Apple has introduced new recovery features available through a combination of new hardware and software. One of these new features is called Lion Internet Recovery which will allow you to start your 2011 MacBook Air or Mac Mini directly from Apple’s servers.
The recovery process starts when the Command+R option doesn’t work or when you install a brand new blank hard drive.
Here is a tip that will let you force your 2011 or later Mac to launch Internet Recovery on startup.
If your Mac doesn’t currently exhibit the symptoms required for Internet Recovery to auto-launch like in the two situations mentioned above simple restart your Mac while holding Command+Option+R until you see a spinning globe appear along with a message about the recovery mode. If you have a Mac with a wireless keyboard you should wait a few seconds before pressing and holding the keys after you first see the light grey boot screen.
This will force your Mac to launch Internet Recovery. You’ll know that you are in Internet Recovery when you see a spinning globe like the one above and a meter running underneath it.
If you see the Lion Recovery HD Mac OS X utilities menu or your Finder desktop then you either didn’t press and hold the correct key sequence or you did not wait long enough for the Apple logo and let the keys go to early. If that happens simply restart and try again.
Let me mention again that this will not work on computers released prior to the launch of Mac OS X Lion. It only works on the 2011 models of the MacBook Air and Mac Mini. If you have a computer introduced prior to these, like the iMac I purchased in June, then you’ll only be able to access Recovery HD and its Mac OS X Utilities.
Updated on 7/30/2011 at 9:36AM PDT: Added the word July to the title since this feature doesn’t work on any Mac introduced earlier than July 2011.