Install macOS Lion Using a Bootable DVD

A bootable copy of Lion allows you to perform a clean install

Installing macOS 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 Lion quickly, it has a few drawbacks.

For one, this method does not include 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.

Steve Jobs Introduces OS X Lion
 Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Apple attempted to address the need to be able to run Disk Utility by including a recovery drive with 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 reinstall Lion, if necessary. However, if the drive that 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 a macOS Lion DVD to repair multiple Macs or install the OS as needed.

For this and many other reasons, you need to know how to create a bootable version of the macOS Lion installer and how to use the bootable DVD to erase a hard drive and then install Lion on it.

Create the Bootable DVD

Creating a bootable macOS Lion install DVD is fairly easy. The complete steps are outlined in the following article: Create a Bootable Copy of OS X Lion.

Follow those instructions and return here to learn how to use the DVD to perform an erase and install of macOS Lion.

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

Erase and Install

This process—sometimes referred to as a clean install—lets you install Lion on a disk that is empty or has no pre-existing OS installed on it. You use the bootable macOS install DVD you created to install Lion on a disk that you erase as part of the installation process.

You will be erasing one of your volumes to use as the target for the Lion install, so you should have a complete, current backup of that drive. All the data on the drive will be lost.

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

Boot From the macOS Lion Install DVD

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

  2. Restart the Mac.

  3. As soon as the Mac restarts, use the startup keyboard shortcut by holding down the C key. This forces your Mac to boot from the DVD.

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

  5. The boot process takes a long time, so be patient. 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 macOS Lion installer.

Erase the Target Disk

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

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

  3. Disk Utility opens and displays a list of connected drives. This process can take some time.

  4. Select the disk you want to be the target for your macOS Lion install.

    You'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.

  5. Select 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. Select Erase.

  9. A drop-down window appear, asking you to confirm that you want to erase the target disk. Select Erase.

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

  11. The macOS Utilities window will reappear.

Install macOS Lion

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

  2. The Lion installer appears. Select Continue.

  3. Accept the macOS Lion license agreement by selecting Agree.

  4. A drop-down window appears, asking if you agree to the license terms. Select Agree.

  5. A list of disks appears. Select the disk you want to install Lion on. This should be the same disk you erased earlier. Select Install.

  6. The Lion installer copies the necessary files to the target disk. The installer may also download necessary components from the Apple website. A progress bar appears with an estimate of the time to copy the needed files. After all the necessary files are copied to the target disk, your Mac restarts.

  7. After your Mac restarts, the installation process continues. A progress bar displays 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 macOS Lion on a disk you erased to produce a clean install.