Creating A External Recovery Disk For Mac OS X Lion

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With Mac OS’s next release, Mountain Lion, just around the corner, now would be a good time to create a external Recovery Disk for Mac OS X Lion. This is crucial for both people using Lion currently and also for the ones who plan on upgrading to the next release, let me explain why. 

Mac’s comes with a build in recovery option in case you end up with a OS that is broken. This can be accessed by keeping the “Command” key and “R” key pressed down during startup. Once in this mode, you have a option to fix your Mac OS by re-installing it. In case your Hard Drive fails and you need to replace it, you will not be able to use the earlier method of recovery and would need a external recovery media to re-install Lion. Also, after upgrading to the next release of Mac OS (Mountain Lion), entering the recovery mode as explained earlier would probably only let you re-install Mac OS X Mountain Lion and not OS X Lion.

You may be asking yourself why would I want to move back after upgrading? Well, their could be many reasons, for instance some 3rd party application that worked with Lion is broken after the upgrade and you cannot live without it, or you want to test it before you are allowed to use Mountain Lion by your company, or may be you want to sell your machine at a later date and want to restore it to OS X Lion before you do so. What ever your reason is, creating a Recovery Disk might come in handy some day.

In this article we explore how to create a external Recovery Disk for Mac OS X Lion. You will need Mac OS X Lion with existing Recovery HD (most Mac’s with Lion installed have this by default) and an external USB Hard Drive or USB Thumb Drive with alteast 1 GB of free space to create a Recovery Disk for Lion. If your External USB Disk is larger than 1 GB you might want to consider partitioning your drive and creating a 1 GB partition for this purpose. If not the whole drive will be used as a recovery media.

Note: Make sure to backup your drive or partition before you use it as a recovery media, since all data on it will be erased.

Apple provides a utility called “Lion Recovery Disk Assistance” to create a recovery media for OS X Lion, download this utility from the Apple support site or by following the link here, After downloading it, open the “RecoveryDiskAssistant.dmg” file from the “Downloads” folder.

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This should create the “Lion Recovery Disk Assistance” utility icon as shown below. Double click this icon to launch the utility and click the “Open” button on security dialog box.

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Agree to the license agreement in the next window.

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The next window will ask you to choose the media on which you want to create the Lion Recovery Disk. Select the USB drive or partition you want to use for this purpose and click “Continue”. Note: All data on the selected USB drive or partition will be erased, so make sure to backup any data on the disk before proceeding. In the below example I have chosen to use a partition (Mac Thumb RD) I created on a 8 GB USB Thumb Drive for this purpose.

lion recovery disk assistance 5

The Lion Recovery Disk Assistance wizard then creates a recovery media on the disk or partition you just picked. Once complete, you can just click “Quit” to come out of the wizard. Note: Once the Recovery Disk had been created on the selected disk or partition, it will not be visible in Finder.

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That’s it, you now have a bootable external Lion Recovery Disk which you can use to re-install Mac OS X Lion whenever the need arises. To use this media, have the recovery media you just created attached and power on or reboot your system and keep the “Options” key pressed down during  startup. This will bring up the Startup Manger menu, from this select “Recovery HD” option.


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About Vijay

Computer junky for 20 plus years and still obsessed with it. I enjoy exploring and tweaking popular operating systems and tinkering with computer hardware. Professionally, I work as a Storage Systems Administrator. When not on my computer, I love to travel, shop, read and hang out with my family and friends.


  1. Great Job!!! Very informative.

  2. Air Max 1 says:

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  3. Very very informative and a very concisely drafted article. Not just the content, I was kept engaged till the last line of this page even by the simplicity and choice of fonts, colors and design. Have gone through a few more of your pages and my opinion is the same.

    All I can say at this point is, we want more :)
    Please keep up the good work, you have some great writing skills in you Vijay!

  4. Appreciate the motivation and compliments. Please do subscribe via Email or follow us on Facebook or Twitter to stay posted on latest articles.

  5. Asking for Apple UserID and Password when I try to restore it