Apple’s line of MacBook Airs never shipped with an optical drive and now the Mac Mini has joined the party. The new Mac Mini, released this week, no longer includes one of these drives either. If you want an optical drive to use with these Macs you have to purchase an external USB SuperDrive. Now the arrival of the new MacBook Air and Mac Mini herald the death of the USB thumb drive.
You might be surprised to find out that neither these systems ship with a set of DVDs or a USB thumb drive that you can use to restore, repair or reinstall Mac OS X.
Instead Apple has come up with something new.
Apple has introduced new recovery features that are supported by Mac OS X Lion and therefore you don’t need a recovery DVD or USB thumb drive. Full details about these new features can be found in Apple Knowledge Base document HT4718.
According to Apple the new Lion recovery features allow you to:
OS X Lion includes a built in set of utilities in the Recovery HD. Restart your Mac and hold down the Command key and the R key (Command-R), and keep holding them until the Apple icon appears, indicating that your Mac is starting up. After the Recovery HD is finished starting up, you should see a desktop with a Mac OS X menu bar and a “Mac OS X Utilities” application window. Note: If you see a login window or your own desktop and icons, it is possible that you didn’t hold Command-R early enough. Restart and try again.
In order to reinstall OS X Lion, you will need to be connected to an Ethernet or Wi-Fi network. The Wi-Fi menu item is in the upper-right corner of the screen. Click the icon to display all available Wi-Fi networks. Click your preferred network name and, if needed, enter a username and/or password.
Lion Internet Recovery
If you happen to encounter a situation in which you cannot start from the Recovery HD, such as your hard drive stopped responding or you installed a new hard drive without Mac OS X installed, new Mac models introduced after public availability of OS X Lion automatically use the Lion Internet Recovery feature if the Recovery HD (Command-R method above) doesn’t work. Lion Internet Recovery lets you start your Mac directly from Apple’s Servers. The system runs a quick test of your memory and hard drive to ensure there are no hardware issues.
Lion Internet Recovery presents a limited interface at first, with only the ability to select your preferred Wi-Fi network and, if needed, enter the WPA passphrase. Next, Lion Internet Recovery will download and start from a Recovery HD image. From there, you are offered all the same utilities and functions described above.
I highly recommend that anyone concerned about system recoveries after upgrading to Mac OS X Lion read Apple Knowledge Base document HT4718.
Now I think everyone will be convinced that Apple’s assassination of optical media is well on its way — bye-bye CDs and DVDs. Now their smaller cousin, the USB thumb drive, is being targeted by Apple Ninjas.
Luckily you can still create recovery media of your own on DVDs or USB thumb drives for Mac OS X Lion, but make sure to keep these safely tucked away in a witness protection program so those Apple Ninjas won’t find them. In a pinch a desk drawer will do too.