How to install macOS 10.12 Sierra from a USB stick

Looking to install El Capitan? The instructions are very similar, see here.

If you have a lot of machines to update or simply prefer a fresh install instead of an in-place upgrade, you should create a reusable macOS Sierra USB drive. For ease and speed we recommend you use a 16GB USB 3.0 drive. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Download macOS Sierra for free from here (links to the Mac App Store)
  2. Insert your USB drive and make sure there’s no irreplaceable data on it, since it’ll be erased
  3. Assuming you downloaded Sierra from the Mac App Store and your USB drive is named “Untitled”, open Terminal.app from Applications → Utilities and type:
sudo /Applications/Install\ macOS\ Sierra.app/Contents/Resources/createinstallmedia --volume /Volumes/Untitled --applicationpath /Applications/Install\ macOS\ Sierra.app

If your USB drive has a different name, simply substitute Untitled in bold above with it’s actual name (don’t forget to escape spaces either, so if your USB is called “My Disk” you’d write My\ Disk.

This the process should take some time, but once complete you may reboot from the USB drive and begin your fresh install.

After installing check out our OS X configuration guide, “How to set up your new Mac”.