Installing Leopard Using an iPod

Follow these steps to use your iPod.Prerequisites: You must have an iPod with 8GB (that means 8GB iPod Nano, any HD based iPod, etc) Note: the iPod Touch + iPhone will not work for this.

So I had a lot of traffic and comments on my previous entry about how to install Leopard from an ISO without burning a DL-DVD. With that, the number one question everyone has been asking me is, “Can you an iPod to install Leopard?” and the answer is an astounding Yes! Follow these steps to use your iPod.Prerequisites:

  • You must have an iPod with 8GB (that means 8GB iPod Nano, any HD based iPod, etc)
  • Note: the iPod Touch + iPhone will not work for this. You need to have a click-wheel iPod that supports Disk Mode
  • A Leopard ISO

UPDATED: 11/18/2007Important Notes:

  • Intel based Macs can only boot from USB devices using the GUID partition scheme (this means 5G iPods, 2 & 3G iPod Nanos)
  • PowerPC (PPC) based Macs (ie G3, G4, G5 Processors) can only boot using Firewire devices using the Apple Partition Map scheme (all firewire iPods) 
  • I have had a lot of people have random problems when restoring the disc image to the iPods. Please make sure you have an exact image of the Install DVD. If there are any inconsistencies, there will be problems restoring the image. Please check the checksum of the images.


  1. Reset your iPod and force it into Disk Mode – Press and hold Menu + Center until you see the Apple logo. Then Press and Hold Center + Play/Pause. The screen should turn to gray-scale and show “OK to Disconnect” (circa old old ipods).
  2. Connect the iPod to your computer (do not use a USB hub if possible).
  3. iTunes will launch automatically and probably start syncing. Make sure “Enable Disk Use” is checked on the settings for iTunes and press Sync one more time.
  4. Quit iTunes and launch the Activity Monitor and quit the iTunes Helper.
  5. You should still see the iPod listed on your desktop as a mounted drive. If you don’t see the iPod mounted on the desktop, return to step 1.
  6. Open Disk Utility
  7. Select the iPod (the top one, mine is labeled 74.5 GB Apple iPod Media) then select the Partition tab.
  8. Change the selection from “Current Partition Scheme” to “1 Partition”. Click on Options and select GUID Partition Table and press OK. (NOTE: If you are going to use a PowerPC based Mac, ie G4 or G5, you need to select Apple Partition Map here. GUID is for Intel Macs ONLY)
  9. Give the Partition a name and select Partition. The system will ask you to authenticate.
  10. Click on the Restore tab and drag the iPod partition to the Destination field
  11. Drag the Leopard image file to the Source field and press Restore. LeopardIpod 1
  12. Once complete, open System Preferences and go to the Start up Disk option. Make sure you see the iPod listed there. Select the appropriate drive and click restart.   LeopardIpod 2
  13. Install Leopard!

** If you are using a PowerPC Based Mac (G4, G5), you must use the Startup Disk utility in System Preferences to select the startup volume and reboot from this tool. Notes:

  • It’s really important the iPod stay in Forced Disk mode. If you try and boot up the Mac with the iPod connected but not in Disk Mode, it won’t do anything

Video Guide: 

Full Resolution Quicktime MOV Because of the amount of feedback I get on this article, I am disabling comments on this post and would like to invite readers to discuss on the newly created forum,

Hi everyone. Since there is so much feedback to this article, I’m going to have to close the comments. If you want to chat with me, use my GTalk Widget on the sidebar or send me a message on Twitter. Thanks.

66 thoughts on “Installing Leopard Using an iPod”

  1. Nick-

    Thanks so much for posting a great step-by-step for the iPod. However, it still doesn’t work for me. I follow your steps but when I get to this one: “Give the Partition a name and select Apply. The system will ask you to authenticate.” I get stuck. There is no option called “Apply”, so instead I clicked on “Partition”. It asked if I really wanted to partition the iPod so I clicked “Partition” again. It then gave me a “Partition Failed” error, with the error being “Input/Output Error”. Maybe there’s something wrong with my iPod … oh well.


  2. Hi,
    I have followed all the steps…but i can´t boot from my ipod…. they aren´t show on startup list…even when i boot holding the “option” key.

    I´m using a 5G ipod video…and Powerbook G4.

    Thanks for your help!


  3. Sonelux,
    Did you make sure to keep your iPod in Disk Mode? Also, did you make sure to reformat it with the GUID Partition table? I tested it with my 5G iPod video while I was writing this and it worked fine.

  4. Sonelux,
    The problem that you are having is not your iPod or your G4, the problem you are having is that this method, described above is a method for getting this to work for and Intel-based Mac, you need to partition in Apple Partition Mapping mode…

  5. I have a 5G video iPod and PowerBook G4. I followed the steps (partitioned it with the Apple Partition Mapping) and it doesn’t work. I cannot see it among the startup disc. I’m also keeping it in the disk mode. Any thoughts? Thanks!

