.
You know what I’m talking about: you’ve got:
- a Mac mini in the office
- a Macbook pro in the living room
- a Macbook Air in the kitchen
- and a clamshell iBook G3 from the late 90’s sitting in your garage.
One day you want to upgrade all your Macs (except that iBook because it’s an artifact) to Mavericks; it’s a lot easier to install the OS directly from the USB drive rather than launching the App store and downloading Mavericks on each Mac. The convenience of the USB boot option compelled me to share this method first.
I’m going to show you that you truely have the finesse to install a bootable version of Mavericks on your USB drive
It’s super easy and compared to the old-hat way of burning the OS to a DVD, a USB drive is more flexible. For example, whenever a newer version of Mac OS X arrives, let’s say Apple calls it Mac OS X Killer Lion, you can simply erase the old image and copy Killer Lion like any other file.
With a DVD you’re fettered to limited rewrites and glacial write speeds; however, a USB stick is faster, more portable and more useful especially since many Macs no longer include DVD drives anyway.
Getting Mavericks on the USB stick
Alright let’s do this. Make sure:
- The USB drive has at least 8GB of space
- You don’t care about losing everything on the USB drive.
After downloading Mavericks from the App store, we need to copy it from the Application folder or else it’ll disappear before we can create our bootable USB stick.
Open on the Finder, press Shift + Command ⌘ + a and copy the Mavericks installer, named “Install OS X Mavericks.app“, to your Desktop.
Click the cloned version of the app while holding down the Control key and choose Show Package Contents.
Expand the Contents and SharedSupport folders and double-click InstallESD.dmg to mount it.
Okay, now we need to open the Terminal so we can view a very important file named inside the InstallESD.dmg package named BaseSystem.dmg.
BaseSystem.dmg is an invisible package sleeping inside InstallESD.dmg but we can’t view it by default. But I’m going to show you a little trick…
With a little dexterity in the Terminal window we can view the contents of BaseSystem.dmg using the open command.
Press Command ⌘ + Space and type
Now paste in the following command:
open /Volumes/OS\ X\ Install\ ESD/BaseSystem.dmg
Once the package opens minimize the window and open the Disk Utility. You can get here via Command ⌘ + Space and typing
Plug in your USB drive and then drag BaseSystem.dmg from the left pane into the Source text box in the right pane.
Next, drag your USB drive from the left pane into the Destination text box in the right pane.
Now click the Restore button to annihilate all data on the USB drive. It took my 32GB SanDisk drive about 8 minutes to finish the restore procedure.
When it finishes, click the BaseSystem.dmg in the left pane again but this time click the blue Eject button in the navigation bar near the top of the Disk Utility window.
Okay now here’s the potentially confusing part but if you follow my lead you won’t get confused.
In the Finder there should now be at least two mounted drives:
- OS X Install ESD
- OS X Base System
The first is the OS X Install volume we mounted earlier with that esoteric Terminal command.
The second is your USB drive. The Disk Utility renamed your USB Drive to OS X Base System.
We need to do two things to finish up our bootable USB drive:
- Copy OS X Install ESD\Packages to OS X Base System\System\Installation
- Delete OS X Base System\System\Installation\Packages
Let me show you what I’m talking about because I know this looks crazy.
Open the Finder, click OS X Install ESD from the left pane then control-click Packages in the left pane and choose Copy “Packages”.
Incidentally, this folder is about 5GB so it’s going to take a few minutes to copy.
Click on OS X Base System (your USB drive) in the left pane and click open the System folder in the right pane.
Next open the Installation folder and delete the file (Command ⌘ + Delete) named Packages. This is just an alias but we need to remove it.
Now paste in the 5GB Packages folder we copied earlier. Make sure you drop it in place of the Packages alias. So it should end up in here:
OS X Base System\System\Installation\
Command ⌘ + v drops it in.
Now zip on your hoodie, lace up your Pumas and wire up your headphones because you’re going for a 15 minute jog around the block.
You just created your first bootable USB Mavericks drive and that deserves a celebratory action. Good work.
When you return to your office, let’s do one last trick to tidy things up.
Open the Terminal again. We’re going to rename your USB drive from that insipid OS X Base System name to something more meaningful:
OS X Mavericks Installer
diskutil rename "OS X Base System" "OS X Mavericks Installer"
Now you’re cooking with gas! You’ve got Mavericks on your USB stick now and it’s bootable too.
Pop in the USB stick, reboot the box then press and hold the Option key and you’re good to go.
Re-installing the OS from Recovery
Reinstalling Mac OS X from a recovery drive is even easier and all your settings are preserved.
Reboot and when the gray screen appears, press and hold Command ⌘ + r.
After about a minute the OS X Utilities screen emerges.
Choose Reinstall OS X and click Continue.
Click Continue on the installation Window to verify your computer’s eligibility with Apple.
This should take less than 5 seconds.
Click Agree to the license contract to sign your life away…
Now select your drive… and you’ll be up and running in no time.
The Bottom Line
To re-install Mac OS X Mavericks on your Mac you can either create a bootable USB drive or use the OS X Mavericks installer from the Recovery Drive.
Creating a bootable USB drive has the fortuitous side effect of creating an emergency backup of the OS. In addition, the USB Drive makes it really easy to install Mavericks on your other Macs.
Installing from the Recovery drive is another option and is as easy rebooting, holding down the Command ⌘ + r keys and clicking through an installation wizard.
If my little post helped you through a frustrating time or if you have questions about it please share in the comments!