Install OS Yosemite on Any External Drive (Thumb Drive, USB Disk, etc)

Install OS Yosemite on Any External Drive (Thumb Drive, USB Disk, etc)

Check tutorial of How to Install OS X Yosemite on Any External Drive (Thumb Drive, USB Disk, etc)

So after a lot of requests from our users here is a guide about How to Install OS X Yosemite on Any External Drive (Thumb Drive, USB Disk, etc).

We have covered how to install OS X Yosemite on a separate partition from an internal hard drive and dual boot with OS X Mavericks, but many Mac users have wondered if it is possible to install OS X 10.10 on an external drive instead, making changes to the primary Mac hard drive, avoid disk or partition table. The answer is yes, you can install Yosemite on an external drive and yes it will be bootable, we’ll show you exactly how to do that.

The method described herein tutorial works to install a bootable OS X Yosemite instance on any external drive, be it a USB flash drive, general external hard drive, or any other external volume. If you’re going to try this, try to use the fastest possible external drive for the best experience, otherwise you’ll find that the whole process and overall OS X 10.10 experience is quite slow from an external drive. You can quickly test your external drives with free third-party tools if you’re not sure if the performance is particularly good or bad, but it’s safe to say faster read and write speeds are better.

Prerequisites for installing Yosemite on an external drive

  • An external drive (USB stick, hard drive, SD card, any external drive) with 16 GB of available space or more (the base installation of OS X 10.10 uses about 10 GB, and you need some extra space for swap, caches, and test files)
  • A Yosemite compatible Mac
  • OS X Yosemite Dev Preview downloaded and ready to use
  • Patience for a (probably) slower experience

The last point is important, because the experience is very much slower than you are used to. Again, this will depend on the speed of the external drive Yosemite will be installed on. If you’re using a slow external flash drive or an old external hard drive, don’t be surprised if you run into a lot of beachballs, making this a very sub-optimal experience and certainly not representative of Yosemite’s overall performance.

Make the destination external drive / volume bootable

First up does not make a boot volume from the external drive, this is done through Disk Utility. The external drive will be formatted for this purpose, which means it will be completely erased and all data on it will be lost.

  1. Launch Disk Utility in OS X, located in the / Applications / Utilities / folder
  2. Connect the external drive to the Mac and select the newly connected drive from the list of volumes in Disk Utility
  3. Choose the “Erase” tab and make sure “Mac OS Extended (Journaled)” is selected as the format, give the drive an obvious name such as “Yosemite External”, then choose “Erase” to format the volume – this will delete all data from the destination drive, make sure you have selected the correct volume here, there is no going back
  4. Now go to the ‘Partition’ tab and under ‘Partition Layout’ select ‘1 partition’ (you can choose several if you want to dual boot OS X Yosemite on partitions on the external drive, that’s your call, but not what we cover here) and fix the partition
  5. Select the drive and create a single partition

  6. Choose “Options” and select “GUID” then choose “Apply”
  7. Set the GUID partition to make the drive bootable

You are now ready to install OS X Yosemite on the external drive, be it a USB hard drive, a flash drive, a USB stick, or whatever you want to use. Just remember it will be formatted.

Install OS X Yosemite on the external drive

Now you are ready to install OS X Yosemite on the newly created bootable external drive. We’ll assume you’ve already downloaded OS X Yosemite and is ready to go, if not, you can download it from the Mac App Store through the Mac Dev Center.

  1. Launch the OS X Yosemite installer as if you were going to install it as usual
  2. OS X 10.10 installation screen

  3. Agree to the EULA and license terms and then choose “Show All Disks” to search the external volumes
  4. Select the external volume to install Yosemite on and choose ‘Install’ button, enter the admin password when prompted and the Mac will automatically reboot to start the installation process as usual
  5. Select the external drive to install OS X Yosemite on

Install OS X Yosemite

Installing to an external drive may take a while depending on the speed of the target drive. Speaking of speed, it’s hard to exaggerate that the performance of Yosemite (or OS X, or any other operating system for that matter) running on an external volume is often significantly slower than on an internal volume, and hardly representative of the true native experience of running at full speed. Ultimately, performance largely depends on the speed and connection of the external drive in use, but something like a USB 2.0 external drive is undoubtedly much slower than any drive built into the Mac internally. On the other hand, a fast Thunderbolt or USB 3.0 drive can perform quite well for testing purposes.

Enjoy OS X Yosemite on your bootable external drive!

OS X Yosemite Macs

For those of you wondering, when creating this walkthrough, I installed Yosemite and ran it from a fairly generic ‘fast’ USB stick. While the performance is enough to get a sense of the general changes and appearance, the overall experience is hugely slow compared to running OS X Yosemite directly from an internal SSD. So if you really want to test OS X 10.10 and especially if you want to develop for it, do yourself a favor and install it on a fast drive or separate partition instead.

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How to Install OS X Yosemite on Any External Drive (Thumb Drive, USB Disk, etc): FAQ

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The time to complete the How to Install OS X Yosemite on Any External Drive (Thumb Drive, USB Disk, etc) tutorial is 10+ minutes.

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mac OS



How to Install OS X Yosemite on Any External Drive (Thumb Drive, USB Disk, etc) Tutorial: final note

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