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Here is the sequence of events :

  1. I have a 15" MacBook Pro (mid 2012 IIRC 2009). Its HDD crashed.
  2. I replaced the HDD with another Toshiba HDD from my Dell laptop (which was running Windows 7). The Apple service center guys did it for me.
  3. I have another 13" MacBook Pro (Early 2015) which is running El Capitan
  4. On this second MacBook Pro, I created a bootable installer for macOS Sierra on an 8GB USB drive as per the steps here : https://support.apple.com/en-in/HT201372
  5. Inserted the USB drive into the old MacBook Pro, started it up, held down the Alt (Option) key.
  6. I am shown HDD and USB drive as options for boot disk. Touchpad doesn't work, only keyboard works. I choose USB using right arrow key and hit return.
  7. After a couple of seconds screen turns grey with the stop (Forbidden) symbol at the center. A minute or so later system shuts down.
  8. I try to boot multiple times, same result.
  9. I reset PRAM (Cmd + Alt (Option) + p + r), but no difference.
  10. Cmd + R at system startup to get into Recovery Mode did not work. (I guess this requires a OS to be installed)

What am I doing wrong? Any help in getting macOS installed on the replaced HDD is greatly appreciated.

Few things to note :

  1. The old MacBook on which I am trying to install macOS sierra is a HDD machine, which the new MacBook on which I downloaded the OS and created the bootable installer is a SSD machine.
  2. The replaced HDD put in the old MacBook is good and functional because just before being put in, I attached it to my new MacBook using an HDD adapter and copied contents.
  3. I do not need the data on the HDD. It can be wiped clean before installing macOS Sierra.
  4. The last OS version run by the old MacBook Pro is Mavericks (10.9). I am absolutely fine installing a version of OS X as old as Mavericks. I am not particular about macOS Sierra itself. I just need to know where I can get older versions.

Please let me know if any more information is needed to suggest a solution.

Answer to this question talks about using Disk Utility from the USB drive. How do I do that?

Update 2 :

I was able to boot the new MBP using the USB drive. It went all they till I was shown the options to install or start disk utility, etc. So Thumbdrive is all good, the new HDD is also good. So is it the case that since the installation USB drive was created on a newer MBP, the bootable part was created in such a way that the old MBP is not able to understand. Have there been changes in the boot table across Macs? UEFI v/s BIOS or EFI v/s MBR - anything like that?

Update 1 : Adding photos showing the screen state

Windows is trying to bootup. So HDD is good

enter image description here

USB drive is appearing as a boot option. So drive is properly formatted?

enter image description here enter image description here

It stops at this point on selecting USB drive

enter image description here

  • Please run an Apple hardware test and report back. – klanomath Nov 22 '16 at 12:34
  • Couple of things... 1) Are you certain the USB stick was formatted GUID/HFS+ before starting? 2) Cmd/R ought to boot to Recovery if there's something to boot from, or Internet Recovery if there isn't. Cmd/Shift/R will force it to go straight to internet recovery, from which you can install the OS that was on the machine when new [then upgrade]. – Tetsujin Nov 22 '16 at 12:34
  • @Tetsujin I did not do anything to format the USB drive. I cleared all the data and then followed the commands from the Apple support page that I linked to. I assumed the createinstallmedia would format the drive before copying stuff. If that's not the case how do I format the drive? Connecting the USB drive to my Mac and seeing "Get Info" shows "Mac OS Extended (Journaled)" i.imgur.com/8hpOxbj.png – brahmana Nov 22 '16 at 13:07
  • @klanomath Looked at the link. Looking at the options mentioned there, I am not sure how I can run hardware tests without a version of OS X on the HDD. I can't run it from the USB drive because it was created for a different model of MacBook Pro. Am I missing something? – brahmana Nov 22 '16 at 13:14
  • @brahmana 1.) The macOS Sierra installer thumb drive seems properly formatted (may have an MBR partition table though). Did you try to boot the new MBP with the thumb drive? 2.) ...Use Apple Hardware Test ... 4. If you don’t see the chooser screen, Apple Hardware Test may not be available on your Mac. You may be able to start Apple Hardware Test from the Internet. Reconnect your Mac to the network, then restart your Mac while holding down both the Option and D keys. – klanomath Nov 22 '16 at 13:20
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My old MacBook Pro is a mid 2009 model which is not supported by macOS Sierra. - Only MBPs Mid 2010 and later are supported.

I created an bootable USB disk from El Capitan (which I re-downloaded from "My Purchases" in AppStore) and that is booting up on my old MBP. Installing it now.

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