Create El Capitan recovery media on M1 MackBook?

djoye

2[H]4U
Joined
Aug 31, 2004
Messages
2,939
Am I correct in assuming that it's not possible to create bootable USB install media for El Capitan using an ARM-based MacBook (Big Sur)?

My brother-in-law brought me a Mac to fix, it looks like the OS was wiped or corrupted and the recovery partition was useless. It had El Capitan, but I've not been able to create a usable bootable USB using the DMG from Apple's site. I've tried with my M1 MacBook, I've tried using TransMac on Windows, but that didn't seem to help (wasn't bootable). I'm at the point where I'm thinking I need to tell him I'll have to purchase the physical media because the recovery mode won't even let me download the OS, I assume because you need an iCloud account with the OS tied to it. I can't believe how needlessly complicated this is (or I'm making it?). /whine
 

UnknownSouljer

Supreme [H]ardness
Joined
Sep 24, 2001
Messages
7,056
is Internet Recovery not an option? That's my go-to for Macs that support it.
OP states that the recovery partition on the machine in question is borked. I would imagine the best bet would be to buy a new HD (as this might not be an isolated problem) and reinstall from there. Upgrade to an SSD or whatever.
 

NattyKathy

Gawd
Joined
Jan 20, 2019
Messages
645
OP states that the recovery partition on the machine in question is borked. I would imagine the best bet would be to buy a new HD (as this might not be an isolated problem) and reinstall from there. Upgrade to an SSD or whatever.
Internet Recovery shouldn't depend on the local Recovery Partition AFAIK. I've used it to reinstall on MacBooks that had their original HDDs replaced with new, blank SSDs.
 

pendragon1

Fully [H]
Joined
Oct 7, 2000
Messages
26,978
Internet Recovery shouldn't depend on the local Recovery Partition AFAIK. I've used it to reinstall on MacBooks that had their original HDDs replaced with new, blank SSDs.
that is correct. ive installed dozens of new ssds in macbooks and internet recovery worked just fine with a blank drive.

op, yes you can still d/l the image and create a usb to reload from if internet recovery does not work.
https://www.lifewire.com/create-bootable-os-x-el-capitan-installer-2259939

or on windows:
https://techsprobe.com/create-bootb...OS El,the file and click Open. More items...
 

djoye

2[H]4U
Joined
Aug 31, 2004
Messages
2,939
Internet Recovery shouldn't depend on the local Recovery Partition AFAIK. I've used it to reinstall on MacBooks that had their original HDDs replaced with new, blank SSDs.
I was getting an error when trying internet recovery, it was vague, but search results seemed to indicate that I needed to sign into iCloud and have an El Capitan purchase or Mac registered to the account. I didn't have that at the time, but am now considering seeing what I can accomplish by tying my work MacBook to my account.

that is correct. ive installed dozens of new ssds in macbooks and internet recovery worked just fine with a blank drive.

op, yes you can still d/l the image and create a usb to reload from if internet recovery does not work.
https://www.lifewire.com/create-bootable-os-x-el-capitan-installer-2259939

or on windows:
https://techsprobe.com/create-bootbale-usb-for-mac-os-el-capitan/#:~:text=Now Create bootable USB for Mac OS El,the file and click Open. More items...
I've seen the VirtualBox option mentioned, so I might give that a try since that should let me install the actual OS version I need and then create media from it directly.
 

NattyKathy

Gawd
Joined
Jan 20, 2019
Messages
645
I was getting an error when trying internet recovery, it was vague, but search results seemed to indicate that I needed to sign into iCloud and have an El Capitan purchase or Mac registered to the account. I didn't have that at the time, but am now considering seeing what I can accomplish by tying my work MacBook to my account.


I've seen the VirtualBox option mentioned, so I might give that a try since that should let me install the actual OS version I need and then create media from it directly.
if the hard drive itself is busted (or if the cable is bad, or your wifi is having issues, or if Apples servers are in a particular mood, or even for no reason at all), Internet Recovery will fail. I don't remember having to sign in to iCloud when doing that, my memory is that depending on some factors Internet Recovery will either install the version of MacOS that came with the machine from the factory, or the latest version that was installed.
 

