Date: Friday, August 19th, 2011, 14:54
Category: Apple, Hacks, How-To, Installation, Lion, Mac, Retail Store, Software, Tutorial
Apple has finally released its $69.99 Lion (OS X 10.7) flash drive, but is it really worth $40 on top of the cost of the Lion upgrade? Well, yes and no. If you need to perform a clean install, perhaps due to a faulty system, or if you are an IT professional, it is essential to be able to do a clean install of Lion from some kind of external disk. If you are not particularly tech savvy, the Apple flash drive provides you with a no-worry solution, but at a premium. However, if you are willing to follow a few simple steps, you can create your own Lion flash boot drive. To start, you will need two things, an empty 4 GB flash drive (8 GB is recommended if you want to add utilities) and the Lion update download package from the Mac App Store. It is important that you create your boot drive BEFORE you run the updater, or make a backup of it on another drive. Once you run it, the updater will delete itself from your hard drive. The process involves opening the installer package and digging into the guts to find the appropriate files to copy to the flash drive so you can boot from it. You can find complete instructions on the SubRosaSoft blog here. If possible, try to get a flash drive with a fast read time. Any flash drive should be faster than a DVD, but the faster the drive, the less time it takes to boot into the installer. Personally, I choose the Patriot Xporter XT Rage 8 GB high-speed flash drive, which is rated at 27 MB/s read time, but is reported to achieve higher practical speeds. It is currently on Amazon for $16.99, a savings of $23 compared to Apple’s.
A second, easier, option has been provided by Guillaume Gète, a programmer in Paris, who has created an app called Lion DiskMaker. Lion DiskMaker is a small application programmed with AppleScript that you can use with Mac OS X 10.6 or 10.7 to burn a DVD or build a bootable USB key from Mac OS X Lion’s Installation program. As soon as you launch the application, it checks the presence of Mac OS X Lion Installer in your Mac’s Applications folder, or tries to find one using Spotlight. Then, it offers options to build a DVD or create bootable install disk. USB and FireWire drives are supported, as well as SD-Cards. You can download the program from Guillaume’s web site here. The program is free, but if you find it useful, you can make a donation (which I recommend). I gave it a try and it works great!
I feel much better knowing I have a separate installer, especially since I have done upgrades on my current Mac from 10.4 to 10.5 and finally to 10.6. It is probably about time for me to do a clean install to shake out any possible software quirks. By the way, if you are nervous about whether your current software will play nice with Lion, check out the web site RoaringApps.com which has an ongoing list of software and its compatibility with Lion.