I recently found myself in a situation in which I needed to create a bootable USB flash drive to do a clean macOS installation on an Intel-based MacBook after replacing its SSD. Since my current MacBook has an M1 processor, the regular procedure, which involves downloading the macOS Installer through the App Store, didn’t apply.

Luckily, it is possible to download any macOS Installer using a direct link, bypassing the App Store completely. A site called mrmacintosh.com is key here, as it publishes the download links to any current (and also not so current) macOS Installer. Note that those download links point to Apple’s official servers, so it is actually safe to do this.

  1. Go to mrmacintosh.com and find the link called “Monterey Installers”.
    macOS Montery is the latest macOS version at the time of writing—feel free to pick any other version of macOS.
  2. Scroll down to the section called macOS Monterey Final Full Installer Download (if you chose a different macOS release, look for the respective section).
    Note that there are also beta versions. You probably don’t want those.
  3. Click “InstallAssistant.pkg” to download the full installer to your M1 machine. This can take a while as it’s around 11 GB in size.
  4. Once downloaded, double-click “InstallAssistant.pkg” in Finder. This will place “Install macOS Monterey.app” in your Applications directory.

From here, you can follow the regular procedure.

  1. Connect a USB flash drive. Note that it will be fully erased!
  2. Open Terminal.app.
  3. Run the createinstallmedia utility from the installer’s app bundle—full command below.
sudo /Applications/Install\ macOS\ Monterey.app/Contents/Resources/createinstallmedia --volume /Volumes/Untitled

(This assumes your flash drive is called Unitled.)

When asked, press Y to confirm.

Expected output:

Ready to start.
To continue we need to erase the volume at /Volumes/Untitled.
If you wish to continue type (Y) then press return: Y
Erasing disk: 0%... 10%... 20%... 30%... 100%
Making disk bootable...
Copying to disk: 0%... 10%... 20%... 30%... 40%... 50%... 60%... 70%... 80%... 90%... 100%
Install media now available at "/Volumes/Install macOS Monterey"

Now eject the flash drive and connect it to your Intel-based Mac.

You can find detailed instructions and commands for versions other than Monetery in Apple’s official support document: How to create a bootable installer for macOS for detailed instructions.