Installing OS X on a Macbook via flash drive.

Mike Friesen

Apr 10, 2013
Hi, a friend gave me a 2010 macbook pro that would crash upon boot in hopes that I could repair it. It wouldn't boot to the desktop, but we could still get into disk utility, and it showed the laptop's hard drive was corrupted or not working properly. I tried to repair the disk but the disk utility couldn't fix the problem. So with a broken hard drive, I picked up a cheap 120 gb ssd, and threw it in there and took out the broken hard drive, only to find that I could no longer boot to the utilities menu.
I went to a friend's house and we plugged in a flash drive with the lion installer on it, got to the utities menu from there, formatted the ssd properly and tried to install lion, but it just would hang before the install started, saying that it had to check with apple or something. We had another os x installer on a disk (snow leopard?), but the disk would crash the system before it even got into utilities. Once, we even got to the El Capitan utilities menu (internet installer or something? Because we didn't have an El Capitan installer with us). But it would give us an error message when we tried to install El capitan, and we didn't even get the chance to try and enter our apple ID or anything. It would check if we were ready to install, and then give us an error. (It was late yesterday, I can't remember what the error was exactly.)

We did not partition the drive at all; we just formatted it and then tried to install; that's the only reasonable thing I can think of that could be the problem; but before I head my friend's, as it's a bit of a drive - am I missing anything? Shouldn't the installer have worked on the ssd anyways?

It could be a different hardware problem, but since it boots into utilities fine (and safari works from utilities, the wifi works, the disk utility was all good, etc) so I mean it seems the computer works fine but for some reason we can't get an OS onto the SSD.

If it continues to not work, I'll throw the ssd into an older laptop I have to make it snappy again, nothing much lost. Or put ubuntu or mint onto a macbook, haha :)

Suggestions? I'd like to try and solve the problem at home, but I don't have a mac and I don't have any flash drives with OS X installers on them; I have an empty 32 gb usb - can I put an entire OS X onto it and not just the installer and then boot with that? Does that even make sense?

TL;DR: I have a friend's macbook pro 2010 that had a corrupted hdd, so I put a ssd in it and now we can't get OS X onto the SSD. And we've tried a bunch of stuff.


A very common issue with these is the hard drive cable goes bad. What you can do is take out the hard drive and attach it via USB and try to boot from it. If it boots normally then the hard drive cable inside is bad. Cheap fix, new cables are less than $50 on eBay or Amazon.

There are ways to get a Mac installer onto a USB using a PC, you need to Google it for guides. But if the hard drive cable is bad then it won't install so try the above first.
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