Installing Leopard Without Burning a DL-DVD

Make sure that the drive is formatted using a GUID partition scheme (you may need to reformat your drive to get it in this form). The procedure is the same for an external hard drive, just substitute the iPod partition for the partition on your external hard drive.

So if you’re like me, you like to make legitimate backups of your software and original install discs. I always make an image of the disc using Disk Utility, included in OS X. Well, lets say you made a backup image of the new Mac OS X Leopard 10.5 disc and then accidentally destroy the disc, but you need to install the OS. Disk Utility to the rescue! As long as you have a spare external hard drive (I’m using a USB one in this case), you can extract the image to the HD and boot from it. Here’s how:

  1. Start by creating the disc image of the installation media (this can be DMG, CDR, ISO or any of the disc image formats supported by Mac OS X).
  2. Connect your external drive and launch Disk Utility.
  3. Select the drive in Disk Utility and then select the Partition tab. Make sure that the drive is formatted using a GUID partition scheme (you may need to reformat your drive to get it in this form).  (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) 
  4. Once the drive is in the GUID partition scheme.
  5. Select the Restore tab of Disc Utility and drag the Disk Image for the Installation Media onto the Source field.
  6. Then drag the appropriate partition (in my case, the USB external drive) to the destination field.
  7. Press restore.
  8. Once the restore is complete, launch System Preferences and select Start up Disk. You should now see the external drive listed as a start up disk. Select it and press restart. You can now install as if you had inserted the DVD!

Additional notes:

  • Plug the HD directly into the computer, not into a Fire wire or USB hub. The installer had trouble finding the internal HD when connected through a USB hub.
  • This procedure should be the same for previous versions of OS X as well, except for PowerPC versions. PowerPC versions probably need to change the partition format of the drive to Apple Partition Map, but I’m not sure.

Video:Here is a demonstration of using an iPod as the external media. The procedure is the same for an external hard drive, just substitute the iPod partition for the partition on your external hard drive.  

Full Resolution Quicktime MOV Happy Installing Everyone! 

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.

79 thoughts on “Installing Leopard Without Burning a DL-DVD”

  1. There is a better way: create a partition with the boot camp from your internal hard drive, extract the files theres and boot from it!

  2. I don’t know about that. First, the partition created by Disk Utility is not a GUID HFS+ partition, I believe it’s MBR. Second, for people who haven’t downloaded the beta version of Boot Camp, they will not be able to do this because the Tiger Boot Camp beta is no longer available. You’re welcome to give it a try though. You might just try creating another partition on your Internal HD in Journaled HFS+ and restoring the installer image to that drive and booting to that. Just keep in mind if you do it this way it will take longer to install because it’s seeking and writing to the same disk simultaneously.

  3. to nickganga : “First, the partition created by Disk Utility is not a GUID HFS+ partition, I believe it’s MBR.”
    You can create all 3 types of partition with Disk Utility : GUID, MBR and a third type to work as a Mac PPC disk and/or not bootable MacIntel disk.

    Am in the process of installing Leopard (my official copy gets home through snail mail on monday, couldn’t wait the weekend), and I can’t get to burn a DL DVD that works, so hopefully your tip will save my life (well, for the rest of the week-end, that is ;))

  4. @sillycone,
    You are right, the Disk Utility can create all three types of partitions, but what I am saying is in order to be able to boot that drive from the MacIntel, it needs to be GUID.

  5. @nickganga,

    I guess it was just a typo on your part, you were probably answering previous post meaning that *BootCamp* creates MBR partitions (and not Disk Utility).
    I made the test with MBR (Windows formated brand new USB HD), didn’t work, then repartitionned in GUID, and worked like a charm. Been enjoying Leopard the whole day thanks to you, kudos !!!

  6. If I want to format an USB drive (NTFS format) to boot from it, it will loose the information inside or it just take some free space?

  7. If you install using this method, will it erase everything on your current internal drive, or will it just upgrade the OS? Thanks.

  8. Can I use an ipod for this, because when I open the disk utility trying to format it shows me a message telling me that it’s an ipod and it can loose some functionalitys. Is this a good way? can I recover those functionalys restoring the ipod? any recomendation?


  9. Cavallino,
    Sure I don’t see why not. You will loose all the data from your iPod while you are doing this, but once you upgrade you can restore and re-sync your iPod and should be fine.

  10. I tried this method using an iPod, but when I tried to partition the disk, it gave me an error: “Input/Output error”. Any ideas about why that might happen and how I could fix it? Thanks!

  11. Hey Alex & AJ. I have had a lot of people ask me about using the iPod so I’m just going to write another blog entry about it. It will be posted sometime today so check the main page.

  12. Brett,
    As long as you use the correct partition scheme (Apple Partition Table, in this case). Just remember to go to System Preferences and select the new start up disk or hold down option when powering on the Mac.

