Change the Mac Startup Drive on Boot

Mar 22, 2011 - 9 Comments


A Macs startup drive can be changed during system boot by holding down the OPTION key, start holding down Option the moment you hear the boot chime sound and while the screen is still black, this will bring up the boot drive manager.

From this startup boot disk menu, you can use the mouse or the arrow keys to select the drive or partition to boot from, and the hit return to startup from the choice.

This allows for a per-boot one time selection, and selecting a boot drive from this menu will not change your default boot drive. For future boots, you can either continue to hold down the Option key to access this menu, or you can change the default startup disk directly from System Preferences if you’re looking for something more permanent.

We’ve used this many times to change boot OS versions with dual-boot configs, from Mac OS X 10.6 to 10.7, 10.7 to 10.8, and most recently with 10.8 and 10.9 Mavericks. If interested you can read more about creating and booting between multiple OS X installations, check here for Lion & Snow Leopard, and here for dual boot configs for OS X Mavericks and 10.8 Mountain Lion.

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Posted by: AJ in Mac OS X, Tips & Tricks


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  1. Ian says:

    I didn’t know the MacBook Air had a Recovery HD partition, I thought you only needed the USB key?

  2. albinoz says:

    Yes the new MacBookAir have an USB Key verry nice. But I dont see recovery Disk, I know this will include with Lion.

    PS: atl at boot is not a Tips and Tricks but a featureā€¦ :/

  3. Parakeet says:

    You can also set the startup drive in System Preferences > Startup Disk

    You can switch it around any time but what you leave it set on becomes the default boot disk.

  4. marro says:

    Running OSX 10.8.2 and when I use the option key a lock pops up with a password field. I tried several passwords, but none worked. Has anybody else ran into this?

  5. glory says:

    I set up the windows 7 on my Imac, and then it goes
    win 7 without changing.How do I change OSX automatically?

  6. tourist says:

    my mark does not dispaly cd/dvd when i press the option key on start up

  7. Jon says:

    This doesn’t work. My startup is stuck on network startup. How do you fix this.

  8. […] the Option key, then choose whichever partition you wish to start up from. You’ll notice the initial boot menu does not display the OS X version, which is why it’s important to name the partitions […]

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