I will be installing a new 500GB hard drive in my macbook. It is a late 2008, aluminum, 13-inch screen. Once I install it, how do I get an operating system that's 10.7 or newer (downloaded from the App Store) on to the bare/unformatted drive?

  • For people looking to reinstall 10.6 or earlier, this similar question should help. The steps are slightly different for newer systems that have Recovery HD and those that shipped on DVD.
    – bmike
    Feb 25, 2015 at 16:26
  • I'm not clear if you are running OS X on the new 1TB hard drive that now resides in your MacBook. If so, you can use Migration Assistant to move over user settings and data from the external backup hard drive (I'm assuming it's a Time Machine backup). Migration Assistant is located under Applications : Utilities : Migration Assistant.
    – quip
    Jun 9, 2015 at 1:56
  • Does the new HD count as a 'new computer'? Its saying only to use time machine back up to restore to computer that was source of back up. Or if new computer use Migration assistant...
    – user131141
    Jun 9, 2015 at 2:27
  • Multiple answers refer to 3rd party sites on how to create a bootable USB drive with macOS installer. Commenting to note there's an official tutorial available, too. Jul 25, 2017 at 12:22

9 Answers 9


Being a 1 Mac household and an IT professional who has only supported PCs, I had a challenging time trying to figure out how to reload OSX after my husband's Mac hard drive died. Hopefully I diagnosed a bad hard drive correctly (I'll provide my method) and I hope this helps someone out there. This is probably overkill on instructions, but there are PC people out there who may try to help out the (much more) rare critical Mac issue. I did most of this from memory, so I may have messed up a label here or there. Please use Common sense if I did this and look around the screen for something that looks like what I'm talking about.

NOTE: This process only worked because the hard drive was still able to access recovery mode by holding Command+R on startup. If your Mac is unable to access that feature, this may not work for you, but I included some other handy stuff, like recovering files from the drive.

Initial Symptom: My husband's Mac had been randomly shutting down for some time, but we were limping it along. Finally, on startup one day, he saw a progress bar that would complete and then the device would shut down. Here is the process I followed:

Things you'll need:

  • SATA/IDE to USB Adapter (Mine was Vantec USB 2.0, but it shouldn't matter. Be sure to get one with external power source. I've had little to no success with USB powered devices.
  • Mac running OSX Lion or later (prior versions didn't have the recovery partition)
  • New Hard drive that is compatible with Mac.
  • T8 Mini Torx screw driver
  • Small phillips screwdriver
  • Recommend: A cold beer and a lot of patience
  • Just in case you pull off the rubber coating, you'll need a case removal tool like you use to replace a cell phone screen. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004XVPDSG/ref=tsm_1_fb_lk

Step 1: Troubleshoot the Device

  1. Power off the Device
  2. Hold down the Command+R keys as you start the device. Continue holding the keys until the Recovery Utility prompts you to select a language (Grey Screen) **NOTE:**You may have to hold the keys for up to two minutes.
  3. After you've selected a language preference, Select the Disk Utility item in the list of utilities.
  4. Select your drive on the left navigation panel (It's probably already selected)
  5. Click the Verify Disk button in the Disk Utilities. It will probably show some erros. Click the Repair Disk button that will only appear after you click Verify. Do this until there are no errors or (like me) you receive a message saying that the disc couldn't be repaired.
  6. Click the Verify Disk Permissions button. If this completes successfully, click Repair Disk Permissions NOTE This may solve your problem. If you didn't receive a nasty message on step 5 saying the Disk was corrupt, to back up your files and such, good on ya! Try some Canadian troubleshooting -- When in doot (doubt) Reboot!

