In releasing OS X 10.7 Lion as an upgrade that can be downloaded through the Mac App Store, Apple has signaled that they are finally ready to move away from selling copies of their OS X operating system on physical media. While this model of digital distribution is seemingly working well for Apple, it does leave users who suffer a catastrophic hard drive failure at a bit of a loss.
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Only those with brand new MacBook Air models can use Lion Internet Recovery to install Lion to a new hard drive over the internet, without needing any form of physical copy of Lion. Users who have older MacBook, MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, iMac or Mac Mini computers will need to make use of an alternate method to reinstall Lion in the event of a hard drive failure. For these users, Apple has created the Lion Recovery Disk Assistant, a software tool that allows users to create a recovery partition for OS X 10.7 Lion on an external hard disk drive or USB thumb drive. Once the recovery partition is created, users can then access the traditional reinstallation, disk repair, and restore from Time Machine functions that ship with OS X.
When a user installs OS X 10.7 Lion, the installation software automatically creates a recovery partition on the main drive. This recovery partition is intended to be used when Lion fails to boot or other problems arise. The challenge with the way that Apple designed this feature is that both the main Lion installation and the recovery partition are still on the same physical hard drive. If the drive fails, the user will lose both the operating system and the recovery partition, rendering the computer useless. Once the user replaces the faulty hard drive, they are left without the ability to install OS X 10.7 Lion to the new drive unless they have created an external recovery drive with the Lion Recovery Disk Assistant software.
One very important piece of advice for those who intend to use the Lion Recovery Disk Assistant on an external hard drive that already has data on it: create a new drive partition. Unfortunately, Lion Recovery Disk Assistant will erase all of the data that exists on the drive partition that you tell it to install the recovery tools to. If you use the Lion Recovery Disk Assistant on an external hard drive with backed up data, songs or other files on it, you will lose all of this data and you won't be able to recover it. Don't say we didn't warn you!
Apple also warns users that any MacBook models that shipped with OS X 10.7 Lion installed can only boot up from a recovery drive created on the same computer. This means that a user cannot boot their new 2011 MacBook Air from a recovery drive created on an older MacBook Pro that has Lion installed. Take this warning as an incentive to download the Lion Recovery Disk Assistant and create an external recovery drive as soon as possible.
The Lion Recovery Disk Assistant tool is another simple but extremely useful piece of software from Apple's OS X team. If the hard drive in your MacBook Pro or other Mac should decide to stop working, you simply need to have access to some form of external drive - including an inexpensive USB thumb drive - to create a Lion Recovery partition and get Lion reinstalled on your machine. If you're a user of OS X 10.7 Lion, take the initiative to download this free software to create an external recovery drive today. You never know when you may end up needing it!
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