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Installing Large Applications using Disk Images in Mac OS X

For some time now the very largest installations—typically music applications with multi-gigabyte libraries—involve the insertion of annoyingly large number of DVD discs. When this was just one or two it wasn’t so bothersome, but Logic Studio has eight, and Native Instruments’ Komplete 7 has twelve! Optical discs are also a relatively slow format for delivering data but what really grates is the need to attend the installation, to sit there throughout the entire process inserting each disc in turn. Luckily there is an alternative method for speeding up the installation process, which removes the need to insert each disk on demand.

Step 1 - Create Disk Images

A disk image is defined as "a single file containing the complete contents and structure representing a data storage medium or device" (thank you, Wikipedia!) and this method involves the creation of a disk image for each physical disk, and the storage of that image on an external hard drive. With hard drive space now relatively cheap, why not create a partition on an external drive and use it for storing large installers and disk images?  Use Mac OS X’s Disk Utility to create them as follows:

  • Insert the first installation disk
  • Select it in Disk Utility – make sure you select the actual disk and not the optical drive
  • Click New Image in the toolbar

Creating a Disk Image

Creating a Disk Image

Select the destination for the disk image you are about to create and change the image format to ‘read only’; encryption should be left set as ‘none’. Click ‘Save’

Save the disk image as ‘read only’ and unencrypted

Save the disk image as ‘read only’ and unencrypted

Repeat the above process for all remaining disks required for the installation.

Step 2 - Installing from Disk Images

The next time you need to install that piece of software you will need to perform the following steps:

  • Attach the hard drive where the disk images are stored to your Mac.
  • Open each disk image by double-clicking it. Each time you do this the image will request verification, which can be very time-consuming (and we are in the business of saving time!) so it’s good to know you can skip this step by clicking ‘Skip’.

Skip the verification process to save time

Skip the verification process to save time

Once the disks disk images are mounted, double-click the first of the series and proceed with the installation process as you normally would.

Every installer disk mounted and ready to go

Every installer disk mounted and ready to go

What happens next is where your precious time is saved! Each time the installation process requires the next disk it will automatically find it, as it is already mounted on your system. What this means is firstly, that you can leave the entire process unattended. Secondly, as data transfer is much quicker from a hard drive than from an optical drive, the process is much faster. 

A recent installation of Komplete using this method and an Iomega FireWire 800 external hard drive took just under 29 minutes (by DVD it is usually getting on for three hours). And the best bit of all? During this time I did something more useful than sitting and waiting to insert the next installation disc!

Mike Watkinson

Mike Watkinson | Articles by this author

Mike has been obsessed with music software since he first saw Fairlight's Page-R, and has tracked its development through his work as a performer, composer and producer. As a writer he has contributed articles to Sound On Sound since 1999, and currently writes their Apple Notes column. As well as being a certified Logic Pro and Pro Tools trainer he is also an Apple Distinguished Educator.


Jan 19, 2012
Gary Hiebner
NIce handy tip Mike. Definitely a time saver. And all your Installers can also reside on one external drive. So you don't have to search through all your discs for your installers if something drastic happens to your Mac.
Jan 19, 2012
Gary Hiebner
NIce handy tip Mike. Definitely a time saver. And all your Installers can also reside on one external drive. So you don't have to search through all your discs for your installers if something drastic happens to your Mac.
Jan 19, 2012
No mention of the time spent making the disk images in the first place. This part of the process is not unattended, so should be included as part of the installation. Out of interest - did you time this as well?
Jan 19, 2012
Hi Berra,

It's been a long time since I created a disc image of Logic Studio - but when I did I timed the standard install at just under 4 hours on my then studio Mac. Later when creating a disc image and installing from it the entire process took me well under 2 hours I believe... perhaps a lot less.
Jan 19, 2012
Thanks for the info. Yes, that's a big difference. And if you need to reinstall later or move to a different machine you can really pat yourself on the back.

Jan 19, 2012
I use the Disc image a lot for a verity of things, like keeping a tutorial I have or using it for movies etc. but this was a good idea that I have now decided to follow for my next upgrade such as Superior Drummer which has giant libraries for expansion and usually come in 8 discs etc.

Flat out, GREAT tip man. You are the Man!
Mar 27, 2012
Great idea! Definitely going to do this is future.
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