  6. Johnny,
    You need to go to the Partition tab, not the General one and re-create the entire partition table.
    “Open Disk Utility
    Select the iPod (the top one, mine is labeled 74.5 GB Apple iPod Media) then select the Partition tab.
    Change the selection from “Current Partition Scheme” to “1 Partition”. Click on Options and select GUID Partition Table and press OK.”

    hope this helps

  7. I’m good all the way up until step 9.
    My 30gb iPod is totally blank, and I reset it, put it in disk mode, etc. When I go to partition it, says:
    Partition failed
    Partition failed with the error:
    Invalid argument

    Does anyone know what I did wrong?

  8. I haven’t even gotten to that step yet. The Disk Utility won’t let me parition my iPod to GUID.

    I get the previously mentioned error message.

  9. …however, having had a look around, I’m relatively certain this wont work with PPC macs – seems like they need to boot from firewire. There’s talk of using open firmware and a USB 2 drive, but this doesn’t seem to work with an iPod.

  10. Hi, i found the first part myself but when installing everything suddenly freezes. the mouse still works. i have tried it 4 times now. i use 30gb ipod video with guid on macbook.

    anyone experiencing the same?

  11. The video you made is great but I’m having the same issue as Matt – Invalid Argument. Also, the Disk Utility you use, is different than mine. I don’t have an “Apply” button. My version is 10.5.8

  12. well, enough! i’ve spent several (or many already) hours trying to install Leopard in my iBook G4, with 1,5G RAM and 1.33Ghz. that is, perfectly compatible with leopard.

    since my dvd-drive doesnt read dl-dvd, i’ve tried several ways and that included erasing a 30G iPod and followed every step u’ve posted here a couple of times.

    however, when i get to re-start the machine, i never get the ipod icon after pressing ‘option’ key. the ipod displays ‘ok to disconnect’ sign, and that’s it. i’ve also tried going to ipod and click on ‘install leopard’ icon, and then the computer reboots, a small icon showing the world starts blinking, followed by folder that also blinks alternating a question mark and ‘finder’ face inside. after a while, mac os x starts.

    what apple did to owners of two-year or older macs is a tremendous lack of respect. if i were in the us, i would sue them for this waste of time and frustration.

    any suggestion to solving my problem, besides hearing my laments?

  13. after a little research, it seems the problem is that ipod video connects via usb – not firewire – and PPC Mac boots only with firewire – not usb. is that right? any way of sorting it out?

  14. Yes, Francisco is correct. I forgot to mention. Intel based Macs can only boot off USB external devices and PPC based Macs can only boot off Firewire. I will edit the post with this info.

  15. What about the video Matt and I have commented about. iPod Video, yes is USB and only Intel Macs can boot from USB, but I, and Matt, cannot even get our iPods to format. Invalid argument thrown by Disk Utility when trying to partition the iPod’s hardrive.

    Any suggestions NickGanga?

  16. I have an Ibook G4 that I’m trying to install Leopard on with a 8Gb black ipod. Got to some of the last steps, where I’m about to install it from starup disk, but it wont show my ipod with leopard on. Do you know what’s wrong?
    Is it because i’m using USB and not firewire? if that’s so, can an Ipod nona even work with firewire?

    Hope to get some help-

  17. Dear Nick
    I do not know how to add my file to the source field. i think it may be the wrong format. i would appreciate if you could help me or supply me with a good ISO.
    Thank You.

  18. Hey this mite be a bit of a noob question but im assuming that by doing all of this all the stuff i have on my ipod will be gone?

  19. yeh ive double checked all the steps and i am pretty sure ive done them all correctly however my ipod does not come up as an option when i go to the startup disk settings. I chose apple partition map over the GUID thing should i have done this? i am on an ibook ppc G4.

  20. um…. It is showing me invalid argument, and also what is the actvity monitor? If you could make a video of step by step instructions, starting from the very beginning not step 5, that would be very appreciated and helpful to everyone I assume.

  21. ok I found out what activity monitor is and how to close itunes helper, but when i restart using my iPod, which is an 80gb Ipod Video, the computer shuts off and then when it turns on, the screen gets grey like it usually does, but it stays like that. I left it like that over night and it was still grey in the morning.

