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How to Load Startup Options and Use a USB Flash Drive to Boot Your Apple Silicon Mac

Boot Your Apple Silicon Mac from USB: The Effective Guide

If you’re a proud user of an Apple Macintosh computer, it’s usual to let macOS automatically load when you power up. However, situations may arise where you’d like to entrust this task to a USB flash drive, perhaps to reinstall macOS or simply experiment with a different OS. This guide will show you how to access and use the startup options on your Apple Silicon Mac to boot from a USB flash drive! 😉👍


Preparing for the Boot

First, ensure your Mac is powered off. Keep in mind that Linux distributions aren’t compatible (as of yet) with the new Apple Silicon technology. To illustrate this guide, we’ll use a USB flash drive containing a bootable macOS installer. After you’ve inserted it into your Mac, press and hold the power button for approximately 20 seconds (or until a “loading startup options” message appears on your screen). ⏱️🍎


Understanding the Startup Options Screen

As the startup options materialize, you’ll see three icons: macOS Big Sur, Macintosh HD, and Options. Here’s what each icon stands for:

  • macOS Big Sur: This icon represents the bootable flash drive you’ve just plugged in. Selecting it will initiate the macOS installer that’s stored on your flash drive. 🔄
  • Macintosh HD: This icon stands for your computer’s internal storage. If you opt for this, your Mac will reboot and load the macOS version presently installed on your internal storage. 🖥️📂
  • Options: This icon offers numerous troubleshooting tools that can assist you in repairing or reinstalling macOS. 👨‍💻🛠️

Selecting a Startup Option

To choose an option, use your cursor to select an icon and a ‘Continue’ button will appear. Click on this button and your selected option will start to boot. However, this is merely a demonstration, and if you prefer your computer to start normally, there are options for that too! 👉👀


Reboot or Shutdown?

At the bottom of the startup options screen, you’ll find two commands: shutdown and restart. If you select ‘shutdown’, your computer will simply turn off, and the next time it powers up, it’ll run the macOS version stored on its internal storage. The ‘restart’ option does practically the same, but instead of turning off, your machine will restart before loading the macOS version from its internal storage. 🔄🔌

Conclusion: 🏁

Knowing how to navigate your Mac’s startup options and boot it from a USB flash drive can empower you to troubleshoot issues and explore new operating systems safely. Just remember, Linux is not yet compatible with Apple Silicon as of this guide’s publication. So, have fun and happy troubleshooting! 😉👍


Apple Silicon Mac is a term used to describe Apple Macintosh computers that use Apple-designed ARM-based chips instead of traditional x86 processors.

A startup option is a setting or command that can be selected when you start your Mac. They let you control the system’s startup process.

You can create a bootable installer for an Apple Silicon Mac on a USB flash drive, then use the startup options to boot the device from this drive.

To access the startup options on your Apple Silicon Mac, press and hold the power button during the startup process until you see the startup options window.

Booting from a USB flash drive allows you to run a different operating system without changing anything on your main hard drive. It’s useful for troubleshooting or installing a new OS.

A bootable USB drive contains a pre-installed operating system that a computer can boot from without needing any other hard drive.

To create a bootable USB drive for your Apple Silicon Mac, you will need a USB flash drive and the installer for the macOS version you want to install. Follow the steps in the guide to create the drive.

Yes, all Apple Silicon Macs should be capable of booting from a USB flash drive, but the exact process might vary depending on the specific model and macOS version.

If the boot process fails, your Mac will likely display a message to let you know what’s wrong. You may need to troubleshoot the issue or try a different boot method.

Yes, you can use a bootable USB drive to enter recovery mode on your Mac, which is useful if you need to perform disk repair tasks or reinstall macOS.

Yes, it is possible, but it involves special steps. Check the related section in the guide on how to do it.

No, booting from a USB drive will not erase the data on your internal hard drives unless you choose to do so.

If your drive isn’t recognized, try disconnecting and reconnecting it, using a different USB port, or restarting your Mac. If none of those steps work, the drive itself might be faulty.

Yes, you can boot most PCs from a USB drive, but the process will be different than on a Mac.

The required amount of storage can vary, but in general, it’s good to have a drive with at least 16GB of space for creating a bootable macOS installer.

Booting from a USB drive means running your Mac’s operating system from the drive, while installing from a USB drive means using the drive to install a new operating system onto your Mac’s internal hard drive.

There could be several reasons, such as your Mac’s firmware not supporting booting from USB, the drive not being properly formatted, or the drive’s bootable files being corrupted.

Yes, a USB 3.0 flash drive can be used to boot your Apple Silicon Mac, provided it’s properly formatted and contains a bootable macOS installer.

Yes, the process for booting from a USB drive can be different if you’re running Windows or Linux on a Mac, and it often requires additional software or configuration.

Yes, most modern computers can boot from USB drives. However, the process and requirements may vary, especially depending on the operating system you’re using.

While it doesn’t necessarily need to be empty, creating a bootable USB drive will typically delete all data currently on the drive.

Yes, as long as the source that you’re getting the bootable operating system from is trusted, booting from a USB drive is safe and will not harm your computer.

Yes, but keep in mind not all previous macOS versions will support Apple Silicon Macs. Always verify compatibility before attempting to boot from a USB drive with an older macOS version.

Yes, a single bootable USB drive can be used to boot multiple computers. However, always ensure the macOS version is compatible with all computers you plan to use it with.

The bootable USB drive for Apple Silicon Mac should be formatted as Mac OS Extended (Journaled) with a GUID Partition Map scheme.

If your Mac is unable to boot from the USB drive, try restarting the Mac, use a different USB drive, or check if the drive is properly formatted and contains the correct macOS installer.

Booting from a USB drive is often used for troubleshooting, testing out a different operating system version, repairing disks, installing a brand new operating system, or recreating a corrupted system on your Mac.

The running speed of your Mac when booted from a USB drive will depend on several factors including the USB drive’s speed, the version of macOS running, and the specific tasks you’re performing.

If a bootable USB drive does not appear in the Startup Manager, it may not be properly formatted, may not contain a bootable macOS installer, or the Mac’s firmware may not support booting from USB.