  13. Whoosh. I had never suspected that as many people who backed up their original Leopard DVD suddently would need to re-install it.


  14. Ok I did all of that with a Usb external HD on my imac g5. i can’t neem to boot to it. In system the HD does not show up. Is there a particual volume format it must be? I’ve tried
    Mac OS Extended and Mac OS Extended Journaled both in apple partition map. any help for me?

  15. Brett,
    The partition doesn’t matter, just make sure you have a Apple Partition Map for the Drive’s partitions. Then remember to click Apply. Then make sure to select the new partition and drag it to the destination on the restore tab.

  16. hmmm, I just can’t seem to get it to show up in the start up disk preferences. am I supposed to restore the dmg to the new partition? I’ve been restoring the disk image. I then tried to open the new partition in finder and click the install but and it says it can’t install from that volume. I really don’t know what’s wrong.

  17. I did everything thing but when I am in the process of installying it it cant find the internal drive to install it to. is this a problem with my copy or what? Also, when I backed my copy up I have a nfo and a srv file, are these anything to do with it? I didnt add them to the drive.

  18. hmm, I tried it a couple of times on both ports, same thing, even if I trie to open startup disk it doesnt reconize that the internal drive. Im on a mac book pro if that matters, any other ideas?

  19. Hi, Nick!

    I followed your instructions, only that I formatted my external USB HD with the “Apple Partition Map” scheme, as I am running on a PPC G5. The resulting Volume with the restored Leopard dmg does not show up in my list of StartUp-Volumes. Dunno what went wrong with it. Watched your video, but it did not give me a clue. Any suggestions? I am at the end of my wits.

    kind regards,

  20. thanks nick! 🙂
    tried your method & it worked like a charm! i’ve now got leopard on my first gen macbook pro even without a DL dvd burner.

  21. Hi Nick,

    I have a iMac G5 PPC with an external HD that I’m using to install Leopard OSX. I lost the disk and only have a backup volume of the OS on my external HD at this point. How do I get the computer to recognize it as a startup device? I’ve tried Startup Disk but it’s not showing up there. Any suggestions?

  22. For those people having problems with a PPC Mac and booting from a USB drive, it’s not supported. There is a hack you can google for, that doesn’t work on all PPC Macs either. You need to do this from a firewire drive for it to work for sure.

  23. i have an Intel Mac Mini with Tiger and a broken DVD drive (I unscrewed too many screws on it when I upgraded the RAM). I have boot camp and XP already. If i install Leopard will it effect my XP partition? I’m hoping I can install Leopard over top of Tiger and leave the XP partition untouched. Please could someone let me know if this is possible? thanks Nick for the helpful tutorial!!

    1. Hey Christian,
      As far as I know, your BootCamp partition should remain unaffected. You will need to install the new version of Boot Camp drivers and Apple Software Update which is found on the Leopard install DVD.

  24. I have a copy of Leopard and i want to install it on a PC, with my ipod, but i only have pcs at the house. Ive been trying to find a program similar to the “disk utility” for mac but no luck. Can anyone help?

    Install Mac > on a pc > with 30 Gb ipod > from a pc… Can it be done?

  25. Nick, thanks for the instruction posts. i formatted my ipod mini with Apple Partition Map and a partition and then everything went smooth as silk when i kept it in disk mode. thanks again

  26. Hey,
    I have a 17inch G4 PowerBook (2004) with a SuperDrive that doesn`t read dual layer DVDs (yes I`ve updated the firmware).
    I have managed to make an image of my install disk using a coworkers external DVD drive (USB).
    My question is, should the above method work on a non intenl machine using an external USB drive?

  27. Hey, i did all these steps on my firewire drive and my computer recognizes it as a startup disk but when i click restart it just goes back to my normal OS. And when i press option it only gives me the option to boot with 10.4. This is really weird……but my drive is correctly done i guess. Maybe its just my computer? thanks!

  28. Hello nickganga, i have the Mac OS X 10.5.6 system in my macbook, my problem is that it frezzes everytime i want to do an action, sometimes does it every 15 min, the beachball appears and freezes it, for a range of 30-60 sec…someone told me that back up the info and install the dvd,but i lost the one that comes with the my cuestions are:
    1.- running this dmg file (installation dvd) without burning a dvd, it would solve my problem?

    2.- how should i do run the dmg file? (i have the ipod touch, and its not possible with that) should run it from the internal hd..procedures??

    Thanks a lot!!

  29. I am having the same problem as pein. I restored to an external USB drive and I managed to get mine to show up in the startup disks but when I try to boot to it it just goes back to the old OS. I am on an Intel Mac Pro.

  30. please help to install it to my power mac g5 please give step by step . i am going to use my external usb hard drive. this is the first time i trying to do it. thank you much

  31. If I make a small 7 GB partition on my external hard drive, and set that particular one to GUID. And do all the other steps, can I keep my data on the other partition? It’s very hard to move, being over 300 GB. 😐

    Thanks to any replies.

