Install OS X Lion Using a Bootable DVD

A bootable copy of the OS X Lion installer allows you to perform a clean install

Steve Jobs Introduces OS X Lion

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Installing OS X Lion (10.7.x) as an upgrade can easily be done by downloading the update from the Mac App store. While this allows you to get your hands on OS X Lion quickly, it does have some drawbacks.

Perhaps the most frequently mentioned issue is the lack of a bootable DVD, which would allow you to perform clean installs on your Mac, as well as having a bootable OS from which to run Disk Utility.

Apple has attempted to address the need to be able to run Disk Utility by including a recovery drive with OS X Lion. During the Lion installation process, a special recovery disk partition is created. It includes a stripped-down version of Lion that lets you boot your Mac and run a small number of utilities, including Disk Utility. It also lets you re-install Lion, if necessary. But if the drive the recovery partition is on goes bad, you're out of luck.

It's possible to use a few utilities available from Apple to create additional Recovery HD drives, but it doesn't address the portability and ease of using an OS X Lion DVD to repair multiple Macs or install the OS as needed on your Macs.

For this and many other reasons, we're going to show you how to create a bootable version of the OS X Lion installer. We'll also show you how to use the bootable DVD to erase a hard drive, and then install OS X Lion on it.

Create the Bootable DVD

Creating a bootable OS X Lion install DVD is pretty easy; We've outlined the complete steps in the following article: Create a Bootable Copy of OS X Lion.

Stop by the above article to learn how to make the bootable install DVD, and then come back here to learn how to use the DVD to perform an erase and install of OS X Lion.

By the way, if you would rather make use of a USB flash drive to hold the bootable installer, you can use the instructions found in the guide: Create a Bootable Flash Drive With OS X Lion Installer​.

No matter which method you decide on to create the bootable OS X Lion installer (DVD or flash drive), let's get started with the installation process.

Erase and Install of OS X Lion

Sometimes referred to as a clean install, this process lets you install Lion on a disk that is empty or has no pre-existing OS installed on it. In this article, we're going to use the bootable OS X install DVD you created to install Lion on a disk you will erase as part of the installation process.

Before we begin, remember that you will be erasing one of your volumes to use as the target for the Lion install. You should have a complete, current backup of that drive, because all data on the drive will be lost.

If you have a current backup, we're ready to continue.

Boot From the OS X Lion Install DVD

  1. Insert the Install OS X Lion DVD you created earlier into your Mac's optical drive.

  2. Restart your Mac.

  3. As soon as your Mac restarts, hold down the C key. This will force your Mac to boot from the DVD.

  4. Once you see the Apple logo and the spinning gear, you can release the C key.

  5. The boot process will take a long time, so be patient. Be sure to turn on all monitors that are connected to your Mac because in some multi-monitor setups, the main display may not be the default monitor used by the OS X Lion installer.

Erase the Target Disk

  1. After you complete the boot process, your Mac will display the Mac OS X Utilities window.

  2. To erase the target disk for your OS X Lion install, select Disk Utility from the list, and then click Continue.

  3. Disk Utility will open and display a list of connected drives. This process can take some time, so be patient.

  4. Select the disk you wish to be the target for your OS X Lion install. Remember that we're going to erase this disk, so if you haven't performed a current backup of the data on the disk, stop and do it now. If you have a current backup, then you're ready to proceed. Select the disk you wish to erase.

  5. Click the Erase tab.

  6. Use the drop-down menu to set the format type to Mac OS Extended (Journaled).

  7. Give the disk a name, such as Lion, or maybe Fred; whatever you like.

  8. Click the Erase button.

  9. A drop-down sheet will appear, asking you to confirm that you wish to erase the target disk. Click Erase.

  10. Disk Utility will erase the drive. Once the erase is complete, you can close Disk Utility by selecting Quit Disk Utility from the Disk Utility menu.

  11. The Mac OS X Utilities window will reappear.

Install OS X Lion

  1. Select Re-install Mac OS X Lion from the list of options, and click Continue.

  2. The Mac OS X Lion installer will appear. Click Continue.

  3. Accept the OS X Lion license agreement by clicking the Agree button.

  4. A drop-down sheet will appear, asking if you agree to the license terms. Click Agree.

  5. A list of disks will appear; select the disk you wish to install OS X Lion on. This should be the same disk you erased earlier. Click the Install button.

  6. The Lion installer will copy the necessary files to the target disk. The installer may also download necessary components from the Apple website. In our installation tests, there were never any downloads, but this feature may ensure that the installation has the latest updates, and there may not have been any current updates. A progress bar will display, with an estimate of the time to copy the needed files. Once all the necessary files are copied to the target disk, your Mac will restart.

  7. After your Mac restarts, the installation process will continue. A progress bar will display, with an estimate of the installation time, which can run from 10 to 30 minutes.

  8. Once you see the installation progress bar, the install process is identical to steps outlined in the following article, starting from Part 3: Install Lion - Perform a Clean Install of OS X Lion on Your Mac.

That's it; you have installed OS X Lion on a disk you erased to produce a clean install.