How to create a bootable USB installer for macOS Big Sur


If you need a quick way to install Apple’s new OS, here’s a way to do it with ease.

Image: Apple

Every year brings with it a new release of macOS. This year Apple made its biggest announcement since 2005, when Steve Jobs announced that Apple’s computing lineup would begin transitioning to Intel processors and that by 2007, all devices in the lineup would have made the switch.

SEE: macOS Big Sur: A cheat sheet (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Just a few weeks ago, Apple made a similar announcement, this time around, however, it was to lay out their roadmap for the transition from Intel to Apple’s new,
ARM-based Silicon on Chip (SoC)

. The same technology has been powering Apple mobile devices, such as iOS, iPadOS, watchOS devices for several years now. Moreover, the announcement was bookended by the revelation that the latest version of macOS, dubbed Big Sur, was not only the first OS to support the new ARM-based hardware, but was also Apple’s leap away from the OS X roots by finally going to a newly coded macOS version 11.0.

While the first of Apple’s new hardware isn’t expected to debut until the fourth quarter of 2020, macOS 11.0 will be available in the third quarter, which means many existing users will want to make the jump to the latest version. Those with access to mobile device management (MDM) or Munki servers will likely have their upgrade path already figured out. However, those without or who require a more hands-on approach will likely need a quick, easy, and portable way to deploy Big Sur on client devices off-site.

SEE: WWDC 2020: The biggest takeaways (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

I find a USB bootable installer to be an excellent resource. And while there are a few ways to go about creating one for macOS, for me the simplest way is the one that has the least number of requirements and can be performed in a pinch on any supported device natively. Here are a few requirements:

  • macOS computer (supported by Big Sur)
  • Install macOS Big Sur.app (downloaded from Mac App Store or Developer’s Portal)
  • External USB Drive or Internal Drive formatted with GUID partitioning scheme (with minimum 16GB storage space available)
  • Administrative credentials

1. With the target media and drive connected, launch Terminal and enter the following command:

sudo /Applications/Install macOS Big Sur.app/Contents/Resources/createinstallmedia --volume /Volumes/DRIVENAME --nointeraction --downloadassets 

The command needs to run with root privileges and will prompt to verify admin credentials when executing the command. Type them in and press Enter to initiate the process. Depending on the speed to the disks, the process may take 15-30 minutes to complete, but once done it will be ready for use.

While the additional switches of –nointeraction and –downloadassets are optional, they will perform the process silently without prompting the user further and will download any updates to the installer before creating the installer.

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