UnknownSouljer

Supreme [H]ardness
Joined
Sep 24, 2001
Messages
7,056
You definitely do have to own whatever copy of the OS as part of your iCloud/App Store. I ran into this issue myself when fixing an iMac for someone else (it was their first Mac and it was given to them with a corrupted HD). Even in this case though you should just use your friends info as in theory they should have all the versions added to their account.

As a side note, interestingly enough you can use any account you want to install it - and it still won't associate the computer with that iCloud account until actually going through Setup on "first boot". I was paranoid about this as again I didn't want to have my ID associated with the computer I was fixing and it turned out to be a non-issue.

I'm also uncertain as to why this is policy for Apple as as I linked in the first response, you can download any of the previous versions of macOS and create bootable media out of it directly from them. So it seems like it's unnecessary for there to be an OS ownership association.
 

djoye

2[H]4U
Joined
Aug 31, 2004
Messages
2,939
This is a 20" iMac early-2008, didn't know it was that old. I was able to create proper restore media from Apple using my Windows machine and the Mac seems healthy (HDD, wired/wireless, etc.) except the screen has some light wavy bars in it.

This is an outline of how I created the install media from a Windows PC:
  1. https://techsprobe.com/download-mac-os-el-capitan/
    Downloaded their 7-part El Capitan VMDK (virtual machine disk file)
  2. https://www.virtualbox.org/wiki/Downloads
    Downloaded VirtualBox and the Extension Pack (necessary for getting USB keys to work correctly).
    1. Created an OS X El Capitan VM in VirtualBox using the downloaded VMDK as the primary drive
    2. https://www.wikigain.com/install-mac-os-x-el-capitan-virtualbox/ -- Used Step 5 from this page to modify the VM config so that it would properly boot
    3. Basic setup on OS to get logged in
    4. Inside VM OS: Format a USB key using disk utility, name it something simple (ex: recovery) to access later in terminal
  3. https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT201372 - From within the VM, through Safari, downloaded the El Capitan DMG
    1. I initially broke something because I launched the pkg file/app, thought it was going to setup USB key since I pointed it to the key, but it set the VM to boot to recovery. In recovery I set the startup disk back to the primary OS drive to get back in. I think I was supposed to just exit the OSX installer instead of trying to go through it.
    2. Once back in the OS, I used Apple's terminal command example to build the install media and that went flawlessly
  4. Insert USB in iMac and use Option + R (I think) to get the boot options, select the install media and go.
I did initially try using TransMac on Windows to format a USB key and restore an image to use as recovery or install media, but either the images I had were no good or the USB key never came out bootable. While trying to image over the net, I did also try entering my iCloud credentials but would get something like 'this is not currently available'; it was certainly talking online because it prompted me for multi-factor authentication.
 

slavie

Weaksauce
Joined
Jan 2, 2012
Messages
118
I've had the privilege of bringing back to life non-current macs over the years, going back all the way to the PowerPC macs (the desklamp imac, or whatever it was called). A miserable experience every single time.

If you intend to keep that USB drive and use it in the future, make a note of the date you created the media. Don't know if this is the case with USB drives, but the DL-DVR's I had created would no longer work several months after creation. Turns out, apple will check system date against the DVD date and tell you to pound sand in a very non-particular way as only apple can if the dates are more than a few months apart. Solutions is, of course, to change the system date to the timeframe of the DVD to get past that step.

Anyway, good job!
 
Last edited:

NattyKathy

Gawd
Joined
Jan 20, 2019
Messages
645
I've had the privilege of bringing back to life non-current macs over the years, going back all the way to the PowerPC macs (the desklamp imac, or whatever it was called). A miserable experience every single time.

If you intend to keep that USB drive and use it in the future, make a note of the date you created the media. Don't know if this is the case with USB drives, but the DL-DVR's I had created would no longer work several months after creation. Turns out, apple will check system date against the DVD date and tell you to pound sand, in a very non-particular way as only apple can, if they're more than a few months apart.

Anyway, good job!
yeah I've had to deal with that upgrading to El Cap from an old image that I keep around on my utilz disk. Have to set the system date to October 2015 or something or it will refuse to run
 
Top