Install macOS Lion Using a Bootable DVD

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

Steve Jobs Introduces OS X Lion

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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.

Apple has 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 re-install Lion, if necessary. But 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, we're going to show you how to create a bootable version of the macOS Lion installer. We'll also show you 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. We've outlined the complete steps in the following article:

Follow those instructions, then 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:

Erase and Install

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 macOS install DVD you created to install Lion on a disk that 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 macOS Lion Install DVD

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

  2. Restart your Mac.

  3. As soon as your Mac restarts, use the startup keyboard shortcut by 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 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, then select Continue.

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

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

    We are 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.

  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 will appear, asking you to confirm that you wish to erase the target disk. Select 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 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 will appear. Select Continue.

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

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

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

  6. The Lion installer will copy the necessary files to the target disk. The installer may also download necessary components from the Apple website. A progress bar will appear 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

That's it. You have installed macOS Lion on a disk you erased to produce a clean install.