Install OS X Lion From A USB Drive

Yesterday, during Apple’s World Wide Developers Conference, Apple announced they were moving forward with the way they distributed software to their customers. No longer will you be able to buy the latest and greatest software from Apple on DVDs or other media. Starting with OS X Lion, the only way to get new software will be to download and install it through the Mac App store.

Fortunately, it does not appear that Apple has limited our ability to create our own installation media. In fact, it is still very easy to create a USB installation disk for OS X Lion. Below you will find the steps I used to install the developers preview of OS X Lion via a USB disk.

These steps worked with the developer preview downloads for OS X Lion that was distributed through the Mac App Store to developers. It has not been tested with the retail version of OS X Lion, but we will test this approach as soon as the software is available in its retail form.

How To Create an OS X Lion USB Installation Drive

  1. Download Lion through the App Store
  2. Find the downloaded App package in Finder, right or control click it and select “Show Package Contents”
  3. In the Finder window displaying the package contents select the Contents folder, then the SharedSupport folder. Find the InstallESD.dmg file. You will need this file to create the USB drive.
  4. Plugin your USB Drive, for this effort I used a 8gb USB drive, and open Disk Utility
  5. In Disk Utility, prepare the USB drive to be bootable. Select the drive in Disk Utility and then thePartition Tab.
  6. OS X LIon USB Disk.jpg
  7. Under Volume Scheme select 1 Partition and then Options
  8. OS X Lion USB Install.jpg
  9. Select GUID Partition Table and press OK. Apply the changes.
  10. Disk Utility - GUID Partition.jpg
  11. When the USB Drive has been reformatted to a GUID partition select the Restore Tab
  12. For Source, drag and drop the installESD.dmg file into the source location. For Destination drag and drop the newly configured USB drive. Click Restore and Enter in your Password.
  13. Create OS X Lion USB Drive-1.jpg
  14. Reboot your Mac, holding down Option until the Boot Option screen appears. Select the OS X Lion USB Drive you just created.
  15. Boot OS X Lion USB.jpg
  16. Follow the onscreen instructions to install OS X Lion from your USB flash drive
  17. OS X Lion Ready To Install.jpg

It is great to see Apple moving more and more towards online software distribution, there still remains instances when consumers would like to install drives from physical media. Especially if one would like to install OS X Lion when not already running Snow Leopard.

The entire process took about 45 minutes for me to install OS X Lion from USB. Let us know in the comments how long it too for you to install.