I would like to know if it is possible to run OSX (preferably El Capitan) on a USB drive. I am not talking about an installation USB drive to install OSX on my computer, I am talking about installing OSX on a USB drive and running OSX from there. The USB drive acting like a hard drive, a place for OSX to store all it's files, and have the computer's CPU, GPU, RAM, etc... do all the computing.

Basically running OSX whenever I boot with the USB plugged in and run Windows whenever I boot with the USB plugged in. This has been done with Chrome OS before (actually it's the open source Chromium OS) and I would like to know if the same thing could be done for OSX. Of course, speed and storage might be a problem, but to me, it is not. Storage is not a problem and read/write speed can be pretty fast since I use USB 3.0.

  • It's possible on a Mac; anything else is off-topic for SE.
    – Tetsujin
    Apr 18, 2016 at 16:31

1 Answer 1


Yes, all Intel-based Macs can boot and run OS X from a USB mass storage device.

It doesn't even require any special setup. Macs can boot and run from USB flash drives or HDDs the same way they can boot and run from internal SATA-attached HDDs or SSDs.

  • 1
    i have a question? even though running OS X on non-apple computers violates the EULA, can i still run mac OS X from usb on a non-apple computer? Cops aren't high up my list of worries. Apr 18, 2016 at 22:48
  • 2
    Short answer: No. Real Macs do not use a boot loader to bootstrap the OS the way PCs do. The Mac's firmware takes care of this. So on non-Apple hardware, a hackintosh bootloader must be used to get OS X to boot up. I can't say if these bootloaders will boot from USB, as I'm not a hackintosh guy. But given the extra work of getting the Mac OS to boot at all on a PC, it makes doing it from USB almost pointless.
    – Wes Sayeed
    Apr 26, 2016 at 20:24

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