OS X Lion Can Be Clean Installed At Boot-Up, No Snow Leopard Required



Apple’s upcoming OS X Lion release is expected to launch tomorrow, and when it does, it will be available exclusively through the Mac App Store. That means you’ll no longer be able to walk into an Apple retail store and purchase the release on DVD.

That’s great for the environment, but it can make recovering your machine a little more difficult. Apple’s new recovery plans for Lion, however, could make the whole process a walk in the park.

When we first discovered Lion would be available through the Mac App Store only, it was initially believed that users may have to install Snow Leopard first and then Lion afterwards every time they needed to recover their machine. Thankfully, this won’t be the case.

According to an internal AppleCare manual leaked to 9to5 Mac, Lion boasts a number of recovery options that can be initiated by holding Command-R on startup. Users will then have the option to restore their system from a Time Machine backup, run Disk Utility to check, repair or erase partitions on your hard drives, and “reinstall Lion over the Internet from Apple’s servers.”

This should give users the ability to install Lion straight onto their machine without having to access the Mac App Store first, and will make the whole process of recovering your machine a lot easier than originally anticipated.

That sounds a lot better, doesn’t it?

  • Craig Grannell

    “That sounds a lot better, doesn’t it?”

    I can’t say it fills me with confidence. You’d need all of the following:

    – A very fast web connection.
    – A robust connection.
    – Apple’s services to not be freaking out, which they do increasingly regularly.

    Here’s hoping you can still burn an emergency DMG.

  • Manuel Diaz

    Do you need Leopard inorder to install Lion initially?

  • lostformars

    I think you’re missing an important point. These recovery tools are new and included with Lion. They don’t exist yet. So, once you install Lion you will be able to do a clean install from the new recovery tools. But, as far as we know now, you will still need to have Snow Leopard to get the original install of Lion from the Mac App Store. Then you could do a clean install.

  • oakdesk23

    And if my hard drive is dead, then what? The installer really should offer to burn a DVD or create a USB key that can install Lion clean without an internet connection.

  • MPD01605

    That’s what I was thinking, actually on Sunday when my HD with Lion GM died and I had to install a new HD.  What if I don’t have anything on my HD, how will I install Lion?  Fortunately I have the Snow Leopard disc (waiting for the final release of Lion).

  • Mind WarrioR


  • TheRealJTRay

    The Lion GM allows for the ability to create a bootable disc.  I would highly recommend everyone do this.  Drives will fail.  I also believe that Apple will eventually have for sale a Lion Disc.

  • CharliK

    No they won’t. Folks need to get that whole ‘they will have a disc’ out of their heads because it is not happening. 

    Apple tried to do the whole ‘upgrade’ with Leopard to Snow Leopard and were reemed over it when it turned out that it was a full disk and you could have anything on your computer and use that $29 ‘upgrade’ to install. This time they are making sure that you had Snow Leopard by making it a requirement to get Lion the first time. But with the recovery partition you have just enough Lion to run your system to get and install a fresh copy. The only way this won’t work is if your computer’s logic board or hard drive is completely hosed, in which case you have bigger issues to deal with than whether you have to start with Snow Leopard, you have your own bootable disc etc

  • Howie Isaacks

    Maybe I’m missing something here, but what about when you upgrade your hard drive?

  • CharliK

    99.9% of folks with a dead hard drive are going to either buy a new computer (which will come with Lion on it) or go to their local Apple store and get it replaced and it will come with Lion, Snow Leopard or Leopard on it (depending on the age of the original machine). It’s really not that huge of a deal to do the upgrades, particularly with the drive is new. And if you ask nicely the boys behind the counter would probably be happy to do at least the upgrade to Snow Leopard for you. Especially if you can show them the receipt that you bought it (or there’s a note from a prior repair that you had upgraded). You could probably even log into the MAS for them and they would let you leave your machine upgrading to Lion with them while you finish your shopping etc

  • Howie Isaacks

    You can extract the boot/install DMG from the install app, but not every Mac user knows how to do this.  I’m an Apple certified tech, so this is a walk in the park for me.  However, “normal” users wouldn’t want to do this.

  • CharliK

    If you mean Snow Leopard yes. This is considered an upgrade and thus you must have the base product to get it. Once you get it, then you have all the goodies mentioned in the article. 

  • Fearless_fred

    That’s great for those that live close enough to an Apple store to do that. What about those who live a long way from one? What about those who follow the instructions that come with *every new Macbook and Macbook Pro* that tell the owner that they can enhance their laptop by fitting a new HDD and how to do it?