  22. ok i got this software up and running, here are the new instructions I found!! irst, assuming your iPod is mounted, you want to erase it. To do so, go back to Disk Utility, click on your iPod in the sidebar, and go to the Erase tab. Then just choose Mac OS Extended (Journaled) from the drop-down and click the erase button. Disk Utility will ask for confirmation, you’ll confirm, and your iPod will be formatted and erased.

    restore-leopard.pngNow it’s time to restore the Leopard disk image to your iPod (or whatever external hard drive you’re using), and again you’ll be using Disk Utility. Make sure the iPod is selected in the sidebar, then go to the Restore tab. Drag the Leopard.dmg image into the Source box (or browse for it by clicking the Image button), drag the iPod into the destination, and click the Restore button. Now you’ll just have to sit back and wait a few minutes while the disk image is restored to your iPod.

    When it’s done, you’re ready to use that pod to install Leopard. Open the Startup Disk preference pane in your Preferences, choose Mac OS X, 10.5 on Your iPod, and click Restart. ( …Before all this, follow the steps to mount. To find the activity monitor, type it in on Finder. Nick doesnt mention to erase it. That is what makes it work and no partitioning is needed just erase,restore,and restart. ENJOY!!!

  23. Oh, just forgot something,when I did this, I did not use disk mode, I used the normal do not disconnect, without holding menu and center and ithout holding play/pause and center

  24. I just bought a G5 desktop off an auction in my school and it didnt come w a OS.. I downloaded of bitTorrent the Mac OS X 10.5 leopard.dmg file (6.6GB)
    I decompressed this file and it has the following files


    I saved those files in a 8Gb flash drive, I connected it in the G5 USB port, I held down the Option key when starting up the computer but nothing shows up only two icons, a refresh icon n an arrow pointing to the right. It doesnt show anything else.. I should be able to see something to install the file right? Am I doing something wrong? Im sorry but im new to mac..

  25. pleas help my ipod sad “ok for to disconnect”
    i connect, and this come up Do not disconnect. thats ok
    but i don’t see mounted drive on desktop

    pleas help

  26. pleas help my ipod sad “ok for to disconnect”
    i connect, and this come up Do not disconnect. thats ok
    but i don’t see mounted drive on desktop
    *i see an ipod logo*
    pleas help

  27. when i restart my mac there is just a blank white screen. is this normal and is just taking some time reboot. or did i screw up?

  28. I don´t know what I´m doing wrong. Tha mac starts and I cuse where to open leopard, and it start downloading. And that´s it. it says 2 hours and 18 min til finished, but nothing happens. What am I doing wrong??

  29. Hello,
    I reformatted my hd to guid with 1 partition with mac os extended (journaled) format and it won’t show up when i hold down the option key, does it take a while to show up? I waited about 30 seconds. I have the os as a .dmg. Any help?

  30. OK I got 2 seperate computers.. a pc, and a ibook g4 with 1.1g ram 1g processor…

    The ipod i have is a 60 gig video.

    I have cables, both USB and firewire for the ipod..

    Leopard OS X is on the PC hard drive. Currently running Panther, and xp pro.

    Using the ipod, and USB/Fire wire BETWEEN pc and G4… will this work?
    Alot of mixed reviews..

  31. Thanks for this guide it rules, but i can’t get the ipod to show up in start up disk utility. I have restored the leopard disk image onto the ipod and it is all fine but then when i go to select start up disk the ipod isn’t an option. I have tried redoing the whole process numerous times, still the ipod won’t show up as a start up disk.

    Any help would be much appreciated


  32. Hi there,

    I flowed your instructions going off an ipod 60gb to update a power mac G5 power PC.
    The disk image didn’t show up in the system pref stage, So i restarted my mac to try and get out of it, now i just get a flashing small globe icon on my screen!

    Can you help me out please?


  33. Does a .dmg file work? Or does it HAVE to be an ISO file? If it does have to be ISO, how do I convert it?


  34. hi. please help! help please. i am professional with pc comps but now i bought power mag g5 with tiger 10.4. im not familiar with this machine and USB external hard drive this is all i have! is any body know how to boot leopard 10.5.6 os by using external usb hard drive? PLEASE

  35. Ok, I’m running Leopard on my asus amd system. I loaded an actual Leopard image onto my ipod video from my pc that has the OS X 86 Leopard OS on it. I was trying to fix another friends mac. Its actually an Ibook G4. My question is how do I get the leopard install partition off of my Ipod video and back to its original form. I can’t get it to show up in my Mac partition or Vista partition. It won’t format at all. Any Ideas?

    C. Ben Obianozie

  36. Hi!

    the videoguide by nickganga worked for me.
    I have a macbook -98 and a ipod 20gb USB (the older ones). I just erased the ipod with disk utility and default settings. Then on the restore tap I dragged the osx_install_dvd.iso from my desktop to the source box and the ipod to the destination box from the list –> restore. after it’s done I set the startup disk to ipod and rebooted also holding down the option key. then I got an option whether to boot from the ipod or the macbook’s HD. I choose the ipod and after a while it started to install the leopard.

    thanks again nickganga.

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