Multiple OS X installers on one USB memory stick

Moleyman69

macrumors member
Original poster
May 12, 2009
53
0
Hi everyone,

I'm just looking for some confirmation on if it is possible to have multiple OS X installers (Snow Leopard, Mavericks, Yosemite, El Capitan and Sierra) on one large (32GB or 64GB) USB memory stick if I partition the drive enough times?

Are there any pitfalls or gotchas to consider doing it this way (other than losing the USB stick)? Would I be better to just have lots of 8GB thumb drives instead (don't really want to go this way) with one OS per drive?

Many thanks,

Moley
 

DeltaMac

macrumors G3
Jul 30, 2003
9,526
2,298
Delaware
I play around with that a lot. I have a 64GB stick, with nine separate partitions, one for each OS X install from Leopard to Sierra, plus more space for other app installs.
I also have 8GB sticks for each OS X version. I like the single sticks, as I can just put the one I need in my pocket, and I'm gone. No need to look for the USB cable (which disappears when I need it :D )
The multi-partition stick WOULD work nicely, but I don't trust it. It has one of those cheap plastic connectors, instead of metal, and mine loses contact with ports on some systems. Not exactly a comfortable thing to have happen during an install. So, I just use it to play around, try some different things.
My best installer set is on a 160GB hard drive. Has all those macOS installers from Leopard to Sierra, and a couple of other partitions with other kinds of app installs/system updaters/etc. That drive has 13 partitions, IIRC.

I have another external 2TB that has USB/Firewire with all THOSE partitions, plus one for Tiger install, and bootable installed systems with Tiger/Leopard/Snow Leopard and Mountain Lion. THAT hard drive is formatted the older Apple Partition map, so installing newer versions of OS X is a challenge. BUT, I can boot to the installer for Tiger on an old CRT iMac if I want. And, I can boot from that same hard drive to install Sierra on a Mac that supports that. I have 19 partitions on that drive, some dedicated for temporary backups, so I have a lot on that drive.

Which is "better"? Multiple partitions, or single partition drives? Depends on your needs, I think.
I like to think that I have a lot of versatility, and I can try several different techniques to install when other methods (DVD, etc) have struggles, or seem to fail completely.
 

chown33

Moderator
Staff member
Aug 9, 2009
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Gourd City
Are there any pitfalls or gotchas to consider doing it this way (other than losing the USB stick)? Would I be better to just have lots of 8GB thumb drives instead (don't really want to go this way) with one OS per drive?
If you do go the "lots of thumb drives" route, you may find it's more convenient to use an SD card instead of actual thumb drives. There will still be tradeoffs, such as speed, capacity, cost, etc. I generally find it's easier to both label and organize multiple SD cards vs. the same number of USB sticks.

SD cards also offer a write-protect slider/switch, although not all SD-card readers honor this. Micro-SD cards don't have this, only full-size SD cards do, though micro-to-full-SD adapters do.
 
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Moleyman69

macrumors member
Original poster
May 12, 2009
53
0
Hi,

Thank you for taking the time to reply.

I'm going to get a larger memory stick and give that a try. At least it will be a bit of experience if nothing else which is never a bad thing in my eyes.

Another question, if I may - have you ever come across USB sticks that won't boot a Mac? I ask because I have a quite a few Toshiba U202 8GB USB 2.0 sticks which I use to make bootable Windows 7 and Windows 10 USB drives for my PC, but I cannot get them to boot my Macs. However if I use Transcend USB 2.0 sticks then these will boot my Mac no problem. I use the same procedure each time, regardless of Manufacturer, but the result is always the same - no boot from the Toshiba sticks on Macs.

Thanks again,

Moley
 
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DeltaMac

macrumors G3
Jul 30, 2003
9,526
2,298
Delaware
I don't know why your experience is like that with Toshiba.
If formatted properly for a Mac, they should work.
The flash drives that come with security software of some kind don't usually work with a Mac, but formatting (deleting the existing partition) SHOULD work to remove that.

But, seems pretty simple here: if you know that another brand works, use that one. Don't use one that you already know doesn't boot on a Mac. Flash drives are too cheap to cause that kind of headache.
 

Andy2k

macrumors member
Jul 18, 2015
68
13
Make sure the USB drives weren't formatted with master boot record setting. They should be GUID Partition Map for any modern Mac. I have had problems where Disk Utility will use MBR as the default setting if you formatted the drive before with MBR (like you would to format a drive for Winblows).

Hi,

Thank you for taking the time to reply.

I'm going to get a larger memory stick and give that a try. At least it will be a bit of experience if nothing else which is never a bad thing in my eyes.

Another question, if I may - have you ever come across USB sticks that won't boot a Mac? I ask because I have a quite a few Toshiba U202 8GB USB 2.0 sticks which I use to make bootable Windows 7 and Windows 10 USB drives for my PC, but I cannot get them to boot my Macs. However if I use Transcend USB 2.0 sticks then these will boot my Mac no problem. I use the same procedure each time, regardless of Manufacturer, but the result is always the same - no boot from the Toshiba sticks on Macs.

Thanks again,

Moley
 
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