    I had the HDD die on both Macbook AND iMac over the last few years. Replacing the HDD on the iMac is trcky, but doable. Replacing the HDD on the Macbook was a doddle. I wouldn’t have been able to get to a local Apple store, as the closest one is  close to 2 hours drive away on a good day and nowhere near where I live or work. With the DVD, it took me 5 – 10 mins to be up and running again. If I’d had to spend the best part of a day to do it, I’d be seriously thinking of moving away from Macs….

  • Fearless_fred

    You fogot to include when people follow Apples own instructions for the Macbook and Macbook Pro on “How to Boost your Macbook” by upgrading the Hard Drive.

  • SSD

    There is another way.

    1.  Buy a USB flash drive (8 GB is plenty big enough)

    2.  Using Disk Utility, repartition the USB drive as a single partition, and select the option to use the GUID Partition Table.

    3.  Control click on the Lion installer, and select “Show Package Contents.”  Look in “Contents/SharedSupport” to find the “InstallESD.dmg” file.  Copy (don’t move) the file to your desktop.  

    4.  In Disk Utility, select the USB drive, then select “Restore.”  Drag the InstalESD.dmg file from your desktop into the “Source” field.  Next, drag the USB drive to the “Destination” field.

    5.  Click “Restore”

    Once complete, you will have a bootable Lion install image on your USB flash drive.  It’s much faster than booting and installing from a DVD.   To boot from it, plug it into the system you want to boot, hold down the Option key when you power it up, and select the USB volume when it appears in the EFI boot volume selector.

    Or you could just move to Windows 7.  Whatever works…

  • Hampus

    How does having Lion on a DVD or USB drive help you if your hard drive is broken, there still isnt anywhere to install it…

    Still, having to wait for it to download to make a clean install, wow, haven’t we been trying to get shorter OS install times for a while now? That sure doesn’t help…

  • Hampus

    People have been doing it with the GMs so it should be possible with the final version to.

  • Hampus

    Well, yes and no.
    You will need to download it from the App Store. That download you can, with a bit of trickery burn to a disc and make a clean install from or just make an upgrade.

    Does it really matter you need SL to begin with? Most computers getting Lion will either be computers sold with it or computers running SL that are upgrading.

  • Dan Knight/LowEndMac

    I just checked, and holding down Command-R at startup with OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard does nothing, so the startup command will only work if you have Lion installed. Maybe you can clean insall to another drive or partition, but your headline is misleading.

  • oakdesk23

    People are going to buy a new $1000 (at least) computer to replace a $100 hard drive? I wish I had your kind of money that a dead hard drive meant a new machine. I’ve had Apple replace hard drives under warranty and never once did they come with an OS. They have offered to install for me with my original discs. But that’s not a quick process at all. I’d install 10.6.3, then download and install 10.6.8 which is an hour long process. Then download and install Lion all over. That’s a hassle. The Lion installer should offer to make a restore DVD/USB. There is no reason not to.

    A lot of people don’t even have a local Apple Store, especially outside the US (there are none in New Zealand for example.) Even Cupertino where Apple is headquartered doesn’t have one.

    Don’t apologise for Apple’s stupidity because you think 99.9% of people won’t be affected by something.

  • oakdesk23

    I’m aware of this, but this is hardly convenient or well known. What is wrong with having the installer offer to burn a DVD or create the USB drive for you?

  • SSD

    Sure, it isn’t easy for non-technical users, and it isn’t really convenient, but it works.  As of today, it looks like this won’t be as big a deal.  They just announced that they’ll be selling a USB Flash drive with a Lion install image on it for $69 starting in August.

  • CharliK

    Apple will replace an under warranty drive no issue. An out of warranty for most folks does mean a new computer cause they lack the know how of a genius like yourself that can slap in a new drive no problemo and more often than not you are talking about a well out of warranty computer so why spend money on an old machine. 

    And as of a year or so ago all replacement drives had the OS that that model came with on the drive when it was replaced if not a newer one. 

    As for your ‘some places’, I’m sure you realize that the Palo Alto store is like 20 minutes from campus so yes they have an Apple Store. 

    But hey if you want you can always shell out for the key drive when it hits the online store in August. 


    Hello. I am going to upgrade my computers software. I see that i need to purchase Snow Leopard first to get Lion. I am going to purchase both from the App Store. I read down below about either Upgrading or doing a clean install. First, What is the difference? Second, Do i have to do a clean install for it to function right or can I just upgrade? Third, Since i have no disc in hand when I buy both SL and Lion. What happens when my drive fails or breaks and i need to get a new drive. Am i still going to have both upgrades? or do i have buy them again? Thank you. Any help would be grateful.