Copying a CD/DVD to Flash Drive

Installing from a CD/DVD can be a pain. First it is rather slow. Second, more and more Macs are arriving without optical drives at all. Carting an external drive around is also a pain.

The better solution is to make images of the discs onto a flash drive. Installation is much faster and every Mac has a USB port, so there’s no external hardware to worry about. 

The biggest issue is in getting the contents from disc to flash drive. Disk Utility should make this simple, but it can be maddening at times. Here are my helpful notes:

  1. Make a .cdr master of the original disc. You may need to try a few times before you get it right, and this will save much time. (And if you keep the master around, you can always make a new flash drive — those things get lost awful easily!)
  2. Partition the flash drive. There’s no need to have one physical drive per disc: partition the drive and put multiple discs on one! In the Finder, ‘Get Info’ on the .cdr to find the size needed for that disc. In Disk Utility, select the flash drive, choose the Partition tab, and set it to at least two partitions. While you’re here, click the Options button and make sure the partition table is GUID. (This is for Macs, after all.)
  3. Make the first partition just large enough to hold the disc contents. That should be the same size as the info provided by the Finder, but sometimes it needs to be a bit larger. For example, the InDesign CS5 DVD is 1.44GB, but the partition has to be 1.45GB or it won’t fit. Why? Beats me.
  4. Select the second partition and set its format to Free Space. That will reserve it for additional partitions.
  5. Apply the partitioning and wait while Disk Utility does its job.
  6. At this point, you would think you could just select the .cdr image and restore it to the partition on the flash drive. You would be wrong. Disk Utility throws up foolish errors like “Invalid Argument” and other rot. Instead…
  7. Select the .cdr and click the Open button up in the toolbar. Disk Utility will whirl a bit and the original mounts on your desktop.
  8. Finally, switch to the Restore tab, and drag the opened disk icon to the Source field, the flash drive partition to the Target field, and click Restore.
  9. Authenticate, and wait.

That’s it. Simple, no? No. But wait, there’s more. When you are ready to add that second disc image to the flash drive, go back into Disk Utility, select the flash drive, switch to the Partition tab, and add two more partitions. Size the first one to hold your next disc, and make the rest into empty space.

Repeat the process with as many disc images as you have or until the flash drive is out of space.