How and Why to Make a Lion Boot Disc

Though my initial knee-jerk reaction to the news that Apple were making Mac OS X Lion available only through the Mac App Store was one of disapproval, upon reflection the decision makes sense from an environmental standpoint at least. There will be trees saved without those retail boxes needing to be made, in addition to fuel and emissions saved from the various vehicles which would have been needed to transport those boxes to their destinations – not to mention a digital distribution method fits in with Apple’s minimalist ethos and their slow but steady march to a complete rejection of physical media.

That’s great and all, but there are situations in which a physical copy of OS X is very useful, such as if the user desires a completely fresh install, or to upgrade several Macs at once, or those wishing to skip Snow Leopard altogether and move from Leopard straight to Lion. If you have any of these needs or just want a physical copy as a means of insurance, read on after the break because we’ve got you covered…

Snow Leopard required?

Snow Leopard is required for initial purchase

Snow Leopard is required for initial purchase

There has been some confusion about whether Snow Leopard is, as Apple states, required for installing Lion. The fact that you need the Mac App Store to receive OS X Lion and that this in turn requires OS X Snow Leopard implies that users need to be running Snow Leopard to enjoy Apple’s latest big cat, but this is only partly true.

In order to purchase your copy of OS X Lion today, you do indeed need to be running Snow Leopard, at least to initially get your hands on Lion. But, crucially, once you have your purchased copy of Lion downloaded, there’s no reason why you can’t then burn the image to DVD, upgrading any other Macs which meet the required hardware minimum specifications too!

Getting Started

The initial steps needed to prepare your Mac may be obvious to most Mac.Appstorm readers but let’s quickly run through them all the same: Make sure your Mac is fully updated, both through “Software Update” and your individual apps too, then backup fully. Now head over to the Mac App Store in order to purchase Lion. This done, Lion will sit in the Dock and download into your Applications folder.

It is important that you follow the next step before continuing forward and installing Lion because the installation process deletes your image file when installing.

After installing Lion, a recovery partition will be inserted on your Mac from which you can perform a fresh installation, access Disk Utility or the other installation DVD tools. Just hold down the option key on boot to access this

Burning To DVD

Navigate To Lion Installer

Navigate To Lion Installer

Once Lion has been downloaded, navigate to the Mac OS X Lion installer located within your Applications folder and then right click to bring up the “Show Package Contents” option. You should now be presented with a folder titled “SharedSupport” and within that you will find an image file named “InstallESD.dmg” – this is in fact the Lion disc image, so copy the .dmg to your Desktop.

Copy InstallESD.dmg to Desktop

Copy InstallESD.dmg to Desktop

Next you need to fire up Disk Utility and click the “Burn” button. Select the “InstallESD.dmg” file currently sat on your Desktop, and burn the DVD – it’s that simple! You will now have a Mac OS X Lion boot DVD which you can use to upgrade your Mac. This DVD will work just as well as the supported App Store process, though I believe you will need an internet connection so that Lion can connect to Apple’s servers and authenticate its purchase. Just power on your Mac while holding down the “C” key to begin installing.

Boot From External Hard Drive or USB Stick

Creating The Lion Boot Disc

Creating The Lion Boot Disc

Those with MacBook Air or any other Mac without an optical drive might prefer to boot OS X Lion from an external hard drive or USB stick. To do this, you’ll need an empty partition formatted to Mac OS Extended (Journaled) with at least 4.7GB of space free, though it wouldn’t hurt to round it up to 5GB if you’ve got the space. For the sake of simplicity, I’ve named my partition ‘LION BOOT DISC’ and will refer to it as such for the remainder of this article.

Follow the process outlined previously in order to place the “InstallESD.dmg” image file on your Mac’s Desktop and then double click that image to mount it. Open Disk Utility once more and select ‘LION BOOT DISC’ from the left hand pane. You should be presented with the screenshot above.

Now we need to point Disk Utility into the right place. Select “Restore” from the right hand pane and ensure that the “Destination” box contains ‘LION BOOT DISC’ and that the “Erase destination” box is ticked. If this is the case, drag the image file titled “Mac OS X Install ESD” over from the left pane to the “Source” box. Make sure everything looks correct, matching up with the screenshot below then click “Restore”.

Restore external HDD

Restore external HDD

It should only take a few minutes to create your Lion boot drive and once the process is complete, you’ll be able to boot from the external hard drive as though it were a DVD. Simply power on or restart your Mac with the external hard drive inserted and hold down the option key while your computer powers up. After a moment, you’ll be able to select the hard drive and drive and follow the standard Mac OS X installation procedure.

Conclusion

Creating a Lion Boot Disc is both quite handy and extremely easy if you know what you’re doing. Be sure to read these instructions carefully before proceeding and make sure you follow each step precisely. Having a Lion backup on disc will definitely be worth the trouble, even if you plan on installing via the App Store initially.

Leave a comment below and let us know if you have made, or are planning to make, a Lion boot disc. Why or why not?