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How to Create a Backup DVD or Flash Drive of Mac OS X Lion

written by: Nicholas•edited by: Michael Dougherty•updated: 7/30/2011

The Mac OS X Lion operating system is Apple's first ever, fully digital OS distribution, meaning that it is not distributed through DVD install discs, but rather, via download from the Mac App Store. Creating a bootable recovery flash drive or DVD is important, in case you ever need to reinstall.

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    Lion Distribution

    Mac OS X Lion retails for $29.99 in the Mac App Store, which is a very competitive price for the upgrades that it offers. With over 250 new features, Lion is turning out to be the operating system that will help test, but also begin to merge the features of iOS (Apple's iPhone and iPad operating system) with OS X (Apple's Mac computer operating system). While the digital distribution of Mac OS via App Store is nice, because it allows you to upgrade instantly at your own convenience, it has a couple of drawbacks as well. Some main points to consider are that the digital download of Lion, by default, provides no method for clean install, nor does it allow for user-friendly creation of backup discs or a backup USB flash drive, which are often times, very important to have for many reasons.

    Say you want to upgrade the hard drive in your Mac computer to a SSD, a Mac OS X Lion install DVD or USB flash drive would allow you to format the new SSD and reinstall Lion. Perhaps the upgrade process from Snow Leopard to Lion did not go as smooth as you planned, again, a Mac Lion install DVD would be nice to have. There are other situations where having an install DVD or USB drive would be convenient as well...

    According to their official website, Apple is going to offer a USB option for purchasing Lion in August, but it will retail for $69.00. If you have already purchased the $29.99 download of Lion, it would simply not be worth it to pay for it again, just so you can have a backup USB drive. Luckily, there are some different ways that you can go about creating a Lion backup DVD, Lion backup flash drive, and other Lion recovery options.

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    Recovery Install DVD

    A Mac OS X Lion backup DVD can be created using the following steps:

    • Download Lion from the Mac App Store.
    • Once the download is complete, it is a good idea to copy of the install file (the .dmg file with the Lion logo, and save it to an external hard drive (more about this later).
    • Open Finder and navigate to the Lion install file that was downloaded from the App Store.
    • Right-click on the file, and select show package contents from the context menu.
    • Locate the disk image file titled InstallESD.dmg, which is in the SharedSupport folder.
    • Copy the InstallESD.dmg file from the current folder to the desktop.
    • Launch Disk Utility: Finder > Applications > Utilities > Disk Utility.
    • Drag the InstallESD.dmg file from the desktop, to the left hand pane of disk utility, which is commonly referred to as the drive list.
    • Insert a blank DVD into the SuperDrive DVD burner on your Mac computer.
    • Single click on InstallESD.dmg to assure it is selected.
    • Click the burn button, located towards the top menu of the Disk Utility window.
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    Recovery Install USB Flash Drive

    A Mac OS X backup USB flash drive can be created using the following steps:

    • Download Lion from the Mac App Store.
    • Once the download is complete, it is a good idea to copy of the install file (the .dmg file with the Lion logo, and save it to an external hard drive (more about this later).
    • Open Finder and navigate to the Lion install file that was downloaded from the App Store.
    • Right-click on the file, and select show package contents from the context menu.
    • Locate the disk image file titled InstallESD.dmg, which is in the SharedSupport folder.
    • Copy the InstallESD.dmg file from the current folder to the desktop.
    • Launch Disk Utility: Finder > Applications > Utilities > Disk Utility.
    • Drag the InstallESD.dmg file from the desktop, to the left hand pane of disk utility, which is commonly referred to as the drive list.
    • Insert a compatible USB flash drive into an available USB port on your Mac computer.
    • Single click to select the USB flash drive from the left hand side drives list within Disk Utility.
    • If the USB hard drive is not yet formatted for Mac, use the partition tab to format it as Mac OS X Extended (Journaled) and partition it if you so choose.
    • Click the Restore tab.
    • Under the Source: field, click the Image button and navigate to the InstallESD.dmg.
    • Under the Destination: field, select a destination and make sure that the option Erase destination is selected.
    • Click the Restore button.
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    Upgrade Install

    Because OS X Lion was intended by Apple to be an upgrade from Snow Leopard, it is actually better to upgrade install it, rather than clean install it, in some cases. If you would like to perform an upgrade install, simply clean install Snow Leopard, then transfer the Lion installer file to the desktop (from external hard drive). From there, simply double-click the Lion installer .dmg to begin the upgrade process.

    Make sure that you save a copy of the Lion install.dmg (the original file that was downloaded from the App Store), to an external hard drive or USB storage drive.

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    References

    1. Authors own experience in creating Mac OS X Lion DVD and USB drive.