How to Create macOS Sonoma Bootable USB Installer Featured Image

How to Create macOS Sonoma Bootable USB Installer: 4 Quick Steps

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Last updated: October 24, 2023

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TL;DR

To create macOS Sonoma bootable USB installer, format the USB in Disk Utility, naming it SonomaInstaller. Download the macOS Sonoma from the App Store. Use the createinstallmedia command in Terminal. Boot your Mac using this USB in Recovery Mode for installation or upgrade.

Key Points

  • Always back up your data using Time Machine or other methods before making system-wide changes.
  • You can directly update your macOS from the System Settings if you prefer a simple update without a clean install.
  • If your bootable USB isn’t working, check for issues like a corrupted installer, faulty USB drive, or incorrect file system format.

With the release of macOS Sonoma, Apple has once again pushed the boundaries of its operating system, offering new features and improvements. Whether you’re looking to upgrade your current system, perform a clean installation, or troubleshoot issues on a Mac, a bootable USB installer can be invaluable.

In this guide, I’ll walk you through four quick and straightforward steps to create macOS Sonoma bootable USB installer. Let’s dive in!

Why Do You Need to Clean Install macOS Sonoma?

While it’s not always necessary to perform a clean install when updating to macOS Sonoma, it can provide many benefits, from improved performance to enhanced security.

Always remember to back up important data before proceeding.

Here’s why you might need to clean install macOS Sonoma:

  1. 🔄 Fresh Start: Over time, Macs can accumulate a lot of clutter in unused apps, files, and system processes. A clean install wipes all this away, giving your system a fresh start and often leading to improved performance.
  2. 🔍 Troubleshooting: If you’re experiencing persistent software issues that regular troubleshooting can’t fix, a clean install can often resolve these problems by eliminating any conflicting software or corrupted files.
  3. 🚀 Optimized Performance: With a clean slate, the OS can run without the hindrance of old software or lingering issues from previous updates. This often results in smoother and more efficient performance.
  4. 🗂️ Minimal Legacy Issues: Over time, software updates can sometimes leave behind outdated and unnecessary files. A clean install ensures only the files necessary for the current OS version are installed.
  5. 💽 Better Disk Space Management: Starting afresh can help you better manage your storage by ensuring only essential apps and files are installed, freeing up space for other important data.
  6. 🛡️ Security: If you suspect your system might have malware or any other security threats, a clean install can help remove these potential threats.

Things You Need to Create macOS Sonoma Bootable USB Installer

Before you start, you’ll need a few things. Below, you’ll find what you need to make a macOS Sonoma USB drive:

  1. 📌 A USB Thumb Drive: Ensure you have a USB drive with a minimum capacity of 16 GB. This space is necessary to accommodate the macOS Sonoma installer and additional files. A larger capacity drive might be even better.
  1. 💽 macOS Sonoma Installer: You’ll need the macOS Sonoma installer, which you can download directly from the Mac App Store. Make sure to download the full version and not just the update.

Consult my macOS compatibility checker and check the macOS version system requirements before downloading it.

macos sonoma installer
  1. 🔐 Administrator Access: To create a bootable USB drive and install macOS Sonoma, you must have administrator rights on your Mac, so you can make necessary changes to the system without restrictions.
  2. 🌐 Reliable Internet Connection: While creating the bootable USB, it’s essential to have a stable and fast internet connection, especially if you’re downloading the macOS Sonoma installer. Interruptions can lead to incomplete downloads or errors.
  1. Free Time: Set aside at least an hour to complete this process. While the actual time can vary based on your Mac’s speed and internet connection, having a buffer ensures you’re not rushed.

Before You Start: Backup Your Data

Before creating a macOS Sonoma bootable USB installer, you must back up your important files. A backup ensures you don’t lose important files if things go sideways during a clean install of the new macOS version later.

Follow these steps to use Time Machine to back up your Mac:

  1. Plug in an external hard drive or Time Capsule with enough space to store your backup.
  2. Once connected, a prompt should appear on your Mac asking if you want to use the device for Time Machine backups. Confirm you want to use the connected device for Time Machine backups.
  3. If the prompt doesn’t appear, go to System Settings > Time Machine > Add Backup Disk, and manually select the connected storage device.
click the add add backup disk button in time machine
  1. Now that your external device is set, select System Settings in the Apple menu.
click the apple icon and select system settings
  1. Click General in the left sidebar and select Time Machine to the right.
click the time machine icon
  1. To select your external storage device as your backup disk, press the add button + and follow the onscreen instructions.
  2. Time Machine will automatically start backing up your Mac once activated.

The initial backup might take a while, depending on the amount of data. After the first backup, only the changes will be saved, making subsequent backups quicker.

How to Create macOS Sonoma Bootable USB Installer

Below, I’ll show you how to create a macOS Sonoma bootable USB installer, ensuring you’re well-equipped for your macOS installation.