Step 2: Removing the Hard Drive from the Mac

Here's a great visual guide to the steps below: https://www.ifixit.com/Guide/MacBook+Pro+13-Inch+Unibody+Mid+2010+Hard+Drive+Replacement/4305

  1. Turn off the MacBook.
  2. Remove the hard drive from the device by removing the 8 screws from the bottom of the MacBook and pulling off the bottom cover, being careful not to pull at the edges as it will pull off the rubber coating. If you accidentally do this, tip to follow. To pull the cover, put your fingers at the hinge of the MacBook screen (from the bottom), and lift from the metal part under the rubber cover.
  3. You will see a small black bar held down with two screws right next to the hard drive. This must be removed before the hard drive is pulled out.
  4. If your hard drive is OEM, there should be a plastic tab that you gently pull on to lift the hard drive, being cautious of the SATA cable
  5. Pull gently at the cable connector seated in the end of the hard drive facing the exterior of the case to disconnect the hard drive.

If you messed up and pulled off the rubber coating:

  1. After you have finished removing the bottom cover, get out the case removal tool from the list of things you'll need that you diligently ordered with your new hard drive for just $1 or so
  2. Hold the rubber coating on the metal case with the metal part (inside of the cover) facing you.
  3. GENTLY slip the edge of the case removal tool under the edges of the rubber coating with the edge of the tool facing towards you and lift the edge back over the edge of the metal backing.
  4. Slowly glide the tool around the edge, lifting the rubber back into place, being extra cautious around the corners.
  5. Put the back plate down and don't breathe on it or the rubber stuff will come off again.

Step 3: Using a PC and HFS Explorer to Recover Files

  1. Download HFS Explorer and install it on your PC (http://www.catacombae.org/hfsexplorer/)
  2. Plug the removed hard drive into the SATA/IDE to USB device. There will be two cables to plug in and they are directional. The smaller plug is the data cable that goes into the rectangular USB connector. The other goes to the power cable. If you bought the same one I did, there is a connector that adapts the standard power supply connector to SATA. There is a power switch on this cable.
  3. Plug the USB cable into your PC and turn on the power switch on the cable (if you haven't already).
  4. You should hear the device chime in Windows, or you can verify that the device driver was recognized and installed in Device Manager. Note: You will not see it show up as a hard drive as the Mac drive format is not diurectly compatible as a disk drive with Windows.
  5. Open HFS Explorer and click File > Load File System From Device
  6. I was not able to use the AutoDetect Button successfully, but you can try. I selected the Select a Device radio button and in the Detected Devices drop-down and click Load
  7. Select the files and folders you wish to back up in the tree to the left just like you would any Explorer (or Finder for you Mac peeps) tree, then click Extract. My husband's files were in the second partition under the Users > [Username] folder.
  8. Follow the prompts to extract the files to the desired location. You will have to babysit it because there are a lot of Mac file names that are not OK on Windows. I used the "Auto-Rename" feature and it worked swimmingly.

Step 4: Installing OSX on the New Hard Drive

If you're still with me, crack open another beer, because you've probably finished the first one. This was the most frustrating part to research. When you Google, " How do I load OSX on a new hard drive using a PC ", you end up with some great suggestions to use VM Virtual Box, which means you have to get a copy of your OSX load. Well, mine happened to be on this one very broken Mac hard drive, and you can only make a Mac bootable with a Mac. Grr...So, I gave this a shot. I hope it works for you.

  1. Install the NEW hard drive back into Mac. Before you do this, there are a couple of screw-in pins that are in the sides of the old hard drive that you will need to hold your new hard drive in place. Use the T8 mini Torx screwdriver to remove them and place them into the sides of the new drive. These will hold your new drive in place. Put a couple of screws on opposite corners of the bottom plate to hold it in place and protect all the precious bits in there. Do not turn on the Mac yet
  2. Connect the OLD device to the SATA/IDE connector, connect the USB to the Mac and turn on the power to the new hard drive
  3. Hold down the Option key and turn on the device to choose which device to boot to.
  4. Select the OLD hard drive (Probably called Recovery_[something]) when prompted to choose a boot device.
  5. The boot sequence will take you into the Mac Recovery Utilities menu
  6. Select the Disk Utilities option from the menu
  7. Select the NEW Drive in the list to the left and click Verify Disk. This should come out clean
  8. Click the Erase option in the Disk Utility and complete a format of the hard drive using the Mac OS Extended (Journaled) option
  9. If you like, partition the drive using the Partition option and set the number and size of partitions to the desired size.
  10. Exit the Disk Utility tools using the menu in the upper-left
  11. In the recovery menu, click the Reinstall OSX option
  12. If you are prompted to connect to a wireless network, you can either connect it to an ethernet cable to speed things along, or click the Wireless icon in the upper-right of the top toolbar to search for an SSID to connect to. This will permit you to use the online recovery options to download the operating system.
  13. Follow the prompts and enter your iTunes login info
  14. When prompted to select a disk for installation, select the disk (or partition) you would like to install OSX on on the NEW hard drive and follow the prompts to initiate the installation.
  15. IMPORTANT When the reboot after download occurs, if the installation gets stuck on Verifying Disks or shows symptoms of pixelation on the progress bar and corresponding status text, hold down the power button on the Mac to shut it down. CONGRATULATIONS! You successfully diagnosed that the old hard drive is bad. ;-) If this occurs and your installation doesn't go through, pull the USB cable from the SATA/IDE to USB adapter from the USB port, hold down the Control key and turn the Mac on. Select the Install OS X drive as the boot device.
  16. Wait for an eternity...have a couple more beers...Voila.