  32. I am working on Mac mini with 10.3.9. I strictly follow your steps and use a 8GB flash drive. But does not boot from USB. I tried to startup utility from system preference. By the way i am using PowerPC G4.

    Please help me.

    1. 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.

  33. I’m also trying to recover a OS X 10.5.?? disk, but in my case I do want to burn it to a CD-ROM. It’s not working. What am I doing wrong? I was forced to download a “torrent” off the web that’s my source file. I have a Mac Mini that DOES have a DVD-ROM drive that can write to all six of the common formats. I’ve purchased some “DVD+R DL”s, but every time I try to burn a OS X disk from “Disk Utilities”, I get an error message that includes the phrase “…medium write error”. Three times now, I’ve wasted disks.


  34. This worked great! But it only allows me to install ower the prevous verison I have of os x.
    How can I delete all the data on my disc and install from a bootable usb-disc?

  35. anyone having the issue where you internal HD is not showing up to select instal destination, just insert a usb drive of some sort into your computer, and installer will detect both the external, and your internal drive. you may need to select the “go back” option, and then proceed with the installation once again. i ran into the same problem and this was what i did to resolve the issue. hope this helps.

  36. These are really great and detailed instructions, I’ve seen many like these and I have the same problem with all of them wherein once I go into the Start Disk there is only the original hard drive listed, my external USB drive is not being seen. I’ve even gone as far as inserting a Tiger install disc and when I start walking through that install it sees the external USB and tells me that it is unable to install on that volume. I’m really curious as to what’s going on

    1. Thanks David. To resolve that problem, run DIsk Utility while in the Installer and make sure you can see the disk there. Then Repair Permissions and Verify the DIsk. It should show up after that. Otherwise, run those some commands from the currently installed OS.

  37. Hey so, I’m trying to install leopard from a dmg file as per your directions and it keeps giving me the same error message.

    Error(16) Resource is busy

    Do you know what this means or how to fix it or where I might look that could tell me?


  38. Hi,

    This is a great entry. However before I embark on this endeavor, I was wondering if using a second internal hard drive would work the same as an external hard drive.


  39. Hey
    I followed all the steps correctly and when i select the usb device from disk startup and restart, the computer just restarts back into tiger not leopard. Whats up? This is a flash drive usb, does it make a difference?

  40. Well I never did get the install to kick off from the USB drive – as far as I can tell your drive must be firewire – now I have a different question – how do I install a DMG file stored on a separate machine – I have a G5 desktop and would like to install the DMG file onto a MacBook Pro – any help?

  41. I had 10.5 but it blew up 3 days after having so I have 2 HD’s internally now (one is 10.2 and the other is the destroyed 10.5) I am trying to reinstall 10.5 to the correct HD but my Disk Utility doesn’t have a “Restore” button. What can I do?

  42. Muchas gracias por la guía por la instalación… He estado buscando para una manera a instalar este sistema opertivo sin disco. Ojala que la instalación se funcione sin problemas. Muchas gracias de nuevo…

  43. it worked! although the last part where you’ll see the external hd as a startup disc on system preferences> startup disc failed, holding down the option key worked on restart! it took about an hour to install, probably due to my old ext hd but its working now and just updating at the moment. i kinda feel sad cause its the last osx for my machine, 17″ flatpanel g4 “lampshade”, but better late than never. thankfully its not slow on my machine.

    thanks nickganga!

  44. I must say THANK YOU a million times over for this post, if i had read it 5 hrs before I would not have wasted my money on purchasing DL DVD’s that didn’t work.

    I have
    Powerbook G4 1.3MHZ (PowerPC)
    2GB RAM
    160GB Harddrive with Tiger

    I got an old 20GB HDD i had with XP on it, placed it in an External enclosure and formatted it on the MAC (I chose ‘Apple Partition Map’ because i am running a NON-INTEL computer)

    I mounted the Leopard ISO, followed ur instructions and restored it to the drive, HOWEVER, when u get to Start UP Disk, I was not seeing the option to start up with the USB External (PowerPC’s cannot do that from what i read)

    So i restarted the mac and held down the ALT/OPTION button, then i got the option to boot from the USB external and everything was like a walk in the park since then.

    Really appreciate this post!

  45. Hello,
    I’ve been trying for months now to get this to work form a DL DVD…I have a:
    Machine Model: PowerMac6,1
    CPU Type: PowerPC G4 (3.3)
    Number Of CPUs: 1
    CPU Speed: 1 GHz

    and whenever I tried inserting the DL DVD in my CD/DVD drive, it would spit it back out.
    Luckily, i have an external hd..
    i have it where it can run on both a mac and a pc (ms-dos file system)..i just tried all of your instructions and i got an error while trying to restore….i’ve been reading alot of these posts and i keep seeing that the external hd should be in apple partition or something like that..what does this mean and how do i do it?
    someone please help!

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