Step 1: Format the USB Flash Drive for macOS Sonoma

Follow these steps to format a drive on your Mac:

  1. Plug your USB flash drive into an available USB port on your Mac.
connecting usb to a laptop
  1. Navigate to Finder > Applications > Utilities > Disk Utility.
launch disk utility from utilities
  1. In Disk Utility, you’ll see a list of drives on the left. Click your USB flash drive’s name (not the partition name, but the main drive name).
  2. Click the Erase button at the top.
choose your external drive from the sidebar and click erase
  1. In the dialog box that appears, give your USB drive a name, like SonomaInstaller.

Keep in mind, when you use the createinstallmedia command later, replace the placeholder MyVolume with the actual name you’ve given to your drive in this step.

  1. For the format, choose Mac OS Extended (Journaled) if your Mac uses HFS+ or APFS if it uses the newer APFS file system.

For bootable macOS installers, Mac OS Extended (Journaled) is commonly used.

type in a name for your drive and select the format
  1. If given an option for Scheme, choose GUID Partition Map.
type your drives name choose its format and scheme and click erase
  1. Click the Erase button to format the USB drive. This will delete all data on the drive, so ensure you’ve backed up any important files.
  2. Once the process is finished, your USB drive will be formatted and ready for the macOS Sonoma installer.

Step 2: Download macOS Sonoma Installer

  1. Ensure you have a stable and reliable internet connection, as the installer can be several gigabytes in size.
  2. Click the Apple menu in the top-left corner and select App Store.
click the apple menu and select app store
  1. In the App Store’s search bar, type macOS Sonoma.
type macos sonoma in app store search bar
  1. Locate and open the macOS Sonoma entry in the search results.
open the macos sonoma entry in the search results
  1. Click the Get button next to macOS Sonoma. Depending on your Mac’s settings, you might be prompted to enter your Apple ID and password to continue.
click the get button next to macos sonoma
  1. The download process might take a while, depending on your internet speed. You can monitor the progress in the Purchases or Updates tab of the App Store.
  2. Once downloaded, the macOS Sonoma installer will automatically launch. You can quit the installer if you’re not ready to install yet. The installer application will be saved in your Applications folder, named something like Install macOS Sonoma.

Step 3: Create a Bootable Sonoma Installer With Terminal

This approach uses the createinstallmedia command to create a bootable USB for macOS, and it isn’t compatible with OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard or older versions.

  1. Open Terminal by navigating to Finder > Applications > Utilities > Terminal.
launch terminal from utilities
  1. Before you input the command, ensure the macOS Sonoma installer is in the Applications folder and has the default name (e.g., Install macOS Sonoma.app). Also, remember the name you gave your USB drive when formatting it.
  2. In Terminal, type the following command, replacing MyVolume with the name of your USB drive:
sudo /Applications/Install\ macOS\ Sonoma.app/Contents/Resources/createinstallmedia --volume /Volumes/MyVolume
  1. After entering the command, press Enter.
  2. You’ll be prompted to enter your admin password. Type it in and press Enter again.

Note: You won’t see the characters as you type the password, but Terminal is registering them.

  1. Terminal will inform you that it will erase the drive. To confirm you want to continue, type Y and press Enter.
  2. Terminal will now create the bootable macOS Sonoma installer on the USB drive. This process can take some time, so be patient.
  3. After the procedure finishes, the USB drive will be renamed Install macOS Sonoma and you can use it as a bootable installer.

Step 4: Install macOS on Your Startup Disk

Now that you have created macOS Sonoma bootable USB, you can easily install or upgrade macOS on your Mac. Here’s how:

  1. Connect your bootable macOS Sonoma USB drive to your Mac using a USB port.
connect a usb drive to your macbook
  1. Click the Apple menu and select Restart.
click the apple icon and select restart
  1. Click Restart on the prompt to confirm your action.
click restart to confirm your decision
  1. Press and hold down the Option ⌥ key immediately after restarting your Mac. Keep holding it until you see the Startup Manager screen.
Press and hold down the Option ⌥ key immediately after restarting your Mac
  1. Use the arrow keys on your keyboard to select the bootable macOS USB drive as your startup disk. This will boot your Mac into Recovery Mode.
  2. Next, click Install macOS Sonoma and tap the Continue button.
  3. It will start installing macOS Sonoma on your Mac. After the process, your Mac will restart with a clean installed macOS Sonoma.

How to Update Your Mac to macOS Sonoma

A clean install provides a fresh start, but if you don’t want that, you can simply update your macOS. Updating macOS is a more straightforward process that only updates the operating system and keeps your existing setup intact, retaining the existing data, apps, and settings.

Before starting, ensure your Mac is compatible with macOS Sonoma from Apple’s official compatibility list.