The easiest way, with the least steps, and with no thumb drive nor cloning (nor etc., etc.): web install.

With your Mac near a trusted Wifi access point or plugged into ethernet...

  1. While booting up, hold down command + r until you see the image of a globe. You will see a message below: 'Starting internet recovery. This may take a while.'

  2. If on Wifi, select the network and enter a password. It may seem like your password was rejected for a second - wait a bit.

  3. Web install begins!!! You will see a status bar count down with the image of a Globe above.

  4. Select your language.

  5. OS X Utilities will appear.

  6. Select 'Disk Utility' - it will gather info on your system.

  7. Select your new hard drive from the sidebar.

  8. Select the 'Erase' tab.

  9. Select the format and give it a name.

  10. Click 'erase'

  11. The hard disk is reformatted - a new disk with the name you have it will appear in the sidebar.

  12. Close 'Disk Utility'; you'll be brought back to OS X Utilities automagically.

  13. Select 'Reinstall OS X'

  14. Select 'continue' and 'agree' to the various screen until you are prompted to select which disk you want to install OS X.

  15. Select your newly minted hard drive and hit 'install'

  16. The download of OS X will begin! You're home free!

  • 1
    Oops. I didn't choose Disk Utility at the start. And couldn't see any way back apart from restarting and going through the process again. But this is definitely the way to do it! I was thinking in a Linux/Windows mindset of making an ISO, then booting from that. And that would have been nice... but this made it pretty easy! Feb 26, 2018 at 10:53
  • 1
    Excellent instructions in every way! Nice work! I had to use a windows keyboard since my Mac keyboard is wireless. I used the Windows key + r. Worked perfectly. May 28, 2019 at 1:49
  • 3
    This is exactly the point of this thread, and should be the actual answer, because it's so clean. I mean the OP didn't want any troubleshooting advice did he? Oct 19, 2019 at 6:01

I just installed a new 500GB SSD on my MacBook Pro 17" (early 2011) and used Carbon Copy Cloner to clone the contents of my current hard drive to the new one. This works well if you have a working hard drive already in your Mac; and you should clone the drive before installing the new hard drive. You can connect the hard drive externally to your MacBook Pro using an adapter. Cloning is easily done, and testing the install is accomplished by rebooting the Mac and holding down the "Option" key. Select the new hard drive from the list, and you'll know pretty quickly if it was successfully cloned or not.

If you need a clean install of OS X, you'll have to use a bootable USB drive. This tutorial describes how to do so.


You'll need a USB Recovery drive or install CD.

The good news is, since your old HDD is functioning fine and set up as an external, you can boot from that: Hold down the "Option" key on startup until you see your drive. If you see a "Recovery Partition" here, select that. You may have to re-join your Wi-Fi Network here.

Note: Plugging an Ethernet cable into your Router is strongly recommended here. The Mac OS X downloadable installer is a large file. Click "Install Mac OS X," be sure to select your new internal HDD, and follow the prompts.

If you did not see a Recovery Partition, proceed to the next step.

