Install & Boot OS X Leopard from a USB Flash Drive

By Dan Hinckley

126 responses. »

Update: You can now find instructions on how to install OS X Snow Leopard from a USB Drive at Maciverse.

If you’re one of those people that continually adjust system settings, make changes in terminal, and try new and experimental software then you’ve probably done something in the past to your OS X installation that has compromised performance or made things stop working completely.

On the other hand, you may have installed the latest updates to OS X and various programs just stopped working. If either of these sound like you, you may find it handy to have a back up OS X 10.5 Leopard install that you can boot to and make adjustments to your system.

Installing OS X Leopard on a USB Flash Drive is much easier than expected. In fact it is almost the exact same experience you had when installing the device on your Mac originally. For a complete install you’ll need at least an 8gb Flash drive or a larger external USB Hard Drive.

To install OS X Leopard 10.5 follow these steps:

  1. Insert the OS X 10.5 Leopard DVD into your Mac
  2. Open system preferences, start up disks, and restart into the OS X 10.5 Leopard DVD
  3. Once your computer restarts into OS X Leopard, continue through the introduction and agreement pages that will be displayed until you get to the screen that asks you to select your installation Volume.
  4. You can’t yet select your USB Flash drive, so select Utility from the menu bar and open Disk Utility
    Kingston DataTraveler R Media.png
  5. In Disk Utility, select the USB Flash Drive and then Select Partition.
  6. From here select 1 Partition and then click Options
    Kingston DataTraveler R Media-1.png
  7. Select GUID Partition Table so that our computer can boot from the device
    Disk Utility.png
  8. Name the Volume and click Apply.
  9. Close out Disk Utility and return to the Volume selection screen. Select your Volume and continue the OS X 10.5 Installation.
  10. If you’re installing on an 8gb Flash Drive you’ll need to be sure to customize the installation and remove any printer drivers, language and fonts, and anything else so you can reduce your install to fit on the device itself.

Now that you’ve installed OS X 10.5 on your Flash Drive, it should boot up to the device anytime you select it from System Preference >> Start up Disks.

From my experience running OS X 10.5 on a USB Flash Drive always runs a bit slow at first but performance increases significantly after 10 minutes or so.

If you would like to install a bare bone OS X installation on a device smaller than 8gb see this guide designed for OS X 10.4 but works essentially the same for 10.5

If you’ve enjoyed this article, be sure to subscribe to our RSS feed to discover more ways to optimize your Mac experience.

If you don’t have a large enough USB Drive, the SanDisk Cruzer Micro 16 GB USB 2.0 Flash Drive was what I used and worked perfectly as a Bootable OS X Leopard drive.

About Dan Hinckley
Dan Hinckley is an experienced Mac user who converted to Apple products when they introduced them on Intel Processors. He loves helping others get more out of their devices! Subscribe to Maciverse.com to get the latest from Dan and the Maciverse Team!! Find out more about Dan:

126 Responses so far.

  1. Caio

    September 29, 2011 at 1:10 pm

    Thank you!

  2. Valt

    October 5, 2011 at 8:56 pm

    I am so very near the point of inserting fatally sharpened, marble slabs into my eyes. I've tried everything that's out there… i think. I continue to read many post that claim the 1.67 GHz PowerBook G4 15" can indeed be booted from a USB device via open firmware, and these stories of success and triumph haunt me. Alas, I am not able to make my device boot-able. I have done all that i could–extracted and installed base and essential pkgs onto my drive, partitioned in APM, enabled owners and blessed the drive as boot-able. To no avail. Open firmware simply does not see the device. Devalias shows me nothing useful and the path i suspect is inching toward correct brings me to a NO ENTRY symbol. I throw my arms in the air friends, in desperation and failure. I miss sleep. Help me, please.

  3. Steven

    February 15, 2012 at 7:34 pm

    What if I just have leopard on a flash drive & do not have the DVD?

  4. Dave

    March 5, 2012 at 5:09 pm

    Loonatics advice does actually work but he did miss out a it should have read, dir ud:3,
    if you click on the link in his comment it has it. I tried it several times before I decided to go check the link and there it was I put in that and here I am 5 mins away from installing OS X 10.5 using a usb external hard drive

    • Dave

      March 5, 2012 at 5:11 pm

      Dam the character thats missing doesn't show here so go click the link and read the instructions there

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    May 4, 2012 at 10:01 am

    I never think it could be done by a flash drive even wow so cool thank buddy.

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    June 8, 2012 at 4:18 pm

    A few days ago, I was looking through the forums and saw an interesting thread- “Mac or PC“. The majority was saying PCs were better. Why is that the case though? After browsing through all the posts, I came up with this theory: A teen’s first computer is a PC but those that are entrepreneurs will eventually switch to a Mac. Here are my reasons:

  7. dv2191

    June 22, 2012 at 11:29 am

    ok so i downloaded the file and its saying its too large to put on my flash drive (file= 4.37GB… flashdrive= 8GB) Help

  8. Red Carpet Events

    October 3, 2012 at 11:01 pm

    It is really an impressive post thanks for sharing and just keep up the good work and share more other ways of installation.

  9. Bre

    November 26, 2012 at 4:22 am

    If you plan to use the install on a ppc, do you still use GUID partion or change it to Apple partition?

  10. custom USB drives

    January 31, 2013 at 3:22 am

    From a long time I wanna Install & Boot OS X Leopard but I've no idea but this time I know. So it is a very helpful article. to me. Thanks for this allocation!!!

  11. Leonid

    February 20, 2013 at 7:21 pm

    Hi,

    My Macbook has some problem with the internal hdd connection. Although it is old, I thought to install the OS on a memory stick and use this mac just for internet browsing. I have the OS v10.5.6 disk and a new 16GB kingston memory stick. I tried to install it on the drive, but the installation failed. It said "Can not be installed on this computer". I also tried to format the stick and boot it again – doesn't work. I couldn't get to the point, where I supposed to choose the location of the installation. Any suggestions would be highly appreciated!
    Thanks

  12. Minhaz

    April 1, 2013 at 7:21 am

    Can u pls upload the link , cause i hav mac os sl in my hard disk and and. i want to install it from my pendrive. Or could u pls explain me how to do it.

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