How to: Roll your own OS X Lion USB install drive
If your Mac running OS X Lion has a problem — anything short of hard drive failure — you can always redownload from the Mac App Store. Assuming, that is, broadband on that particular day is actually fast enough or even up at all. Word to the wise — luck favors the prepared.
Here’s the drill
You will need an 8GB USB thumb drive. Thereupon, check out the SanDisk Cruzer 8 GB USB 2.0 Flash Drive SDCZ36-008G-A11 at Amazon for $6.70 + shipping ($4.99 ground) or you can pick one up at a local retailer for about the same total — call ahead for prices and availability.
Next, you will need to redownload OS X Lion from the Mac App Store — open the App Store app, press + hold the option key and click Purchases. When Purchases load, you will have the option to “Install,” go ahead and click it.
While Lion’s downloading, let’s prepare the USB drive. Insert the drive in an open USB port and then open Disk Utility (Applications > Utilities).
Select your USB drive in the left hand sidebar, click Partition and then click Options. Make sure GUID Partition Table (image) is selected, click OK and then Apply.
And, the bit
Now that it’s finished (*cough*) downloading, the OS X Lion Installer will launch, quit it and locate “Install Mac OS X Lion” in the Applications folder. If you have a trackpad Mac, tap once with two fingers (i.e. right click with a mouse) and from the contextual menu that pops up select Show Package Contents.
Go to Contents > SharedSupport and locate the InstallESD.dmg file (image).
Back in Disk Utility, assuming it’s finished prepping a bootable volume, click the Restore tab and then drag Install ESD.dmg into the source field, Untitled 1 (a.k.a. your freshly partitioned disk) into Destination and click the Restore button.
When Disk Utility’s done, you’re good to go — you are now the proud owner of an OS X Lion USB install drive and you didn’t pay Apple for the privilege.
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