If you’ve ever had to reinstall OS X, chances are you’ve used the Apple-provided system installer disc that came with the Mac. But what do you do if you misplace the DVD, or it becomes unreadable, or worse—your SuperDrive isn’t working? Having a backup of your system installer disc could save your bacon.
Instead of simply copying the system installer to another disc, you can create a USB flash drive installer similar to the one provided with the latest MacBook Air. You’ll get an installer that won’t scratch, is easier to transport, and considerably faster than an optical disc. We found the install time decreased by 33 percent when using the flash drive method.
The process of creating a flash drive system installer is simple. You’ll need the original installation disc, a working DVD drive, and a flash drive with a minimum of 8GB of storage capacity for Snow Leopard (or 9GB if using Leopard, since it calculates file sizes differently). Any data you have on the flash drive will be erased during the process, so back up anything on there that’s important to you.
Note that this article covers versions of Mac OS X Prior to Lion (Mac OS X 10.7). We also have instructions for creating a Lion-installer drive.