Mac error: Could not create a preboot volume for APFS

The error message "A preboot volume for APFS could not be created"Or"Failed to create preboot volume for APFS installation“Can occur on the Apple Mac if something goes wrong with the macOS reinstallation. The error means that no system environment could be created that would allow a boot or a new installation. As the message already shows, this has to do with the APFS file system, which Apple is the successor to HFS +. In this guide you will find out what solution there is for the error and how you can finally install macOS.

The solution for the Mac error message "A preboot volume could not be created for APFS" during the macOS installation can be found here. Format the hard drive step by step and then set up the Mac again in recovery mode.

The solution for the Mac error message "A preboot volume could not be created for APFS" during the macOS installation can be found here. Format the hard drive step by step and then set up the Mac again in recovery mode.

What does "Couldn't create a preboot volume for APFS" mean?

Before installing macOS, which works with APFS from version 10.13 High Sierra from 2017, a so-called Preboot Execution Environment (PXE) is created on the Mac hard drive. This pre-boot / pre-installation environment can only be created if everything goes smoothly with the partitioning of the hard drive. If this is not the case, the error message mentioned above appears. APFS is mainly used on SSD hard drives that are / are equipped with macOS High Sierra, macOS Mojave, macOS Catalina or macOS Big Sur. 

And this is where things get a bit confusing, because APFS is apparently only suitable for the ultimate operating system. For the PXE, however, the "Mac OS Extended (journaled)" format is required. The scheme should be the GUID partition table. But don't worry if that sounds too technical to you at first. In this guide you will find everything you need to know.

Fortunately, your Mac comes with the appropriate on-board resources in the event that you have to set up the named format. For example, the disk utility in recovery mode. This as well as the Internet Recovery Mode or booting macOS via a USB stick represent the solution for "A preboot volume for APFS could not be created".

Reading recommendation: Restart keyboard shortcuts for recovery

The solution for "Preboot volume for APFS installation could not be created"

Regardless of the formulation in which the Mac error message appears when installing macOS, the solution or the two possible solutions to the problem are always the same. For both, the hard drive must first be erased and reformatted. If several hard drives are installed, it can be helpful to format both. 

Erase / format hard disk

The first step in solving the "A preboot volume could not be created for APFS" problem is formatting the storage medium in the Apple computer. And this is how you go about it, in a nutshell:

  1. Turn off your Mac, iMac, or MacBook 
  2. When switching on, hold down cmd + R (for the recovery mode) until the apple appears
  3. Select Disk Utility in the window with the heading "macOS Utilities"
  4. Select the hard drive in question from the list of storage media and click on "Erase"
  5. Assign a name, set the format to "Mac OS Extended (journaled)" and, if necessary, select the "GUID partition table" as the scheme

Format container 0 and install macOS

Now to the first possibility of getting macOS installed after the error message. To do this, select the hard disk utility again after the above step. There should now be a "Container 0" in the overview of the drives. Deletes / formats this also in the file system "Mac OS Extended (journaled)" and then reinstalls macOS. This can be done via the macOS utilities in recovery mode (cmd + R) with the item "reinstall macOS" / "Reinstall macOS", via a boot stick, an installation DVD or whatever you want to use.

Install macOS in Internet Recovery Mode

As an alternative to the manual procedure in the last paragraph, you can also let the Mac do its thing in conjunction with the Apple server. To do this, shut down the Apple computer after the first step (see above) and turn it on again. You press cmd + alt + R to activate the Mac's Internet Recovery Mode. 

When a globe (or Apple symbol) appears, release the buttons. In the macOS utilities you can now select "reinstall macOS". Since the system first has to be downloaded from the Internet, this can take a while. If you do not use a LAN connection, you must first select a WLAN network and enter the password. You can find more information about Internet Recovery Mode here: Instructions - Boot Mac in Internet Recovery Mode.

Experience with "A preboot volume for APFS could not be created"

I myself have not had any experience with this Mac installation error. But maybe you know the error message “A preboot volume could not be created for APFS”? Then please leave a comment. Also let me know if this post helped you or if I forgot to mention something. One of the sources I used during my research was a Thread in the Apple Communities.

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  1. JackBoston says:

    After converting an ex. SSd on the Mojave was running on Apfs, I got the error message Boot-Helper-Partition missing, a selection as the start volume was not possible.
    My post in another forum:
    I then started the iMac in recovery mode. With the hard disk service pr. then run first aid for the SSD disk. Then I was offered the option of converting to APFS. Then did this. But then I got the message that I could not use this volume as a start volume because the boot helper partition would be missing. After an eager google I had to see that this problem haunted the user community for years. Unfortunately, the suggestion with a terminal command did not work. In an older post, a user said that he solved this problem after endless attempts by installing the system over the existing one and was successful with it. I then did this too, and with success. All settings and programs were still there and I was immediately offered the option to install the SU. So problem solved, but Apple should give some thought to this problem.

    • Jen Kleinholz says:

      Hello Jack! Thanks for your report. How exactly did you do that Booted with CMD + R and then installed Big Sur over it again? Or another way? That would be interesting to know.

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