If you did not see a Recovery Partition, you will need a USB thumb drive of at least 2 GB for an Internet Recovery install, and or 16 GB for direct install. Select your old HDD to continue booting.

From there, you will be able to follow this tutorial on how to create a USB Recovery Drive:


Install OS X should format automatically, but to be sure you get a good, clean install: Go to Disk Utility, and select the new HDD from the left field. It should be labeled "Untitled". Click the "Erase" tab, and for "Format:" select "Mac OS Extended (Journaled). For "Name:" use anything you like.

Click the "Erase" button, and the disk will be formatted. Exit Disk Utilities, which will bring you back to "Install Mac OS X," or "Reinstall OS X New Copy". Click and follow the prompts. Now all you have to do is wait!

Some notes:

Restore from Time Machine only works if you have a Time Machine set up, Disk First Aid is for repairing an already formatted drive, and Get Help explains the features available.

Remember you can restart into Recovery Mode and run Disk Utilities, as this will save you time in the future if your Mac starts acting erratically.

  • Thank you that worked so far! I get a menu saying OS X utilities. Restore from time machine, reinstall OS X new copy, get help or disk utility. Which one is correct?
    – user131141
    Jun 9, 2015 at 2:30
  • Added some edits, glad to help!
    – Rampant
    Jun 9, 2015 at 4:59

OSXDaily has a wonderful guide to creating a bootable USB drive for Yosemite, the most recent version of OS X. This will allow you to install the operating system on your new hard drive.

You will need two things:

  • 16GB flash drive
  • A copy of "Install Yosemite", which you can download for free from the Apple App Store

This guide will also walk you through the install process as well.

Hope this helps!

  • 1
    This will not work for the Mac mentioned. The latest supported system by MacBook4,1 is 10.7.5. So replace Yosemite with Lion!
    – klanomath
    Feb 22, 2015 at 7:03
  • Ah, good catch. I read "aluminum" and jumped to conclusions, haha. I've updated the answer. Thanks! Feb 22, 2015 at 17:44
  • 1
    Hmm it's a MacBook 5,1 which supports Yosemite...The database went nuts. I rolled your answer back
    – klanomath
    Feb 22, 2015 at 18:21
  • Haha, understood :P Feb 22, 2015 at 18:26

Quick and easy: Find and dedust the system DVDs, bring the optical drive back to live by removing the crumbs inside and install Mac OS X 10.5.5 (Leopard).



On Power start, Hold Command + Option + R and your system will be started in recovery mode.

After that you need to reformat the HD to Mac OS Extended (Journaled) via Disk Utility option & then install new OS via Reinstall OS X option.

Really impressed by this.


You are doing it the hard way and lots of people will not be able to see the third drop down menu to set it correctly. First format your stick or other device to windows fat, then erase it again but set it to the mac journaled and wow...you got the drop down menu. Just setting it to the journaled will not give you all the menu bars...only the top two. Download the app from the app store for the install, but do not hit continue or you will install and it will disappear so you cannot copy it. Hold down option key, drag it into your stick or what ever, wait for the 22 minutes and you got it. Make another copy from that copy on your desk top or another drive and be sure not to lose it.

Took me three freeeeekin days to figure it out. I spoke to a ton of wiz kids, adults and IT people and not one got it correct for me. But man oh man, they really are smart...especially kids. So it feels great to give something back when I felt so lame all these years.

"How to format a portable drive or stick to accept "Install OS X El Capitan.app"


My MacBook late 2009 didn't start properly and it turned out that the old hard drive had some I/O errors. I bought a new Kingston SSD hard drive, then switched it with the old Toshiba. I then plugged the old Toshiba to the computer using a USB interface cable and started the computer in Recovery mode (Command+R pressed while powering on). Using the utilities I erased the new hard drive using the default options and made a new OSX install using my WiFi. After the OSX was installed it automatically suggested to import applications, settings etc from the old hard drive still connected via USB. Everything now works like a charm. No timemachine or cloning needed. I'm using the latest OSX version available for the late 2009 MacBook. Hope this helps!

  • 1
    How does this differ from previous answers? Dec 24, 2016 at 11:52

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