Here’s how to update your Mac to macOS Sonoma:

  1. Always back up your data before any major update. Use Time Machine or your preferred backup method to safeguard your files.
external hard drive connected to macbook
  1. Ensure you have a stable and reliable internet connection, as the update will be downloaded from the Internet.
  1. Click the Apple menu in the top-left corner and select System Settings.
click the apple icon and select system settings
  1. In the System Settings window, click General in the left sidebar and select Software Update in the right pane.
click general and select software update
  1. If macOS Sonoma update is available, you’ll see an Upgrade Now button next to the update’s name.
  2. Click the Update Now button to start downloading macOS Sonoma.
click upgrade now to download macos sonoma
  1. Once the download is complete, the macOS installer will automatically launch. 

Your Mac may restart multiple times during the installation.

  1. After the restart, your Mac might ask you a few setup questions. Answer them, and you’ll be guided to your updated macOS Sonoma desktop.

Why Is Your macOS Sonoma USB Not Bootable?

If your macOS Sonoma USB isn’t bootable, there could be several reasons behind it. Let’s explore some common issues and their potential causes:

  1. 🔄 Improper Creation Process: If the bootable USB drive wasn’t created correctly or any step was missed during the creation process, it might not work as intended.
  2. 💾 Corrupted Installer: The macOS Sonoma installer you downloaded could be incomplete or corrupted. Always download the installer from a reliable source, preferably directly from Apple.
  3. 🖥️ Faulty USB Drive: The USB drive might be damaged or faulty. Trying a different USB drive can help determine if this is the issue.
  4. ❌ Unsupported Mac: Not all Mac models might support macOS Sonoma. Ensure your Mac is on the list of compatible devices for this OS version.
  5. 🚫 Insufficient USB Capacity: The USB drive should have enough storage space to accommodate the macOS Sonoma installer. Typically, a drive with at least 16 GB is recommended.
  6. 📁 Incorrect File System Format: The USB drive needs to be formatted correctly, usually as Mac OS Extended (Journaled) or APFS, for the bootable process to work.
  7. ⚙️ BIOS/UEFI Settings: On some older Macs or when trying to boot on non-Mac hardware, the BIOS or UEFI settings might need adjustments to recognize and boot from the USB drive.
  8. 🔄 Outdated Firmware: Sometimes, outdated firmware on your Mac can prevent it from recognizing or booting from external drives. Ensure your Mac’s firmware is up to date.
  9. 🔌 USB Port Issues: The USB port you’re using might be malfunctioning. Try plugging the USB drive into a different port or another Mac to see if the issue persists.
  10. 📂 Missing Boot Files: Essential boot files might be missing from the USB drive, making it non-bootable. This can happen if the creation process is interrupted or files are accidentally deleted.

If you’ve checked these potential issues and are still facing problems, it might be worth starting the USB creation process from scratch or seeking expert assistance.

Boot Your Mac into macOS Sonoma With a Bootable USB Installer

If you’re gearing up for macOS Sonoma, having a bootable USB installer in your tech arsenal ensures you’re prepared for any macOS adventure. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you’re safeguarding your Mac’s journey and empowering yourself with a deeper understanding of its workings.

Here are a few more tips for you:

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Why can’t I install macOS Sonoma on Mac?

    If you can’t install macOS Sonoma on your Mac, it could be due to hardware incompatibility, insufficient storage space, outdated firmware, or a corrupted installer. Always check Apple’s official compatibility list and ensure your Mac meets the minimum requirements for the update.

  2. Can I create a macOS 14 bootable installer for a PC?

    You can create a macOS 14 bootable installer for a PC through Hackintosh. However, it involves challenges and potential legal issues and may not provide stable performance. It’s essential to research compatibility and understand the risks before attempting this on non-Apple hardware.

  3. How can I download the macOS Sonoma developer beta?

    To download the macOS Sonoma developer beta, enroll in Apple’s Developer Program, then access the Downloads section on the Developer website. Follow the provided instructions to download and install the beta. Ensure you back up your Mac before installation, as beta versions may contain bugs.

Hashir Ibrahim

Author

I'm Hashir, a tech journalist with a decade of experience. My work has been featured in some of the top tech publications like MakeUseOf and MakeTechEasier. I have a bachelor's degree in IT, a master's in cybersecurity, and extensive knowledge of Apple hardware, specifically MacBooks. As the senior writer at MacBook Journal, I write in depth guides that help you solve any issues you have with your mac and unbiased reviews that help you make the right buying decisions.

Ojash

Reviewer

Hi there! I'm Ojash, a tech journalist with over a decade of experience in the industry. I've had the privilege of contributing to some of the world's largest tech publications, making my mark as a respected Mac expert. My passion lies in exploring, using, and writing about MacBooks, and I enjoy sharing my expertise to help others make informed decisions and get the most out of their MacBook experience. Join me as we delve into the fascinating world of MacBooks together!

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