I asked earlier about how to create a Bootable drive for the purpose of installing Mac OS on an older machine, and I received a great answer (thanks to @David Anderson).

However, now that I have the Bootable drive containing Mac OS El Capitan, I cannot find good information on how to actually install from it.

When I turn on my iMac 2011, it takes me straight to the Recovery screen (because I previously Erased the main drive). In Disk Utility, I see my USB drive. When I go back to the menu, and click "Reinstall OS X", I get a prompt saying "OS X can't be installed because you aren't connected to the internet". When I do connect, I click try again and then a fail prompt comes up saying "A required download is missing". This is where I hit a dead end.

Google searches for "install Mac OS from bootable drive" turn up nothing about the actual installation. All the articles are about how to create the bootable drive.

Does anyone know how to actually install the OS? Perhaps some command I can enter into the terminal at the Recovery screen?

Thank you very much in advance

  • You are suppose to turn on the Mac, then immediately hold down the option key until the Startup Manager icons appear. Did you do that? Apr 22, 2020 at 2:38
  • No... I did not know about that. Thanks. Now I get two icons; Recovery 10.10.3 and OS X Base System . Shouldnt I see my USB Bootable drive ? Apr 22, 2020 at 2:59
  • I clicked "Recovery 10.10.3". It loaded for a while, then took me right back to the recovery screen where I was stuck before Apr 22, 2020 at 3:31
  • When I choose "OS X Base System", I get an error saying "Failed to Open OS X installer. The path /System/Installation/Packages/OSInstall.mpkg appears to be missing or damaged" Apr 22, 2020 at 4:04
  • @CodyBugstein - The very first link in your search "How to create a bootable installer" on Apple's website has a section titled "Use the bootable installer" and a link with instructions on how to select bootable media.
    – Allan
    Apr 22, 2020 at 13:26

1 Answer 1


Note: The images shown below are from a VirtualBox install of El Capitan. The installation was performed using a physical USB El Capitan flash drive installer. The instructions for creating this flash drive can be found here. You should see similar images when you install to your 2011 Mac.

  1. Make sure the Mac is off.
  2. Disconnect all devices from the Mac, except for any wired keyboard or mouse that you may be using.
  3. Insert the El Capitan bootable flash drive installer into an USB port on the Mac.
  4. Turn on the Mac and immediately hold down the option key until the Startup Manager icons appear.
  5. Click on the text Install El Capitan below an icon. The Mac should start booting from the flash drive.
  6. The first window viewed should be similar to the image shown bellow. Click on the Continue button.

  7. Proceed until you reach a window similar to the image shown below. From here, select Disk Utility... from the Utilities pulldown on the menu bar.

  8. Highlight the internal drive as shown in the image below, then click on the Erase button.

    Note: Your internal drive will not be named VBOX HARDDISK Media.

  9. Enter a Name for the volume to hold El Capitan. Set Format and Scheme as shown in the image below. When finished, click on the Erase button on the popup window.

  10. When the popup window shown below appears, click on the Done button.

  11. When you see window, similar to the image shown below, select Quit Disk Utility from the Disk Utility pulldown on the menu bar.

  12. Highlight the volume you just named as shown below, then click on the Continue button.

  13. Below is an image of El Capitan installing. To finish, answer any questions asked by the installer.

  • i don't see that first "Install OS X" screen when I start up. I see two choices: Recovery 10.10.3 and OS X Base System Apr 23, 2020 at 22:28
  • Then you must have made a mistake when putting the files on the flash drive. Or, there is something wrong with the flash drive. Or, there is something wrong with the Mac. Or, you did not execute steps 1 through 4 correctly. I am typing this message on a iMac (21.5-inch, Mid 2011). The flash drive was tested on this Mac up to the point posted in your preceding comment. Apr 23, 2020 at 23:06
  • I would suggest posting a picture of what you are seeing. Apr 23, 2020 at 23:22
  • I followed all the instructions to create the Bootable drive, but at the end, it hangs. Could this be causing the problem (i.e ruining the bootable drive)? I posted it as a separate question. apple.stackexchange.com/questions/389216/… Apr 23, 2020 at 23:37

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .